OldWoodenSpoon has been chronicling his adventures and misadventures of baking the Vienna bread from the Inside the Jewish Bakery book. Partly out of sympathy and partly out of curiosity, I decided to bake the same bread this weekend to see what would happen.
In a word (or three), not very much.
Things to note:
- I'm using a no-name AP flour
- The yeast was Fleischmann's IDY from a new package.
- Since I had no malt on hand, honey was subbed for the malt in equal amount.
- Ambient temps in the kitchen Saturday started out in the mid-60's and got all the way up to about 71 or 72F, so fermentation times were perhaps 50% longer than those noted in the book.
- The bread was baked in the specified 8.5 x 4.5 pans (in this instance, some cheap steel pans with a bright tinned finish, very lightweight).
- No egg wash was applied.
- As directed, the bread was baked in the center level of a 350F oven after the fermenting dough had just crested above the brim of the pans. There were no stones, steam pans or other appurtenances in the oven.
The resulting bread was...ordinary. So ordinary, in fact, that I haven't bothered to take a picture. The slash bloomed nicely with the modest oven spring, the crust color is a light golden (I'd prefer it to be darker), the crumb structure is very even, maybe 3/4 of the mass is below the rim of the pan and the other 1/4 is above the rim, there are no gummy/compressed/underbaked zones in the loaves, and they stand upright without external support. In other words, about what one would expect to see in a typical loaf of white bread.
From what I read in OWS' accounts and from what I see in my bake, I would opine that the biggest differences are in the use or non-use of malt and in the oven setup. Which is the biggest factor, I can't guess, but I am confident that the two are combining to make OWS' experience so thoroughly frustrating. It would have been nice if I had had some non-diastatic malt on hand just to see if the bread had responded differently. However, since I used no malt of any kind in this bake, it suggests that the at-least-partially-diastatic malt used by OWS may have had a negative effect on dough structure by converting an excessive amount of starch to sugar and may have led to hyperactive yeast growth for exactly the same reason. I'm less clear about how the presence of both upper and lower baking stones in OWS' oven might have influenced the outcome, especially since I have previously plunked bread tins down on a baking stone with no noticeable ill effects. Based on OWS' experience, it appears that the presence or absence of the stones does have an effect, as does the location of the pans in the oven.
For what it is worth, that's my report from the field. I hope it provides some useful information for OldWoodenSpoon and others who are working with this bread.