I should probably first introduce myself since I’m new here. I’m Stephen and I’m relatively new to bread baking but have been having some pretty good success in spite of myself!
I have a few general questions I’m hoping someone can help with.
I attempted the beer bread out of the Bread Bible yesterday and have a couple questions about it as well as a couple general ones. I should say first of all that I followed the recipe (by weight) exactly, the only variation being that I didn’t add ice to the oven prior to baking (one of my questions). So my questions are:
1. What is the purpose of adding the 1/2 cup of ice right before baking? I can only assume for steam, but as I didn’t really have anything suitable to place right on the element of the oven, I didn’t use this step. I also didn’t preheat for an hour in advance since I didn’t have the time to do so. I placed a pizza stone on the lowest rack and then put my baking sheet right on the stone when the over preheated. So please enlighten me!
2. The recipe said to bake the bread for 15 minutes at 450 and then lower the temp to 400 and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes. After 15 minutes, the top of my bread was quite brown and it was done! What the heck did I do wrong? Another 30-40 minutes and that bread would have been black. Does this relate to the ice? I can’t see how this could possibly be baked for that long.
3. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, how do you maintain a crunchy exterior? When I pulled the bread out, the top of the loaf was nice and hard but by the time the bread had cooled it had lost that crunch. The bread was still delicious but lacked textural variation which would have made it great. I assume the steam from the bread caused it to soften but what could I do to change this?
Thanks so much for your help, I look forward to your knowledge!