The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

First Bread Loaves

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bakerkevin's picture
bakerkevin

First Bread Loaves

Hi All,

This is my first post in the fourms. I've tried baking pies, bagels and croissants over the past few years but have only started with bread. In fact, I've attached a few pics of my first loaves baked last week. The are the Italian loaves out of The Bread Baker's Apprentice p. 172.

I would love to get some feedback from all of you much more experienced bakers, esp about the appearance of the crumb and crust. Unfortunately, there were no pics of these loaves in the book so not sure if I was on the right track.

Also, I had a question about the biga. I had it in the refrigerator in a covered bowl for about 36 hours (the books says up to 72 hours is fine). When I pulled it out of the bowl, it had a slight smell of fermented beer. Is this normal? (It was a pleasant smell.)

Regarding the taste of the baked loaves, the family loved them. But, when I really concentrated, I could taste a bit of a pungent taste--it was very slight but I could taste it. Is that normal for this type of bread?

Thanks for any feedback!

isand66's picture
isand66

For your first attempt this looks pretty good.  If the Biga smelled good and not rancid then you are fine. 

Did you use a baking stone and steam to bake this? 

My main comment would be that it looks like your crust is a little pale which could be from a lack of steam or not baking it long enough.

I'm not sure why you had a pungent taste or exactly what that means but this recipe should not taste pungent.  The biga does add an extra depth of flavor to the final bread.  I actually prefer to substitute my sourdough starter for the biga to get even more flavor out of the dough and eliminate the yeast.

bakerkevin's picture
bakerkevin

Thanks for the feedback! Being brand new to bread baking this is super helpful.

To answer your question, I used the back of a sheet pan but I also did use a steam tray at the bottom of the oven like the author describes in the book. I tried using a spray bottle during the first minute too but I think it didn't have an adequate flow rate so there wasn't a lot of steam. I'll definitely try to get more steam this week when I try again.

Regarding the pungent taste, that is probably the wrong word. It was more of a sour taste and it was very slight. I really had to concentrate to taste it. I was wondering if that was the "extra depth" I should be getting from using the biga and how strong that taste should be?

isand66's picture
isand66

When you can try and get a bakers stone.  I actually use one for the bottom and one above on the top rack.  It really does help create the ideal bread baking set-up.  For steam I use a heavy duty rimmed baking pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and pour 1 cup of boiling water in it right as I put the loaf in to bake.  Some people like to use Sylvia's steamed towel method which you can find by doing a quick search on this site.  I don't find spraying the oven really makes much of a difference, but if it works for you go for it.

I would agree that the taste you are experiencing was most likely created by the long fermentation and is something to be desired.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

Looks like a great first attempt to me. Can't wait to see the second batch.

Heath's picture
Heath

Regarding the pungent taste, that is probably the wrong word. It was more of a sour taste and it was very slight. I really had to concentrate to taste it. I was wondering if that was the "extra depth" I should be getting from using the biga and how strong that taste should be?

I haven't made that recipe, but the sour taste is the result of the long fermentation and is widely sought after in the bread baking world.  It is indeed the "extra depth" you mention.  I'm not sure about the strength of the sour taste, as I usually bake with sourdough (wild yeast), but what you describe sounds about right.

Everyone enjoyed your loaves so they were a resounding success :-)

bakerkevin's picture
bakerkevin

Thanks for all the feedback. I just made a new batch of biga and will be doing these loaves again on Thursday and will be turning up the steam with the new garden sprayer I picked up. We'll see how that affects the crust.

I'm also happy to hear that I am on the right track with my sour taste. :-)

isand66's picture
isand66

What exactly is the garden sprayer you picked up and how will you use it?  If you have to open the oven several times to spray the steam you may lose the effect and also the heat inside the oven.  Curious to hear how it turns out for you.

Ian

bakerkevin's picture
bakerkevin

In the book I am using to learn bread baking, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the author recommends either the pan at the bottom of the oven approach and/or using a spray bottle or garden sprayer to heavily douse the oven walls for the first 2-3 minutes that the loaves are in the oven.

For my first batch above, I used the pan with water and I used a wimpy little spray bottle. This next time (today actually) I will also use the pan but I picked up a hand held garden sprayer from Ace hardware. It is one that you pump with air and then just activate with a trigger. It is really high volume water and I guess the idea is that it should simulate a steam oven.

I'm not changing anything else in my procedure so I'll post a pic of the second batch tonight to see how the crust was affected.

bakerkevin's picture
bakerkevin

HI,

Last week I tried my hand again at the Italian Bread recipe from A Bread Baker's Apprentice. This time, I made the following changes.

  1. For steam, I again used a water pan at the bottom of the oven. But, I also used a small pressurized garden sprayer to douse the walls of the oven twice during the first minute of baking.
  2. I only let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours instead of the 48 hours the first time around.
  3. The final proof lasted just a bit longer so the shaped dough rose a bit more before going into the oven. 

Here are the results. The crumb was a bit less "sour" than the first time. I assume because it was only refrigerated for 24 hours. The crust was darker--probably because of the extra steam.

I'm not sure if the crust is supposed to be crusty or soft with this recipe. The first few hours out of the oven it was crusty but the next day it was soft.

Here are the results. Feedback appreciated!