The Fresh Loaf

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Same bread recipe has gone from chewy to soft - why?

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Kurt's picture
Kurt

Same bread recipe has gone from chewy to soft - why?

I have now made five batches of Crusty Italian Bread from Amy Scherber's book.  The first three turned out VERY crusty with large holes.  I was very happy with the result.  However, the last two batches have had large holes and very good oven spring but the crust has been much softer.  They make a perfect sandwich loaf but I cannot figure out why they are different in that regard.  I use steam for all batches.  Hydration is the same for all batches (I knead with water, not flour, to keep the dough moist/sticky).

The sponge is made the night before and refrigerated overnight.  Then the dough is made from the sponge and again refrigerated overnight.  The next day, I shape three 13oz baguettes, let 'em rise for a few hours, slash them and then watch them spring in the oven.  They bake at 475 for ten minutes then another 8-10 at 450 and get pulled out when their internal temp hits about 205.

The first three batches would get harder as the days pass and cutting slices was more like sawing lumber, which I'm fine with.  They were very, very chewy.  These last two batches remain soft day after day - which I'm fine with, too, but I just gotta know why so I can control it.

Thoughts?  Any more details I can provide to solve this mystery?

Thanks.

-Kurt

Kurt's picture
Kurt

This may be it, it just occured to me:

The first three batches had a final rise right out of the fridge, on a cold granite counter in a cool kitchen (62-68 degrees) and put in the oven still quite cold.  These last two batches were pulled from the fridge for three hours before forming and then they were placed in the oven with the light on (78 degrees) to proof.  They proofed much larger but still didn't collapse when scored or handled.

Could it be the initial temperature of the dough when baked?

-Kurt

TableBread's picture
TableBread

I know that I usually proof my dough at nothing less than 75 degrees.  Beyond that you never can be sure your giving the yeast the right temperature to grow. 

As far as the crust on the first batch goes, well, that could be just about anything.  The only way you can be sure is to REALLY track what you are doing with each batch. 

  1. What is the temp of the oven?
  2. Humidity?
  3. Proofing temperature?
  4. Did you mist the dough?

You see what I am saying?  To truly create consistency you have to do everything almost in a scientific way. 

That is where I would start :)

 

TableBread

http://tablebread.blogspot.com 

Kurt's picture
Kurt

Tablebread,

The oven temp was constant, all batches were misted as well as a cup of water tossed into the hot pan at the bottom of the oven and humidity was not measured but it's been overcast with intermittent showers for two weeks here.  The only serious and definite delta is the proofing temp and dough temp - both were originally lower.

I'll verify with the next batch by 'keeping my cool'.

-Kurt

TableBread's picture
TableBread

 

'Keep your cool' ;)  I love cooking humor!  Let us know how it goes.  The only case where I would even begin to suspect proofing temperature though is if you don't let the dough come back to room temperature.  Of course 'room temperature' is a pretty vague term and we USUALLY define that as 72 - 78 degrees F.

Good Luck and Good Baking!

Tablebread 

Kurt's picture
Kurt

It would appear that dough temperature plays a part in how crusty and chewy the final product will be.  I just made my first ever sourdough from a starter begun 15 days ago.  It turned out great.  I retarded the shaped loaf for several hours today and popped it in the hot oven almost immediately (i.e. cold dough).  It sprung very well and gives that 'sawing lumber' effect when attacked with a bread knife.  Very chewy, too.  LOVE'N IT!

I must express my thanks to all on this site for providing the vast amount of information and kindness needed to take the leap to non-commercial-yeast baking and artisan baking.

Merry Christmas everybody!!!!

-Kurt

walgenbe's picture
walgenbe

I'm just getting started with the baking, have made only 3-4 loaves (loafs?) with my starter.  I'm not into doing things super scientifically, but I like to be able to tweak it to make the kind of loaf I like.  So far, each one has been better than the last but I like the crusty crust.  Does refrigerated dough make a crust more crusty?

 

Kurt's picture
Kurt

From what I can gather, retarding the dough allows for a richer textured and colored crust but not 'crustier'.  It also develops flavor throughout the dough visa vi enzymes breaking starches into sugars.  I retard nearly everything just to extract as much flavor as possible (and to allow for baking during the week while working).

I have determined through trial and error that lightly misting the loaves directly with water as they go into the hot, steamed oven creates a very thick, crusty crust while steam alone will create a thin, crusty crust that will soften within a day.

 

-kwz