The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to bread making, questions

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hamletcat's picture
hamletcat

New to bread making, questions

Hi, 

I am new to bread baking (without a bread maker).  And I just have a few questions or things that I don't fully understand.  

- some recipes say bake the bread at 350 some say 450.  What is the difference in using high temperatures?

-why do some recipes have you bake the bread inside a dutch oven as opposed to just baking a loaf in a metal bread pan in the oven?

 

I think I have been trying to bake a decent loaf of bread for almost two years, and I think part of it is my lack of understanding in how the process works.  Thanks in advance.

 

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

hamletcat,

The differences in baking methods are designed for differences in the resulting bread. For instance, the temperature difference results in a different texture to the crust and crumb. There are so many variables that interact with each other, it's hard to really nail down any one variable with an accurate description of what it does. Some ingredients, like butter and sugar, will cause your crust to brown more quickly. So, in order to get the bread done all the way through and browned the right amount at the same time, you bake at a lower temperature. If you're only using flour, water, salt, and yeast, you may have to bake at a higher temp to get any browning at all. In that case, you usually use a higher amount of water so the bread doesn't dry out too much by the time the crust is done.

It's the same sorta thing with baking inside a Dutch Oven, or a La Cloche, versus in a loaf pan. In that case, you are dealing with steam. In a loaf pan, the top of the loaf is exposed to the oven air. If you want steam to help your crust develop a certain way, you will have to add moisture somehow to the interior of your oven. With a DO or La Cloche, you are simply holding in the steam that evaporates from the loaf as it bakes, so the bread is making its own steamy environment.

Every little thing that someone adds to their ingredients, or their process, or to the baking environment, is to produce some specific result. If you stick around here long enough, you will begin to pick up on what variables cause what kinds of results. Baking is simple enough a kid can do it, but also complex enough that it can take years to master. When I say "master" what I mean is being able to predictably and reliably produce specific results on purpose.

Ford's picture
Ford

I'm not convinced that I know the answers, others may correct me, but here's my take.

For loaves of bread, I start at 450°F for 15 minutes, to get a rapid "oven spring".  Then, I reduce the temperature to 350° F for the remaining time.  I also have a pan of boiling water beneath the shelf containing the loaves and spray them with water every two minutes for the first five minutes to keep the surface of the loaves pliable and to allow the surface to stretch.

People have used the Dutch oven as a means of retaining the moisture during the initial stages instead of spraying the dough and using a steam generator.  They remove the lid of the Dutch oven near the end of the bake to brown the bread. 

In my opinion, there many variations in building a loaf of bread.  One should use the one that "works" for that baker.  If it works for you, it is not wrong!

I hope this helps.

Ford

hamletcat's picture
hamletcat

Thankyou both!  I baked a loaf on no knead bread for my husband, using the 450F 25min, covered and then 10min uncovered in a casserole dish and the crust was leathery.  My husband said, although the bread was good, he couldn't chew through the crust.  I didn't really understand why this happened.  I'm still not really sure, but maybe it was because I used a casserole dish.  Understanding the "why" really helps troubleshoot, so I appreciate these responses.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

Perhaps you might try less time with the top on, and more of the time with the top off. A very long time in a steamy environment is not recommended. I'd say try reversing those times - 10 mins covered, 25 mins uncovered and see what difference it makes.

Perhaps if you tell us exactly what your formula and process are for that bread, somebody else can give you even better tips.

hamletcat's picture
hamletcat

My formula is 3c. bread flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp instant yeast and 11/2 cups of water.  I mix it and then let it sit for 12 to 24 hours.  Then I put it into a crock pot insert and bake it at 450F for 25min covered.  Then I take the cover off and bake it another 10 minutes.  I wrapped his sandwich in Saran Wrap, would that have anything to do with it?  It would be like storing it in a plastic bag after baking.