The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Introductions and Questions

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Mountainman's picture
Mountainman

Introductions and Questions

Hello to All:

I'm sure I've got a slightly different angle than most when it comes to enjoying baking as a pastime.  I thought I'd share it and ask a few questions.

Due to some financial struggles in the house, my wife and I decided that to keep our heads afloat, some unnecessary luxuries had to be removed from our life.  This included the TV !!!!  Upon it's removal from our house - I began milling around aimlessly in the evenings, not really having a clue what I should be doing with myself. Sad, I know.... Sure, there's always chores to be done - but I was looking for some way to relax...affordably.  Then one miserable raining day - we ran out of bread ( which is a life ending event for young children who seem to grow from nothing but French toast and grilled cheese).  So instead of trudging out into the rain, I figured we'd have a nice afternoon playing in some flour and making some homemade bread.  Since then, I've become slightly obsessed with being able to make my own bread....and actually be proud of the outcome.  Every other evening I make a batch of 3-4 loaves and try to tweak the recipe I've been using ( http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fabulous-Homemade-Bread/Detail.aspx ) to find the perfect balance as it never seems to come out just right.  Most of my tweaking only is limited to actual preparation / Setup / Order of Ingredients /  proofing times...etc.  I'm really amazed at how altering any of these steps without altering the ingredients makes very different loaves of bread! 

I woefully admit that my baking education is coming entirely from web sites scattered over the internet as I await for my copy of "Bread Alone" to be available from the library; so my skills may be a Frankenstein type collection from varying schools of thought.  This morning however I thought I finally had it down pat.  My loaves weren't rising very high, were a little dense, and tasted a little bland.  I found a collection of pointers at this website http://www.foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com/2005/07/ten-tips-for-better-bread.html and did 4 things differently over what I have been doing.

1)  I tried kneading the Dough by hand (While enjoying a glass of wine)  - very nice!
2) I allowed for a rest period prior to adding my salt and oats.
3)  I allowed the first rise to occur in my refrigerator overnight
4)  I  let the second rise  happen in an appropriately warm oven (because my house is a chilly 68 Degrees)  with the addition of a small boiling  pan of water  placed at the bottom of the oven  to  provide for a warm steam  during the final rise.  ( To be honest - I'm not sure why I did this or what I was trying to achieve by doing it....!!)

The end result?  It was a gorgeous looking loaf of bread.  I even made my wife come out of the bedroom early this morning to admire my creation.   But now for the downside.  Upon cutting into my masterpiece - I noticed that it's very, fluffy, moist & full of flavor, but it just doesn't doesn't want to hold together very well.  Trying to slice through it is frustraiting as it just wants to fall apart!!!    I was so close!  But now that I jumped the gun and made so many changes in my bread making routine - I don't have a clue which added step is contributing to my successes (Taste, Rise, Moistness) and which is contributing to my failures ( crumbly).

Any help or criticism is welcomed.

karladiane's picture
karladiane

Hello there!  I only have one possible suggestion regarding your crumbled loaf (well, maybe 2).  The hardest thing about baking bread is waiting for it to cool completely.  How long did you let your masterpiece sit before slicing?  The cooling period is actual very important for the crumb to set up - lots of carbohydrate chemistry that you can read about in Emily Buehler's book Bread Science, if you ever have the inclination.

Alternatively, what kind of flour did you use?  All Purpose Flour doesn't have as much protein, and so can be a little weaker.

Good luck with your future endeavors.

KP

Mountainman's picture
Mountainman

Thanks for the thoughts KP - I used Gold Medal Bread Flour and was able to withhold cutting into the loaf for for a about 3 hrs...Is this an adequate enough time?

karladiane's picture
karladiane

Hmmmm, sounds like everything was by the book.  I'm afraid that a baker with more experience than I have will need to diagnose this phenomenon.

Sorry!

KP 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

One suspicion is that the dough was not moist enough during kneading. Did you keep the bread covered during refrigeration, proof and rise?

Wild-Yeast 

Mountainman's picture
Mountainman

In answer to your question....Yes and No.

 During Refridgeration, it was covered with plastic wrap, but not a terribly tight seal as I wanted it to be able to rise unincumbered. When it was in the oven rising, it wasn't covered but I did put the hot water at the bottom to create steam to hopefully give it a moist environment.

Cooky's picture
Cooky

 You will find this site a great source of information, advice, moral support and recipes!

 As for the texture of your bread, it is possible it over-proofed. 

 You might also find you get good results by adding stretch-and-fold to your repertoire. It does a good job of strengthening the gluten. If you look around this site, you will find a lot of discussion, and some video, on the technique. (Actually there are a couple of different ways to do it, but the basic idea is the same -- stretch the dough out and fold it over on itself.)

 

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Welcome aboard, Mountainman!

"1)  I tried kneading the Dough by hand (While enjoying a glass of wine)  - very nice!
2) I allowed for a rest period prior to adding my salt and oats.
3)  I allowed the first rise to occur in my refrigerator overnight
4)  I  let the second rise  happen in an appropriately warm oven (because my house is a chilly 68 Degrees)
 "

1) Kneading beats mixing any day in my book;

2) Rest period a.k.a. "autolyse" in French-baking speak: helps build gluten, start enzyme action (flavor), helps prevent over-oxidation from over-mixing;

3) a.k.a. Retarded bulk fermentation (see Anis Baguettes via Search engine);

4) Hmmmmm. Maybe you overproofed your dough? What temperature was your oven during this stage and how long did you let it go? I proof dough at 68 dF all the time, 'cause that's my house's winter temperature. It may take a little longer but that's a good thing! Longer time generally means more flavor.

Proofing is done when the dough has risen, but not all the way. All the way is too far = over-proofed. You can tell when proofing is done if a poke of your finger leaves an indentation that gradually is filled by elasticity of the dough.

Also possible: what temperature was the bread when you took it out? Is it possible it didn't bake all the way through and that's why it didn't hold up?

The pan of water for steam provides humidity as the dough heats up and allows for maximum oven spring. Without the humidity the crust sets quickly; the bread can't rise any more once the crust sets.

Good luck with your baking adventures!

Soundman (David)  man to man so to speak ;-)

Mountainman's picture
Mountainman

Thanks for the feedback David!

 I was originally very concerned about overproofing the dough, espeically by leaving it in the fridge all night (I actually lost sleep over this, thinking that I should run out and "punch it down" before I was ready to get up).  But maybe I'm a little confused by the proofing test.  I assumed that your bread was "proofed" when your indentation no longer bounces back.  But you're saying that when it no longer bounces back it is over-proofed?  

Something that I never even considered was the temperature of the bread on exiting the oven.  I just waited for the timer to sound and I pulled it out.........tisk, tisk.....  

 

Back to the drawing board!

 

Thanks

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Not to worry, Mountainman. It's all a learning experience.

If your poked dough doesn't fill back in, however slowly, you are too late. Better a bit underproofed than a bit overproofed. However, you got a good oven spring, which means another symptom of overproofing, namely fallen bread, didn't happen. That's why I wasn't sure if you really overproofed. If your library has it, check out Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread. He's really helpful on these points.

Disclaimer: I'm no food scientist, but this is what I understand. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, believe me! Internal temperature of your bread is very important! Your timer device is just getting you in the ballpark of when your bread is done. I'm not good enough a baker to know when the internal temperature is right by look or feel, so I use an instant-read thermometer. Most breads I bake are lean, and like to get to 205 - 210 dF. Sometimes the crust looks done but the inside isn't close to ready. If it's too cool, it won't set properly. Starch molecules have to fill up with water, expand and, with proper heat, gelatinize to make a proper crumb. Lack of enough water can be a problem, and internal temperature (too cool) can be another as far as setting the crumb goes.

If you don't have one and can afford it, get an instant-read thermometer. Otherwise, if I had to choose, I'd probably rather overbake than underbake, though of course neither is a good thing. Bread doesn't get much hotter, inside, than 210 dF. Lean, artisan breads do well at or near this upper limit, but, you do have to be careful about burning the crust or simply overbaking it and getting it tough.

I had the same sleep-deprived anxiety the first time I let proofing dough retard overnight in the fridge. Won't it get overproofed? Well, generally it takes a long time to ruin the dough in the fridge. The temperature of our refrigerators slows the yeast down so much, as well as the enzymatic action that gradually breaks down the gluten, you can leave dough in the fridge for at least 16 hours without worrying. I've heard of people leaving dough in the fridge for 2 days or more, and still baking decent bread, though I've never gone beyond the 20 hours of retarded bulk fermentation that is part of the recipe for Anis Bouabsa's baguettes.

Good luck Mountainman, and let us see your further efforts!

Soundman (David)

Mako's picture
Mako

Sorry to offtopic the bread discussion

 

Does "MountainMan" mean anything specifically?  I participate in my loacal muzzleloader club, where we renact pre1840's lifestyle, specifically the fur trade era mountain man.

 

I'd like to have some discussions about "campfire" cooking bread in a cast iron dutch oven

 

Mako

Mountainman's picture
Mountainman

Sorry to dissapoint you Mako - but It's just two words that generically describe me.  I like the mountains, and well....I'm a man.

That said - I would love to extend my campfire repetoire from the junk I eat now to something more worthy of a ..... "Mountain Man"  :)   The muzzleloader club sounds fun, very rustic but I'm afraid I don't know a lot about Dutch oven cooking.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

were looking for, but close. Joe Fisher has a couple posts of this nature, although we haven't heard from him in a while.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2966/going-back-time-bread-earth-oven-lots-pix

Betty