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Questions about bread baking

RuthWells's picture

Oh dear, the bug has bit.  I've made 3 loaves of bread in the last 4 days and have a ciabatta starter in the fridge.  This may be the start of a beautiful new obsession.....  and of course, I have a few procedural questions.


I'm working primarily from RLB's Bread Bible.  She recommends a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven, into which ice cubes get flung just as you put the loaf in the oven.  My oven's heating coil is placed in such a way as to prevent putting any kind of pan on the bottom of the oven.  Am I going to damage my oven if I simply fling the ice cubes into the bottom of the oven?


I scared myself with slashing my first free-form loaf.  The risen dough deflated significantly under the slash (which a not-quite-sharp-enough knife).  It recovered in the oven to a degree, and my second attempt (with a sharper knife) did not deflate as much.  Is it normal/expected to lose some loft whilst slashing?


And, what bread-making gear would you consider to be a good investment for the novice?


Many thanks!


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

MadMom's picture

(post #63931, reply #1 of 42)

Based on your experiences, get a lame!  Seriously, although many use a nice sharp razor blade, I love the feel of a lame, and they were on sale at many W-S for as little as $.99.  I would personally be hesitant about putting ice cubes directly on the oven floor, but wonder if you could set a cast iron pan on a shelf at the very lowest level, with your bread on the shelf above?  I'm in love with my hearthkit, although many use good tiles (unglazed) for a lot less...I just like the thickness of the hearthkit.


Darnit, now you've made me want to go bake some bread.




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deejeh's picture

(post #63931, reply #2 of 42)

Welcome to the club of the bread-obsessed.  There are differing opinions about the need to throw icecubes into the oven for steam.  Several people have made the point that if what you're looking for is a blast of steam, you'll get the same effect by pouring boiling water into a pre-heated pan.  My oven doesn't really allow for the easy placement of any kind of pan, either.  I can't answer your question about damaging the oven, although I can't imagine that an ice-cube coming into contact with the heating coil would do the coil any good.  What I do is what Peter Reinhart suggests, which is to give the preheated oven a good spray with water from a plant mister.  He says to do it 3 times, at 30 second intervals, when you first put the bread in.  Of course, however you induce the steam, you have to do it quickly so as not to lose the oven heat.


As far as deflating when you make the slashes, it may be that your loaf was slightly over-risen and that, combined with a dullish knife, was the cause.  In order to get that gorgeous bloom of dough through the slashes, you might consider under-rising the bread slightly.


If you're making artisanal breads, the best investment you can make is a pizza stone (or as TracyK recommends, quarry tiles).  That and a heavy-duty stand mixer are really all you need...other than many, many books on bread LOL.


deej

Tuck's picture

(post #63931, reply #3 of 42)

Oh, you are going to love this new passion.  I think throwing ice cubes causes the oven to loose heat.  I mist with water.  Slash the bread just before you pop it in the oven and slash at an angle, not up & down.  My doctor gives me surgery blades for slashing my bread (she's great) and they work great.  Just keep practicing, you'll get it and the bread will still be good to eat whether the slashes are great or not but you will get the hang of it.  I found when I first started that when I was nervous about slashing I made the worst cuts.  Baking gear could be a Baker's Couche, a dishcloth rubbed with flour for baguettes, a good spray bottle (I like the smaller ones).  Good luck


 



~tuck
If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.”

Astrid's picture

(post #63931, reply #4 of 42)

To make a good slash wait until the loaf is "tight" or "tense" and not quite fully risen. This will give you a clean cut which rises and reveals the inside of the loaf. If finger pressure on the rising loaf feels even a little soft it is too late to get a really sharp slash. The bread will be good anyway though!

New Mexico home organic gardener

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. Emerson

New Mexico home organic gardener Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. Emerson
RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #5 of 42)

Thank you for the tips, everyone.  A lame is definitely going on my birthday wish-list, MM!  And I already have a pizza stone, which lives in the oven.  I have a teeny spray bottle for misting, as well.  And of course, my stand mixer never leaves the countertop.  Maybe I'll ask Hubby for a couche or a banneton to fill out my armory.....


I'm thinking that I'll err on the side of caution and move the pizza stone up to the second-from-bottom position in order to make a home for an ice-cube pan on the lowest level.  Will try that with the next round.  And I'll watch out for over-rising with my next slashes -- thanks, Astrid & Deejeh, that makes sense.  Oh, this is fun!  If only my digicam weren't on the blink, I'd regale you with pix. 



Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw


Edited 4/23/2006 8:08 pm ET by RuthWells

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

Wolvie's picture

(post #63931, reply #6 of 42)

what deej said. :-)


as to what to buy - check out all of the stuff at King Arthur's - Baker's Catalog. Not one bad bread baking item there. One of the first things on my list is SAF instant yeast. A blessing.


it is one more addiction my friend!


 No mans error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it


THOMAS HOBBES, Leviathan, part 2, p. 237 (1950).

 

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #7 of 42)

Interestingly enough, the KA catelogue arrived the day after the first loaf got baked.  Coincidence or conspiracy?  You be the judge!  ; )


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

HavaRocks's picture

(post #63931, reply #8 of 42)

I was just coming here to post my question about the spraying and misting and what not, and it's such pleasure that there's already an ongoing discussion!

So this weekend I made a bunch of bread (french-style, 3 rises with poolish) and while the flavour was the best that I have tasted yet (about the 10th time I've tried to make baguettes, first time for the poolish), the crust is overly deep and crunchy. How do I tone this down but still keep a crisp crust?

Three techniques tried (it was experimentation Saturday!) which produced the same results across the board:

Misting bread before and putting into 450 degree oven, then misting every 30 seconds three more times.

Putting bread into 500 degree oven and doing the water in the pan. Then misting again 5 minutes later and turning the oven down to 450.

Misting oven walls at 450 every 30 seconds for 3 times, then turning oven down to 400 after 5 minutes.

Does my oven just get too ridiculously hot? This is my thought. I'm not using a stone either (need to get my tile cut!)

-Kyle

knitpik's picture

(post #63931, reply #9 of 42)

Way too high IMHO. I used to do all that misting etc but now I don't even bother. I bake my French bread in a loaf pan (for sandwiches and toast) at 400F for 30 mins. I still get a nice crust.

KyleW's picture

(post #63931, reply #23 of 42)

Kyle,

Great baguettes are a lot more challenging than they would appear. The key is working with a dough that is well enough hydrated. It should be pretty "loose", not like ciabatta, but very soft. This should help with you get the thin crispy crust you want. I'm also a believer in high oven temps for french bread. For steam I preheat a 1/2 sheet pan on my oven floor. When I load the loaves I pour a cup of hot water onto it. I don;t steam, because even with my HearthKit, I don;t like to lose oven temp.

KyleW

PS RuthWells - You have my condolences :-)

 


At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

 

At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #25 of 42)

PS RuthWells - You have my condolences :-)


I appreciate that!!


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

HavaRocks's picture

(post #63931, reply #26 of 42)

So you think my dough was too dry?

-K

KyleW's picture

(post #63931, reply #27 of 42)

I cain't tell fer certain. You tell me. was your crumb almost more air than bread?


What was the recipe that you used?


 


At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

 

At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

HavaRocks's picture

(post #63931, reply #28 of 42)

It seemed more bread than air, but I've attached pictures for your viewing pleasure. Now, I'm a complete novice but I kinda winged the recipe. Here's what I did:

Poolish: 1 cup each AP flour and warm (RT) water. 1/4 tsp active dry yeast.

Sat at RT for about 14 hours.

The next day I added another cup of water and then flour until it was workable but still quite sticky. 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp more yeast. Kneaded 10 minutes until the dough sprang back. Rose for 2.5 hours, folded down once. Rose for 1.5 hours. Formed 3 loaves and 1 boule. Rose for 45 minutes - hour.

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RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #10 of 42)

I gotta gush.  Still no pix (sorry!), but I made a gorgeous ciabatta last night!  Big puffy loaf, soft open crumb, shatteringly crisp crust.  Stunning. 


I had had a question about technique for RLB's hearth bread recipe, so I posted to her blog.  And she answered!  And she kvelled over my ciabatta success!  I feel like a groupie.  : )


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

SallyBR1's picture

(post #63931, reply #11 of 42)

I only tried ciabatta once with horrible results. Door stops come to mind.

Which recipe did you use? (no need to type it, just let me know if it's in the BBA or some other book that I might be lucky enough to have)

 


 


"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #12 of 42)

My first ciabatta (last week) was an unwieldy pancake-shaped affair.  Same recipe yesterday, but I guess better technique.  I used RLB's recipe, and I'll be happy to type it out for you tonight with my notes on how I managed to not ruin it this time.  :)


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

deejeh's picture

(post #63931, reply #13 of 42)

Congratulations!  The question now becomes, what are you going to do with all that bread?


deej

Wolvie's picture

(post #63931, reply #14 of 42)

when all else fails here, I make croutons and bread crumbs. ( for those times when the baking urge hits, ya know? ;-0)

 No mans error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it


THOMAS HOBBES, Leviathan, part 2, p. 237 (1950).

 

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #16 of 42)

The question now becomes, what are you going to do with all that bread?


We are actually eating it all in short order -- there are four of us, and we all love good bread!  The puppy even gets an ocassional crust.  : )


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

deejeh's picture

(post #63931, reply #19 of 42)

Lucky puppy :)  There's nothing better than fabulous bread made by one's very own hands.


deej

Marcia's picture

(post #63931, reply #18 of 42)

Too much homebaked bread is what neighbors are for. It makes for excellent ones, too.

Amy's picture

(post #63931, reply #20 of 42)

Oh that's you! I check her blog every day. I don't know why I didn't put two and two together. Anyway, you must start taking pictures of that lovely bread!!

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #21 of 42)

Wasn't she sweet?!!  And yes, I have to get a new charger for my camera batteries.  I'll start documenting, I promise!


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

knitpik's picture

(post #63931, reply #22 of 42)

I read that RLB is writing a new book 'Heavenly Cakes.'
Don't know when it's going to be released.
It doesn't show on amazon yet.

Have you heard anything?

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #24 of 42)

No, I haven't heard a thing, but I will keep my eyes peeled!!


 


Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

favorablyimpressed's picture

(post #63931, reply #15 of 42)

I'm glad to see that you're getting interested in bread baking.  DH and I attended two King Arthur classes when they came to town a few weeks ago.  It was a wonderful experience.  Although we buy a lot of products and equipment from The Baker's Catalog, I prefer buying bread-baking equipment from the San Francisco Baking Institute.  Their prices can't be beat.  http://www.sfbi.com/baking_supplies.html


Edited to add that King Arthur has a great DVD that uses a variation of this recipe and goes into many techniques that are not explained in the recipe below.


DH has had great success with this rustic country bread from King Arthur.  


                      
* Exported from MasterCook *


                   Rustic Country Bread  -- King Arthur


Recipe By     :
Serving Size  : 0     Preparation Time :0:00
Categories    : Breads                          Breads & Rolls


  Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
                        Poolish
  1                cup  cool water -- (8 ounces)
  2               cups  King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour -- (fluff flour and sprinkle into measuring cup)
                        a pinch of active dry or instant yeast
                        ---
                        Dough
                        All the poolish
  1                cup  cool water -- (8 ounces)
  1 1/2      teaspoons  active dry or instant yeast
  1 1/2      teaspoons  salt
  3        -3 1/2 cups  King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour -- (fluff flour and sprinkle into measuring cup)


Combine the poolish ingredients and mix until well blended.  Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight.  The poolish should dome slightly on top and become aerated and spongy.  It will look quite wet, with a bubbly surface laced with creases.


In a large bowl, combine the risen poolish, water, salt, yeast, and enough flour to make a soft, wet dough.  Turn out onto a slightly floured board and knead until dough becomes smooth but slightly tacky.  A dough scraper will help manipulate the dough.  Avoid adding too much flour.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let rise 45 minutes.


The dough is now ready to fold.  To fold dough, lightly dust the dough (still in the bowl) and work surface with flour.  Using a dough scraper, invert dough onto the work surface.  Gently stretch and pat the dough flat, then fold the dough in thirds, like a letter.  Turn dough 90º and repeat the folds.  Pick up the folded package of dough, invert it, and place gently back into the bowl.  The dough will be noticeably tighter.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel and let rise 45 minutes.  Fold the dough again, over and let it rise 45 minutes.


Gently invert the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Using a bench knife, divide dough in half (or thirds) and gently pre-shape into rounds by drawing the edges together so that one side becomes the smooth outer surface, while the other side of the ball has all the edges drawn together.  Cover and let rest on a lightly floured surface for 20 minutes.


Preheat oven and baking stone, and a cast iron skillet on the shelf under the baking stone to hold water for steam, to 500ºF (for ONE HOUR).  Shape the dough as desired, and set on a couche (linen cloth) or tightly woven kitchen cloth.  Cover and let rise until dough is not quite doubled in bulk, 40 to 45 minutes.


Just before baking, gently slash the loaves.  Slide them onto the baking stone, and quickly pour 1 cup of boiling water into the cast iron skillet to add steam.  Bake for 5 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 475ºF, and bake until done, about 25 minutes (internal temperature should be 205ºF.)  Remove the bread and cool on a rack.


Source:
  "King Arthur"
Yield:
  "2 -3 loaves"


NOTES : Save yourself a lot of grief and use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook.  This dough is VERY wet and initially difficult to work with.  Use the mixer for only two minutes when adding the poolish and flour.  Once the flour has been added, knead in the mixer for only two more minutes.  It is important not to over knead with the mixer because you are working with all-purpose flour and not bread flour.


 


 


Edited 4/27/2006 9:05 am by favorablyimpressed

RuthWells's picture

(post #63931, reply #17 of 42)

Thanks for the recipe & link, FI!  Their proofing baskets look great, and very reasonably priced.

Ruth Wells


"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

Ruth Wells

"Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job."
 - G.B. Shaw

www.lemonade-and-kidneys.blogspot.com

www.ruthssweetpleasures.com

http://www.pkdcure.org/Default.aspx?TabI...

bktlush's picture

(post #63931, reply #29 of 42)

BTW:>-Exactly what is the poolish? Is it the starter that one uses to make the breads? I take one or two cups of my starter in the evening, add more flour & water let it sit over night, then go into the bread recipe. Is this 'sort of" correct??
BeeTee

favorablyimpressed's picture

(post #63931, reply #30 of 42)

<Exactly what is the poolish? >

It's a type of starter. Biga is another type of starter.