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james 02-18-2006 03:14 PM

Bread baking follow up
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We ate the last of the whole wheat loaf pan bread as toast this morning, all of the whole wheat for breakfast and school lunches, and all of the boulles for dinners (and the two baguette at a dinner party). Ecellente. Everything had just enough shelf life to get through a week.

I'm thinking about a weekly bready baking cycle, if I can stay organized.

I'm going to make my poolish tonight and bake again tomorrow.

If anyone wants me to experiment with anything in particular (heat, time, a recipes, etc.) let me know and I will try to do it.


Robert Musa 02-20-2006 01:00 PM

those are some beautiful holes james. how difficult is it to produce dough that will produce a loaf exactly like your pictures? the few times i've tried (in the gas oven) i've never been able to get the bread to have anything but little tiny holes so i gave up.

james 02-20-2006 03:17 PM

Wow Robert. That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. :D

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Your dough should be very moist. Almost sticky, where you have keep your hand wet to keep it from sticking. A Ciabatta dough (the biggest holes) is much more hydrated than regular french bread. Pizza dough should do it.

2. When you push down the dough after the bulk fermentation, fold it like a letter to get the gluten to line up.

3. Be gentle when you shape the loaf.

4. Give the shaped loaf a good hour to rest before you put it in the oven. A brick oven really helps, but you can get pretty good oven spring using a pizza stone.

5. Try a poolish preferment the night before. It's easy to do (little time and not too messy) and it gives the dough time to build that extensible gluten structure.

I get a kick out of baking bread. I always say this, but our amatuer bread is so much better than almost anything you can buy.


CanuckJim 02-21-2006 03:49 AM

Gluten Structure
After much messing about, many loaves with small holes, etc., I think I've finally found the answer. As James says, it has to do with gluten development. Without it, the gas simply can't develop that large cell structure, because the gluten is not lined up in the dough. With my hearth breads, I found I was being timid with kneading times in my stand mixer, hence the gluten was not fully developed. Most of the books say the dough should pass the windowpane test, and it really does have to. You need dough that will form a "windowpane" when you stretch it apart. Even if the dough comes up to proper temperature (77-81F), it still might fail the test, so keep going. As Peter Reinhart says, it's practically impossible to overwork dough by hand or in a home mixer.

This might be less applicable to wet doughs, but I've found with Pugliese that uses a biga, I go to full recommended hand mixing or machine mixing time and then some. Gentleness and resting are all important, too.


james 02-21-2006 12:54 PM

Good advise
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Good advise. I think the three way fold when you punch down the dough after the first permentation really helps. Like most things I have learned about bread, this also comes from a Peter Reinhart book.

Here are photos of my folding for a Pugliese yesterday afternoon.


CanuckJim 02-22-2006 05:13 AM


Your breads look great. I've found three things with Pugliese: one, as you say, the stretch and fold part is key; second, don't worry about how wet the dough is; third, be patient and let the dough rest. Peter Reinhart rules.

I'm baking some tomorrow, so I'll try to post some pics.


james 02-22-2006 09:30 AM

Stream and Water

I have been relying on the natural moisture in a brick oven for bread, but now that I am baking more I am going to be experimenting with different steam methods -- a sprayer, a moist towel wrapped around the door, cast iron pan in the oven, etc.

What do you do?


CanuckJim 02-23-2006 05:05 AM


With my 4x3 oven, it really depends on how full it is. If it's right full, the moisture in the dough seems to generate almost enough steam on its own. Still, I reach in and use a sprayer, but not more than about an ounce or two of water. If the oven is less than full, I wrap a wet towel around the oven door, then shut it. I'm careful not to have the towel wringing wet, though, to minimize the risk of cracking any bricks. These methods seem to give me the kind of crust I'm after, but I might have to modify them when the outdoor temperature improves. We'll see.


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