The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Brotforms and dry tops

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Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

Brotforms and dry tops

I've been raising my standard loaves in brotforms for quite a while.  Lately I've been getting blowouts rather than nice expansion.  It almost seems as though the top crust (the one that rests on the bottom when the loaf is rising in the basket) is drying out a little.  Feeling the tops of the loaves confirms this.  They dough is reasonably hydrated, but not at crazy ciabatta levels or anything.  I'd be more specific, but this is happening with a variety of recipes.


I bake on a stone, and use ice melting in a hot pan for steam.


I have not changed the way I cover the loaves during rising - oiled plastic wrap with a tea towel over that.


Should I brush the tops of the loaves with water?


-  Jessica

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Jessica, the only experience I have with using a banneton is for Susan's Sourdough loaf. The banneton is lined with linen which I dust with white rice flour and the whole thing is placed in a large ziploc bag and into the fridge overnight. I find that the top is very slightly dry which makes for easy scoring. Have you tried enclosing your brotform in a plastic bag? Hope someone with more experience will jump in here, A.



Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

Hmm.  I don't know whether anybody makes a Ziploc that would fit the 18-inch-long brotforms I use for long loaves.  But it's worth a try.  Thanks.

proth5's picture
proth5

Hefty Big Bags.  They come in XXL.   I use them to cover half sheet pans and there is extra room left over. The company states that they are food safe.


Hope this helps.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hi Jessica,


When steam is introduced at the beginning of the bread baking cycle, it is most effective at allowing even expansion when the burst is large and immediate.  Ice will melt and evaporate more slowly, so it can't provide enough steam (IMHO) to envelope the loaves adequately and/or rapidly enough.


Room temperature tap water (maybe 1/2 cup or so) will vaporize very quickly and provide a big cloud of steam right away.  The pre-heated steaming pan should be heavy -- cast iron works best.  After you've scored and loaded the loaf onto your baking stone, grab the oven door handle with one hand and toss the water in the hot pan with the other hand.  Be sure to close the oven door immediately after tossing the water in the hot pan.  After 10 or 15 minutes, carefully crack open the oven door to allow full escape for any remaining steam.  Finish baking in a dry oven.

Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

I started using ice as a new baker because I hated risking the temperature drop from placing the water in the pan.  I can't quite visualize the logistics of tossing water quickly into a pan below the baking stone - so do you keep the water pan on a shelf above the stone?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

There is probably no set rule, and people do what works for them.


I think the best usual starting place is on the floor of the oven. If that is not possible/practical, then the pan is usually placed on the lowest rack in the oven, and the stone on the level just above the steaming pan.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

fresh water just for such an occation.  Spray the loaf (and maybe score it).  Blow outs?  Underdeveloped?  Are you shortening your rise times or is the kitchen cooler or dryer than before?  Some things to consider but spraying the loaves directly and scoring to control the expansion would be a place to start.   Even if spraying, use steam in the oven also. 


Here's your chance to show off some fancy cuts!


Mini

Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

You know, it is wintertime and the kitchen is somewhat cooler than normal.  I'll try spritzing and deeper scoring.


 


-  Jessica

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

might imply a need to let the dough rise longer too.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Try putting your Brotforms in either a Reynold's turkey oven roasting bag (reusable) or in a plastic meat bag from Costco.  They'll keep the loaves from drying out. Costco meat bags also make great storage bags for the loaves once it's at room temperature. 


You might want to try changing to a lower shelf in your oven.  I learned from others in this forum that it's best to cook pain au levan hot and in convection mode (if your oven has it). 


I also tried using the ice cubes in the cast iron frying pan to humidify the oven during the initial spring rise baking period.  Though this works I've found that "cloching" or turning a large bowl upside down over the dough is a better solution.  I obtained a deep steam tray pan for this purpose giving it a couple of water spritzs from an atomizer before placing it over the freshly slashed dough on the baking stone. This contains the steam and maximizes "oven spring" by keeping the surface skin moist and pliable.  The bread is baked for 17 minutes in a 500 dF oven before the cloche is removed.  Caution: Be careful when emoving the cloche. It's full of hot steam and can cause severe burns if it comes in contact with your skin when it spills "up" and out of the cloche upon its removal (yes, I found out the hard way).


One last item that will help save your glass window in your oven is to place a cotton towel over the window when the oven door is open while placing the dough and the cloche pan onto the stone.  This will absorb any water drips keeping the window glass from being "water shocked"...


+Wild-Yeast


P.S.  Also try deeper slashes.  This allows the loaf to expand more freely and will limit "ruptures" or "blowouts"...

Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

Good comments, thanks.  I still wonder why I'm doing the same things yet getting different results.  Either my oven has changed, my kitchen conditions have changed, or my brotforms have changed in some way.  I suppose it is possible that SAF has changed its yeast or the flour people their flour as well.


And it seems odd that it is the BOTTOM side getting dry, ie the one against the basket that becomes the top crust when I turn the loaves over.


The bag idea seems most promising, as it would seal up the bottoms of the baskets.


And I'll proof longer just in case and try the other method of steaming. 


 


-  Jessica

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Kitchen and proofing conditions are the most likely culprits, IMO. I have only been baking bread for less than a year, and I find that through this first winter season, my doughs can take considerably longer to proof recently, as compared to when I started last spring.


Lately,  unless I make sure to proof until the dough seems good and "poofy", it's likely to have unpredictable blowouts. Maybe the slightly drier air is also contributing to the drier dough surface.


My steaming methods: The pan on the floor of the oven works pretty good for me. I do agree that the cloche method seems to work seemingly almost perfectly. I recently discovered a very effective "cloche" among the pots and pans in the cabinets. Only thing about cloches, they are only usually large enough for one loaf, or maybe a couple of smaller loaves.


Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

Yes, cloches are wonderful for round loaves.  I get lovely spectacular crusts and plenty of rise/spring with them.


I haven't found a good way to do it for long baguette-ish loaves.


I tried the La Cloche variant for long loaves, and it just does not seem to work as well plus doesn't really have room for a very long loaf.


Maybe a superdeep hotel pan or something would work.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I'll toss my 2 cents in here because I think there are a couple things going on.


One thing is that every time the season changes from warm to cold, I find I have to start all over again with my baking procedures. The warm weather brings faster rising times and higher humidity while cold brings slower culture activity and the crust stays crispy longer which changes how I bake. So depending on where you live, you are definitely being influenced by the local seasonal changes. It only takes a few degrees of change in the home to make a big difference. And, I think that applies to yeasted or natural levain (sourdough). If the air outside is cold, it is by nature of the laws of physics, drier. The amount of moisture air can hold doubles for every 10F degrees of increase in temperature (approximately). The skin on the dough will dry out more when it's cold outside and the banetton will be drier also. (I'm talking about coiled wicker and linen lined or cloth lined baskets, not plastic of course).


When you prepare the banetton for use, I find a mix of 50/50 rice flour and AP works well. I use a 2-3 inch wide cheap brush that is dedicated for this purpose. Once the banetton is dusted, I load the brush and tap it over the top of the dough, just before placing the dough into the basket. Now there is a better chance the dough will release and that there is a protective layer between the dough and the fabric, so moisture will not wick to the fabric. This works well for me and I much prefer using linen lined baskets over all others.


I suggest you try proofing in the microwave oven once. Prepare the oven by boiling a cup of water in a 2 cup glass measuring cup and then push it back into the back out of the way. Place the proofing basket in the oven and close the door. You won't need to cover the dough with plastic or fabric or put it in a bag. Just put it in there all by itself. It will be a warm and humid environment. Check back after 30 minutes to see how it's doing and make a decision about how much longer it will need.


When it is time to turn the dough out to a peel or on parchment, I go around the edges of the basket and gently pull with a finger on the dough away from the basket. Just a little tug on the edge. This assures the dough will easily fall from the basket.


I hope this is helpful.


Eric

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Many convection style ovens now come with a bread raising mode that allows temperature setpoints between 90-110 dF for proofing.  It's a tad high for sourdough but I've found it to be a godsend during the winter months when the kitchen temperatures can send proofing times into the unknown.  Many are unaware that their ovens offer this feature.  The mode is usually entered by depressing and holding the convection bake button for 10 seconds or so.  Sometimes it pays to read the manual...


+Wild-Yeast 

deweytc's picture
deweytc

I was having problems scoring my dough.  The tops seem too dry and tough, even after spritzing.  I could not find plastic bags big enough for six loaves.  So, I bought a clear plastic storage container with a lid (16x24x6).  It's big enough to hold six bannetons.  I then place a small custard cup in the center and pour boiling water into it.  I do this again about an hour later.  The boiling water raises the temp inside and the humidity helps my dough from drying out.  I have not check to see what the temp is inside the container, but I have not had any problems. (Before I was just using plastic wrap to cover the baskets.)  My scoring has improved by 100% and I get a good ear and gringe.  (I still spritz before placing in oven and I use a cup of ice and water in a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks)