The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

More consistency, but let's talk about steam

alfanso's picture
alfanso

More consistency, but let's talk about steam

I've posted these before, the Hamelman sesame semolina batards alfanso-style - meaning subbing out the very liquidy bread flour levain for my very liquidy rye flour levain.  Delivering 15% rye flour (all through the levain) to boost the flavor in this bread.  The composition of flours is; semola rimacinata 60%, bread flour 25%, and rye flour 15% @67% overall hydration.

I believe that I have the consistency part down pretty well.  So instead, let's talk about steam, shall we alfanso?  Okie Doakie, let's roll...  Recently there has been some interaction on the part of a few participants including myself and Doc.Dough, with a series of private messages between myself and the good doctor. Including this top notch video and blog entry courtesy of Doc.Dough - lots of steaming discussion included in the comments.  

As with others on TFL, I employ a double dose of steaming components which have me insert one loaf pan with a Sylvia's Steaming Towel into the lower rack of the oven ~15 minutes prior to the bake.  Once the dough is loaded I add 2 cups of near boiling water to a lava rock filled casserole pan.  This creates dabrownman's so named mega-steam effect.  Historically I've been leaving the steaming going for somewhere in the neighborhood of 11-13 minutes.  And I'm sufficiently happy with the outcome.

Now along comes Doc.Dough with his micrometers, calipers and what-not trying to upset my baking pushcart.  Purveying the notion with engineered knowledge that the effect of steam is negated after somewhere around the 5 minute mark.  Anything beyond that is equivalent to window dressing.  

What is an alfanso to make of all this fact based information, when all along I've been getting the job done by nothing more than "educated" guesswork, experimentation and personal experience?  Well, if I were me, I'd be curious enough to see where the oven spring has taken my dough at that 5 minute mark.  Because as with all of us, I hope to get better and more understanding of baking over the long haul.

For these past few bakes, instead of setting my timer to the trusty 11-13 minute mark I've been setting it to the 5 minute mark so that I can peer through the oven door window and take a gander at what's what.  And ya know something?  For the most part I'm becoming a believer!  The baguettes do open up (almost) all the way at that mark.  However, I find that the batards still have not maxed out yet, and they take a few minutes more.

And so I've turned a corner here and pretty much gotten on board.  I still like keeping the steam going for close to my requisite time, but I can now see the doc's point of view.  I don't see any downside to leaving the steam going, although my experimentation has been limited to maybe 3 or 4 bakes.  So I'l continue to slog on and see how this goes with some other types of dough.  Always something new to be learned in this doughy business.  Thanks, Doc.

And now a very few words on the consistency thing:

Nov., 2016:

 and this morning:

Comments

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I think the length of steam required depends in how big and thick the loaf is.  Baguettes 6 minutes, batard 12 and a boule 16 and and a big boule 20 minutes.  You have to have the steam pumping - while at high heat,  Steam tends to lower the heat of the home oven substantially which is why I forego Sylvia's steam unless I am heating it in the microwave and adding it at the last minute - Like Sylvia's original method specified right before the water goes on the lava rocks.  I want to make sure that the stones are at 500F the second before the steam goes in and the dough hits the stone,  Best way to get blisters is this way especially if the bread is a white one and dough is cool - not cold.  Those are my thoughts at any rate...Lucy says I'm a doofus so take it with a grain of salt Ole Don Baggs Of Fancy:Semolina , scoring, crust and crumb/

Looks great as usual but how does it taste compared to SJSD or With a bit mire added whole grain like a Norwich or Vermont SD .


Happy baking DB I knew it would only be a matter of time we ended up with the same initials.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

From my own experience I agree that the larger the object - in this case a wad of shaped dough, the longer the steaming period seems to be 'required'.  When I have the audacity to run a bake with both batards and baguettes (how dare I), the batard never exhibits a full bloom by the time the baguettes do.  Size does matters in this realm.  Again, I can only speak from my experiences, but the likelihood of this being universal makes sense to me.

The taste vs. SJSD?  Comparing apples to oranges as this has a boatload, 60%, of the flour as the durum.  The SJSD has, as I recall, a sweeter flavor, but this is huskier due to the amount of durum and rye.

Darth Baker

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Those are some gorgeous ears! :) 

And congrats on keeping consistent (or at least striving towards it). Baking bread is relatively easy. Being consistent, however, is a lot more difficult. Maintaining the same flavour, shape, texture and so on over a long period of time takes skill and intuition. Mostly intuition, I think.

If it makes you feel better and happier with the results, I suppose there's no reason to change your technique. Then again, experimentation is key to finer breads. And I agree with Dab's comment above. The dough's weight and shape determines the length of steam required... but as you say, slog on and see how it goes with other types of dough.

Cheers and happy baking,

Zita

alfanso's picture
alfanso

As mentioned elsewhere, a desire for consistency is one of my cornerstones.  

The slog will proceed!

alan 

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

...on my mind, since the problem with actually using the steaming techniques is dealing with the physically heavy and really freaking hot steam sources!

Whether it's pouring boiling water in to pre-heated lava rocks, or moving heated and boiling towels, or even using a cast iron combo cooker or dutch oven --- well, those are all pretty challenging (and kinda dangerous) for those of us with balance issues or arthritis or other mobility restraints.  It might be possible if there were enough time for slow and deliberate movements, but the oven already loses so much heat with the steam generation itself that having the door open for long enough to stay safe seems problematic to me.

I've been using a light-weight old enameled steel roaster (since it is light enough for me to safely handle), but it definitely doesn't seal as well as the heavier pots / cookers and there obviously isn't going to be the amount of steam coming just from the loaf alone.  I would love to see some results from you and the doc and dabrownman if you did choose to experiment on whether the amount of steam and the timing for it really does differ with the weight or volume of the loaves --- and whether the additional heat loss of having the door open for longer would be counter-productive in baking results if it were required for safety.

It's an interesting dilemma, whether the steam generation vs the old roaster would be a worthwhile risk...

As always - gorgeous bake!  It has to feel good to know that you can play around with the variables and still come out with your consistently grand results.  Oh - and I hope that you enjoy that durum in there!

Best,

Laurie

Arjon's picture
Arjon

to put a small dish or cup of boiling water as well as the dough? Just a thought - I haven't tried it.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Here is a potential solution - if you have a baking stone in place.  My setup has the lowest rack in the oven for the steaming pans.  The lava rock pan lives permanently in there and heats up with the oven.  I pull that rack out with gloved hand after loading the dough to pour the water onto the rocks.  You might be able to place a pan loaded with lava rocks as such and never remove it.  When it comes time to steam, perhaps a long spouted watering can could allow you easier access to the pan.  I just use a pyrex measuring cup - with gloved hand covering my wrist as well, push the rack back and shut the oven door.  The 2 cups of water completely boil off the rocks by the time I release the remaining steam.  Nothing more.

As for the Steaming Towel, just a moistened towel in a loaf pan could be placed into the oven on that same lower rack a few minutes before bake time, and douse it with very hot water to get the steam engine generating.  It will continue to steam after my lava rocks have dissipated all of their water so it does need to be removed.

alan 

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

...for the suggestion - and for the continuing discussion here on the various aspects of steaming and Maillard and caramelization and....

My personal issue is nerve damage and arthritis in my wrists, causing random locking up or spasms or total loss of grip strength.  Keeping a tray with lava rocks on one of the sliding racks, and just leaving it in there could be a good solution --- but I'm still a bit wary of having to pour boiling water in there (I'm nervous about a spasm or lock-up causing the water to hit the glass on the oven door --- and it just takes that much more time to cover and uncover it for safety). 

I might just try a bake with my husband home to rescue me if I have a flare, and see just how much of a difference it makes to rise and crust development.  I suspect that I'm limiting my oven-spring with my current method by having the crust fully dry out and develop before the dough has reached peak height, so it would be worth the experiment.

I hadn't seen anyone suggest leaving the lava rocks in there before and just working out the right amount of water to add to last for as long as I want steam.  That definitely gives me something to think about - thanks!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Wow, and most of it is way over my head and way beyond my desire to "get it".  I'm methodical, but really don't want to try and absorb any more that I need to know in order to bake bread and get the results that I do.  Maybe when that stipend for visiting professorship materializes someday ;-) I'll have to get up to speed, but until that fantasy happens I'll stick with what got me to here so far!  But I'm happy that so much discussion has ensued on this topic here.

About the steaming with lava rocks.  In case you never came across this before (and why would you?) I posted a short video of me baking a pain au levain bread just a year ago.  You can see the lava rock thing in action here to determine if this is something to pursue.  I also believe that there are simple implements specifically designed for pulling an oven rack out and the pushing it back in again.

Curious as to whether this may work for you.

alan

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

the ones that wander off at will and end up somewhere that nobody would predict!  Mind you - they are usually accompanied by wine or tequila...

I like the lava rock idea - especially that they can just remain in the oven after the water has boiled off and I can deal with them when they're cold again. I'll be looking for a metal watering can with a very long spout to go with it.

That video was the perfect demonstration and really eye-opening for me --- seriously: do you usually use such a slow and deliberate pace when working with the open oven door, or was your movement slowed to show more clearly for the video?  My frugal (cheap - oh, definitely cheap!) inner self was screaming "shut the d**n door - you're letting all the heat out!" at you --- and I'm surprised and relieved that you obviously had no resulting issues with the bake with that amount of heat loss.  You were moving at a speed that is not much faster than I usually would be able to --- and that is making the whole experiment seem much more possible.

From all of the edumacated discussion here, I did get the definite impression that I should (all necessary qualifiers in place) be able to get a better consistent result by switching to a steam source instead of trying to use just what is generated by the loaf, so it is definitely worth a try. 

Now I just have to go shopping (shudder) and get some lava rocks and a watering can...

Thanks again!

alfanso's picture
alfanso

from a week visiting with one of my oldest dearest friends.  We sat around and chatted endlessly for a few days, punctuated by small tasks and a trip here and there.  But we did talk endlessly until 1 or 2 in the morning many nights.  No wine or tequila was required.

And yes, that is the speed at which I load the oven and do bread maintenance in it.  No rush.  As soon as the oven door closes I reset the temp. to force the oven to re-fire and bring it back up to full heat again.  The baking deck acts as a marvelous thermal mass and transfers an awful lot of it to the dough while the oven is coming back up to temp.  I'd say that if the oven is set to 460dF for the bake, by the time the oven door closes again the temp has dropped to ~410-420.

Lava rocks are amongst the cheapest garden dept. items to buy.  A typical bag should cost no more than about $4 USD and there should be plenty of remaining rocks in the bag after the pan is filled to the brim.  Ans so fat they don't seem to be wearing out!  I'd guess that you can also get away with an inexpensive plastic watering can with a long spout.  

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The question of what the steam does and how much steam generation takes away from heating and what some extra heat does are issues worth investigating. As you note, the average home oven is quite limited in the rate of energy insertion with many electric heating elements operating at ~2500W [8500 BTU/hr for electric or 16,000 BTU/hr for gas for approximately the same oven performance because you have to derate it by about 50% due to venting losses].

You have to account for the heat required to make up for the losses you incur when you open the door as well as the heat soaked up by the water to turn it into steam and the heat required to heat the resulting steam up to the desired oven temperature. A bigger oven heat source really helps in this area. For well sealed electric ovens the steam does not escape terribly fast so that continuous heavy steaming is not needed as much as it is for a leaky electric or a gas oven. The evidence of good steaming is in the shiny and blistered crust.

The question of what additional steaming does after the surface is cooked is a good one.  Extending the steaming period delays the heat loss associated with removing the steam generator from the oven (unless you add just enough water to deliver precisely enough steam after which steam delivery stops on its own and you don't have to open the oven). When the water stops boiling, the temperature of the oven can rise and contribute to early browning.  And of course there is a balance between crust thickness and crumb core temperature at the end of the cycle which is impacted by the time/temperature cycle.  The details count, and also vary widely from baker to baker, so the steaming time variations reported above are not surprising.  And the beautiful loaves from everybody here speak to a trial and success methodology that has paid off for each baker.  There is no one answer. Every baker has to manage his or her process to produce the desired results.  It is not easy. It is not quick. And consistency requires either highly repeatable processes or incredibly good instrumentation and precision models of the underlying processes, which are generally the limiting factor for that approach which is why process repeatability is the route to consistency for almost all commercial bakeries.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Steam also helps with browning. And if you vent the steam too soon, you can hinder the color. Now, if you're getting that color after just 5 minutes with steam then no worries. But that's not always the case. In my experience, the ideal time to vent the steam is when the loaf just starts to noticeably brown. That means a few darkening spots here and there. That's what I was taught when I first started baking, and that's what I've verified for myself through trial and error (because I trust no one more than I trust personal experience). 

Additionally, I've noticed ovenspring that continues for up to 10 minutes after loading. Again, vent too soon and you'll limit that ovenspring. In discussions such as these, I think it helps to clarify with a qualifier such as "In my experience . . ." or "Under the conditions I'm working with . . ." or "With this dough on this day in this kitchen and this oven . . ." because too often we tend to assume that what we experience is what others will experience. And "in my experience" that's just not the case. 

Personally, I've worked with ovens where I was happy to vent after 10 minutes. Others where I needed 20 (on average, of course). At home with my combo cooker, I'm happy with 15 or so. I've never had a good experience venting early (like 5 minutes), but I understand that that's the case for me. Others may (and obviously do) have different experiences. 

The problem with running a few tests and then making a claim is that the tests can only account for the variables at play under those particular test conditions. And with something as dynamic as bread, it's a rare thing to find one result that applies to all bakers and all doughs and all environments at all times. 

This applies to all aspects of baking, not just steaming. One of the most humbling experiences a baker can face is starting at a new bakery. It's almost like being a beginner again. All those things you thought you "had down" no longer seem to apply. What worked in one place no longer seems to work in the new place. That's because baking is much too relative -- methods/processes/techniques don't always transfer 100%.

In fact, they rarely do. 

Even something seemingly as basic as scoring can change dramatically when working with different doughs and a different oven. I can painfully recall how ignorant I felt when the scoring technique I used for a full decade to produce wonderful ears on baguettes at one bakery couldn't lift even a hint of an ear at another. I had to figure out and adapt to a whole new method to again get those ears. And that's just one example of many. 

I know I'm straying a bit from the topic, and I don't mean to vent all over your post here (I know you're making no such claims here yourself and are only referring to your own personal experience -- this is probably a topic better reserved for its own post). But it's relevant and worth discussing nonetheless. 

The point is that no one should just take a claim at face value. We should always test and discover for ourselves. No matter how logical something may seem, we never truly know until we experience it ourselves. And what we experience once, we may not experience again under different circumstances. Such is the nature of baking. 

Also, just to make clear -- this is not a rant against Doc.Dough. He has claimed no such absolutes. In fact, the good Doc understands and has stated this very thing. So we're on the same page. This is more to raise a general awareness that the only way to verify a claim is to test it for yourself. And you have to keep testing it, to see if the claim continues to hold up under the changing conditions you may encounter. I probably shouldn't even be using the word "claim", because what we're really talking about here are hypotheses. And hypotheses can only be tested and verified one experiment at a time, but never proven true under all circumstances.

BTW alfanso, your baguettes are always such beauties. Keep it up, my friend.

Cheers!

Trevor

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

@Trevor - This is new to me.  Can you explain the phenomenology by which steam helps with browning? I am under the impression that Maillard reactions generally take place above 300°F and caramelization occurs only above about 320°F. These are temperature driven reactions that are not (so far as I know) dependent on the vapor pressure of H2O.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

A moist baking environment (during the early part of the bake) increases crust browning by improving the degree to which the starch in the crust will gel. Moisture (both in the dough and in the baking environment) is necessary for the heat activated enzymatic activity that helps release sugars in the crust as the dough bakes (these sugars contribute to the browning). Moisture, steam, humidity -- whatever you want to call it -- is key to facilitating Maillard reactions. Dry heat alone won't cut it. At least, it's far from optimal. For a good discussion of this process I highly recommend "The Bread Builders" by Dan Wing and Alan Scott. 

However, this is easy to verify -- bake one loaf with steam and one loaf without. Lean breads baked in dry environments without initially sufficient moisture (such as from steaming, or baking in a dutch oven, etc.) will have a dry, dull, grayish crust (in addition to their limited oven spring and potentially warped shape and/or bursting). Nothing like that lovely rich brown they could have had if they'd been steamed.

Dull gray crusts are one of the tell-tale signs to commercial bakers that they forgot to steam the oven, or that they significantly under steamed. Shiny brown crusts are developed with heavy steaming, and in-between crusts (not dull gray -- rather nicely brown, but not particularly shiny) are developed with more moderate steaming. Steam is one of the variables that can be adjusted to alter the color and shine of the crust. Some breads do better with more steam, some do better with less. But all benefit from some steam.

Regarding how long the bread needs to bake in the steam, well that depends. Like I said, I prefer to wait until I see a few spots on the loaf starting to turn brown. That's a sure sign that the crust has sufficiently gelatinized for ideal browning (because you can see that it's already happening). You can also vent the steam before you see those initial spots, but it's a bit riskier. Venting after just 5 minutes, in my experience, usually hinders the browning process and may also hamper the full ovenspring. But I concede that may not be the case for everyone.

Brown spots usually begin to appear around 10-20 minutes after loading, depending on factors such as oven heat, ingredients, amount of steam, etc. Specifically, they often appear well after ovenspring has already run it's course. So if you vent the steam just because ovenspring has completed -- but before you start to see some browning -- then you may be hindering the browning process.

Now, I've seen certain professional bakers get away without steaming due to the fact that they bake extremely wet doughs in small fully packed and very hot ovens that retain steam well. Essentially, they create an environment similar to baking in a dutch oven. But they are the exception. Not too many bakers can make beautifully browned lean breads without an infusion of steam. 

Trevor

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Today's run was a first time out of the gate with the Vermont SD.  As a reminder of something that I've stated regularly about my bakes, I do so directly from retard without the luxury of a bench proof.  

I paid careful attention to the steaming effect on the oven spring at the five minute mark, just shy of pulling up a chair for the main event.  Well, I gotta report back that there was scant movement in the dough opening toward a bloom at that point.  So little that I was wondering whether this was to be a lost cause bake or not, especially with a new formula.  Anyway, here are a trio of photos from today's exercise:

At the 12 minute mark, the steam is still billowing out of the vent:

  

At the 13 minute mark, steam just released.  What I believe to be important about this photo is that there is clear evidence of the bread, which is 90% white flour, is already starting to brown after living in a highly steamed environment for a full 13 minutes:

 

And a wider view of the entire baking deck:

 

I have nothing other than growing visual evidence to claim that:

  • A full oven of active steam will not always create oven spring after 5 minutes, apparently that depends on the dough.
  • The early stages of browning do indeed begin in an active steam environment.

Of course these "experiments" may be unique to my personal baking environment and fall far short of any true research.  But this is my own experience.

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I think we concluded that browning starts when the dough surface temperature goes north of 300°F which will happen at some point in a 400°F+ oven.

Oven spring is a different matter and I am surprised if a well proofed loaf in a hot oven with steam does not at least start to expand within the first 5 minutes. It is all about Boyle's law and the gas tightness of the foam that is the dough. If the CO2 doesn't escape through a leaky surface, then it should expand in the presence of heat. Since you go directly to the oven from retard it may take a little time to get started just because the heat has to penetrate to where the gas is.

My contention is that once the dough surface exceeds local dew point temperature, you are not getting a lot of additional heat from the condensing steam, though if the oven is not REALLY full of steam the surface starch may not be fully gelatinized due to a shortage of H2O.  From what I have read, gelatinization stops at 95°C whether it is fully hydrated or not so if it gets hot before it gets hydrated you may not get the surface texture you want.  I am unclear on the details of that crossover. Since the core of the crumb is not yet at 95°C, it will not be fully gelatinized and can continue to stretch and support oven spring - which should continue until the exterior of the loaf becomes strong enough to resist further expansion or the starch is fully gelatinized at which point it begins to leak the trapped CO2. So larger loaves protect the core from high temperatures for a longer period of time and thus exhibit oven spring over longer intervals - well past the point where the surface ceases to benefit from additional steam.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

there is clearly a distinction about the timing for steaming doughs of differing girths.

As far as every environment being different, it reminds me of when I made my first of a number of job switches during my programming days.  I was surprised to learn that the second shop had a completely different file and system naming structure than my first shop.  This was, at the point, quite a while ago so things were still in the earlier stages of big-time corporate IT.  

At home I was anticipating a bit of a learning curve when I swapped my single electric oven out for a double electric oven two years ago.  What obstacles and problems with my process would I encounter?  As it turned out, the changeover was not significant and barely a blip on the changeover scale.  I imagine in the commercial bakery world, just about every lab is going to have things that work differently from other labs. 

As far as throwing my hat into the browning while steaming ring, I can offer these two photos.  Different formulae, but there is similarity that I do see across differing bakes.  On the left is a bake where I just released the steam - I know that because the parchment sheet is still there.  On the right another bake where I had just  - just removed the steam and then rotated the loaves.  In both cases, I detect that there are the first stages of browning occurring.  Could be wrong, and so I'll try to pay attention on my next bake...

Thanks for the kind words, alan

 \

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

caramelization That causes the two chemical browning in foods, as opposed to enzamatic,  is that they can oniy take place in the absence of water.  Higher temperatures promote both but in baking at temperatures over 350 F, the Maillard reaction is insignificant to caramelization.  In both cases once the water is driven off then the browning can occur.  

Maillard reactions occur between proteins (Amino acids) and reducing sugars at temoeratures below 330 F,  Since there is very little protein in bread compared to starches and carbs, and the temperatures are higher than 330 F it is caramelization doing most of the browning work in bread.  But meat being high protein will brown just fine in a hot pan once teh moisture on the sirface of the meat is driven off in about a minute if two.

When you apply steam in baking to the surface of the baked good, it can't dry out to allow the Maillard reaction or caramelization to occur because it has to dry out first.  Caramelization is just the pyrolysis of sugars at temperatures over 350 F,  When baking in a DO under the lid at 450 F for 15 minutes and bread will not brown with either method because the surface of the bread is wet from the generated steam,  As soon as the lid cines off the moisture s driven away the bread browns very fast as the sugars are browned by pyrolysis.

A bread that is over fermented where the residual sugars are gone will not brown well becsue the temperatures are too hot and there isn't much protein in bread ior on the surface to turn brown by the Maillard reaction.  You will also notice the crumb doesn't get brown with either reaction because the moisture in the crumb is never driven off to allow either to brown the bread work,

For bread it is caramelzation that you need to worry about and for meat is it the Maillard reaction that browns it but neither work in the presence of water,

Happy baking and meat browning

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

"For as long as food has been cooked, the Maillard reaction has played an important role in improving the appearance and taste of foods. It has been a central and major challenge in food industry, since the Maillard reaction is related to aroma, taste and colour, in particularly in traditional processes such as the roasting of coffee and cocoa beans, the baking of bread and cakes, the toasting of cereals and the cooking of meat"

Full text can be retrieved from:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mswkwskqwrew79n/Maillard%20reaction.pdf?dl=0

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

presence of a reducing sugar at heat to 350 F.  Maillard doesn't do much for low protein foods like bread, cocao at about 11% protein where carbs are much much higher in both and non at all on coffee which has no protein at all.  The browning we see in bread cocao and coffee beans is predominately from caramelization.  

Meat is almost all the Maillard reaction doing the browning .

Another odd thing is that these 3 foods are all fermented processes.  Fermentation is coverting sugars to CO2 and ethanol then baked or roasted at temperatures over 325 F.  In all 3 cases, residual sugar from fermentation is found on the surface that is caramelized by high heat.  Coffee is the easiest to figure out since there is no protein involved at all.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

Aside from the obvious and by now absolutely expected perfect results this is an interesting thread. I use lava rocks and usually let them dry up after 5 or so minutes but recently changed up my method which keeps the oven steaming for a good 10+ minutes. Since discovering that my upper deck produces the best spring I decided that my usual 4 batch bake gets best results if I start the first two only on the upper deck. I add water immediately prior to shutting the door. Then 6-7 minutes, later, I will transfer the first two loaves to the lower deck then peel off loaves 3 and 4 to the upper and once again douse the lava rocks a second time. This of course recharges the steam engine and I believe adds a thicker cloud to the lower deck. The funny thing is that loaves recently have been Browning on the ears much better than ever before and I end up with 3 or good loaves as opposed to 1 or 2.

Its hard to tell whether this change of logistics is to credit for this but actually I think it has a lot more to do with other minor changes I have made one in particular is that I now mist them much less liberally and actually think the Browning that I am seeing is all thanks to less moisture coating the surface. With that in mind I imagine that should I try just two loaves without a second steam recharge then maybe I could expect even better Browning. As we all know there's always room for improvement and I tend to think that the closer you get to your own personal benchmark for perfection, the further or higher your benchmarks elevate.

Since taking on the personal challenge of baguettes I have been through similar baking endeavors (pies, pizzas, puff pastries etc) and have always felt that in baking the last 1% of your grading scale is where all the magic happens. Ie the difference between a two crappy loaves where one is about 50% and the other 60% of your ideal is just two crappy or just ok loaves, but the difference between a 99% and 99.5%er is huge. This is what I consider the baking conundrum. But back to steam - I have 1.4kg of dough fermenting for tomorrow and may try a single steam charge for 5 or 6 minutes and see what happens - thanks for the very scientific thread !

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Gas or electric oven?  And input energy rate (KW if electric or BTU/hr if gas)? Preheat time? Steady state temperature at load? Baking surface material (firebrick, tile, aluminum sheet, Dutch oven)? Weight of water boiled over what period of steaming? Are you instrumented well enough to know the radiant surface temperature of the oven at load and again at the end of steaming? There is a lot of  thermodynamics that happen in that interval and I think the oven specifics weigh heavily on the results.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

And by basics I am alluding to the fact that I kind of wing it with steam. So I have a gas oven and preheat to 550. That will take about 35 minutes. I have two 22"x12"x0.5" basalt slabs arranged on two decks. Beneath is a tray of lava rocks. I pour about .6 liters of hot water just poor to shutting the door. As for all the other details o have no idea. I considered purchasing a laser thermometer but haven't gotten to that level of sophistication. I can guess that the internal temp after all the fussing around is probably just about 490f (On average) only because I know my bake time is spot on 20 minutes for 4 baguettes. As for the temperature of the stones I am also fairly confident the temp is probably about 500f as I bake almost immediately after the oven reaches 550f. I also remove my slabs and dock then on the top of the oven for ease of peeling the loaves so there's a bit of fussing and heat loss which is why I go to 550f (although by now I can do all of this pretty quickly having repeated these steps umpteen times. The convection seems to be from the back upwards and over the top slab (judging from color progression of the loaves).

So really my method is a result of trial and error bit mostly what if like to achieve now is more contrasted Browning of 'les gringes' should you be so interested you can see steady improvement by looking at posts made today and within the last month verses older ones. The first real surprise Browning I saw was about 2 months ago where I was completely dumbfounded by 4 beautiful loaves that was followed by a few weeks of ok result and now within the last month have been seeing much more consistent ears with signature dark edges and hoping to eventually get those incredible alfanso style ears that I can flaunt to other tflers!

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

The 600g is assuming a 4.5 cu ft oven volume and that you leak one oven volume per minute. But you have a gas oven which (unless you shut off the gas and plug the vents for 5 min) pumps almost all of your steam directly up the flue.  I ran the calculation, and about 1.25 lb of lava rock at 400°F is enough to boil a pound of water but you have to keep the steam in the oven.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

Absolutely aware of that characteristic and,one point I was using aluminum turkey basting trays as a makeshift Dutch oven bit tired of pinching the tips and general disasters trying to fit everything and I eventually found a setup that seems create enough of a cloud for long enough and that is to position the lower slab towards the back and the upper towards the front. The lava rocks sit on the floor at the front and so the steam rises in front, then sort of 's' shapes its way around the back of the upper slab. At least that's what I gather is probably happening. Then once in a while I will Google steam ovens and fantasize about a mini deck oven !

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

"When surface dough temperatures reach 212F, crust formation and coloration begin, due to the process known as the Maillard reaction, a complex chemical change that causes a rich browning of the bread's crust (or the surface of a grilled steak) and contributes significantly to the flavor of baked bread. The Maillard reaction occurs in the presence of heat, moisture, protein, and reducing sugars, all of which coexist when properly made bread is loaded and steamed." -- Jeffrey Hamelman in "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes"

Also . . . 

"First, sugar combines with protein breakdown products (amino acids) in the so-called Maillard reactions. These start when the crust is still moist, at temperatures below the boiling point of water. At higher temperatures the Maillard reactions can produce a deep brown crust color . . . High moisture content in the dough and high humidity in the oven in the early phase of baking increase the chewiness and color of bread crust. The moisture allows for more complete gel formation in the crust, higher sugar levels, and more sugar reactions. (On the other hand, an excessively dry oven will produce a crust in which more of the starch remains in its original state)" -- Dan Wing in "The Bread Builders

But engaging in tit for tat references is a pointless exercise. Consensus is a rare thing in much of science -- conflicting studies are a dime a dozen, and I see no reason that the field of baking science should be any different. And so I will take personal experience over scientific dogma any day. 

With that in mind, my personal experience has proven to me time and time again that sufficient steam in the early stage of baking is vital to a properly browned crust. Now, whether one wants to bicker over whether that browning begins -- or is even possible -- under moist conditions, or only begins during dry conditions (as cited) seems pointless to me if the fact that steaming is a precondition for optimal browning in the first place. The "how" and the "why" are far less important to me than the result. And again, you can test the result for yourself. No need to take my word for it. 

I see no point in spending hours researching everything about the Maillard reactions just digging for quotes here or there that support my belief that sufficient moisture is necessary for properly browned bread -- because experience has already taught me the truth of it. Between what you've cited, and what I've cited, and what I can recall seeing elsewhere at various times, there's already plenty of conflicting info out there.

So who do you trust?

I trust results. Neither you nor I will find any study out there that can convince me that the nearly 20 years of verifiable results I've experienced is somehow incorrect. As if all those hundreds of dull gray loaves I've forgotten to steam over the years are somehow just a figment of my imagination.

Here's a thought to ponder: how does true pumpernickel bread -- the kind that bakes in lidded pans for 12+ hours at around 250F -- manage to brown so deeply all the way from crust through crumb if dry heat and 300F temps are such a requirement for browning? Having made this bread myself, I can personally verify that the conditions cited by your reference here were never met, and yet such loaves manage to brown all the same. 

I know the answer to this question, of course. And it's a problem of language -- an author choosing to speak in absolutes when context and clarity would have been better advised. Rather than writing, "Browning cannot occur until the surface temperature rises to about 300F (150C), and this can't happen until the surface dries." The author might have clarified that under typical baking conditions, high heat and a dry surface are necessary for browning to occur within a suitable time frame (the length of a typical bake). By neglecting to specify that his point relates only to some conditions, folks will infer that it applies to all conditions.

So what happens is that an author chooses to write in absolutes, and then such absolutes get read and referenced and passed down from baker to baker until you end up with dogma. Language is a powerful thing, and even the most well-informed and principled scientist or baker can cause a huge swath of misinformation if he chooses the wrong language to relay his message.

Which brings me back to my original point -- we'd best be careful with how we word our message. And when listening to the message of others, always take it for no more than what it is -- your interpretation of their attempt at communicating. There's a lot that can go wrong between those two things. Therefore . . .

Test for yourself. Verify for yourself.

Results don't lie. 

Cheers!

Trevor

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

bread turns so dark when baked low and slow.  I also took a white bread ads baked it pumpernickel style low and slow.  Herr is a picture of the resulting crumb,  It is almost the same color as the bread that was not baked pumpernickel style.  Regular bake first then the pumpernickel.  The brown color of rye has to have something to do with the rye itself because other grains don't do it.  The other kind of browning is enzymatic and rye has unique enzymes that may be causing the browning


] 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

@Trevor 

Can you explain the phenomenology by which steam helps with browning?

I do not wish to appear to be a troll. I just want science to be the basis for knowledge.

I completely agree with you about the importance of steam in contributing to complete gelatinization of the surface starch, but once that has occurred and the surface temperature has risen above the local dewpoint in the oven and the steam stops condensing on the surface of the dough, there is no further significant contribution from the steam (it raises Cp of the gas in the oven but that is not a big contributor to heat transfer rate, especially if the oven walls are significantly hotter.)  There is a short and incomplete thermal analysis here that addresses the relative contributions of radiant and convective heat flux.  I was surprised by the statement, and remain skeptical (but open to enlightenment ) about the mechanism by which steam contributes to browning. There should be a relatively simple experiment/demonstration that illustrates the case. 

Incomplete gelatinization that results from a dry oven produces the dusty gray crust we have all experienced. And there is clearly a (browning) reaction rate that is a strong function of temperature (which is nicely demonstrated by making melba toast at 250°F for 2 - 3 hours).

If steam helps with browning, then there is an explanation based on physics and biochemistry. Observation without explanation is not an acceptable substitute for causality.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

If steam is necessary for proper gelatinization of starch, and gelatinization is necessary for proper browning, then therefore steam is necessary for proper browning. Question answered.

I do not believe you are trolling, but I do think you are missing the forest for the trees. 

The premise that prompted my original comment was that steam is no longer necessary once ovenspring is complete. I disagree with that generalization because steam also contributes to browning.

If you agree that steam creates the initial conditions that allow for proper browning (gelatinization of starch), but also believe that steam can be vented at the conclusion of ovenspring because it no longer contributes anything more at that point, then that notion assumes that the ideal gelatinization level of surface starch for browning purposes is the exact same point at which the interior starch has gelatinezed to the point where the structure is set (thus ending ovenspring). Is that the argument you are making?

If not, what is the argument you are making?

If you are looking for me to educate you on the mechanisms by which steam helps with browning -- in intricate detail -- I'm afraid I can't help you. I'm a baker, not a scientist. My observation is that steam is required for browning because without steam the bread doesn't brown. The technicalities of causality are irrelevant to me. All that matters are results. Poor steam = poor browning.

Furthermore, my observation is that venting steam too soon will hinder browning. What is too soon? It's relative, of course. But I can say -- from observation -- that venting immediately at the conclusion of ovenspring can hinder browning. Not that it always will, but that it can

Additionally, I've noticed that ovenspring can continue for up to 10 minutes or so, depending upon the dough and other various factors. Not that it always will, but that it can

So that's why I bring up the point of "test and verify for yourself", because impressionable new bakers might get the idea here that ovenspring only takes 5 minutes and after that you no longer need steam. That may be true in some cases, but it won't be true in all cases. Hence my caution about language and the need for clear qualifiers.

For the results oriented baker, the point of waiting until you see some spots of browning beginning to appear before venting the steam is because that is a verifiable sign that the surface has met the conditions for ideal browning to occur. I mentioned that you could, in fact, vent earlier than that -- but that it was riskier. It's riskier because without that sign you are just guessing as to whether the crust has been exposed to the steam long enough for proper browning. 

Why guess when you can just go by the signs?

When you have hundreds of loaves packed into an oven, you don't guess. You wait for the signs. Even if the signs don't show up until a bit after the fact (i.e. you could've vented earlier) that's not a risk the production baker is willing to take.

I've learned that the hard way. 

I've witnessed a hundred times over what can happen when you vent the steam at 5 minutes. Or what can happen when you vent just because ovenspring is completed, but without first waiting for the signs of browning.

So we both agree that steam is required for proper gelatinization of the crust. And we both agree that proper gelatinization of the crust is required for proper browning (you do agree with that, correct?). So then we both agree that the question of "the phenomenology by which steam helps with browning" has already been answered. No?

It seems to me then that the point of contention is not a matter of if steam is necessary for proper browning, but rather when it is no longer necessary for proper browning. Your claim is that it is no longer necessary once ovenspring is complete. Correct? 

My claim is that it may sometimes still be necessary for proper browning even after ovenspring is complete. 

In support of your claim you can offer solid scientific proof that the conditions for ideal browning are always completed at the same time that ovenspring is complete. Correct? I too am a curious fellow, and so I'd be very interested in seeing this scientific data. 

Because . . . 

It would contradict my claim that sometimes venting immediately at the conclusion of ovenspring can hinder proper browning. Unfortunately, in support of my claim I can only offer my word that I've witnessed such effects personally. And I understand that my word holds no candle against scientific proof. So I don't expect you to take my word for it, assuming you've seen the proof of it otherwise. 

However, from my point of view, scientific proof holds no candle to personal experience. The "truth" of science is ever changing. And any student of science will understand that "proof" is an impossible thing to establish. All that can ever be offered is evidence in support of a position -- evidence gathered by flawed individuals, using equipment made by flawed individuals, interpreted by flawed individuals, and communicated by flawed individuals. 

I too am a flawed individual, but shall I trust the supposed evidence offered by other flawed individuals, or shall I trust my own experience (flawed though it may be)? I choose to trust my experience. I choose to trust results personally witnessed. That makes for a far more persuasive argument to me, though I understand that persuasion only extends to the trust and credibility others attribute to my word. That's why I always stress that bakers test for themselves.

So if you wish to know the causality for why steam helps with browning, I remind you that we've already established the causality (gelatinization of starch). If you wish to know when steam is no longer necessary for proper browning, I suggest that trial and error is your best teacher. 

But . . . 

A few test loaves here and there ain't gonna cut it. Sample size matters.

The best way to gather evidence in support of your theory that steam is no longer necessary once ovenspring is complete (if indeed, that is your theory) is to personally bake hundreds and thousands of loaves and vent the steam each time at the immediate conclusion of ovenspring. Do this with loaves of differing sizes/shapes, score patterns, hydrations, ingredients/flours, methods of production, etc. Do this in different ovens ranging from small home ovens to large commercial deck ovens and with differing amounts of steam. And while you're at it, time the length of ovenspring with each bake to determine whether 5 minutes to complete ovenspring is a rule you can count on. 

If you follow the rule of venting at the 5 minute mark/ovenspring completion point, do you think you'll have better and more consistent results compared to me if I follow the rule of venting only when the loaf shows the first signs of browning?

Trevor

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Actually I don't claim that you should stop steaming when oven spring is complete. Perhaps a better statement would be that steam does not benefit you very much after the surface starch is fully gelatinized (whether or not oven spring is complete). The starch in the crumb (more than 1-2mm below the surface) eventually becomes fully gelatinized because the water concentration there is maintained by the impermeability of the gluten sheets to water migration. They are truly waterproof. The surface starch needs the steam (or more precisely the water that condenses from the steam) to reach a fully gelatinized state because it is exposed to the air and thus water can evaporate unless the local environment has a humidity above 100% (a condensing atmosphere). The five minute observation is based on my experience with relatively small diameter loaves. Beyond that I don't see any improvement in color or surface texture.  You have much more experience than I do so I accept your observation but remain curious about the underlying science.  As you say, science keeps changing, and we have to run hard to keep up.

Beyond the point where the surface starch is fully gelatinized I don't know of any additional benefit from maintaining steam in the oven.

An example that comes to mind is the bagel. When it is boiled, the surface starch is in direct contact with boiling water and quickly becomes fully gelatinized.  Once that has happened, is there any additional benefit from steam in the oven?  If you add steam do you get better browning?  I don't know.  I am in the habit of baking proofed bagels using a cycle that starts in 100% live steam at 205°F for 5 min (in a combi-oven using moist heat only mode), followed by a rapid ramp up to 405*F over about 3 minutes.  I have never added additional steam once it starts phase 2.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

One is to gelatinize the crust and the other is t keep it from getting set and hard so the dough can expand and spring under heat and bloom if it is a scored bread where you want it to.

Bagels are already gelatinized and small with a hole in the middle so they only need 8 minutes of steam to keep the crust from getting hard, set and browning from caramelization before the bagel has fully sprung to its max volume.

You can easily test this by not steaming your bagel like I have done on one occasion where someone said it wasn't required.  Where you have a huge load if wet bagels sitting on wet burlap wrapped bagel boards then the oven is like a DO and the bagels are steaming themselves.  Just like a WFO does when it is fully loaded with bread.

At home baking on a stone at high heat and no steam then the bagel volume will suffer greatly.  Steam dies two things gelatiniztion of the crust and allowing full spring  to occur. 

Love those blisters on your bagels and I have some theory's as to what creates them and how to promote them on bread that we should start a separate thread on because blisters are so mysterious, interesting and desirable.

How long are you boiling the bagels per side Doc? .

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

The staeming time depends on the heat iof teh oven and the size oif the dough and when it completes its spring and bloom.  Like all things bread - watch the dough and not the clock!  Because of these factors, I steam for 8 to 20 minutes based on what i usually can bake at home.

Very large Miches are the hard ones to do for me because they are so big and the temperatur so low.  It just isn't something I do enough to have a good handle on so it is guess work but wy longer than 30 minutes for sure.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

This is such a good thread.  Trevor has baked a lot of really great bread and was taught by really good bakers over many years and has more experience than the rest of us combined, has some interesting thoughts on gelatinization and its effects on browning that I really like.   Doc and I don’t quite agree on what is really browning bread and other plant products high in starches, sugars and carbohydrates vs what browns animal meats and foods high in proteins.  We’ve all given our thoughts on steam and how important it is for spring, bloom and gelatinization of starch in bread.  I suppose I want to clarify what is going on in bread when it comes to browning

I’m pretty sure we all agree that meats and proteins are browned by the Maillard effect when amino acids in the proteins chemically react with a reducing sugar at high heat, in the absence of water, to brown meats.  A reducing sugar is one that usually ends in ose - glucose, fructose, maltose etc.  The oddball is common table sugar; sucrose, which is not a reducing sugar – there always seems to be an exception.

Where we seem to disagree is what is doing the browning in baked goods and other stuff made with plants that have little protein in them but are high in carbohydrates.  Bread, like many food products that are fermented before baking, has about 11-12% protein but it has 70-80% carbohydrates depending on the flour used.  Carbohydrates are nothing more than more sugars that are bound together by protein bonds into long chains.

So, a hunk of meat is basically a pile of protein (amino acid) with a bit of sugar while bread dough is a pile of sugar with some protein in it.  Diabetics like me need to watch the carbs like bread because eating a slice of bread is like eating a teaspoon of sugar to us.  We can eat all the meat we want and have no worries because the sugar content is so low.

Caramelization is the pyrolysis of sugars.  High heat and sugar, also in the absence of water creates a chemical browning effect.  Bread is one of those foods that has protein in it and carbohydrates.  So the Malliard effect does create browning of the proteins in bread.  But, there is so little protein that this browning is minimal compared to the huge amount of the sugars in carbohydrates that are being browned by caramelization – once the water is driven off.

The easy way to remember what kind if browning is really going on is to remember that animal meat is protein and it is browned by the Maillard effect and plants are carbohydrates and are browned by pyrolysis – caramelization.

So onions sautéing in a pan will eventually brown by caramelization once all the water (they are mainly water) is driven off the surface of the onions so the carbohydrates (sugars) can hit the heat and caramelize.  That rabbit you are making into stew needs to be browned first to add flavor to the stew and since it is a meat protein (amino acid) the Maillard effect will brown it.  It can’t brown in the brazing liquid because there is water in it and if you do’lt brown the meat separately then your stew will be inferior in flavor and texture and not Fresh Lofiian wants that in anything they are eating.

To really get that meat brown fast, get some oil in the pan hot first because the oil does not have water and it will transfer the heat to the meat much faster than a dry pan.  Remember towel dry the meat to get rid of any surface moisture and then lightly dredge the meat in flour – shaking off all the excess.  The light coating of flour will supply the needed reducing sugars for the Maillard effect to take place plus you will get the added flavor of the flour caramelizing plus the flour will help to thicken the sauce when it gelatinizes. ,So both meat and bread do have both the Maillard Effect and Caramelization going on but one or the other dominates the browning process.  Now for some thoughts about gelatinization of starch in baked goods and steam but I will break this off into another post on this thread

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

@DBM Here is an informative bit from khymos that suggests an easy experiment. I already depend on a little soda to accelerate the browning of onions, and apparently also depend on the increased pH from the pretzel bath to get the dark brown color that is so characteristic. The claim is that both reflect Maillard reactions in plant material.

http://blog.khymos.org/2008/09/26/speeding-up-the-maillard-reaction/

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

any Maillard Effect maybe 1%.  Onions are cabohydrates and the sugar in  them is what caramelizes once you get rid of the water.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

You can see the Maillard effect in onions quite easily in a pressure cooker in the presence of lots of water and well below 300°F. Put two pounds of sliced onion, 2 c of water, 1/2t of baking soda and 1t salt in a pressure cooker, bring it up to 15psi (~250°F) and let it simmer for 30 min. Release the pressure and check the color of the onions. Can't be caramelization because it is wet. And the literature attributes it to Maillard reaction. Replace the water with broth and a little EVOO or butter and add some black pepper and dry Marsala to finish it off and you have pretty good French onion soup with almost no effort. (see Modernist Cuisine).

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

of water it must be driven off before browning can take place.  Having a reducing sugar and no eater are the two things Caramelization and Maillard have in common.  There isn't enough protein in onions to even think about the reaction but plenty if Carbs and sugars.  I put meat and onions in a slow cooker all day on high with stock and nothing ever browns no matter how long it is there there same thing with a pot in the stove.  But, take the meat and onions out dry them off and saute them in a pan with some oil to drive off the surface water and boom both get brown in 10 minutes.  The neat by Maillard and the onions by caramelization.  Both are chemical reactions that happen only when  there is no water present.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

A lump of dough, before it is baked, is basically the same on the outside as it is on the inside but the crust sure turns out different than the crumb does even though they are baked at the same time ,at the same temperature, in the same oven and the same way with a couple of exceptions,  Steam on what eill be the outside crust and its distance from the heat and the moisture of the crumb that can never be driven off because it is too far from the heat source and never gets hot enough at 210 F Max when the dough comes out of the oven to get rid of the water

One of the things that is common to the crust and the crumb is gelatinization of the starch.  On the outside the steam and the moisture coming from inside the loaf is picked up by the starch granules under heat which makes them swell.  These granules get bigger and bigger until they hit the temperature and size that makes them burst which releases the gelatinized starch as a more liquid gel as a thin sheet over the surface of the dough.

This thin sheet is just carbohydrates in a thin sheet and we know what happens to carbohydrates ocne the water is removed under high heat-  it caramelizes and browns as soon as steam is removed.   When the steam is removed.  Since this thin covering sheet of carbohydrate gel gives up its moisture fast it is the first thing to caramelize creating a glossy sheen, or shine, over the surface of the bread.  As the heat penetrates farther into the crust the moisture is driven out and the crust sets.  Its thickness and toughness is determined by how long the streaming process was allowed to go on to promote gelatinization, how deep the gelatinization went into the crust and how high and how long the dry heat was allowed to caramelize the gelatinized crust – the higher and longer the thicker, crispier and harder the crust.

Trevor was basically correct in his ideas about steam and gelatinization - this is where the shine of the crust comes from and no shine means that the crust was not gelatinized properly and the starch cells did not burst to spread the gel over the crust as a thin sheet - with not enough steam, not long enough or the temperature was wrong or some combination.  Blisters are created right under the surface of the crust are also due in part to proper gelatinization of crust – but that will have to be another thread.

As a last note about the crust shine that Dan Baggs gets on his fine looking breads.  He uses  cornstarch glaze that he brushes on before the bake or after the bake and maybe even before and after them bake    all work to bring out the shine.  When you put a thin layer of starch granules with water on the surface of the dough that will become the crust, under heat they will swell easily and break putting this thin layer of carbohydrate gel oved the surface that easily shnins and caramelizes once the water is driven off High grain breads with lots of bran in them just don’t shine like white breads because there is only 20% starch in the bran rather than the 75% in the flour.  There is less starch to gelatinize on the surface so less shine and these breads can be made to look pretty with a carbohydrate glaze.  Food for thought - What would happen if you used a sucrose glaze instead of a starch one?

Not so oddly, the exact same gelatinization process is going on inside the crumb too but the crumb is different for a couple three reasons.  First, there is a protein gluten matrix that forms as soon as the dough gets hydrated made from 2 proteins in the flour.  This matrix is the structure that holds in the stuff that the yeast and LAB make when they metabolize the simple sugars created by the amylase enzymes (amino acids themselves) which promote the breaking of the protein bonds ( also amino acids) hat link the starches’ carbohydrate, sugar chains into the sugars the wee beasties can metabolize.

The gluten basically holds in the CO2 created in the fermentation process so the crumb has little CO2 pocket in it that are not found on the crust.   The other difference is that the moisture is never driven f so that caramelization of the Malliard Effect can take place so the crumb never browns but it does gelatinize but maybe not a much or as fully as the crust does because it is too far from the heat and is not as hot for as long as the crust.

If you have ever wondered where those glossy holes in the crumb come from, it is the same thing that put the shine on the crust - gelatinized starch where the granules have burst and spread a thin layer of carbohydrate gel over the surface of the holes that dries enough to shine but never browns because the water wasn’t completely driven off by the heat that was too low and long applied long enough.  So shine on the outside and shine on the inside is the same thing because the same process is happening.   We just don’t think of the starches of the crumb gelatinizing like the crust - but they do and they ae what gives the crumb its softness, texture and moistness when taken to the tight temperature and moisture levels as opposed to its hard, crispy toughness of the crust when taken to much higher temperatures for much longer times that reduces the moisture content drastically.

What we know is that when the dough is properly: developed for gluten, fermented and proofed just right and the crust and crumb are gelatinized properly the spring and bloom are magnificent and the crust and crumb are both glossy and the texture of the crust and crumb are totally different but exactly the way want them -crispy, hard and well browned, thick or thin your choice on the outside and open, soft, moist and not browned on the inside.  But since the outside is browned by caramelization of the sugars mostly but also the Milliard Effect for the proteins the real flavor and taste is in the crust and why toasted bread tastes better.  Brown foods taste good and the non-brown ones not so much.  So, brown those foods and you will like them better.

For us foodies, we want the food we make to look good but most of all we want it to tastes good.  If the food tastes good, but doesn’t look so hot, we can live with that but, if it looks great and tastes lousy, we can’t live with that-  so the taste part has to always be there and that is what we need to have first on the list of things to do when making bread or any food.  Flavor comes from browning the amino acids and carbohydrates but there are also flavors and aromas that come from esters, waste and the by-products of fermenting yeasts and LAB, acids, ethanol, the non-white parts of the grain also have their own unique flavors and aromas that are not found in white flour.  So, really great tasting bread, that is hearty, healthy and nutritious isn’t usually the white kind.  Food for thought.  What would happen if you used a VWG glaze on bread that was 65% protein instead of a carbohydrate one of 65% starch?

 

 

bakingmaniac's picture
bakingmaniac

I think it was from Forkish that I got that the timings were 30 steam - 20 no steam. Back then I've taken it for gospel and have been baking batards and boules with roughly that timing ever since. 

It so happens that yesterday I baked one single batard, and used 25 minutes steam - 15 no steam. Oven spring was past its maximum by the time I vented (25'), but with 13' it was definitely still on its way. The result of the shorter timings was a paler bread, but very soft (my parents' old teeth say thanks) and still retaining some crunchiness to the crust.

So the questions that remain are:

1) if by mark 15' I still don't see my batard as having maximum oven spring (often at least 20' in my oven), and vent the oven, is it possible for it to continue to expand and end up with a satisfying result?

2) Why does Forkish work with such longer times of steaming? 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

completely as they are way to long at every stage.  For an 800 g boule I find 18 minutes of steam to be about right. and 12 minutes without steam to get the bread properly caramelized if it was not cold going into the DO coming out of the fridge like Don Baggs does his baking.  The colder teh dough going i the linger steam and non steam baking will take.

If your bread was pale and the inside was 208 F Plus then it wasnlt properly steamed or baked.  Browning only happens after the steam is gone so I;m guessing you just didn't bake it bold enough after the lid came off and that was the problem

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

That implies that I should not be able to produce a browned loaf in an oven containing superheated (but unsaturated) steam at 400°F.  It is an interesting question to ponder, but I will be surprised if it turns up to be right (of course I have learned a lot from surprises like that - and those lessons are always memorable).

Sounds like a challenge problem. The presence of water vapor (steam) does not mean that there is liquid water available, or that either Maillard browning or caramelization will be inhibited.  I will make note of it and run the test when I get an opportunity.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

instead of 18, the laf is basically done, not much water left by then and the vapor has escaped without being replace ao there is some browning.  Even at 20 minutes if there are air pockets close to the surface of the crust they are so thin the water is easily drivien offand out of them and these spots brown too.

If you can keep the surface of the bread wet, very hard to do, it just won't brown because the chemical reaction can not take place.

The closest thing I got to this was the time above where the bread was done 202 F on the inside but wasn't browned hardy at all beause I forgot to take the lid off.  It's like making stew where the meat never browns by the Millard effect because it is surrounded by liquid the whole time but you can take out dry it iff with a towel and out it in a an with some oil and brown it right up

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Your observation is that your loaf does not brown when it is wet (i.e., below 100°C). But in a steam oven you can have steam at temperatures well above 100°C/212°F. And under those conditions I suspect the crust will brown just fine.  I say suspect because while I have the equipment to do it I have not yet run the experiment.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is water ion the surface if the dough,  Once the water is driven off to the air as steam or water vapor the nit will brown.  It is  just a chemical reaction that is stopped by water.  The problem  is that it is hard to get the surface of the dough dry with a bunch of steam trapped inside a DO but once you take off the lid, the crust dries out and boom in 10 minutes the loaf is brown all over mainly due to caramelization because there is too little protein on the crust to cause all of that browning but the loaf is nothing but a big pile of sugars linked by protein chains

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

the bread,  You can still have some steam but the surface is dry.  There is always some steam in the oven since the bread is giving if it off the whole time but thee isn't enough to keep the crust wet.  If you can keep the oven super saturated with steam the whole time you should be able to steam a bread toi 202 F in the inside and have no color in the outside,  The Chiness call these steamed buns, dim sum and dumplings and have been doing it thousands of years,

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

Yes, I totally agree.  Browning is totally about temperature and not about steam.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

once you get to 350 F browning by Maillard or caramelization happen fairly rapidly.  Temperature is like an enzyme - it acts like a catalyst to things go faster that is all - just like amylase will make the breaking of the protein bonds in the starches in flour go faster but not break them by itself.  Browning is due to protein and a reducing sugar heated with no water present or sugars and heat with no water present.  So you can take a brick, a plate or glass or metal and heat it to 400 F all you want but no browning will take place.  Heat for Maillard isn't even required because the protein will brown in the presence of a reducing sugar if the water is evaporated off - it will just take  a long time to do so.  You need heat for caramelization though.

bakingmaniac's picture
bakingmaniac

in that weight range of 800 ~ 900g depending on seeds and fillings.

If I bake my loaves for even shorter times, I don't see them turning out well sprung, nor getting enough color. Maybe my oven's not hot enough, or my dutch oven is not well sealed.

 

Anyway, I will gradually experiment with lower steaming times, and should definitely remember to measure internal temperature after baking. My thermometer has just been sitting there forgotten and could use some action :)

 

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