The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

An unplanned experiment: Differences in oven spring and bloom.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

An unplanned experiment: Differences in oven spring and bloom.


Above are pictured three loaves of San Francisco Sourdough made from the recipe in Peter Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb." They each turned out with subtle differences that are instructive regarding the variables that affect the appearance of our loaves. I thought it might be useful to describe these differences and what produced them.


I'm not going to describe the formula or method, because these were according to the recipe and were identical for all 3 boules. They were proofed in identical coiled reed brotformen. The two loaves on the right were baked together. The one on the left was baked 45 minutes later, and was left in the refrigerator, where all had been cold retarded overnight, 45 minutes longer than the other two. As you can see, they were scored with the same checkerboard pattern. Both bakes started in a 500F oven. The temperature was lowered to 450F when the loaves had been loaded. They baked for 30 minutes then were left in the oven for another 10 minutes with the oven turned off and the door ajar.


What were the differences in my procedures, then?


For the first bake (the two loaves on the right): 5 minutes before loading the first loaf (the one in the middle). a handful of ice cubes were put in a pre-heated metal loaf pan on the lowest shelf. Then, I dumped the boule on a peel, scored it and loaded it. The oven door was closed. I scored the second loaf (the one on the far right) and loaded it. I then poured a cup of boiling water into a pre-heated cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf and closed the door. The loaf pan and the skillet were removed after 10 minutes.


For the second bake, the loaf on the far left was scored and spritzed with water, loaded and then covered with a stainless steel bowl. The bowl was removed after 10 minutes.


What were the differences in outcome?


Comparing the two loaves baked together, the first one loaded had better oven spring and better bloom. I think it got the benefit of a slightly higher initial oven temperature. The second loaf was loaded within 2-3 minutes of the first. I have seen this difference between 2 loaves loaded sequentially in this manner repeatedly. I think the differences are "real."


The third loaf and the first (the one on the far left and the middle one) had about the same oven spring and bloom. If anything, the loaf in the middle had more. They were both, of course, the "first" loaf loaded. However, the one baked under a bowl for 10 minutes had a much shinier crust due, I think, to dissolved and gelatinized starch on the surface.  The difference "in person" was more dramatic than what I see in the photo. This shininess is an effect I've seen only with breads baked covered. The longer the loaf is covered, the stronger the effect.


These differences may be of little significance. All three boules are quite satisfactory. But the differences do elucidate the effects of minor changes in temperature and humidification and might answer questions other have about how to achieve desired improvements in their breads.


FYI, we had part of the loaf on the left with dinner (Onion soup and Dungeness crab cakes with an Anderson Valley Sauvignon Blanc). The bread had a crunchy crust, typical chewy crumb and lovely complex soudough flavor. This is still a fabulous version of SF Sourdough.


Any comments about the observed differences would be welcome.


David

Comments

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You got me all mixed up with which is which?  I admit I'm getting a little calcified but I got lost when the loaf on the left was the last loaf but second into the oven on the first bake. ..."The two loaves on the right were baked together."


All the loaves look great!  How do you explain the lack of surface flour on the left loaf?


Mini O mixed up

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mini.

Yup. It's a test, and I flunked it. I get right and left mixed up all the time. Sorry. I think I've corrected the errors, but I'll check again when I'm awake.

Regarding the flourless loaf: I don't recall how much flour there was on it before baking. Maybe the increased humidity under the bowl dissolved it? Maybe that contributes to the shine?

Thanks for sharing your confusion. It was a big help!

David

leucadian's picture
leucadian

Do I understand that the loaves  from left to right were: 2nd bake spritzed and covered, second loaf of first bake, and first loaf of first bake? Beautiful loaves, interesting experiment.


I'm curious what kind of oven you have. I think gas ovens vent relatively quickly, and electric ovens like mine stay humidified much longer. I have to be careful when opening the oven door even after 30 minutes of baking: I'll get a faceful of steam if I'm inattentive. I used to think that the main benefit of humidifying the oven was to heat the dough quickly from the latent heat of the steam (energy lost to the dough when the steam condenses: I think that's the right term), but I have since discovered that wetting the surface of the loaves with a fine mist yields the beautiful crust you describe.


And regarding the difference between the first two loaves: do you have much thermal mass in your oven, and is it up to temperature when the first loaf is loaded? I think that might be a benefit of a convection oven, transfering the heat from the upper stones or from the bucket of iron in the bottom of the oven to the bread. That should minimize the effect of loading the loaves at slightly different times.


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi leucadian.


This has to be the most confusing thing I've every written. I planned on deleting the whole thing this morning in the shower. (I planned in the shower. I wasn't going to wash it down the drain, exactly.)


The loaves, left to right: 1) Second bake. Baked under a bowl. 2) First loaded of the first bake. 3) Second loaded of the first bake.


My oven bakes with or without convection. I bake on a thick 14x16x3/4 inch stone. I pre-heat the oven with the stone, skillet and loaf pan in place to 500F for one hour. I do often use convection for the first part of the bake and switch to standard bake after I have removed the water sources. When baking with convection, I set the temperature 20-25F lower than I would for standard baking.


The point you make about convection is interesting, but I have not been struck by it making a noticable difference. Another experiment!


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

First let me say when it comes to great looking loaves, this is a fine trio to be discussing.Thank you for opening this thread.


For my own personal taste, I prefer the look of the contrast of the first two. I like the detail that the coiled baskets leaves along with a small amount of white flour. My own preference would be to not spritz the 3rd loaf that was covered. I haven't found that spritzing benefits the rise however as you point out it does favor a glossy skin. I get a glossy skin from using a steamer or by spritzing the parchment paper I use to load the dough. Just a little humidity will do the job and you still have the coil pattern and flour.


As for the loaf on the far right, I agree I think it suffered from a lower oven temp initially. I discovered while using my Infra Red temp gadget that the stone cools remarkably when the door is opened and especially when dough is placed on it. I have overcome this effect by positioning both boules on a single sheet of parchment and using a peel that (almost ) is wide enough to fully hold both, load both at the same time. I have also used a thin flipper board to load each boule quickly, one after the other, with one opening of the oven. Either one works as well for me. Then a quick splash of hot water in the pan below and the door is closed, not to be opened until it is time to rotate the bread for even color. I only use the amount of water that will evaporate in 10 or so minutes. I don't need to remove the pans to dry the oven out. The heat loss from opening the door is so great I have made this a priority.


The center loaf (first one in I think) is perfect to my eyes. A little darker color and better expansion at the slash marks. Clearly a hotter oven. I'll take that one, just send it to me collect:>)


Dinner sounds like a very nice pairing of flavors. I'm curious, did you freeze the remaining 2 loaves?


Eric

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks, Eric.


Great observations and suggestions!


I have been doing as you suggest - loading all the loaves at once on parchement - more and more often. That's what I did with the ficelles about which I posted recently, for example.  I do believe these sourdough boule results support the merit of that method.


The temperature drop of the baking stone you found is disappointing. The stone is supposed to buffer the temperature when the oven is opened. Any other thoughts about this?


Re. Dinner: Dungeness crab from off San Francisco Bay and San Francisco Sourdough Bread make a perfect pairing. When the crab is really good - and last night's crab was - it's a kind of sweet and sour trip. Mmmmm ... Good!


Re. the loaf disposition: I gave one loaf to a neighbor. (He's a banker and in particular need of comfort these days.) The 3rd loaf is frozen but will probably be taken to San Francisco next week, believe it or not. Some family will be gathering for a memorial for an aunt who passed away last week.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

David,


To be frank, I find very little difference in bottom crust results when using an aluminum sheet pan or a pre heated stone. Some but not that much. The sheet pan isn't hot when you place it in the oven but it recovers way faster as the door is closed and baking begins. Think about how long it takes to pre heat the stone in the first place with nothing on it. The next time I bake something on the stone I'll do some tests to demonstrate how bad it is. If I use the next shelf spot down instead of the center rack you can't tell the difference on the bottom crust and the oven spring is identical either way. For the minor improvement in crust when using stone, I'll take the convenience of loading a sheet pan any day. 2 loaves at one time and no worries about having slip just a little to far in the back and turning into glop on the back wall. (the voice of experience).


Eric

Eli's picture
Eli

Those are all beautful David! Now if I read correctly and I am the opposite of Ehanner, the one without the flour would be my favorite. As I read it was the one under cover and has that gelatinous,steamed, crunchy crust that seems almost translucent.


Thanks for sharing.


Eli


 


www.elisfoods.wordpress.com


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I'm happy you and Eric won't be fighting over the same loaf. ;-)


The aesthetics of baking are certainly variable.  Each of these 3 loaves is so different in appearance, at least to we TFL nit pickers. That's what really prompted me to post the photo. Hmmm ... We could ask Floyd to post a preference poll. It might be interesting.


David

plevee's picture
plevee

I did almost exactly the same thing, as I posted last week. Made 2 loaves of Vermont sourdough with additional whole grains. Both were bulk retarded overnight then proofed in banetons. The first was baked at 450F with steam, the 2nd (which had an additional 45m bulk retard) was spritzed & baked under cover for 45m then uncovered 15m.The difference in the crust was remarkable - the uncovered loaf was redder & more attractive visually but the covered loaf crust 'tho dull & grayish was crisper & had a better texture. Pictures at www.flickr.com/groups/thefreshloaf/


 


 


 


 


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Patsy.


You got an even more dramatic difference. Baking covered for 45 minutes is a really long time. Your covered loaf never had enough time to color up and crisp the crust, I think.


Try baking a loaf covered for less than 20 minutes of a 60 minute total. I bet you will be more pleased with your results.


David

plevee's picture
plevee

Actually, David, the covered crust was the better - it was crisper & thinner & stayed crisp even after freezing & thawing. I plan to try baking under cover for a shorter period, however earlier this week I found 2 41/2 month old standard poodle pups at the animal shelter so further experiments will have to wait! :-))


Patsy

Marni's picture
Marni

I've been thinking about this too.  My loaves look closer to your covered one.  That's because I have been covering all my sourdoughs since I've found that covering them gives me the best oven spring.  I don't spritz them, but I do add extra steam to the oven by pouring about 1/4c water on the floor of the oven just after loading and repeating that at 3-4 min. intervals for the first 10 - 12 minutes.  I've also been keeping the temp up at about 525.  I've been getting very crisp, thin crusts and today's boules sang like crazy. I don't have stone, o I don't know how that would change things with my oven.


It's fun when you get an unexpected chance to see the effects of your changes all at one time. 


Were the crusts the same when they were cut?  At least on the ones you saw - you can't exactly watch over your neighbor's shoulder while he eats,  : )


Marni

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I've been thinking about trying a bake with the cover but without the stone. Eric does this with good results. Do you bake on a pan, or what? Do you really think that the steam from repeated additions of water gets under your loaf covering? I'd be concerned that repeatedly opening the oven would lower the oven temperature too much. But then, my oven doesn't go above 500F.


I'm surprised you get a thin crust. I think of covering making for a thicker crust. Hmmmm....


I can't compare the crusts when cut. I ate one loaf, gave one to a neighbor and froze the third. They all felt about the same.


David

Marni's picture
Marni

I add steam because I'm not confident of the contact between the old pot I use to cover the loaves and the cookie sheet I bake on. I'm extremely low tech here. Also, I rinse the pan with hot water before I put it over the loaf.  I forgot to add that after 20 minutes I lower the temp to 450 and don't open the oven again.    I set the temp to 525 to be sure the oven stays very hot. If the gauge on the oven can be trusted, it never gets below 500.


Marni