total noob here
Hello everyone. I am new to the site and completely new to baking bread. This is something that I can really get into, but I am having a little trouble with the texture of my first couple of loaves.
First, about me: I am 22 years old, male, and I live in SoCal. I will be graduating this year with a degree in Marketing. I currently work as a barista at SBux, formerly at a small coffee shop that had the best coffee in all of CA IMO. Working as a barista is what has inspired me to delve into culinary adventures. I have explored the process of making coffee a whole lot, including several brewing methods, home roasting and mixing beans, and refining my palette to taste the nuances of beans from several regions of the world. I would like to travel to the farms where coffee is grown and learn more about coffee and the people who are involved in its cultivation. I am very interested in learning about other cultures, languages, and foods from around the world. I enjoy hobbies that produce something, like car detailing. When I detail my car I call it therapy because it is a process. I have something that I can stand back and admire when I am finished. The next time I go through the process I learn from the time before and do it even better. I think that baking bread is very similar, which is why I like it so far. But bread is cheaper, and I like that too. I would love to work with a renowned artisan, such as Peter Reinhart, and learn and refine my skills in the kitchen.
Now, on to the bread. My first attempt at baking bread was a recipe from King Arthur Flour.
My bread came out with a good flavor, but it is very dense. I am thinking that maybe I didn't let it rise enough after forming it. My crumb does not look as good as in the picture provided with the recipe. In fact, there really aren't any holes in it at all. It is a very heavy loaf.
A picture of loaf 1
So I tried again with the lesson 2 recipe on this website.
My bread was still a little dense, but this time it had some flake to it. I used the steam method of putting a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven while it preheated. Then I poured a cup of water over it just before I stuck the dough in the oven. I baked both loaves of bread in a convection oven. I think the bread needs to stay in the oven longer next time because my bread is not getting a dark crust. I will invest in an oven thermometer at some point to check the accuracy of the oven's internal thermometer. I also need to get a better instant read thermometer to check the bread's temperature. For both loaves I used King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour. I would like to try some other flours to see how it affects things.
Pictures of loaf 2
What I learned so far:
1. Making bread is more about process than about ingredients.
2. Shaping and scoring are harder than they look. On my second loaf I wasn't going for any specific shape, but it was some sort of boule I guess. I got aggressive with my knife when scoring it and practically ended up with two loaves!
3. Practice makes perfect! Or at least each time comes closer than the last...
1. What should I do to get a lighter, fluffier bread with more holes? Does it need to rise longer on the second rise perhaps? Is the dough not taut enough when I'm shaping it? Does it need to stay in the oven longer or at a higher heat? Should I try a different type of flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat for both loaves)?
2. Does shaping bread always involve punching it down? I understand bread recipes all the way up to the first rise. I put the kneaded dough into a bowl and within an hour or two it doubles in size. At this point is the dough always supposed to be punched down before forming it? Some recipes don't really specify. I assume that it does get punched down because obviously it has to go down to a smaller size when forming it if it is going to have a second rise.
3. On the second rise am I waiting for it to get back to the size that it was when it doubled on the first rise? On second rise, does the dough need to be covered air tight? I have noticed most recipes say to cover it with plastic wrap on the second rise. My first loaf I covered the dough with the same towel that I used on the first rise. Was that a mistake?
I'm sorry that I have so many questions, but I am completely new to baking bread. When I get into something I get into it. I want to understand every aspect of the entire science and art of baking bread. Being new, I would appreciate any comments, no matter how simple your tips may seem. I already ordered (pretty cheap from www.abebooks.com ) one of Peter Reinhart's books that has recipes for artisan breads. I plan on also picking up The Bread Baker's Apprentice to help me better understand the process. I will probably check it out at the library until I get the money to purchase it. Any comments or tips are completely welcome!