The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Good taste but many other issues - looking for advice

Cooper's picture
Cooper

Good taste but many other issues - looking for advice

Hello,
I've been baking for a bit now, and managed to achieve good and pretty consistent taste and crumb, however I am definitely doing something wrong, since I can't get my bread looking nice.  The recipe I use is still measured in cups and spoons, but the dough consistency and feel is good, so I assume that's not the main issue.  Here's what I do:

1 3/4 cups of water
4 1/2 cups of AP unbleached flour
2 1/4 tsp of salt
1 1/4 tsp of yeast

I preferment 3/4 cups of water and 1 cup of flour with 1/4 tsp yeast on the countertop overnight.  In the morning, the mixture is live and a bit bubbly, with a pleasant yeasty smell.  I then combine the rest of the ingredients in the stand mixer and knead it with a dough hook for about 5 min.  Place it in a bowl and let it rise for about 1-1.5 hrs, until roughly doubled in size.  Deflate, stretch and fold a couple of times, fold in a ball and back to the bowl for another rise.  After that, I stretch and fold it again, shape it into a long or a round loaf, set it on a baking sheet, and let it rest and rise one last time, about 1 hr. 

Preheat oven to 450F, score the loaf, and bake for about 40 min (internal temp 200F). 

Challenges: while the loaf is resting on the baking sheet, the top dries off, making scoring difficult.  As you can see from the photo, the scoring did not "open up" during baking, even though it was deep enough, resulting in a lop-sided loaf with a crack on a side.  While loaf was cooling off, it crackled a lot, and developed cracks in the crust.  I used to introduce steam at the beginning by pouring water into a preheated pan at the bottom of the oven, but didn't do it last couple of times, being concerned for the well-being of my oven. :-)  Should I resume doing that?

 

 

As always, I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this.

 

Rube Goldberg's picture
Rube Goldberg

Shaping is a lot harder than it looks. For an amateur home baker (like me) it is hard to bake enough to get good at shaping. I bake plenty of bread that taste good but looks bad. Are you covering your shaped loaf with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out? Spraying the loaf with oil or butter will also keep it from drying out. I would recommend steaming again. Do you have a really sharp knife to slash with? That is what helped my slashing the most.

Cooper's picture
Cooper

Thank you for your comments.  I was covering the dough with plastic wrap while it was rising, but not when it was on the baking sheet resting.  Should I?  I score using very sharp razor blade, so the cuts are thin and at least 1/4" (0,5 cm) deep.  Could the lack of steam cause the surface to set too quickly - it was already dry to begin with - which is why the cuts did not open up in the oven?

phaz's picture
phaz

Dried out is most likely causing the blowout. Top is drier and now thicker while bottom is still most. As the loaf expands in the oven, only place to go is down. Mist with water and wrap well for bf and fp, and again before it goes in the oven should do it for ya.

Cooper's picture
Cooper

Thanks phaz,

So, that's probably why the scoring didn't open up either, right?  What's bf and fp please? :-)

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Bulk Ferment and Final Proof

Lechem's picture
Lechem

Crust forms on top too quickly, preventing the scoring from opening, and the gas takes the easiest route to escape through weaknesses in the dough. Shaping well is important. Incorporate a pre shape if you don't do so already. When proofing do so with the dough covered in plastic to prevent drying. Get some steam into your oven. Baking in a Dutch oven gets around the steam issue. And go for a bolder bake for a nice darker crust. Obviously the crust is personal taste.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the rising/proofing loaf on a baking sheet with my dough bowl if it is big enough.  Misting the bowl (and dough) help keep moisture inside if ambient humidity is low.  :)

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

It looks like there is more heat at the top of the oven (top of the loaf) than at the bottom. Do you bake on a stone or pre-heated pan? That would help. Put the loaf further down in the oven if you can - it looks like the top is 'setting' before the oven spring is done, resulting in the blowout on the bottom (the spring can't happen at the top, even if you have scored it, if the crust is set there already).

I'd agree to go back to using steam in the oven. Also, Mini's suggestion of covering the resting boule with a big bowl is a good one!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

One of the first things I look at when the loaf comes out of the oven is the bottom of the loaf.  it should be as dark as the top.

Cooper's picture
Cooper

Appreciate all the comments!  The last loaf was placed in the oven somewhat higher than the previous loafs.  If you think that affects the way it bakes, I can definitely lower it.  The first few loafs I baked on the convection setting, but then a professional baker told me that commercial ovens have no air movement inside, so I stopped using convection and just use regular baking setting, which probably does create more heat on the top than on the bottom.  Should I go back to convection?  What do you folks out there use?

With regards to the Dutch Oven, I tried using it once, and the results were pretty disastrous. The bread tasted great, but it got stuck to the walls of the Dutch oven (I used corn meal at the bottom, so that was OK), and ripped while I tried to remove it.  I have baked with steam (hot water poured onto a pan pre-heated at the bottom of the oven) after that, so I think I'll go back to steam.

Finally, I have just watched Richard Bertinet's video on shaping the dough, and I think I want to try the slap-and-fold technique.  I use stand mixer with a dough hook for initial mixing, so I never did that technique before.  I also noticed that I was doing stretch-and-fold somewhat wrong as well, so I'll try correcting that.  

 

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

have you seasoned your dutch oven? i don't have an actual DO so my dough is a lot smaller the the roasting dish I use.  I sometimes use an inverted terra cotta pot that I have seasoned several times and the bread doesn't stick if it comes in contact with it. The other suggestion would be to use parchment but I don't know how practical this would be for you.  I get much better oven spring using a DO  than I do just steaming/spritzing the oven (I have always been scared of wrecking the electrical stuff when spraying water around).  I have tried rolled up small towels in a dish of boiling water and it is an improvement but for me not as good as a DO.

If you are steaming the oven you probably don't want convection as it will dry the surface of the bread faster and disperse the steam. Others often use it in the final stages to crisp up the crust once you have finished steaming. 

Hope some of this might help

good luck

Leslie

Cooper's picture
Cooper

My Dutch oven came with me from the "old country", and it's actually enameled all around, so it doesn't need to be seasoned.  It's fairly narrow though, and it's possible that my loaf was too big for it, and didn't have enough room to expand sideways.  After that, I got decent results with introducing steam into the oven, so I think I'll just stick to that. :-)

Good point about convection; it'll probably hurt more than it will help.

Final thoughts before I bake my next loaf tomorrow: is 450F (230C) for 40 min a good temperature?  Should I bake it hotter? 

 

leslieruf's picture
leslieruf

so that the stones/tiles (and DO) are really hot then turn it down to about 230°c.  I bake about 15 - 17 minutes lid on and upto 20 minutes lid off.  My breads are usually 550 g or about 750-800 g. I always check internal temperature and bake to at least 208°F (i can choose F or C) so 40 mins sounds ok to me for a simple bread about 800 g, but I cannot judge how long more complex breads would need.  The total time sounds ok for your preferred steaming option assuming you remove steam half way.

It sounds as if you are getting there though.  Good luck tomorrow

Leslie