The Secret "Ingredient" for Bakery-Style Bread at Home
Popular on Food52
cookingguy April 21, 2018
I'm pretty sure that the oven spring has less to do with yeast producing CO2 while in the oven (the proposed "frenzy"), but is rather the result of the expansion of all of the bubbles of CO2 that were produced during fermentation, as well as the conversion of some of the moisture in the dough to steam, further improving the formation of the bubbles/holes in the dough.
Al April 19, 2018
I bake at 4,300 ft altitude, my daughter at sea level. Relative humidity here is often in the teens, my daughter in the 90’s. We use the exact same artisan bread recipes, and flour. We utilize the exact same techniques and multiple folding. We both bake in a preheated Emile Henrie cloche. She gets amazing oven rise bursting through the crust. I get very little oven spring. I have tried to compensate with little success. Any thoughts? Al
Al, at what temperature and humidity are you proofing your doughs? From your description, the only variables that jump out at me is yeast, proofing procedure, and altitude. Are you using the same yeast or starter? Also initial dough temperature is important for proper fermentation. Are you doing the same thing? If anything, you should be getting improved volume and speedier fermentation at altitude, which makes me think your proofing (especially the final rise) is the difference. As a test, you could try warming up a cooler or just a big tub using a bit of hot water, dry it, then put a mug or two of hot water to the side with your bread in the compartment. Your goal is for a 75-80F environment with 80%+ RH. You could also use a warm oven with a pan of hot water on the floor. That's my best guess from your description.
Al April 20, 2018
Fermentation and proofing are never a problem. I use an instant read thermometer for water temp and final dough temp according to the recipe instructions. Fermentation is always 2 1/2 to 3X starting volume. I use the oven with the light on and door ajar for proofing (Reliably 85 degrees.) never a problem, in fact I have to guard against overproofing. The proofed dough doesn’t have a tough skin and anyway I slash it. My daughter at sea level doesn’t bother and still the oven spring bursts through. When she is here and verifies our techniques and ingredients are equivalent but still no oven spring we are both puzzled. I have thought the humidity factor might be at play but the preheated cloche is supposed to mitigate that. Apparently not. Annoying. Taste is good though.
Dave G. April 19, 2018
I have recently started baking bread at home. I follow recipes to the tee but I still get varying results. One problem that seems pretty consistent is that the dough seems way too wet! It is impossible to knead as it’s just a gooey mess. I use the exact amount of water specified even a bit less but to no avail. What other factors besides the amount of water might be causing this? I have also noticed that the bread doesn’t rise as much as I would expect it to. Please advise.
Dave G, I think you need to fold your dough! Or if you already are folding, do it more. Even a relatively slack dough (high hydration/wet) can be brought into compliance with extra folding. That will help with both handling and your loaf volume. Rather than just punching down a dough during the bulk ferment, give it a fold or two or three spaced at intervals if it's really wet. Look up "folding a bulk fermenting dough" for the technique if you're unfamiliar with it. Also, I highly recommend the book "Bread" by Jeffery Hamelman for learning more about baking. The book changed my life. Folding makes a huge difference in getting the gluten fully developed. For the sake of flavor and texture, I under develop the gluten in the mixer, then get the full gluten development during bulk fermentation via folding. Flour protein level can also make a difference in your stickiness and gluten development. Higher protein bread flours absorb a little more liquid than lower protein AP flours and bread flours develop more strength due to the higher gluten content. But higher protein flours make for tougher crust. I prefer flour in the 9-11% protein range, but it requires more folding than a 14% protein bread flour to get the same loaf volume and handling characteristics. Another option that makes for slightly lesser flavor and is less preferable but easier is to make sure you're mixing to full gluten development in the mixer via the windowpane test. If you're hand mixing, then folding is the way to go. In fact, the best flavor and texture can be achieved by aoutolyzing your dough, then a quick hand mix followed by folding often during a long bulk ferment and then an extended cool final ferment. That's a fairly typical schedule for artisan sourdough loaves.
Dave G. April 19, 2018
Thank you Baker Bren. I appreciate your thorough response to my question. I will definitely give folding a try!
Smaug April 19, 2018
One thing I've never understood- a lot of bakers insist on throwing chipped ice into your preheated container (cast iron skillet, Dutch oven full of bolts, and other such things are often suggested) to make steam- always struck me as silly, and I've always used boiling water, but some pretty good bakers insist on ice.
I agree with Smaug, use boiling water for a steam burst, not ice! It's already as close to the phase change (liquid to gas) as you can get and doesn't require passing through two phase changes and sapping up all the latent energy requirements from the hot pan. That means you can add more for a second burst without the pan being too cool to steam. My only guess as to why some bakers suggest ice is a delayed action (which I don't want for maximum ovenspring) or some kind of summoning of the leidenfrost effect for an unknown (to me) reason. Bake on!
Elizabeth I. April 20, 2018
I imagine the reason for ice is because you can toss a handful in, without having to pull a 500 F iron pan out of the oven and pour water from a hot kettle, rather than because it is better.
Smaug April 20, 2018
Maybe, but I've never had to do that-I would suggest a saucepan rather than a kettle, which would require much more room to pour.
Join The Conversation