Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Bread Shaping and Why It's Wrong

So after I posted about my sourdough bread last week, Tim asked about how my loaves of bread look so tall in the oven. I took lots of photos and even some notes, and I'm going to try to explain how my bread comes out the way it does.

Incidentally, I've been reading more about artisan bread baking, and pretty much everything I am doing is considered "wrong". However! I am shaping bread this way with a goal in mind, so I am OK with it.

Let's start with the goal. I want a bread that I can make a grilled-cheese sandwich with. This means no giant gaping holes in the crumb, even though that is normally desirable.

This means that after the last rise, I deflate the dough ("wrong") when I shape the loaves. I do this by kneading the pieces a little bit ("wrong"), and shape them very tightly ("wrong"). You can see how much I've deflated the dough by comparing the shaped to the unshaped half.
Loaf Shaping
1. Last rise. 2. Cutting dough. 3. Half shaped. 4. Both shaped.

Then I let the loaves proof. They are about 2" tall here.

After they're done proofing and the oven is hot, I slash them deeply ("wrong") with my bread knife ("wrong") and spray them generously with water. Both of these things helps the loaves open up and grow in the oven.
Loaf shaping II
1. Proofed loaves. 2. Slashed. 3. Sprayed. 4. In the oven.

When the loaves hit the preheated stone in the oven, that's "oven spring" as the stone transfers lots of heat into the dough. They continue to rise until the crust hardens (which usually takes 10-15 minutes) and the moisture on the surface helps them expand. I have been opening the oven to spray again in the first 5 minutes or so of baking, but apparently this is also wrong because it lets too much heat out of the oven.
1. Growing. 2. Browning. 3. Cooling. 4. Look at the slice!

The bread comes out the way I want it - about 3" tall with a tight crumb - but as I said, this is considered "undesirable" in an artisan bread. Next time, I'll try to do it "right" and see how they come out.

This week I've been baking some very wet doughs - a ciabatta and a pizza - that must be kneaded by machine to develop the gluten and can't really be shaped much by hand. Those have turned out with a very different open structure and I am astonished things like this are coming out of my oven! But enough bread for now, I'll post photos of those later.


Eileen said...

That's the bread I am eating for lunch right now! I can confirm that it indeed can hold all the sandwich business without letting any melted cheese drip deep into the bowels of the toaster oven. Hooray!

mikeskamo said...

Rather than spraying with water before you put the loaves in, you might try putting a baking pan in the lowers part of the oven while it preheats with the baking stone. When you put the loaves in the oven put about a cup of hot water in the lower pan. This will provide moisture and steam in baking. That's what I do and I get a lovely crust and crumb, at least I think so.

Karen said...

Yum! Looks great. I am terrible at bread but I agree if it's what you want, it's "right!"