The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

right moment to bake bread

jembola's picture

right moment to bake bread

Hi, I'm new to this forum and recently returned to the art of bread baking. Yesterday I tried Brother Juniper's Struan Bread (Peter Reinhart, Brother Juniper's Bread Book, 1991) with mixed success; it's such a wonderful recipe I'd like to perfect my results. My main confusion about bread baking at the moment is about the right moment to put the bread in the oven. I thought I was too hasty in the past, for scheduling reasons, getting a smaller dense loaf as a result.  This time I waited till the loaf domed over the top a little more, and as it wasn't really very high, I waited patiently.  I finally put it in the oven.  I suspect I had let it get past its prime because it didn't really spring in the oven and it had a slightly bitter yeast taste. Not bad texture-wise, although I thought it should have been a little lighter since I used all white (hard wheat) flour, along with the other grains called for. So what can I do to (1) assess when to put the bread in the oven (2) assess whether I'm doing something else wrong? I'm aiming for a perfect loaf!

arzajac's picture

Does the recipe say that you should fold the dough to shape it?

Even with the best flour available, if your dough doesn't have the right shape, you will end up with less than great results.  Google stretch-and-fold, for example.  I'm sure there are plenty others out there, too.

Also, in of itself, letting your dough overproof will not result in a bitter yeast taste.  It would take a lot more than 24 hours of proofing for the flavour of your bread to be anything but improved (delayed or prolonged fermentation makes better tasting bread)  So if you overproof, your bread may end up stringy instead of fluffy, but the flavor would still be fine.

Is your yeast still fresh?  Is the dough doubling in size during the bulk fermentation?


LindyD's picture

Jembola, I hope your book has the errata insert between pages 72-73, noting that the correct measurement of salt is four teaspoons, not the four tablespoons that appears in the original recipe on page 73!

I've not baked this bread, but with such ingredients as uncooked polenta, rolled oats, brown sugar, wheat bran, brown rice, honey, and buttermilk, it sounds like a real winner.

Which yeast are you using?  Instant or active?   If you used active, try switching over to instant yeast.  Since you mention a single loaf and the recipe makes about five pounds of dough which is to be divided into three loaf pans, I'm unclear whether you are making three loaves or one larger one.

The dough is fermented for an hour until it "roughly" doubles, then divided, shaped, and panned.  Reinhart instructs to cover the dough and allow it to rise till it crests past the top of the pan.  At that point it is baked.

I think your comment about overproofing is correct.  If your dough was fully (100%) proofed when it rose beyond the top of the pan, I'd try baking the next batch when it's around 85 or 90% proofed.   I'd also preheat the oven to 400F for the first ten minutes, then back it down to 350F for the remainder of the bake. 

With a bit of experimentation, you'll be slicing your perfect loaf in no time.






jembola's picture

Thanks for the comments.  I checked the salt and my recipe calls for 4 teaspoons, not tablespoons (Yikes!) I use instant yeast, and keep it in the fridge. The expiry date is sometime in 2010 so I think that's okay.  I did think the dough doubled in size nicely in the bowl. I am making three loaves with the recipe and since I only have 2 loaf pans (bottom 8 1/2x4 1/2; height 2 3/4). I'm interested in the fold and shape principle and will Google that as suggested.  I shaped one into an oblong loaf and baked on a cookie sheet. I flattened each piece of dough, folded it over and then pinched the seam together firmly.  I think I tried to stretch it a bit so the ends touched the pan.

One thing I did substitute was flax meal for the wheat bran (1/2 cup).  Could this have a significant impact on the rise?

Also, how high above the pan does "crest" refer to?