The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Why do I have to let bread cool before I cut it?

Turbosaurus's picture
Turbosaurus

Why do I have to let bread cool before I cut it?

I just spent 3 days to bake sourdough, finally done. looks great smells great, why can’t I eat it now!  I did eat it now.  there was no way I could resist, but to help me resist next time tell me the ways it will be better if I let it cool?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The reason why many bakers wait for the bread to completely cool down is because the freshly baked bread is filled with steam. Steam can cause the bread to be damp and/or gummy. Waiting for cool down allows the steam to escape the loaf. 

But, if warm bread is a must have, then eat away. After all, it is your bread.

Enjoy!

Danny

Oh, Another reason. I almost always wait until the next day to slice. I do so, because the sour flavor of the bread matures with time.

BaniJP's picture
BaniJP

Cooling the bread allows it to distribute all the flavors evenly and set everything properly. But I know what you mean, when I started baking, I had to bake another bread almost every day because we were eating it basically straight out of the oven.

SheGar's picture
SheGar

you went through to bake from scratch let it cool and set. I get that you are eager but the bread is not done. This is especially critical with whole grains but I always always let it set. Give it a few more hours. No baker cuts into the cake before it's frosted or before the frosting is set either. It's part of the process, granted probably the most difficult one!

David Mackie's picture
David Mackie

The above posts are right.  

It takes a few hours for the bread to develop flavours and consistency - even until the next day for sourdough but usually I can't wait that long!  The complex flavours are not developed when it is just out of the oven. It is also hard to cut and the steam inside still helps cook the bread.  The crust is not yet fully developed either - you will hear it crack as it cools.

 

Turbosaurus's picture
Turbosaurus

“Steam can cause the bread to be damp and/or gummy. Waiting for cool down allows the steam to escape the loaf”

Danny, please don’t think I’m being cantankerous, but that can’t be true.  Cutting the loaf allows the steam to escape.  Leave it whole keeps the steam inside.  Perhaps the steam finishes baking the guts? I know my loaves were right at the cusp of 200 degrees when I took them out, and we know steam is 212F 

 

As for the bread getting more sour, also can’t be true (unless there is some chemical reaction I don’t know about- which could be true, but I’d like to know what it is) after baking. Sour comes from Lactobacillus, which is sterilized at 180 degrees, so nothing is making the bread more sour.  

As for distributing flavor, given the mixing and folding we should be starting with homogeneous critter content, food supply and temperature in the dough.   Cold ferment in the fridge means faster metabolism in the center as it cools slowly from the outside in, however that should be offset when I bring it back to room temp before shaping and final proof, as the exterior warms much faster than interior.  

To put it simply - that’s just how chemistry or biology works...   I’m not saying there isn’t an excellent reason to let the loaf cool and that I should make lots of bread so I can keep trying to delay gratification..

Im just saying if I can DNA test my dog back to the pharaohs with a gooby tennis ball and $40 someone has to know the "what for" of letting bread cool, no?

 

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

"Danny, please don’t think I’m being cantankerous, but that can’t be true.  Cutting the loaf allows the steam to escape.  Leave it whole keeps the steam inside.  Perhaps the steam finishes baking the guts? I know my loaves were right at the crust of 200 degrees when I took them out, and we know steam is 212F "

if you wait 2, 4, or more hours, and then cut open a loaf, you will find less moisture in the crumb than if you cut it open and inspect it right after removing it from the oven.

If you cut it open right after removal from the oven, and then wait 2 hours before inspecting it or eating it, it will of course in that situation have less moisture than it would have had if you had waited 2 hours before cutting, and then inspecting immediately.

There are more reasons for the cooling period than mere temperature:

1. cooling sets or gels the starches in some way.  Cutting/slicing a hot moist loaf too soon after removing from the oven,  generally damages the crumb compared to cutting a cooler loaf.

2. A cooling period  allows the moisture to migrate outward and soften the crust somewhat.  A portion eacapes the loaf entirely.  So just putting a hot-out-of-the-oven loaf in the freezer or fridge does not help remove excess moisture from the center.

3. Development of flavors really is a thing.  20 hours is the sweet spot for my formula.  Cutting open and tasting it at 2, 4, 18 hours has a different flavor than it does at 20 hours.  Yes, I can cut it open early,  and the cut-open bread still develops flavors up to the 20 hour mark, but then I'm eating less-flavorful bread.  If I can wait the 20 hours (which I don't always do) then I can eat better tasting bread.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Thanks Dave for coming to my aide. Moisture is correct.  I felt assaulted. LOL

Turbo (Paula), I don’t have scientific evidence to validate my experience with sd breads developing more intense flavor over time. I’ve experienced this too many times to even care. 

What do you think about waiting to slice bread?

Danny

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

No, I meant “lets the steam out”. Steam is moisture so it is true that moisture is lost. But left alone the steam will find its way out of the crust. When the bread is removed from the oven, it is full of steam. The steam continues to cook the crumb. If the loaf is sliced while it is hot, the steam escapes. And the benefit of the heat produced by that steam is lost.

At least, that is what I think.

Danny

pmccool's picture
pmccool

“As for the bread getting more sour, also can't be true (unless there is some chemical reaction I don’t know about”

Ah, but it is true.  I’ve observed flavor changes in bread as it ages, including increasing sourness.  I’ve no idea what chemical reactions take place, probably a great many, but the flavor is different at different times.  

Hang around TFL for a while and you'll probably learn some additional mind-blowing stuff.  My “conventional wisdom” has been pretty well shredded since finding this community of bakers.  

Paul

Elsie_iu's picture
Elsie_iu

For those who don't know, starch is composed of amylose and amylopectin polymers. Starch granules swell upon heating in water. While amylopectin links up through H-bonds and traps water, amylose is leached out of the granules. The granules become fully hydrated so a starch paste is formed. This process is called starch gelatinization. It is mainly contributed by amylopectin. This is the principle behind the thickening power of starch slurry. The same occurs while the bread is being baked. 

Gelation follows as the dissolved amylose associates through H-bonds. This forms a 3D-network so the starch paste sets. We now have a semi-solid gel. Retrogradation is the aging of gel, which takes place when the bread starts to cool. H-bonds between amylose break and amylose realign into a more orderly form. Water is squeezed out during the process. As opposed to gelatinization, amylose plays a more important in retrogradation. Amylose retrogradation is mostly completed after the bread is cooled to room temperature. It would be disrupted if you cut into the bread while hot. One might find the crumb "gummy" since it is "not set".

On the other note, bread staling is associated with amylopectin retrogradation. Obviously, it occurs at a much lower rate.

Btw, although I haven't found the rationale, it's very clear to me that SD gets sourer with time. Frankly, this stays true even when it's frozen... At least that's what my taste buds tell me :)

Turbosaurus's picture
Turbosaurus

Elise, that’s fabulous information!  I have a new scientific avenue to peruse- I’m on it! The more I understand the better baker I will grow into.    

I don’t doubt anyone’s experience.  I didn’t ask “do you think I should” I asked why. “Because I said so” isn’t data.  

I’m sorry if some people feel “attacked” when I described how evaporation works AND apologized for it concurrently.  

I would suggest that anyone who finds phase change offensive blocks me going forward.  Do not read my posts.

 I am so thankful for all of the input, but I definitely  do not want anyone to feel personally attacked if I continue asking questions.   If you find an apologetic description of evaporation a personally traumatic experience, What’s gonna happen when I talk about gluten!  It is sincerely not my intention to terrorize or offend, but it is my intention to question often deeply and with a scientific bent.

 

Turbosaurus's picture
Turbosaurus

And if someone else wants to grab “ he didn’t mean steam, he meant moisture”... help yourself

I have no idea what to do with that and I’ve already been chastised

 

any takers?