Some general questions from a bread beginner!
Posted: 04 March 2012 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2012-03-04

Hello everyone,

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!

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2012 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1333
Joined  2008-09-27

What is the purpose of adding the 1/2 cup of ice right before baking….steam


Yes, steam.  Keeps the crust from forming too soon, enhancing expansion, but it also encourages a thinner, crunchier crust.


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.


Hmmm, 15 minutes is pretty short, even for something narrow and thin like a baguette.  Given the size of the loaf Rose recommends, doesn’t seem likely.  One might suspect your oven is too hot, or that you had the bread too close to the top of the oven (your description suggests the latter isn’t the case.)  You probably ought to check your oven temperature with an independent thermometer.

 

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?


Your bread was probably underbaked, in spite of the overbrowning.  Did you check its internal temperature?  A more thorough baking will dry the bread out and reduce the rapidity with which the crust softens (but you can’t prevent it totally.)  Some people will leave the bread in the oven, but turn it off and prop open the door slightly in order to further crisp the crust.  A hearth type bread needs a robust bake, with a very brown exterior.  You can also pop it in the oven later for a recrisping.

 Signature 

If error is corrected whenever it is recognized as such, the path of error is the path of truth.

—Hans Reichenbach

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2012 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2012-03-04

Hi Charles,

Thanks for the prompt reply.

I guess next time I’ll have to try the ice.  The recipe seems to suggest placing the container to hold the ice directly on the oven heating element, which I’ve never done before.  I don’t have a cast iron pan so wasn’t really sure what sort of device to use but I’ll come up with something.  I guess I was just a little nervous about putting something directly on the element.

I had the bread on the lowest rack in the oven, but perhaps you are right that the oven runs hotter than the temperature suggests.  I may have to pick up an independant thermometer as suggested.  I think for next time I would probably bake at a lower temperature just to see what happens.

I did actually check the internal temperature and it registered at 180 (the recipe suggests that it should be 200) but since the top was so brown already I didn’t want to risk it burning.

Thanks for the tip on turning the oven off and leaving the door open.  I’ll be sure to give that a try (or an oven recrisping; also a good tip).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2012 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1333
Joined  2008-09-27
Stephen - 04 March 2012 08:02 PM

The recipe seems to suggest placing the container to hold the ice directly on the oven heating element, which I’ve never done before.

Some heating elements are covered; if yours isn’t, then it’s probably not a good idea to put anything right on top of them.  I’d just use the lowest rack.  You should really purchase a cast iron skillet dedicated to this use if you intend to make hearth breads.  And a good thorough preheating is very important to getting a good oven spring.  There are other things you can do; you can spray the walls of the oven with a garden sprayer, or just toss 1/4 cup of water onto the floor (can be messy, though, and will leak onto whatever is under the oven.)  In fact, just covering whatever you’re baking works pretty well, too.

I did actually check the internal temperature and it registered at 180 (the recipe suggests that it should be 200) but since the top was so brown already I didn’t want to risk it burning.

Yeah, the 180 vs 200 or so supports the idea of underbaking.  The interior simply didn’t get dry enough.

 Signature 

If error is corrected whenever it is recognized as such, the path of error is the path of truth.

—Hans Reichenbach

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 March 2012 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  630
Joined  2008-01-24

Welcome Stephen,
Good questions all.
1: As you rightly infer the goal is to introduce steam. In the early baking process the steam helps retard crust formation which allows the loaf to expand more in the oven. This is often called “oven spring”. As the loaf bakes the exposure to early steam increases the crust. The other steps are attempts to increase the thermal mass in the oven. In a small home oven too much heat dissipates when you open the door. To get spring the gases trapped in the interior of the loaf have to expand before the dough gelatinizes. That requires early high heat. The pizza stone was a good step because it holds heat.

2: Early browning can be any number of problems. The dilemma of cookbook authors is that there are no standard ovens and few people calibrate their ovens. I would recommend that you verify your oven temperature. The easy answer is that it seems to be high or since most modern ovens are convection ovens is it possible you used convection mode. In either case I would simply lower the temps 15F and try again.

3: A the elusive crunch! So desirable and yet so elusive. The problem of course is that the crust gets crunchy because in the oven heat travels from the outside of the loaf to the inside. The opposite happens as the loaf cools. Inevitably steam remains inside the loaf and softens the crust as the heat travels from the inside to the outside. Maybe the easiest method is to simply cut the loaf in half and let the steam escape through the cut ends. Of course this spoils the appearance of the loaf and some breads rely on the residual heat to properly develop the crumb. It is not ideal but I do it with some breads that I am going to eat.

Yeah what Charles said. smile

 Signature 

“This pizza is a symphony of flavors”

Profile
 
 
   
  Back to top