The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My first loaf! Some newbie questions...

aggy's picture

My first loaf! Some newbie questions...

So, after reading up on it here and a couple other websites, I decided to spend Labour Day learning how to bake. How I came upon this idea,  I don't really know, but the results were certainly tasty.  Saturday was the basic loaf from Lesson 2 (I like skipping ahead, what can I say!). That was the only one I really used measurements on. I'm kind of a "throw more or less in and see what happens!" kind of girl. Don't have a scale or stone or anything yet, just the most basic kitcheny implements. Instead of just a few gentle pokes at it to degas, I kinda did a full on 10 minutes of kneading, and didn't cover it at all when it was rising...but somehow it still magically worked out.  My yeast is also 2 years past the expiry date (I have a breadmaker whose sole purpose is to make me pizza dough once in a blue moon), but apparently still perfectly happy to do it's thing.

Day two was a raisin-y-egg thing, the remains of which you can see on the right of that picture. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I threw an egg in, threw some cinnamon and yeast in, and tried to make a kneadable dough. Worked out well enough for breakfast toast, anyway! Could have used more raisins. Also made up some 1/2 spelt, 1/2 bread flour starter for Day Three! Me, not really knowing what I was doing, basically make a little dough ball out of that, although further research leads me to believe it was far, far too dry. Either way. Also started a sourdough starter that day. I'm productive! :D

Day Three has me mixing in a bit more spelt, some flax, and trying to keep the dough as moist as I can (although as an utter newbie, I'm guessing it was still plenty dry). Again, I didn't follow a recipe or anything. If it went horribly bad, it's entirely my own fault. XD Tried to give it as much time to rise as it wanted, poked and saw how it rebounded, all the stuff  I read about on here. Man, giving it the night to do it's thing made a HUGE difference in the taste! Below are the results of my weekend of entertainment!

Suffice it to say, I'm pretty happy with that, considering I'm just testing the waters and experimenting.

BUT, I have some questions.

Oven spring, I don't have any, not really. :( I preheat my oven at max for around 10 minutes or so, then stick the loaves in on the baking sheet they were proofing on along with a tin with some water in it. I turn it down a minute or two after, after I cleaned up the area a little. Then it was 350 for 40 minutes.

I covered these loaves with an old cut-up bedsheet which I rubbed flour into. Yet they still definitely dried out on top a bit, and that made scoring more of an exercise in poking the bread with a knife until I was done. I'm guessing that's what's causing the utter lack in oven spring, but still, it'd be nice to know how to fix that.My guess is that's why the crusts have been so crispy, even on the one with a bunch of egg and milk in it. Also, am I supposed to shape right before going in the oven, or before the rising session? They seem a little flatter than they could be, but not depressingly so.


I know I should pick up some books, a scale and such, and I likely will in the future, but I am but a poor student so it may be a little bit. Still, the adventures begin! I'm sure I'll have more questions later on, but this is a start.



restever99's picture

Good looking loaf you have there.  There is nothing wrong with being a poor student.  I don't have any fancy equipment, just a few $1 bowls from a thrift store, a bowl scraper, a spray bottle, cheapo scale from Ikea, baking stone, cut up piece of canvas, and my hands.  Fancy equipment is a myth perpetuated by fancy equipment manufacturers.  People have been making bread just fine for thousands of years without it.

To prevent dryout, a few suggestions would be to spray the sheet with oil before dusting with flour.  Also spray the top of the loaf with oil, lightly before covering.

For oven spring, preheat at maximum for at least 1 hour before putting the loaves in.  Get yourself a spray bottle filled with water.  After the oven is heated place loaves in, spray five good sprays right into the middle of the oven.  Close oven, repeat spraying 2 more times at 30 seconds between sets.  Then lower oven to final temperature and let bake.  Don't be afraid to let it sit for a while, and don't peak until your about 1/2 way through just to see if you need to rotate the loaves.

BellesAZ's picture

You certainly have a nice crumb.  Interesting that you would start out with something a bit more technical.  It's nice to have a few successful bakes under your belt, but you did a great job.  I can see you have scored your bread with a knife, and so small things like this will impact your loaves. 

While you don't need fancy mixers and such, you do need some rudimentary things.  A good baking lame can also be a double edge razor blade if you're careful and the only thing you really want to splurge on is your ingredients and a scale.  Thats about all you need.  A stone will help you BIG TIME with your bread baking and using a small spritzer bottle for a sprayer can also help improve your loaves.

We were walking the dogs past a garage sale the other day and I saw a large baking stone for 50 cents and a practically brand new Kitchen Aid mixer for $50.00.  Keep your eye open for things.  My first baking pans were from a second hand store and I still use them today. 

Kingudaroad's picture

They look awesome!

Covering the loaves with plastic wrap could possibly help the spring by keeping the top from getting a dry crust. It is also surprising how much better fresh yeast performs than expired. At least those things are cheap. 

Great loaf! Congratulations!