HARRIET QUESTION: Your book has turned me into a regular baker of bread. I now make all the bread we eat. Your recipes are clear and I learned and enjoyed reading about the process. Thank you for such a wonderful book. My question: The free-form breads rise well for the initial rising. When I shape them, they spread rather than rise and the finished bread tastes wonderful, has good crumb but is wider than it is tall. What can I do to make the breads tall? It's too late for me to be tall but it would be wonderful if my breads are. Thank you for any help you can offer. I'd like to know how to make my free form breads tall rather than wide?
ROSE REPLY: thank you harriet--i also can't imagine ever buying a loaf of bread again except, perhaps, out of curiosity. free form breads do have a tendency to spread sideways after the final shaping. the advantage to making them free form however is that they will have a more open crumb. if this is what you desire, you will need to have a soft, moist, dough which will tend to spread more than a stiffer dough. to help counteract this problem, bakers use special floured bannetons or even colanders lined with floured towels which give the dough support during the final shaped rise. to keep the dough from spreading further in the oven, it is important to use a baking stone and well-preheated oven so that the dough has what is called "oven spring." one final suggestion is to use the la cloche bread baker which restricts the spreading of the dough as it contains it but you'll need to make a large enough loaf to fill the container. oh--you might also try using a higher protein flour. of course you'll get a chewier crumb but it will also be stronger and spread less. for really tall breads try the stud muffin which bakes in a soufflé dish that supports the sides, or a bread baked in a loaf pan. Hope this helps and delighted by your success.