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C5dad 12-22-2012 11:44 AM

First Big Bake
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So I decided this year to do a big bake for the annual Christmas sourdough for the neighbors present (a tradition). My usual MO is to just bake all day using the electric oven. However after reading Faith's, TexasSourdough's, SCChris' and others postings, I felt ready for the plunge.

I forget who's scaled up recipe I used (though I will find and give appropriate credit.) One modification I did was upped the water from 62% to 65%. I used the Chad Roberts method of Stretch-n-Fold with delayed salt addition. Way easier that is for sure.

20 boule's later... I liked the fact that I am nearing the home stretch. All of the dough is rising all over the kitchen island, table... Since it is so dry, I put plastic wrap on the tops to retain the moisture (standard practice from past bakes after the skin has dried a touch). I always remove the plastic about 10 minutes before the bake to dry it up a touch and avoid sticking.

I just finished - 17 loaves in the Pompeii. Found a hot spot in the oven (as evidenced by a slight trickle of smoke from my chimney caught just by chance!) and had to rotate the bread half way through - burned 5 bottoms. More problematic was at 40 minutes, the loaves were still blonde on top. I used the broiler to tan them up a bit. I am attaching pictures for review and comment from those in the know who may be able to troubleshoot.

Air temp in the oven was about 480 when the loaves went in. The crust does not look like it gelatinized at all. I have a loaf that I cooked in the oven using steam (dual slit, oblong on the left of the burned bottom) came out beautiful. The crumb is open and airy as can be somewhat seen.

Any clues? I am guessing my dome may not have been hot enough? Would using baking parchment be a viable alternative? What about steam via pan... Lots of questions.

Thanks in advance!

Laurentius 12-22-2012 11:56 AM

Re: First Big Bake
We want photos of your creation, words are not enough, fire up the oven, there are still a few days before Christmas.

C5dad 12-22-2012 12:06 PM

Re: First Big Bake
I had to shrink the pics to get them on after hitting post. They should be there for all to see.

texassourdough 12-22-2012 12:06 PM

Re: First Big Bake
I applaud your ambition. And I am confident your recipients will enjoy the bread even if it doesn't meet your aesthetic ambitions. Pictures will help a bit....

I will assume you have an IR thermometer. You need to know two temps IMO on the oven. One is the hearth. The other is the dome. The dome is usually about 20 degrees warmer in a saturated, equalized oven.

The light tops make it sound like you didn't heat load your oven adequately. Most ovens seem to need to be fired for at least an hour and a half (BIG FIRE) or longer. I find I can have my oven cleared and ready to do pizza in just over 45 minutes - well under an hour. But I find for bread that it works better if it goes for 2 1/2 hours! Then clean the coals out and most of the ashes and let it heat soak to equalize temperatures. About an hour to an hour and a half later I am ready to bake. If your firing time is under two hours or your fire is timid, the oven won't be loaded based on my experience. If the dome is hot you should be hard pressed to get pale tops. That you say you had hot spots and burned some loaves also implies improper loading soaking. Sounds like you cleared the oven and didn't rake the coals out to heat soak the whole hearth and began to bake way to quickly.

With 17 loaves the oven should have had plenty of steam to gelatinize the crust. Could be the loaves dried out excessively (good old AZ) while getting them to the oven...and that also suggests pale tops (but it sounds more like a cold dome). Pictures and color of the crust will help with the diagnosis.

Hang in there! Baking SD in a WFO on an occasional basis is pretty challenging when you want to make GREAT looking loaves!

C5dad 12-22-2012 12:15 PM

Re: First Big Bake
Santa is bringing the IR thermometer as I cannot trust the surface contact TC's that I used to check the floor temp.

I had burned for three plus hours last night and another 90 minutes plus this morning. The fire this morning was a small one. I am thinking that I have a water issue on the dome due to some rain the other week which I thought I cooked out - guess not. I will plan only burns the day of the bake for now. As for water - I have always struggled down here with it and have yet to get to the 70% hydration doughs - a tad hard to work with when you don't bake frequently.

If the pics are not showing - I am befuddled as I had to do a shrink on them to get them to attach after hitting post without double checking they were attached. At least they show on my side.

texassourdough 12-22-2012 12:16 PM

Re: First Big Bake
Ahh, now the pics are there!

Pic 2 shows a pretty nice looking loaf - no problems - a tad lighter than I like but fine and a pretty dark bottom. I have to ask if you "scanned the hearth with an IR thermometer or just took one reading. When you build a fire for bread IMO you want to fill the dome with wood and have coals everywhere to heat load the hearth. It looks like that loaf was where you built the fire and you didn't have coals where the unburned loaves baked (and probably where the temp was 480).

The mottledy loaves look like they got too dry in your dry air. I have dry air too (not nearly as dry as yours but...dry most of the time) and that can be a big headache. The rip is brown and the crust is not. So the dome was warm enough to cause browning but the crust didn't brown. As you suggest it didn't gelatinize (or more properly it gelatinized unevenly which gives the mottled appearance). I don't have a good answer for how to deal with dry air and outdoor ovens...

Looks like your proofing was pretty good. Good oven spring. Pretty good crumb for 65%.

Key question is how you fired the oven???


C5dad 12-22-2012 12:37 PM

Re: First Big Bake

Thanks for the assist.

I had a good fire last night covering about 65% of the floor - I burned mesquite and red eucalyptus. Was it roaring? Probably not enough (flames were not coming out of the mouth, dome was clear though.) This morning I used the weed burner and about 6 big pieces of wood to reheat for the 90 minutes. No IR which is a big mistake in my mind now. Sounds like heat saturation for sure now that I look over everything.

Thanks for the comments on oven spring using 65% hydration- this starter is really predicable that I use (had it for about 4 years now and just look for the signs of being ready.) The crumb is from just handling the dough without degassing too much and giving the proper rest times that I have learned from trial and error. A huge difference when I thought 50% hydration was too wet years back.

Browning - I used the oven broiler to get the color on it. I know, cheater. It looked so pale I couldn't handle it - my wife thought I was going to have a breakdown from the lack of color by the Wylie-e-coyote look on my face(you know the one when he steps in a bear trap ...)

I guess like everything - I just need to learn how this oven acts and performs with the proper tools to ensure I get what I am looking for. I may need to cheat a touch with a steamer due to the arid air down here.


texassourdough 12-22-2012 03:17 PM

Re: First Big Bake
Hi Chris!

The heat soak is really important for bread so that the temp all over the oven is relatively uniform. Also why I think it is important to make sure the coals are spread evenly across the hearth (with excess ash removed for ash is a very good insulator and will keep the hearth from getting hot - burned tops and pale bottoms are not unusual!!)

One of my discouragers from baking outside is the humidity problem. One solution is to get a bunch of plastic bags (like commercial bread bags - about 2 cents apiece) and put your brotforms in those if using brotforms OR get a really big plastic bag big enough to put your whole proofing board in and carry the bread out that way so it can't dry out.

I sympathize on the color. I am really picky about the look of my loaves! I would be pretty out of sorts also. Good solution!

Happy Holidays!

C5dad 12-22-2012 07:25 PM

Re: First Big Bake
I hear ya Jay!

Just a hard learning curve. I had no complaints after sending the bread out! One neighbor told me if this was a mistake - keep sending them to him! After striving for the "beautiful" loaf, just a bother to not hit it. I like the idea about covering the bags in the brotform. I will definitely try that next time (plus a touch of water on the walls.)

As for the heat management - you are spot on. I swept twice and swabbed once to clear the floor (for the first time in 2 years!) It was a huge pile of ash to say the least. I am thinking of a metal shop vac attachment to clear the ash after sweeping - yes, I have a metal shop vac!

Thanks for the pointers and am looking towards the next big bake. I hope that others will learn from my challenges. That is the cool thing about this FB family!

Have a Merry Christmas!

texassourdough 12-23-2012 07:31 AM

Re: First Big Bake
You will get there! You are trying too hard and have aspirations too high to not get WFO bread to a "tamed" state though I must admit doing WFO sourdough really well tends to be elusive. Seems like the variables conspire to keep you from being consistently GREAT unless you do it every day - and even then the good guys make some loaves that are not what I want (overproofed, misshapen, etc.) Hang in there. You'll make it!

Bake on! And Happy Holidays!

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