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1st Bread Attempt - please critque - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community



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1st Bread Attempt - please critque

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  • 1st Bread Attempt - please critque

    So, after reading this forum everyday, first thing in the morning with my coffee, I decided to get off my duff and make something other than just pizza. Last weekend here in So Cal was a bit iffy weather-wise, so I was unsure if I could pull it off.

    It had rained Friday and was threatening to do the same on Saturday. I was hoping that Sunday would be better.

    I mixed up two batches of dough, one for pizza and the other for bread. For bread I used a 50/50 mix of KA unbleached flour and Caputo OO at 65% hydration [with salt and yeast]. As it was a bit cool in the house, I put the dough in a SS bowl [lightly oiled with EVOO] and set it on my cappuccino machine to rise at about 1:30 PM.

    It rose nicely however, I think that I left it too long as I didnít get back to it until about 7:00 PM that evening. It had more than doubled. I punched it down and placed it in the refrigerator until Sunday.

    After a rousing pizza session and a bottle or two of wine [shared with two of my nephews], we scraped the remaining coals out of the oven, let it cool, and stabilize. We left the door open during this cooling process. [As an aside, was this the proper way to do it, or should we have left the door partially or fully closed Ė the door is a simple sheet metal non-insulated door that came with the Casa110]

    Even though we had taken it out several hours earlier, the dough was still to cold and was rising very slowly. We cut it into two loaves [approximately 400 g each] and placed one in a banneton and the other was loaded with Kalamata olives and free formed into a small baguette. We set these on top of the oven where it was a little warmer.

    They both took about 20 minutes to cook and had wonderful oven spring, although the olive loaf seemed to blow out the side of the slashed top a bit. I baked together, with the door closed and without adding any moisture.

    For my first attempt, all was well and the crumb seemed OK. The taste was good and the crust was golden brown and hard.

    As I continue to experiment and grow in my baking efforts, I do have one question [at least one for now]. Why did the crust get so hard? Is it a factor of cooking time, or maybe the lack of additional moisture.

    I look forward to your thoughts and critiques.

    J W
    Last edited by jwnorris; 04-27-2007, 10:54 AM. Reason: Added photos

  • #2
    Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


    It's tough to advise at a distance, but I'll try. First, I always let my oven moderate with the door closed. Second, your first bulk rise was way too long. Even punching it down may not have solved the problem, because the yeast would have just about run out of food by then, hence the slow second rise after retardation. Next time, do a bulk rise of about 2 hours or so, divide, let rest 20 minutes, then form your loaves, then retard overnight completely covered in plastic wrap (if you're using a basket) or completely covered on the top (if you're using a sheet pan). Always mist the tops of the loaves with cooking spray before covering. As a rule of thumb, you want to bake your breads at about 80 per cent of total rise; any more and you risk deflation when you load them.

    Third, depending on the temp of your fridge (it should be 40 F for bread), it shouldn't take more than two hours for the loaves to be ready to bake. Some bakers (Jeffrey Hamelman, eg) take theirs directly from the fridge to the oven. Nancy Silverton recommends an internal temp of 58 F before baking, though.

    The blow out you had might have to do with the fact that the seams on the side or bottom of the loaf were not pinched shut (not sure, though). You might try slashing a little deeper and at an angle, not straight down.

    For maximum spring, you want to steam the oven at first. This keeps the top of the loaf soft for a bit. About halfway through the bake, the steam should be vented to allow the crust to form properly. Adding no moisture would give you a very dense crust. You don't need much steam if the oven is full of loaves, because they create a lot of moisture as they bake, but with just a few you do.

    You did not say how hot your hearth was when you baked them. I'd recommend between 500 and 550 F for breads like these.

    The photo of the banneton bread before baking looks to me like it was over-risen, because the dome has collapsed. When you slash the bread, some deflation is inevitable, but not that much. Too, your forming technique might need work. You need surface tension on the boule before it goes into the basket. Same with a torpedo.

    However, for a first go, you done good. Believe me, it takes practice. One day, I might make the perfect loaf of bread, just maybe.

    "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


    • #3
      Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque

      Yeah, ditto what Jim said!

      Seriously though, I have found the infared thermometer essential to baking. But since your problem is not with burnt or pale bread, I think you probably guessed right.

      Most of the hearth breads that I have baked do have a thick hard crust, but that is the way i like them. They will soften a little if you store the finished bread in a plastic bag, but that is close to blashpemy in my house (we use some breathable paper bags from the KA catalog). If you want breads with a softer crust you might try a potato bread or any quicker rising bread. I think that the overnight rise/retardation in the fridge makes the bread crustier.

      Also, invest in the garden sprayer for moisture. Really a great tool to get breads to fully oven spring.

      Looks like a tasty loaf to me...

      My Oven Thread:


      • #4
        Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


        First of all, thanks for the words of encouragement. It was not my intention to have as long a rise as I ended up with. Sometimes life gets in he way.

        I know that the seam in the torpedo was not pinched closed. My nephew formed that one and I was not paying attention. And, Iíll work on my slashing technique.

        The hearth was in the 500F to 550F range however I thought that it might not be even enough as we stabilized it with the door open. And, you are correct Ė an IR thermometer is a must have tool.

        As for steam, I have heard of people throwing a hand full of ice cubes into their home ovens as a source of steam. Any thoughts?

        These loaves, made without any steam, did indeed have a very dense crust. Still tasty Ė and none left to worry about any kind of storage.

        Tomorrow afternoon Iíll start another batch to bake Sunday. Rise for two hours, punch down and divide. Rest for 20 minutes, form and place into the bannetons. Wrap COMPLETELY in plastic and off to the refrigerator. After church, fire up the oven and make some pizza for lunch, open a bottle of wine and get ready to bake some bread Ė not the perfect loaf, just an improvement over the last.

        J W


        • #5
          Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque

          Hey JW,

          I'm with Drew, great looking bread. You get so much natural moistness in a brick oven, so you are getting good spring without doing anything special -- along with the nice crust.

          I would try the garden sprayer for steam, not ice. That works in a convention oven when you add it to a cast iron pan, but I would not put ice on your oven cooking floor for concerns with thermal shock. You could put a cast iron Lodge pan in the oven and makes sure that it is really hot and add a little water to that for an extra boost, but the sprayer should do it. Plus, again you oven is already naturally moist compared with a conventional oven.

          I like Jim's idea on more surface tension and maybe that would let it rest a little longer before baking, without fallilng in.

          Take more photos -- sound like you are having fun and eating well.
          Pizza Ovens
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          • #6
            Re: 2nd Bread Attempt - please critque

            Well, gentlemen, thank you for the advice. After this last weekend, when the bread certainly improved [still searching for the perfect loaf], I realize that the more I know the more I need to learn.

            Pizza was again, not an issue and was enjoyed by all. Got the oven properly prepped for bread and was able to get the loaves in about 6 PM.

            I had started about 1:30 PM getting the dough mixed and ready to rise. This time I made two batches of dough - one using 3/4 whole wheat bread flour and 1/4 white bread flour and the second using all white bread flour.

            Both rose nicely, although they told me that I need to work on timing more; they were ready long before the oven was. So, I stuck them in the refrigerator to retard. Pulled them out about an hour before I was ready to cook - could have waited another half of an hour.

            This time I had stabilized the oven to 550F with the door closed. I agree that this helps in evening out the temperature. That said, in to the oven went the bread, with a good deal for misted water from a hand held spray bottle.

            I checked and rotated the loaves at about the 15-minute mark and pulled them out at about 28 minutes. Loaves had a nice hollow thump and read just above 200F on my instant read thermometer.

            The hardest part was allowing the loaves to cool before cutting into them. Worst 20 minutes of the weekend.

            As shown in the photos attached - this was a success and will be done again. The only thing I wonder about is the relative fine crumb on the white - I was expecting something a bit looser.

            Any comments?

            J W


            • #7
              Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


              You're a bit low on your finished temp. For hearth loaves, it should be 205 F or above. The relatively dense crumb might have to do with several variables. You haven't said whether they're soudough culture or commercial yeast doughs. Have to know that before I can comment further. Before you form the boule, are you slapping the dough on the counter a few times to deflate before basket rising? You should. What's the temp of your rising area?

              Even so, you're way, way further ahead from your first attempt. Well done. One thing: sharpen your slashing knife and don't drag the back of it when drawing across. Use the point; that will give you a cleaner cut. Don't be afraid to go deep, either. The grigne will open better if you do.


              "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


              • #8
                Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


                Thank you for the kind words and support as I continue down this long and glorious road.

                The temperature of the loaves may have been closer to 205F than to 200F as the gradations of the thermometer are closer together than I want to read without my cheaters on. Iíll work on that. How high can the temperature be without getting into too much trouble?

                I have been using ADY however, after following this forum and reading The Bread Bakers Apprentice I am switching to instant yeast. I just bought a 2 pound block yesterday and hope to use some this weekend.

                I have a dry culture of Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter that I will be reviving soon as I love SD bread. You can get this starter for free at Carl Griffith Sourdough Page [I am not affiliated with this group in any manner].

                My initial rise was in a SS bowl, covered with a damp cloth towel, stacked three bowls high [spaced with a wire rack] setting on top of my cappuccino machine in the kitchen. After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, realizing that I still need to work on my timing, I punched the loaves down, did an envelope fold in two directions [folded in thirds, rotated and repeated teh folds], put them back in the SS bowls, and placed them in the refrigerator.

                About an hour before baking, I brought the loaves outside. The bouls had not changed from when they went into the refrigerator. I placed them into the floured bannetons and left them on my outdoor counter, covered by the towels, to rise. It was about 70F on my patio.

                I have not found a slashing knife that I like, so I have been using a blade from a utility knife.

                J W


                • #9
                  Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


                  Do you think your boule might have had more time to develop if you didn't put it back in the refrigerator? My impression is that you want your dough to expand, pushing against the nice tight outer skin you have created when you shaped the boule -- pushing up and out.

                  Pizza Ovens
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                  • #10
                    Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque

                    Didn't see this mentioned but we often will run a stick of butter over the loaf after cooking. Softens the crust and adds flavor as well.

                    Keep up the good work....every loaf is different!
                    sigpicTiempo para guzarlos..... ...enjoy every sandwich!


                    • #11
                      Re: 1st Bread Attempt - please critque


                      Lots and lots of factors here. With a commercial yeast boule, the general rule is that the bulk rise should be about 2 hours. At that point, the dough is divided, let rest, then shaped and put into baskets. If you want a one day bread, the secondary rise, covered, is usually in the 1 1/2 to 2 hour range, depending on temperature in your rising area. For a retarded bread, the covered baskets are put in the fridge overnight directly after the dough is put in, then taken out about an hour before the bake. Generally, the amount of yeast is reduced somewhat if retardation is used. Sourdoughs are another matter.

                      The folding technique is commonly used during bulk fermentation, not after, except for high hydration doughs like Ciabatta, etc.

                      You can go to an interior temp of about 210 without risk. What I generally do is bake to about 205-206, and if I'm not satisfied with the color, I'll return the loaves for about 3 minutes until I have the color I'm after. You should reach at least 205 interior, at that point the temp of the crust will be about 212.

                      You'll find IDY much more predictable and easier to use than ADY, which is much more sensitive to age and handling. Store all your commercial yeasts in the freezer in an airtight container, such as a LocknLock.

                      Your dry sourdough will be taken over by the dominant yeast in your location after about three feedings. This is a good thing.

                      Ideal rising temperature is about 76 F, with humidity in the 50 per cent range. For retardation, your fridge should be at 40 F, although an hour won't do a heck of a lot, other than to prevent over-fermentation.

                      What formula are you using? Why don't you point me to it or send it to me by email, then I could give you more specific answers.

                      Everybody, it seems, has an Exacto knife handle kicking around. Try that, with a brand new blade. I've seen French bakers use them to great effect. The trick is to use the point of the blade only, not the full length. Be quick, and don't worry about artistic effect at first. From what I see, you'll get the feel fast enough. You want to dock deep enough that max spring takes place.

                      Again, you're doing fine. Just keep it up, notice what works, practise, and try to be consistent. Bread can be ornery at times. As I've said before, one of these days I'll bake a perfect loaf. Hasn't happened yet.

                      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827