The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Looking for that best oven spring

enchant's picture
enchant

Looking for that best oven spring

As a new baker, one thing that I've found is that (at least for me), recipes are nearly useless.  They seem to be more like suggestions and inspiration for you to bake a similar loaf.  I've tried several recipes and all but one was a total failure.  And that one took a few alterations to get perfect.  So I'm trying to learn what works best for me.

I love light rye bread.  A rye recipe I tried (which seemed to work great for everyone except me) failed badly, multiple times.  I really wanted to make a decent loaf, so I decided to try to come up with my own recipe.   I read through several others and came up with this "average" of ultra-simple recipes.

  • 250g warm water (going for 70% hydration)
  • 8g IDY
  • 250g bread flour <- Correction - typo - That should say 270g (sorry)
  • 90g whole rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4g salt

Mixed water, yeast, flours caraway till all incorporated.  Autolyse 30 min.  Add salt.  Knead 8 min.  At this point, I had something that was far too sticky to handle, so I didn't bother with any stretch and folds.  Just put it into a greased bowl to ferment.

My plan was to check it at 1 hour and leave it longer if it needed it.  When I checked it, it looked to be more than doubled, so I pulled it out of the bowl, degassed it a bit and put it into a round proofing basket.  Again the plan was to check it after 60 minutes and proof more if I thought it needed it.  Watching it, it seemed to have stopped rising before 60 min passed, so I put it into my new LL combo cooker (500F), scored it and cooked covered for 20 min.  When I took the cover off, it hadn't risen a micrometer.  I finished cooking it nonetheless and tasted it.  Pretty tasteless, too.  Threw the rest away.

Now feel free to beat me up about this because I deserve it.  I know that to properly troubleshoot something, you change one thing at a time.  So in that spirit, I did the following:

  • Reduced the hydration (235g - 65%)
  • Reduced the yeast (5g)
  • Increased the salt (8g)
  • Added stretch and fold
  • Reduced the bulk ferment time (30 min looked good)
  • Reduced the proofing time (I chose 40 min)

The result was the best loaf I've made yet.  The crumb could have been a bit more open, but I'll work on that.

So after all that, the only question I have regards the oven spring, which was totally lacking in my first loaf.  I've read in several locations that you want to put the loaf into the oven when the yeast is at its highest activity.  How do you know when this is???  I mean, if I see it rising like crazy, is it at its peak now?  Has it just this moment stopped and is now done?  Does it have a long time to go?  I was thinking of trying my recipe again and taking a time-lapse video of it proofing and just let it go forever.  Then I could look at the video and make a determination about when it was doing well before it stopped.

Yeah, I know.  It's an art and not a science.  Thing is, I'm not much of an artist, but I sure like bread.

Jim Laurita's picture
Jim Laurita

Before you beat yourself up on the oven spring, can you double check your yeast content......you are using nearly six times what most people use and therefore the yeast may have fully exhausted its food supply before you ever get to the oven. The lack of folds also prohibits re-distribution of new food supply for the yeast, and there will be less gluten development to contain the gasses produced during fermentation.  Those gas pockets expand during the heating process.

Lots of other small things I could comment on (fermentation times, etc.) ,but double check your yeast content first.

enchant's picture
enchant

Yeah, I kinda suspected yeast.  That's why I reduced it.

One of the problems with perfecting a bread process is that the whole thing takes so much time.  It'd be nice if I could do several tests making tweaks over the course of a morning.

But I'm really not looking for advice on perfecting this specific recipe.  All of what I do is really to understand what does what in the process of baking.  I'm mostly interested to know how one knows when the yeast activity is is at its peak.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Yes, probably way too much yeast, combined with too long for both the ferment and the final proof, especially with rye flour (which ferments very quickly). Yes, adding rye flour will make the dough sticky. It's more like modeling clay than nice stretchy wheat dough is, but it's worth the effort if you can do some stretch and folds. You might want to do a little more than just 'degassing it a bit' before the final proof too, to get the yeast and its food re-distributed. Try patting it out into a rough rectangle and doing a letter fold (folding in thirds) one way and then the other. Let it sit for a bit (15-20 minutes) then shape it into a tighter ball before putting it into the proofing basket.

If you use a lot of yeast and a short ferment time, you will usually sacrifice flavour, which develops over time during the bulk ferment. So, less yeast will allow a longer ferment and better taste!

Salt should be about 2% of the flour weight (340 g X 2% = 7 grams).

enchant's picture
enchant

> rye flour (which ferments very quickly)

That's good to know - thanks.

I did three stretch and folds after the bulk ferment.  The dough was very non-stretchy, but I just had to power through it.  What I did specifically to degas it was to flatten it, then form it into a ball, then gently squish it around a bit (difficult to describe) and then a lot of tension pulls.

I think on my next try with this recipe, I'll drop the yeast a little more and see if that will allow me to ferment and proof it a bit longer.  To be honest, it tastes pretty much  exactly like what I was going for.  I'd be interested to see what flavors develop with a longer ferment, but I'm pretty happy with the way it is now.  If I were to change anything, it would be to open the crumb a bit.  It's possible that for the size proofing baskets I'm using, maybe I should use less dough.

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Enchant,

You are right that recipes or formulas are mostly suggestions, but suggestions that work for the person who wrote them. There are so many factors that go into making a loaf come out the way you like that it is hard to pick out one thing. The flour used, the hydration, the temperature of fermentation, humidity are just a few of the factors that affect the way the loaf behaves.

To get oven spring you need a couple of things. The gluten needs to be sufficiently developed; once it is developed it cannot be broken down by overfermentation (called proteolysis, a huge topic all by itself). And, as you said, you have to catch the timing right.

One of the biggest factors in how quickly the yeast develops is temperature.  Yeast growth could double with only a few degrees Fahrenheit higher difference. Temperature is also, fortunately for us bakers, something we can control to an extent. You could use a cooler temperature water to mix the dough. You can build a simple proofing box to help control the temperature. (I use a string of non-LED Christmas tree lights attached to a a thermostat, such as those made for a terrarium.)

That said, regarding the recipe specifically, yeast is *generally* up to 1% of the total flour if you don't do any sort of preferment like a poolish or pâte fermentee.  In your recipe, you have 340g total flour, which translates to 3.4g of yeast at most, often less. So you may well be using too much even if you have used only 5g. This may require much more proofing, maybe a few hours, but the flavors will develop over this time. Also, you mentioned you wanted a more open crumb.  To do this you need to increase the hydration of the dough. the 70% hydration that you started with should be easy to handle if you develop the glutens. I would suggest not doing additional stretch and folds after the bulk ferment, all the gluten development should be done within the first 2-3 hours of the BF.

Lastly, the mantra here on TFL is watch the dough and not the clock. One of the hardest things to do for a new baker is to determine when the proof is complete. The poke test can give you a sense of that. Just flour one finger and poke the dough to about 1/2 inch deep. If it pops back out within a minute or so, it needs more proofing.

Good luck.

-Brad

enchant's picture
enchant

Yeah, one thing I'd definitely like to do is to go back to a higher hydration.  The first time around, it was so sticky that I had to spray my fingers with pan release to get the dough from the mixer to the bulk ferment bowl.  But even though the lower hydration yielded a better loaf, it was almost certainly due to the reduced yeast. I typo'd my flour amounts.  That should have been 270g of bread flour - not 250.  So 1% yeast for my recipe would be 3.6g, which is what I'll go with next time.

Thanks for all the great advice.  Now I've got to start eating more bread.  Or find someone to give it to.

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

I give away most of what I make, too.

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Is to get ideas, try them and see what works for you. That's why I never say this is exactly how you should keep your starter, for example. If anyone asks me i'll say "this is how I keep my starter", as everyone will have a different answer.

This is how I'd tackle the recipe...

  • 250g warm water (going for 70% hydration)
  • 8g IDY
  • 250g bread flour <- Correction - typo - That should say 270g (sorry)
  • 90g whole rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4g salt

 

  1. I have a preferred hydration for each flour. When a recipe uses a mix i'll just work out the hydration for each one then add it up. Bread flour I think 65% works well and for whole rye I'd go up to 90% hydration.
  2. The maximum I'd use for IDY is 1% for a quick bread. But I very rarely use yeast and even more rarely go for quick breads. Prefer less yeast and longer fermentation. Good bread takes time.
  3. I stick with 1.8 - 2% for salt.

 

Now the recipe re-arranged according to the above...

 

Flour 360g (270g bread flour, 90g whole rye)

Water 260g

Salt 6-7g

IDY 3.6g (but in reality I'd probably halve that and go for a longer ferment. And if you really want to be more adventurous then go for 0.3g, tip of a tsp, and go for a long bulk ferment overnight) 

Caraway seeds : According to taste

enchant's picture
enchant

> Now the recipe re-arranged according to the above...

I'm going to take another stab at it this morning, and I'm going to go with your version of the recipe.

Now I have a confession to make, and I hope that this doesn't get me banned from the forum.  I... I don't really like sourdough all that much. (waits until the shouts for torches and pitchforks subsides.)  I like it in certain instances, but not all.  I made a loaf of sourdough bread the other day that started to look like a massive fail, but in the end came out ok.  I think it makes a great grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and it's probably good with other fillings that have the strength to compete taste-wise, but with something milder like turkey, or simply buttered, it's not my favorite.

All that said, I *will* try the tiny amount of yeast and overnight ferment at some point, because ingredients are relatively cheap and I'm curious.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but I've gotten the impression that more fermenting equals more sour-ey.  And that's not a direction that I always want to go.  My current rye bread isn't perfect, but the flavor is exactly what I want.

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Not everyone likes sourdough but the main thing about baking is to like the results. So that isn't sacrilegious at all. Now having said that i'll also say that sourdough doesn't necessarily have to be sour. One can manipulate the process to produce different results according to ones taste. That comes with time and I've been at this for a few years now but only just beginning to venture into really manipulating the final results by experimenting with different flour, hydration and fermenting times. 

Another thing which takes time is really knowing when the bulk ferment and final proofing are done. For a long time I could only get it into the ballpark but knowing the perfect time is quite difficult. Only more recently are things clicking into place and I make another small leap in noticing changes to the dough.

You won't get more sour by just extending the time of an IDY bread by a few hours. it'll take a long time of a dough sitting in the fridge for it to begin to take on these characteristics. And even then it's not as pronounced as sourdough. Extending the time does bring out a more complex flavour of an IDY but it won't be a tang.

Sorry about the other day's misunderstanding btw.   

enchant's picture
enchant

The more I read in this forum, the more things I want to try.  Overnight fermenting, and some of the unusual ingredients are high on the list.  The problem that I have is that there is only so much bread I can eat.  To make matters worse, my wife is convinced that gluten is evil and wants to find a good gluten-free bread recipe.  For me, gluten-free bread is like non-alcoholic vodka.  What's the point?  I do have a brother a couple towns over that likes good bread.  Maybe I'm going to have to start visiting him more and bringing him loaves.

Once again, thanks for all the good insight and advice.

And we're good, btw.

Lechem's picture
Lechem

I want to try everything but have to limit myself to one loaf a week. So it takes me a long time to get round to all the things I want to bake.

Gluten is only evil to coeliacs. Otherwise nothing wrong.

Thanks!

enchant's picture
enchant

Well, straight out of the oven, it doesn't look half bad.  With the higher hydration, I found it a little challenging to score it very deeply.

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

I don't like sour bread either and almost everything I have made so far is not.  as Abe says, sd doesn't have to be sour. It took me about 3 years to get my starter going (should have joined here earlier) and there is no going back. I still do an occasional yeast bread though.

Well done enchant, happy baking yeast or SD - each has its place and that is different for each of us. 

Leslie