The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Beginner advice

rhodriharris's picture

Beginner advice

Hiya all, haven't been on here for a while since i had a little break from bread making due to total baking exhaustion breakdown!  I have given up on my sourdough for the time being, i did throw my starter which was everything i could hope for and more, but was just taking too much effort to feed and wait for bread to rise.  Don't be put off in making a starter as it was real easy to get going and rise bread with, but personally couldn't fit the long rises into my schedule and as i wanted to perfect a few bread making and baking skills i thought that returning to packet instant yeast would allow me to produce more and quicker. 

Anyway the reason i post this is for everyone who experiences problems with fan ovens, overly hard tough thick break your teeth crust, not enough oven spring, dense gummy crust at the base of the loaf and bread that dosen't rise quite enough or in the wrong direction.  Unfortunatley i have suffered all of these problems to some extent and with little or no obvious solution!

I am not a quitter and don't really do things by half so i has been a hard period of my life when i consider all the recent baking failures i have had with just plain old simple bread.  I see all the beautifull bread posted in glorious technicolour on this site and am left whispering to my sad little misformed loaves ''Why can't you be more like that'' and ''Stop crying and act like a man'' .  Yes my techniques are 100% sound and i knead, rise, amylase and proof just as good as any pro, and should think so when i recollect the hundreds and thousonds of times i have done it but still somthing was going wrong.

I had used all the priceless and free advice that the 'Gods of Bread' on this site had given and gifted me putting it all into practice but still i lacked that finished product that would make my mouth water and heart race.  What was i doing wrong or have i missed somthing out, why oh why was my bread not award winning with a personallity to match?

To be honest my sheer stubbonness and financial situation were to blame, but mainly my sheer stubbonness (sorry ladies) due to being a man.  Everytime i posted a problem in looking for a solution i was told that a dutch oven or makeshift cover for the loaf would vastly improve and eradicate most problems and enhance what little i was getting right.  Fine i thought but i couldn't afford one at the moment and would this simple little cast iron cooking pot really kill four to five birds with one stone?

YES, YES, YES, YEEEESSSSS and i'll have what she's having.  As i said i couldn't afford a lecrueset or similar so i used cheap old glasswear instead, found a glass casserole pot with lid and preheated to 250 degrees centigrade in my fan oven.  When it had had a long enough preheat i dropped the loaf in from my makeshift peel covered in pollenta and replaced the lid for 15 mins, then removed the lid and finished the  bake.  God the results were astounding, thin storebought soft crust, a full oven spring and then some with an even crumb from top to bottom.  Gone were the weird sideways blowouts due to uneven heat in my fan oven and no thick tough old crust.  The base crumb baked and looked like the crumb at the top of the loaf with no gummy strip and most of all it looked just as good as some of the bread i so idolised in the pictures that the pros were posting on here.

So the moral of my story is that if someone recommends a dutch oven to bake your bread in or to cover the loaf, don't dismiss this as just an idea that people give but follow their advice to the letter and go out and buy one or better still make one from glass or what ever you have available as it replicates the proffessional environment given in a bakers oven and not only solved one or two of my problems but all of them.  I post this for any beginners or people that simply can't get their bread right when baking as it took me a while to realise the awsome potential of this baking method and how much time i would of saved if i'd only listened to the members of the fresh loaf in the first place.  Thankyou all for being so patient with me and i will post some pictures of my bread very soon now that it is perfect.



dutch oven bread baking

Home bread bakers have two problems: home ovens don't create or retain heat like commercial bread ovens, and home ovens don't have the humidifier systems that professionals use to create the "crackling crusts" that artisan bread bakers treasure. In November 2006 New York Times food writer Mark Bittman published an article on the work professional baker Jim Lahey has done to develop home techniques for bread baking, using Dutch ovens (covered metal or ceramic pots) to solve both the heat and moisture problems.

It's no exaggeration to say that the article has revolutionized home bread baking in the last several years. It reduced a complex, fussy process to something you could do on a Saturday afternoon in-between errands, and still produce loaves that look like the work of artisan bakers. By placing the risen bread dough into a 425°F Dutch oven, you get the massive surrounding heat of a professional oven, and in the covered pot the bread itself supplies the moisture needed to produce a great crust.

Author Pat Lynch

Jaydot's picture

I tried to picture you whispering to your little loaves :).
But I totally agree. Using the DO made a hugh difference to my loaves as well.