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Old 12-09-2011, 07:58 AM
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Default Re: Why necessary to clean all coals out for bread?

David: thanks for posting those great loaves pictures. I'll try the ice cube method too someday.

Russell, it would seem to me that the terra cotta dish, even with hot water would take too long to impart much moisture. I would try getting it hot 1st, but I don't know if it would crack. Maybe not, but in any event, My methode:

I keep a "sprayer" in my ovens wood storage side compartment that is used just for water only. I bought it new for this just to make sure it was never used for pesticides or fertilizer in the past.

I load my loaves (I remove all coals, brush with small damp mop, close the door for 10 minutes to re-distribute heat) then load the bread, put my door halfway on, then stick the metal sprayer nozzle in and spray the dome top or opposite side of loaves, get it really steamy and pull it out then shut the door.

This way (similar to Davids) the blast of steam is at the beginning of the bake where you want it and lessens as it bakes.

In my home oven I use Peter Reinharts method of putting a heavy shallow frypan on the oven floor for 10 minutes so its really hot and after I insert my loaves on the baking stone, I pour in 1.5 cups of boiling water in it, slam the door shut, then use a spray bottle at 30 second intervals (3 times only) for more quick steam then leave it alone until breads done.

This is great thread with lots of good ideas. Thanks, Dino
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:56 AM
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Default Re: Why necessary to clean all coals out for bread?

I went back through this thread and have a couple of comments that may be useful to some of you.

Kebwi was right, by 15 pounds of dough I meant roughly 7 2-pound loaves. In practice when I bake in the WFO I usually have four different kinds of loaves and usually include a really wet dough like ciabata which I load first to help humidify the oven. The breads get removed at different times as they finish.

WRT baking times, I bake in a tempered oven that has equalized for at least 45 minute to an hour. My oven is relatively uniform in temp (though the dome will be about 25 degrees warmer than the hearth). I suspect the baking time gap is a function of both the oven temp and the fact I bake my breads harder (higher internal temperature) than most of you.

David S's idea of throwing ice in the oven will work and is probably a good idea for small batches but if you fully load the oven with dough the dough itself will release plenty of water vapor and give good humidity in a sealed oven.

While I am confident David S's bread tastes good it illustrates a couple of traits I try to avoid and illustrate part of why I don't bake in a dirty (ashy) WFO. First, the top of the loaves are unevenly caramelized in a way that implies the dome was too hot. Offhand I don't know if David had coals in the oven but that tends to have the dome too hot relative to the hearth and I personally don'ta aspire to that crust look.

The second trait is that the sides of the loaves are pale. This tends to happen when loaves are too close together, the hearth is cool, or the loaves are insulated from the hearth. In this case it appears David baked the bread on metal sheets/bread forms. It is common for the sides and bottom to be a bit lighter than the top, but for me the contrast on these loaves is greater than I prefer. NOTE: in my experience even a sheet of parchment significantly lightens the bottom and sides of a loaf and the metal pans do also. As a result, when I have to use parchment for unruly loaves I strive to pull the parchment after ten minutes or so to get the bread in contact with the hearth/stone. While I have bread pans/trays and use them occasionally, again I prefer direct contact with the hearth. I personally would rather clean the hearth and bake directly on the hearth.

It is important to recognize that I my comments should not be taken as a statement that "I am right!" or "David is wrong!". It was simply that David's loaves illustrated some characteristics that I perhaps incorrectly associate with certain baking practices and produce the characteristics I describe. We all bring different values to our bread baking and I would be the first to recognize that making great bread in small batches in a WFO is not easy!

Hope these comments are helpful and fill in a few holes in the discussion!
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Old 12-10-2011, 06:37 PM
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Default Re: Why necessary to clean all coals out for bread?

Thanks for your wisdom Jay. I have to admit that I'm a lazy kind of bread baker. In my small oven I usually only do a few loaves. Because I can't be bothered to clean the oven out properly I tend to leave a few coals and ash behind. That is one reason for using trays. Another reason I use the trays is that I shape my bread after removing the dough from my bread maker (dough setting) another lazy mans way of doing it, then place the shaped dough onto the trays to prove. This has the advantage of not having to disturb the risen dough to place in the oven.One more reason is that I often find that the floor is too hot and the trays seem to take the sting out of the oven preventing burnt and ash covered bottoms. You are correct in observing that the sides and bottom were a little under done. The darker tops, which I like are partly caused by the cheese on the top, the oil contained in it tends to promote more caramelization. Frankly, I'm not too fussy with my bread, they all taste pretty good to me, but thanks for your response it is most helpful.

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Old 12-11-2011, 10:56 AM
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Default Re: Why necessary to clean all coals out for bread?

Ahhh! David!

Cheese will definitely do it! I couldn't see that - like I said, I was simply reacting to the pictures and offering an interpretation that I knew might be wrong! And on the top of the loaves sounds like I was! Given the cheese your dome probably wasn't particularly hot. As an aside, if you see the bread getting too dark and want to stop it a piece of aluminum foil over the loaf will help. Will also slow the baking so the sides can catch up some if you want it to.

My purpose was more to offer hopefully helpful comments to those who have similar bread and are trying to understand what is happening.

I am kind of suprised the bottom and sides of your bread are as light as they are. Usually metal transmits heat so well that I would expect darker browning.

If you are baking in a too hot oven you are doing pretty well. The color of the crust suggests good proofing and the oven spring looks good. You are making nice bread! Looks like it should have good crumb too!

The ice idea is a good one for small batches! When I am baking indoors and not using a cloche I typically use a pie pan full of holes, containing ice, over a cast iron skillet containing lava rocks. That would also work pretty well.

You probably saw it, but Brickie tried using a stainless bowl as a cloche and got promising results. That might work well with some of your trays as an alternative to ice if you want to try something different. (Just put the loaf on tray, place the bowl over it, put it in the oven, and pull the bowl out about 15 minutes later.)

As an aside, I think the more casual approach to bread is great. My bread reputation all but forces (okay encourages) me to be really picky and perfectionist. It is rewarding for me both intellectually (problem solving) and publicly. I am a big believer in "whatever works" or is "satisfying".


Last edited by texassourdough; 12-11-2011 at 04:04 PM.
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