The Fresh Loaf

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Help - wet bread

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AnotherJeanne's picture
AnotherJeanne

Help - wet bread

I have used the boule recipe at least 10 times now and never succeeded in getting a loaf that doesn't feel wet in the center.  The crust is beautiful and the bread is delicious, but the bread always feels wet.


I have tried letting the dough rest longer before baking, cooking at a lower temperature for a longer period, using a baking stone, using a regular heavy baking sheet, placing the oven rack at different levels--nothing works.


I know my oven temp is fine because others breads that I bake come out perfect.


I really love the crusty boule, but am getting very discouraged about getting it right.  Any ideas?


By the way, love The Fresh Loaf web site.


 


Jeanne

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Lots of ideas, not enough information.  The weight of your boule loaf when it's loaded into the oven would help.  Oven temperature, pre-heat period, oven accessories (stone, steam method, etc.) would also help.  What's the dough formula? 


My first guess would be that you are baking at a temperature that is actually too low and that you are baking by the clock rather than checking the internal temperature of your loaf before considering it "done".

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...never succeeded in getting a loaf that doesn't feel wet in the center...


It's a virtual certainty this is either a baking time or an oven temperature problem.


For baking time, get an "instant read" thermometer. When the recipe's estimated baking time is about up, take the bread out temporarily and poke the thermometer deeply into the center (but not touching the inside of the crust on the other side). Typical for lean doughs is to bake to 205F; 210F may suit your tastes better. If it's done, turn the oven off; if it's not done yet, put the bread loaf back in the oven.


For oven temperature, get a decent oven thermometer (avoid the cheapest) and find out what your oven temperature really is. (It's quite common for oven temperatures to be off by as much as 50F  ...and usually the user/owner doesn't even realize it.) The way ovens work is by cycling back and forth from slightly below the desired temperature to slightly above it. So read the thermometer several times, write down all the readings, figure out what the middle temperature is, and use that. (If you read the thermometer just once, luck will likely catch either the low point or the high point of the cycle, so the reading will be misleading. If you go by that single reading, you can actually mess up the situation even worse.) There's almost always some way to "adjust" or "calibrate" the oven temperature control knob (a screw on the back? a hollow shaft?) to reflect reality.

AnotherJeanne's picture
AnotherJeanne

Thank you for the replies.


To clarify, I have been using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes Master Recipe; Boule Recipe.  This is a no knead bread; after first rising, dough is regrigerated and then used as wanted.  The recipe calls for cutting off about 1 lb (grapefruit size) of the dough, cloaking, then resting for 40 minutes before baking at 450 degrees.


I have extended the length of baking time at 450 degrees, and I have baked at 425 degrees for a longer period--still comes out wet.  The last one I tried, I let rest for more than an hour thinking that maybe the dough was still too cold after only 40 minutes at room temp.  That made no difference.  The recipe calls for a 30 minute bake and I have left some loaves in the oven more than an hour.


I believe my oven temp is fine because other breads, cookies, etc., come out perfect.


Can't figure out why this recipe is giving me such a hard time.  I really do love the crust and the flavor, but the wetness is very annoying.


Thanks, again.


Jeanne

Chuck's picture
Chuck

What sort of vessel do you bake the no-knead bread in?


Do you preheat the pan bottom, or the top, or both?


How do you keep the bread bottom from sticking to the pan? Cornmeal? Semolina? Sprayed olive oil? Parchment paper?


Do you start the bake with the top on? And when do you take it off?


What's the crust texture and color and thickness like? Crunchy? Easy to chew? Dark brown? Darker on the bottom than on the sides and top? At least 1/8 inch thick everywhere?


(Some of the suggested possible answers above are not good things. I'm being careful to not prejudice your answers by intentionally not saying which ones those are.)

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Some search in these forums has revealed that others who suffer from the damp no-knead bread problem solved it by reducing the amount of water in the recipe. Try doing the same. I don't know the recipe, or how much water goes in, but try reducing your water by 1/4 cup the first time, and see if your results are better. If not, keep reducing water until you get it right. 


BTW, are you getting a nice dark crust from your recipe? If not, your dough might be overproofing, which can cause gummy crumb, IIRC. 

jcking's picture
jcking

I'd be lost without my instant read thermo. Target has a nice one for about 20$, I think it's a Food Network model.


Jim

AnotherJeanne's picture
AnotherJeanne

Thank you for all your responses; I really appreciate the help.


Chuck, I do not use a vessel.  When I have used the stone to bake on, I used cornmeal to prevent sticking.  When I used a regular baking sheet, I used parchment paper.  The crust is always beautiful - very brown and crunchy but not brittle, top an bottom.  I have also tried heating the stone while the oven is heating.


Cranbo, I will try using less water next time, and Jim I will most likely break down and get one of those instant read thermometers.  It's probably about time I got one anyway.


Thanks again.


Jeanne

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Well I'm stumped.


If you left a free-standing (no pan nor vessel) loaf in the oven an extra half hour and it was still underdone, something very unsual and weird is happening. I hope you figure out what it is  ...and please let everybody here know.

jcking's picture
jcking

How big are holes in the finished loaf? How cold is the fridge? Is the dough freezing?


Jim

booch221's picture
booch221

I have the same problem. I make a wet no-knead dough. It's 3 cups of flour to 1-5/8 cups of water. I take my dough from the fridge and plop it on a piece of parchment paper. Then I place it (still on the parchment paper) in a cold cast iron skillet for 30 minutes while I preheat the oven to 450F. I bake the bread for 25 minutes with a lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off until it browns. But my bread comes out too wet in the center and even tastes watery. 


When I cut back on the water I lose the crumb I like with the big bubbly holes in it.


I tried baking it at longer at 400 but it come out the same.  If I leave it in the oven too long it gets too brown.


I do take it's temp, sometimes it gets to 210 degrees, but it's still wet and watery. 


The only thing I haven't tried is proofing it longer.

AnotherJeanne's picture
AnotherJeanne

Chuck, I wouldn't call it underdown because, although it is feels wet near the center, it is cooked through and very edible - if that makes sense.


Jim, Normal sized holes--some big, some small.  The dough is very cold out of the fridge but definitely not frozen; I've kept it in the lowest part of the fridge.  Maybe I'll try keeping it on an upper rack.


Booch221, I am glad to know it isn't just me.  I was beginning to wonder.


Once again, thanks for your responses.  I am going to try making this particular boule recipe again later this week using your suggestions and will let you know what happens.


Jeanne

jcking's picture
jcking

Jeanne,


My experience with my fridge is a difference of almost 10 F. Colder at the bottom.


Keep on bakin' and surprise yourself with what you'll learn.


Jim

booch221's picture
booch221

My fridge is very cold too. Today I warmed the dough up for 4 hours before baking it. This was the dough I cut back the water on, but it still gave me the ciabatta crumb--nice big holes and tangy flavor.


However, it's still a little damp on the inside. I baked it for only 20 minutes with the lid on and 10 with it off, because I figured the dough was already at room temp. Next time, I will bake it 30 minutes with the lid on, and 10 minutes with it off.


By the way, I'm making half-loaves since there are only two of us, and I'm the only one who can eat carbs. If I was making a full loaf, I think I would have to adjust to baking time upward.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...it's still a little damp on the inside...
...I baked it for ... 20 minutes with the lid on and 10 with it off...


I'm no no-knead expert, so it's quite possible I have something to learn here. But my first impression is the ratio of lid-on to lid-off time is too high (at least for a lid that makes a relatively tight seal with the pan), likely leading to the bread being too wet. What happens if you try equal (or maybe even shorter) times for lid-on and lid-off (for example 15 and 15 for the shorter bake, 20 and 20 for the longer bake)?


If the crust is getting "too dark", put the lid back as a shield for the crust, but put it back on wrong way so it doesn't fit right and leaves a big open space.


 


...Today I warmed the dough up for 4 hours before baking it...


IMHO, this probably didn't make hardly any difference. Very cold dough warms up fairly quickly in the oven, so nothing more than a little longer bake time to compensate is probably sufficient. ("Frozen" doughs though can form wet spots if not thawed before baking.) Of course, each individual may decide differently whether or not doing this improves the "too wet" problem enough to be worth the extra hassle for them.

jcking's picture
jcking

I hope you're letting the baked loaf rest, on a cooling rack, at least 45min for the half loaf, 1hr 15min full loaf, before slicing. Otherwise when you feel the loaf is done; turn off the oven, with oven mitts remove the loaf, still mitted move stone or sheet pan to top of stove, place loaf on oven rack, then use a non-flamable/non-meltable kitchen tool to prop the door open 4 to 6 inche, after 15min move loaf to cooling rack. If top and bottom of loaf is evenly baked, top and bottom, your rack height is good. If bottom is overdone move up, if underdone move done.


May the goddess Fornax bless you and your bread,


Jim

booch221's picture
booch221

Thanks for your comment Jim and Chuck.


I've been experimenting with various covered/uncovered times. If left uncovered too long the bread tends to get too brown on top. I found that setting the cast iron skillet on a preheated baking stone prevents the bottom of the bread from burning. It's counter intuitive, but it works.


Letting the dough come to room temp made a difference not only in the crumb, but in the flavor of the baked bread. The downside is that not everyone has time to let the dough warm up for several hours.


There are just so many variables: humidity of the flour, the amout of flour and water, the amount of yeast, how long the dough ferments, at what temperature it ferments, the tempreature of the fridge, how long the dough proofs, baked on a stone, baked in a skillet or Dutch Oven, covered or uncovered, the temperature of the oven, how long its baked...


Nothing is written in stone. You just have to try different things and figure out what works for you.



cranbo's picture
cranbo


I found that setting the cast iron skillet on a preheated baking stone prevents the bottom of the bread from burning. It's counter intuitive, but it works.



Funny, because I found the opposite to be true when I started placing my cast iron dutch oven directly on a preheated 1/4" steel plate (I use the steel plate instead of a stone). On the plate, the bottom of bread in the dutch oven used to burn. Now I always place my dutch on the rack instead of the plate, and I get the same great results I was getting before. 

booch221's picture
booch221

Funny, because I found the opposite to be true when I started placing my cast iron dutch oven directly on a preheated 1/4" steel plate (I use the steel plate instead of a stone).


I'm only guessing here, but maybe it's the material. Steel is a better conductor of heat than stone, perhaps?

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Most definitely steel heats faster than stone. However, I didn't realize that the metal-on-metal connection would make such a difference.


To me with would seem that if you placed a piece of cast iron on a piece of stone vs. a piece of steel plate, where both the stone and the steel plate were heated to the same temperatures, that the cast iron would get hot just as fast when in contact with either surface.


Why would cast-iron on steel conduct faster than cast-iron on stone? It seems the heating would be a result of the conduction properties of the cast iron, not the plate or stone, but maybe I'm missing something. 


 I haven't run any tests to confirm, though, nor likely will I :)

Chuck's picture
Chuck

My guess is the initial temperature of the stone drops quite a bit when you put the DO on it, and from then on the concern is mainly with new heat moving from the heating coil into the DO. The stone slows and spreads the new heat; nothing (i.e. the bare rack) allows the DO to capture whatever new heat that hits it directly; and the additional piece of metal captures "a lot" of the new heat (since it's larger) and efficiently conducts it all to the bottom of the DO. I suspect it's not the "connection" (stone-to-metal or metal-to-metal) at all, but rather how whatever surface there is conducts and spreads heat. That's my guess anyway.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Chuck that sounds right to me. Thanks for the explanation!

booch221's picture
booch221

I sloved my wet bread probloem. I cut back on the water to a 75% hydration level, 10 ounces water for 3 cups flour (13.23 ounces). I take the dough out of the fridge, and out of the cold bowl, and let it warm up for at least 1.5 hours. 


I bake it in a cold cast iron skillet (set on a pre-heated baking stone) at 450 F for 30 minutes covered, and for 9 minutes uncovered, until golden brown with an internal tempreature between 205-210 F.


No more wet bread and I get the crumb I want.