The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

To ear or not to ear

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varda's picture
varda

To ear or not to ear

One of the things I wonder about is whether to strive for ears or not.   I have two ideals for what I would like my breads to look like (after the apocalypse, I guess.)   One is a loaf by Larry:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17236/agony-defeat-and-thrill-victory (see second picture down) a pain au levain with the most lovely ears.    The second are loaves by Andy where the cuts look like they have been painted on they have opened so smoothly:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/21867/boules-made-gilchesters-flours-and-different-preferments.    When I read Farine's interview with Gérard Rubaud, he made some snide remark to the effect that ears are vulgar.  (My paraphrase, I can't remember his exact words.)  I know there's no right or wrong answer here, but are there two schools of thought, or just multiple styles of bread-making?   Oh, and another question - is a gringe the same thing as an ear - and is the word a corruption of grigne?   Enquiring minds want to know.   -Varda

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Varda.


Generally, those who strive for ears do so with long loaves like batards and baguettes, not with boules. However, I don't know that ears have any functional value, except that scoring that results in ears does probably prolong oven spring and increase bloom. (I can explain, if needed.)


Grigne is the French word for what is called bloom in English. I think "gringe" is a misspelling of the Dr. Seuss character that stole Christmas.


David

varda's picture
varda

But in any case, when I saw your correction of someone who was using grigne to mean ear, I thought but no, the right word is gringe.   And then I wondered if I had made that up.   And right after that I saw a post  where someone used the word gringe to mean ear.   And just now I did a search on this site and got around forty hits for gringe all apparently used as a synonym for ear.    A Fresh Loaf word?   I just googled it and suffice it to say that the urban dictionary definition of gringe has absolutely nothing to do with bread.  -Varda

varda's picture
varda

So why do ears prolong oven spring?   And as to boules with a pronounced set of score lines - I see a lot of those and some very beautiful - particularly some of the Tartine loaves.   These couldn't be more different than the restrained score openings that I referenced above and some of your loaves as well - the SFBI miche if I recall correctly.   So is this mainly an aesthetic issue?  Andy's answer when I asked him about his boules was that he had got the fermentation exactly right which is why the loaves opened up in such a controlled way.   So now when I get a boule that opens up a lot and looks pretty nice, I still wonder whether I didn't quite get the fermentation right and should have achieved a more restrained opening. 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The best explanation of this I've read is from Advanced Bread and Pastry.



If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development. (Suas, pg. 116.)



If this is not clear, I'll try to elaborate, but I don't think I can improve on Suas' succinct explanation.


David



jcking's picture
jcking

I nominate David to the position of TFL libraian. Can I get a second? Well done!


Jim

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I've always believed that "grigne" refers to the "undercrust" that is exposed when the cut opens, or blooms. I think I picked this up as far back as Julia Child. It may have been she or someone else who also talked about certain bakers looking for three colors on the surface of the finished loaf: the edge of the slash (the darkest,) the overall crust, and the grigne being the lightest of the three shades.


Someone else tells me that "grignette" is another term for the lame. Maybe we have a French speaker who can clarify.


A little farther afield maybe, is the suggestion that "grigne" in French and "grin" in English are related, and that the curve of the blade and the curve of the cut resemble a shy smile.

varda's picture
varda

If Julia Child said it then it's probably true given her pedigree.   Agreeing on the terminology is just one of the many challenges of baking bread.   But do you have any thoughts on the question of smooth and controlled score openings versus nice prominent ears?  -Varda

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Varda,


Note, this my exact comment: "The real secret, of course, is the way the loaf has sprung in the deck oven.   So it is essential to achieve just the correct final proof levels, then see the loaves rise masterfully on the oven sole, in a steamy pressurised environment."


I agree that it is essential to get the fermentation exactly right.   But the bake profile is so important, and a high powered commercial oven with good steam injection really is a bonus!


Very best wishes


Andy

varda's picture
varda

Andy, I guess I edited out the part about the deck oven because my chances of baking in a deck oven are close to zero.  And I remembered the part about fermentation because there is actually a chance that some day I will get that close to correct.  Quite a case of selective memory.    I can get my oven nice and steamy attempting to correct for steam loss during door opening and so forth.  But I cannot summon up a pressurized environment.  Ah well.   Thanks for (re)commenting.  -Varda

ww's picture
ww

I had thought that achieveing an ear was desirable for all the reaons David mentioned (thanks David for the explanation).

varda's picture
varda

I think I've already shown that I shouldn't be quoting from memory - even more so for the Rubaud quote.   I went through Farine's interview and finally found the quotation about ears:


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------


When the time comes to put the bread in the oven, he scores it delicately, holding the blade sideways so as not to get deep "ears" which he says distract from the taste.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


If you look through the pictures in the interview: http://www.farine-mc.com/2009/11/meet-baker-gerard-rubaud.html you will see that he is certainly not going for the prominent ears that many of us wish we could get.   They are very restrained.   I would say this is just more grist for the mill so to speak.   -Varda

polo's picture
polo

..........but thank you for that wonderful link.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My reading of MC's wonderful interviews with M. Rubaud suggest that his obsession is the flavor of the crumb. For most hearth breads, the majority of the flavor experience is from the crust. The crunchy, dark ear of a well-baked bâtard adds a lot to the tactile and gustatory pleasure of eating it.


I've made Rubaud's bread several times, and the flavor is indeed delicious.


The point is that scoring and baking to get a prominent ear or not is not simply a matter of visual aesthetics. It will impact what the bread is like to eat, and that should be based on an explicit decision regarding whether you want to emphasize crust or crumb flavor.


David

varda's picture
varda

you may be onto something there.   Thanks for your comments.   -Varda