The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Wanting crispy, but thinking oily

grrranimal's picture

Wanting crispy, but thinking oily

A couple of questions to all you dough nuts.

Normally, I avoid oil -- sprayed or brushed -- because I have this belief from somewhere that surface oil softens crust.  That said, I'm also riddled with self-doubt because if Peter Reinhart abuses spray oil, it's gotta be a good thing, right?

Well, a couple of specific questions about use of oil.

1.  Do you oil your primary fermentation bowl? make it easier to get the first rise onto the counter for pre-shaping?

2.  Those of you that line your proofing shapes with cloth -- canvas, linen, dish towels -- do you oil the cloth, or flour it after oiling it?  I have several linen dish towels that I use to line my proofing bowls, and I rub rice flour into them.  Works great, but I get rice flour everywhere!  It struck me to try misting the cloths with oil before spreading flour/rice flour on them.  Thoughts?

Thanks, as always, for advice or new ideas.



I'd like to have perfect buns, but I prefer loafing. 

sphealey's picture

1) When I was starting out I did spray oil the bowls because Rose Levy recommended it and it did make it easier to get the dough out. Since my confidence with wet doughs has grown (due in equal parts to the King Arthur video and Floyd's Daily Bread) I have used less spray oil and more flour dusting/cutting. Today I made a fairly wet Daily Bread by kneading it in to bowl, cutting in flour at the edge for turns, and flipping the bowl upside down to get the dough out. Look Ma no oil! That said I have had some real messes with sticky dough, and I do still use oil for rising rye doughs.

2) I think that oil is generally not recommended for cloths and especially bannetons - the result would just be a sticky mess.


Gratuitous picture of a Floyd's Daily Bread (known around here as Julie Bread - sorry Floyd):

20070929 - Julie Bread20070929 - Julie Bread
Ramona's picture

I use to use oil, but I changed to rinsing the bowl out with water instead, because in the Laurel's book said to use this method.  I do like it better.  I use it through all my rises, except for the loaf pans, where I use butter. 

xabanga's picture

I used to use oil, but now I rarely (if ever) do so. I usually use my handy plastic spatula to scrape my doughs out of the bowl, and it does not matter if the dough is "wet" or "dry".

If I do it right, no dough is left to stick to the sides. The only time I use oil, however, is when I use loaf pans.

subfuscpersona's picture

IMHO, the only reason home bakers are advised to oil the bowl for the primary fermentation is to make it easier to judge when the dough has "doubled in bulk". The oiled bowl offers less resistance to rising dough.

That said, "doubled in bulk" is only a rough criterion and doesn't even apply to some kinds of dough. I never oil or grease the bowl for the primary fermentation any more. I use other criteria to judge when the dough is sufficiently proofed.

I use my hand, slightly cupped, to remove the dough to the board. It has never failed me.

I use rice flour to dust the cloth for rising in a banneton (actually, I just use cheap baskets, not fancy bannetons). Do not oil the cloth. If you're getting a lot of extra loose rice flour, try using a little less and rub it in very thoroughly. Then brush off the extra.

Some linen tea towels are a very smooth, tight weave. Use a cotton or linen tea towel that has an open, coarse weave that will "hold" the rice flour better. Cheaper woven towels are often better than more expensive ones, as long as they are made with linen or cotten.

I prefer to use a solid fat to grease loaf pans rather than oiling them. Sometimes the baked loaf can stick in the loaf pan if it was oiled. On the other hand, I use lard in pastry dough, so I always have some on hand.

Reinhart is, after all, a professional baker. I can understand the advantage of spray oil in a professional bakery but it is only a small convenience for the home baker.

ejm's picture

I'd go one further and say that spray oil for bread pans is completely unnecessary. I line my loaf pans with parchment paper and have never had a problem with sticking. I also place parchment paper on the peel for freeform loaves.

And like you, I never oil the rising bowl. As long as the rising bowl is clean at the outset, once dough has risen, the dough slips out easily leaving virtually no trace on the sides of the bowl.

To use of spray oil  is one of the aspects of Peter Reinhart's recommendations that has always been perplexing. (But if I were ever to use spray oil, I'd use my own oil in one of those pump sprayers rather than buy a commercial spray oil.)

SDbaker's picture

Grrrreat question.  Like most of the techniques you see here, many are of personal preferences and we pick up new ideas all the time.  For me, a judicious use (not much) of spray oil works very well in primary fermentation in my tub.  The oil in a couche will go rancid eventually.

Given my temporary housing, I do not have my couche or peel so I let the final rise take place on semolina sprinkled parchment and use an upside-down sheet pan as a makeshift peel, or I just pick up the parchement at the ends (I cut a piece of parchment and trim it for each loaf.  I then spray the final shaped loaves and cover with plastic, although yesterday I did experiment by inverting my flat dough doubler tub and covering a few loaves with a boiling cup of water underneath.  I've never had a problem with soft crust by using spray oil but am curious about the other ideas above and will have to try them. 

The oil helps preserve the delicate internal structure of the dough you have spent so long developing as you turn it out.  I even learned how to cut/divide dough to help preserve the small air pockets for the bake.  I have become MUCH more gentle of how I handle my dough in general after a recent workshop.  The % by weight of a film of oil is incredibly small in a 5 or 6 lb batch of dough.  Try all different kinds of techniques!

SD Baker

aminet's picture

I was wondering about this too. I never oil the Bowl.

The one time I did, I think I oiled it too lightly, because the dough kind of stuck to the bowl anyways.

I think some people oil the dough it self too. Does anyone do this? Part of it to keep the dough most.. but I think thats only necessary when resting the dough for a long time, like for overnight.

ejm's picture

Even for overnight rises, I never oil the bowl or the dough. The bowl I use for rising is a large covered pyrex casserole dish. I put the pyrex cover and then cover that with one of those elasticized plastic things that look like a shower hat. The dough stays moist.

(I use Saran quick-covers - As far as I know, they are no longer available but someone may be selling them on e-bay. They are washable and reusable.)

Again, as long as the bowl is clean and dry before adding the kneaded dough, the risen dough just falls out of the bowl cleanly, perhaps leaving the tiniest traces on the sides of the bowl. (I hope that made sense!)



P.S. Last year, I did a post about this (with photos) on blog from OUR kitchen: no need for oil.

KipperCat's picture

I don't know if these are the same as the Saran quick-covers, but we just got some yesterday, and I think I'll like them for lots of things.


Hmmn, yesterday I tried a mini sourdough in a Pyrex casserole dish. I proofed and baked in the same dish, having oiled it well beforehand, and turned the dough over, hence oiling the top well. The finished crust was tough. Since I don't normally oil the dough, this may have contributed.

ejm's picture

Yes, those look similar to the Saran QuickCovers. Aren't they great?

Try proofing without oil and bake the bread free-form on a stone or parchment lined cookie sheet. That way you can completely eliminate the oil.

subfuscpersona's picture

for aminet -

IMHO, it generally doesn't matter if a small bit of dough sticks to the sides of the dough after the primary fermentation when its removed to the board. It does matter that you handle the dough lightly and gently - especially for higher hydration doughs (65% or more) - during shaping and the final rise.

some people oil the dough itself too... to keep the dough moist.. but I think thats only necessary when resting the dough for a long time, like for overnight.

I agree.

Oiling the top of the dough during bulk fermentation is done to prevent the top of the dough from drying out, as oil is a natural barrier to water evaporation.

For bulk fermentation at room temperature (2 - 3 hours) the top of the dough doesn't need to be oiled. You can cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap if you wish.

For bulk fermentation overnight (in the frig) it helps to oil the top of the dough in addition to covering the bowl with plastic wrap. As extra insurance against the formation of a crust on the top of the dough during this longer fermentation period, you can lightly oil some plastic wrap and lay it, oiled side down, directly on the dough, in addition to covering the bowl with plastic wrap.

After shaping, the loaves are usually lightly covered with plastic wrap during the final, pre-baking rise. Again, this is to prevent the dough from drying out on top, which can interfere with oven spring during baking. For higher hydration doughs, sometimes the plastic wrap will stick to the risen loaf. To prevent this unhappy occurence, lightly oil or grease the plastic wrap before gently placing it (greased side down) on the shaped dough. Be slow and gentle when you remove it from the risen dough when it is ready to bake.

I find wet dough is less likely to stick to heavier plastic. Try cutting apart some heavy duty ziplock bags and use that instead of plastic wrap.

ehanner's picture

In the early days of my baking, I used to fear having the dough sticking and thus I oiled more heavily than I do now. I still do use a small amount when I'm trying to be gentle with the dough to preserve the air pockets after the first ferment. If I'm going to punch down or knead after the primary ferment then I don't bother with any oil. I only use a small amount on a paper napkin and put a very thin film on the bowl to prevent serious sticking. This seems to be more of an issue when I retard in the cooler.

I have found that I can pour a few drops of oil on a napkin and rub it on a piece of plastic wrap to make it less sticky and then mist the top of the dough with water to prevent skinning of the dough. When the dough rises into the film it is easily removed without the sticky dough being impossibly glued to the plastic wrap.


zolablue's picture

I never oil for bulk fermentation unless I am making an enriched dough for pan bread.  That doesn't mean I oil the rising bucket but on occasion I will - generally not though.


I learned on Glezer's book and I don't think she instructs to oil the fermentation container in any of those recipes.  So I never do.  Mostly I was concerned about using bread dough with oil in the recipe or having oiled a container when I want to use my linen couche.  When I bought it from King Arthur it came with instructions stating not to use it for anything other than straight doughs.  So I just got in the habit of not using oil. 


I'm not really sure if that matters so much or not since other book authors suggest oiling the container.  I guess I just prefer not having to mess with oil and I use those big, white plastic dough scrapers from Sur la Table and they are wonderful for getting dough out of containers.