The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Disfiguration during baking

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Isabela's picture
Isabela

Disfiguration during baking

I've been making artisan breads at home. I use cast iron pans and have been getting great results.

Recently I tried to make my bread at the bakery where I work. They don't have a deck oven, they use a rack oven, which has the option of steam. My breads looked pretty normal throughout the entire proccess of making them. To pan them I used sheet pans, and then put them in the oven to bake. As soon as I started the steam, the area near the oven was also covered with steam! So a know a lot of it escape from inside de oven.

My problem was that the breads didn't open where I scored them. Instead they opened themselves up at the bottom, completely disfiguring the shape, and leaving the slashes I made intact. My chef said it happened because they were underproofed, so I proofed the next batch way longer, but that still happened.

Since I've been making this bread at home and have seen great results I'm left to think it's the oven that's causing this problem. But I don't understand exactly what is the problem. Does anyone have any insight on this?

Thanks!

 

Syd's picture
Syd

I am going to guess that you are not tightening your dough up enough when you do your final shaping and it is opening up at the folds when it hits the oven. 

If you are shaping it into a boule, make sure that you have one continuous, smooth gluten cloak without any folds.  The drier your dough is, the more difficult it will be to achieve this.  If your dough is on the dry side, dip your fingers into a bowl of water and lightly moisten the folds then give them a firm pinch to make everything smooth.  You want to use the minimum amount of flour on your workbench because too much flour is going to make it difficult for the dough to adhere to itself and you won't achieve the desired tension. When doing final shaping for a boule, don't use any flour on the bench.  This will allow you to use the friction created between the dough and the bench to seal up the boule tightly. 

I always check on my dough rising in my bannetons to see if any folds have opened up.  If they have, moisten lightly with water and pinch again.  Wetter doughs tend to self-seal better but they are more difficult to handle and have a lower profile.

Why isn't it happening at home?  Well, the shape of the dough is being contained by the cast iron pot.  It won't be able to split open at the bottom as the sides of the Le Creuset restrict it to rising vertically.  Try baking on a baking stone at home and I am guessing you will get the same result that you get at the bakery.

Hope this helps,

Syd

 

Isabela's picture
Isabela

Hi Syd,

Thank you for your response. I have to say that I thought about my problem being related to not tightening the seams too. So for one of the batches of bread that I baked at the bakery I put the seam side up. But the bottom still exploded! So that little experiment leaves me to think that that wasnt the problem... Anyways, thank you.

Isabela

Syd's picture
Syd

Wow! That is interesting and has me stumped.  Perhaps it is the oven, then.  Maybe there is too much heat and steam coming from one particular direction.  Hopefully someone with experience of this problem can contribute.  Sorry I can't be of any more help.

Syd

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Isabela,

You could try not steaming the oven at all.  Just spray the tops of the bread with water and see what happens.  

Is it possible to try using a stone in the oven instead of the sheet pans?

Isabela's picture
Isabela

Hi Lindy,

Thanks for the suggestion. I was planning on making a test batch at home and I think it's a good idea to try to bake some loaves on a stone. I'm curious to see what happens.

Isabela

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Isabela,

Your problem is caused largely by the type of oven you are using at work.   Lindy's suggestion to put a stone in the oven is your best option, as that will provide conducted heat to make your bread sit up, bottom upwards.   Of course it would work best of all if you could keep the convection switched off for the first part of the baking whilst the steam is in there working away.   However, I suspect from your description, that this is not an option.   I hate smelly rack ovens, by the way!

The trouble you have is that the convection is pulling your bread up from the top and sides, and hence the rips near the bottom of the loaf.   It is indeed a sign of under-proof, but it is more important to understand why it is under-proofed.   You could also look at your dough temperatures and proof times/conditions.   Also look at pre-ferment levels.   You may get better performance in these types of ovens through experimenting.   But from my experience, oven spring in artisan bread comes from the hearth, and a rack oven always disappoints.

Best advice: tell your chef you need a proper oven!!!

All good wishes

Andy

Isabela's picture
Isabela

Hi Andy,
Thank you for your response. I didn't know convection was such an enemy of artisan breads. However I did know that hearth was so important and that's why I suspected that the oven was the problem.

I will run some tests at home tomorrow. I'll definitely try using a stone, with and without steam. Also I'll pay more attention to time and temperature and make sure the bread is properly proofed.

I wish I could ask my chef for a new oven but that might be out of the question! Just out of curiosity, do you know how much a decent deck oven costs?

Thanks again,
Isabela

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Isabela,

About £13000 for a 3-deck electric oven new.   A secondhand, re-conditioned will be around £2000 per deck, but you are unlikely to find many with less than 3 decks.

That's in the UK, of course.   I don't know where you are based.

Rack ovens are really good for many types of bread, of course...eg panned breads; the steam facility is fantastic too.   So they have their positive aspect; it's probably mainly me that just doesn't like them.   I'd sooner have travelling ovens in large-scale industry than racks.

Best wishes

Andy

Isabela's picture
Isabela

Just wanted to say that I followed your suggestion and baked some bread at home on a stone, and the results were much better than at the bakery! No explosion on the bottom of the bread, and I even got a nicer crispier crust than at the bakery with the rack oven. The shape wasn't super even, but the loaves still looked good.

Thanks

isabela