The Fresh Loaf

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ITJB Vienna Bread - 3rd Time Not the Charm

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

ITJB Vienna Bread - 3rd Time Not the Charm

I baked this recipe for the third time tonight, and I am still scratching my head.   For this iteration I made the following adjustments:

1)  Reduced the malt to 10 grams, based on Eric Hanner's parallel bake comments and results here.
2)  Reduced my mixing time to 10 minutes to reduce the level of dough development.
3)  Added a wire rack to the middle of my oven to avoid baking directly on my quarry tiles.

The results are strange, to say the least, and certainly not "right" yet.  Here is a pictorial tour:

After 10 minutes the dough still seems fairly well developed, but it is certainly much less so than the previous iterations.

This blurry shot shows the dough at the very beginning of bulk fermentation.

Here is the dough 45 minutes later at the end of bulk fermentation.  I may have let it go just a bit too long.

Divided into 2 loaves of 521 grams each, shaped and panned,  and ready to proof.

After 45 minutes they were proofed to show above the top of the pan.

Here are the panned, slashed and egg-washed loaves in the 350 F oven (that really needs a good cleaning so please ignore that if you would).  Note that the loaves are even, there is good clearance all around, and the slashes are down the center.  I am using conventional heat, not convection, so the fan at the back is not in use.  From here it gets really strange.

These loaves baked for 35 minutes.  I tested the internal temperature of the one on the left at 25 minutes, and stuck my big thumb into it getting it out of the oven.  That is why it has the big dent in the end.  It was not up to temperature yet so I put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.  After a total of 35 minutes the internal temperature was 207F. 

The loaves rose unevenly in the oven, or so it appears to me.  The slashes now appear to be off center, and the outer edges of the loaves are taller than the inner edges.  This could be from weak shaping, or from uneven temperature, or from something I have not thought of.  They also have the same caved in side profile (see the next photo) that the previous bakes have shown.

I have not yet cut a loaf, so I do not know what the crumb looks like, or if there is a compressed doughy line up the inner or outer sidewall of these loaves.  I do expect to find one, but I will do that in the morning and post it back here then.

Edit on Tuesday, 11/8/2011:  Crumb shot added below.  This is the less distorted of the two loaves posted above.  There is an only-barely-visible compressed doughy line up one side of this loaf, and the crumb is a little less airy and insubstantial than previous bakes.  The largest holes seem to be smaller than in previous bakes.

My next steps are going to be to buy some true All Purpose flour, remove my baking tiles entirely for the next bake, and recheck the temperature of my oven in several locations to make sure I am still getting even and accurate heating.  It was accurate and consistent (as much as can be expected from a home oven) just six months or so ago, but this project requires re-verifying everything.  I will also consider modifying the shaping from that commended by the authors.

Thanks for stopping by.


ananda's picture

Hi OldWoodenSpoon,

Here in the UK our mainstream flours for bread are treated with the addition of enzymes; particularly fungal amylase.   As a result I don't add malt anymore, unless required for flavour, when I would use non diastatic malt.   You could consider this more carefully, as excess amylase is one of the pointers Cauvain is leading to in the link I gave you before.

Essentially the formula looks like a relatively quick bread.   I don't have the new book, but from yours and Eric's posts, and Stan's comment, that is my reading of it.

You will doubtless know your oven very well; but I wonder if your baking temperature is not too low?   I would bake panned loaves starting at 235*C in a commercial deck oven and reducing to 210*C later in the bake.   For home ovens I would probably pre-heat above this to 250 -280*C first, and load it to 235*C with the steam.   If using the fan from the start, you would only go to 220*C.   I read this bread as slightly enriched, so you would have to lower the temperatures from the ones I mention above.   However, I worry you may have baked too light at 350*F, which is less than 180*C.

All good wishes


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I had one heck of a time in Costa Rica a few years back because I could only get shiny pans.  Great with sweet doughs to prevent burning but I found the only way my bread would finish browning was to remove them from the pans 3/4 into the baking and set them onto the rack directly.  

You really get good oven spring, maybe too much!   How many bulk rises?  I would be temped to "punch" your recipe results and give it two bulk rises  and brutal knock downs before shaping.   I was reading the recipe on page 89,  "Dry or liquid malt" is after my calculation (metric)  not 3% but 3.2%  and sugar (6%)  is also listed.  I tend to use one or the other.     Did you use diastatic malt instead of malt?   Could this be where the problem lies?  Compare to roll recipe on p. 111.




ackkkright's picture

Hi Mr. Spoon,

I left a note on your other thread.

I like both ananda's and minioven's comments here. What other things can contribute to this unique gas explosion?

It also occurs to me that loaf-shaping may influence. Your photo of newly shaped loaves suggest gas bubbles. How do you shape? Try mashing and rolling out all bubbles, dough into a long rectangle, roll the dough as tight as possible along the long side.

ehanner's picture


Well at least you are consistent in your results. I did wonder about your shaping. I have taken to shaping much like Mark Sinclair in his videos or like Ciril Hitz in his videos. You can see the difference in how my loaves expanded at the slash, there was a structure being torn. Yours looks more like a pop over or Yorkshire pudding. 

If you followed the instructions, line 5) describes just folding the flattened dough. I think you should make some effort to tension the gluten cloak as is done on all wheat breads. Then you will have some structure controlling the expansion.


Shutzie27's picture

Good luck on your next attempt! 

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Andy: I understand your comments about temperature, and I tend to agree that I may be under-baking, hence my decision to verify my baking temperatures.  Regardless of whether the oven temps check out though, I will implement your suggestions for loading hotter and baking with a falling temperature.

I must admit I am much less comfortable with my understanding of your (and Cauvain's) comments about amylase. I do not know if the flours I am currently using are treated as you warn, or not. I looked at the Portland Mills technical booklet, but I did not see it mentioned. I wonder if it would be mentioned? It sounds, however, like your comments come down to whether or not the malt called for by the formula is necessary, or may even be a negative contributor to my results. I do not discount or disbelieve what you say, but I am unable to assess this for myself, so I lean on those who go ahead of me: Norm and Stan obviously, as well as Eric and others that have baked this bread. Eric reduced the malt in his parallel bake yesterday and got good results (albeit with a different flour). I reduced the malt to a similar level in my bake last night and repeated my previous results, although not to such a severe degree as previously exhibited. I will continue to read and try to come to grips with this, and when I get to the point where I am still failing with malt in the dough I will test bake this bread without the malt.  Edit:  In my response to MiniOven below you will notice that I am using "low"-diastatic malt.  Do you know if this is different or the same as "non"-diastatic malt?  If different, how so/to what effect?

 You are correct that this is a relatively quick bread. It takes me about 35 minutes from a standing start to have the dough into bulk fermentation. The dough itself contains flour, water, salt, yeast, oil, an egg, sugar and malt (I use powdered). Bulk fermentation takes 45-60 minutes depending on dough and ambient temperatures. Another 30 minutes to knock it down, divide, rest and shape, and it is in the pans for final proof. Yet another 45-60 minutes to finish the proofing, apply the egg wash, slash and load, and 30 minutes, give or take 5-7 minutes, and they are out on the rack to cool. When you add it up the time required to go from start to finish is only 2 ½ to 3 hours. For a yeasted bread it seems very quick indeed.

Mini:  Shiny pans? Actually, I've not been that unhappy with the color on the bottom portion of these loaves. Perhaps it is because I don't own (and never have owned) any dark pans? This has just always been my normal. It's a point worth thinking about.  I'm more intrigued by your suggestions for taking some of the exuberance out of this dough. I am getting oven spring that is closer to liftoff! I am going to spend some time today reviewing that and my shaping techniques, while I travel to town for some true All Purpose flour.  I think I am going to look for the "Better for Bread" flour Eric uses, just so I can eliminate the variable.

On the subject of malt, I am sure you have read Andy's comments above. Further to that, and in answer to your direct questions, I am using “AB Mauri Low-Diastatic Malt”.  I tend not to use it at all unless called for by a formula, so I had to go get the label to answer your question.  When I did, that word LOW jumped right out at me. A quick Gooogle search yielded the usual confusions about diastatic, low-diastatic and non-diastatic malt.  If there is a material difference between “low-” and “non-”diastatic malts, then this might be my partner in these “failures”.

Ackkkright: Yes, shaping is something I intend to address, both in terms of the method I use, and also in degassing much more thoroughly before shaping. This dough has plenty of lift in it, so there is no need to preserve, and indeed an obvious need to reduce, the amount of gas retained during shaping.

Eric: There is nothing like being consistent is there? How was your French Toast at breakfast? Ours was great. These loaves are imperfect but man do they taste good!

I have been shaping these loaves only sort of like described in the book.  I have been using the first stage of the baguette technique I learned at SFBI last spring; a kind of two-fold roll combination.  I pat the dough out into a rectangle not quite as wide as my pan is long, and about three times as high as my pan is wide. Then I fold the top 1/3 down and press the edge into the bottom layer with fingertips to seal it in place.  I then rotate the dough to put the unfolded third at the top. I stretch that top third gently and bring the edge to the bottom front of the dough and seal it there again with fingertip pressure. The “log” is then rolled on the board to smooth down the seam, and I press the ends closed/sealed with the edge of my hand. I'm not all that good at it (you should see my hideous baguettes) but I do try to tighten up the gluten sheath on the outside more than just a simple folding over accomplishes. I think this is still to "relaxed” an approach though, and next time I think I will try either the triangular fold demonstrated in one of the TFL “Shaping a Sandwich Loaf” videos (Jmonkey? Floyd?), or the straight roll-up method.  That, and a more aggressive degassing of the dough is clearly in order, as I already discussed above.

Thanks to you all for continuing to work with me on this.  I do not envy Norm or any other professional baker when they open an oven and find a problem like this.  For me it is frustrating because I want to bake nice loavesl, and I want to do justice to the book and the memory of all those bakers that went before me.  For them, though, it is their livelihood, both today and tomorrow.

Continuing to bake happy!

ananda's picture

Hi OldWoodenSpoon,

just to let you know that I have been on the receiving end of this problem when working for a very well-known supermarket chain here in the UK, as a baker.   It really is not a nice place to be at all!

Low diastatic and non-diastatic are not the same thing.

Obviously I can only pass on my experience of enzymatic treatment of flour which applies in the UK [and EU].   The rules may very well be different in the US.   However, over here, millers adjust the amylase content in the flour by adding fungal alpha amylase to create a balance to the flour which yields the predicted and preferred falling number in the Hagberg tests for specific flour types.   As I think you have come to realise, millers are not obliged to declare the enzymes which have been added to the flour as they are classed as "processing aids".   This means they are supposedly all used up in the dough manufacturing process and apparently no traces remain in the final baked product.   You can draw your own conclusions about this, but I personally am sceptical about the truth of the claim, and just wish our food manufactuers would be a bit more honest and open about what really does get added to our food.

If it's of any further help to you, I think Mini will be right, and that the degree of spring you are experiencing and the speed of manufacturing process are key here.   Shaping matters are but side issues.   Also, and I speak as a Brit who knows Plain Flour for cakes and pastry, and Strong Flour for bread, I don't really see AP as being the panacea to cure all ills.   It may help, but if the dough is enriched, you need decent flour in the formula!   I know fat and sugar and egg have improving qualities, but I've never been convinced that this allows for use of inferior flour type.   Now if we are talking about the infamous UK Chorleywood Bread Process, and the use of lots of additives, lean process, intensive mixing and a resulting tasteless fluff, that is a different matter.   Clearly the formula you are using is at least proper bread; indeed it should be rather fine.

I wish you success in reaching your goals


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Very helpful Andy, and I appreciate that you took time to look back in on this.  I repeat myself to say I do not envy you opening an oven to find this (or any other) problem confronting you.  What a nightmare that must be (must have been).

Thanks for the clarification on the malts.  I will order some bona fide non-diastatic malt promptly.  In the mean time I will leave it out entirely, and thereby eliminate the variables of amylase enzymatic treatments, and any negative effects of using the wrong malt in the first place.

After thinking about it and checking some flour facts I am inclined to agree with you too that this problem is not so much a flour issue as I thought.  As Eric noted good naturedly, my results have been consistent without regard to flour (or malt for that matter).  Also, when I looked it up I discovered that the GM Better for Bread flour Eric had such good results with is actually stronger flour by a few 10ths of a percent of protein than the PM Morebread flour I was using to produce my problem loaves.  As you put it, to make good [enriched] bread you must use good flour, and all the selections I have available fall into that category.  This is not really about flour at this point.

I am less inclined to agree with you on the workmanship (shaping primarily) issue, at least from this perspective:  I have been inadequately controlling the dough during rising and baking by leaving weak and strong irregularities in the shaping of my loaves.  The dough is also left very active by (at least) not deflating thoroughly before shaping.  As a result it expands rapidly into and through those weak spots.  This leaves the support structure of the loaf fragmented, irregular and inadequate.  Neither factor by itself, perhaps, would be enough to admit disaster, but so far both have been pretty much unchecked allowing them both to maximize their negative impacts.  Improving in either area will help, but I need to do more in both.

Now all I have to do is settle my strategy for tonight's rematch!  Thanks for the help Andy.