Is baking bread challenging for you?
It is for me. As I’ve recently discovered.
And since I’m not that good at it, I’ve made it a goal of mine to be able to produce artisan quality bread loaves by the end of the year.
I wanted to share my experiences trying to bake various loaves, all of which tasted good, but could use improvement.
Especially in terms of overall shape, texture, and flavor.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my progress and what I learned with each batch.
This post will kick off the series with my first attempt using: “King Arthur Flour’s In search of the best Rustic Loaf…”
Factors that will affect the way your bread turns out include –
- yeast activity
- including whether or not you add sugar to feed your yeast
- water temperature/ambient temperature
- bread flour and how well it hydrates
- other ingredients/flours that may affect the moisture content
- your technique
- rise time
- oven temperature and preheating time
- anything else?
For this first attempt, I mostly followed the recipe as written and weighed everything out to the gram.
The only changes I made were:
- using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast (if you use active, proof in water first- you’ll do this for both the sponge and the dough)
- reducing salt by 1/2 teaspoon
- increasing the water for dough by 1/4 cup
I made the sponge using my Zojirushi Virtuoso bread machine.
This is the sponge 12 hours after I used the dough setting on my machine (I let it rest overnight)
The dough in between the first and second rise
By the time I had finished the first rise, I had an extremely wet and slack dough that did not hold it’s shape. When I took it out of the bowl for the second rise, it spread like out like a pancake. *facepalm*
Two reasons it was so wet/slack:
- Too much water. I added an extra 1/4 cup, since in the recipe notes it said to add extra water if you want to have more bubbles in your bread.
- The bread flour. Different flours absorb different amounts of water, and I think mine was already at capacity, hence, the really sticky and slack dough.
The final baked bread loaf or rather, disc. Frisbee anyone?
The bottom crust
The lessons I learned from this attempt were:
- You want a tacky dough, not sticky.
- And, just as important, it should keep it’s shape somewhat after you shape it into a dough ball/loaf. As in, not move on it’s own after you form it.
- Don’t spray so much water before baking. I did get a good brown crust on the bottom. But on the top not so much. I may have gone a little spray crazy and over sprayed the top of the bread, which is I think what prevented it from getting a nice brown color on top.
Baking bread notes–
- To enhance the crust, I used the ‘falling oven technique’ where you start the oven at 475 for the first 15 minutes and then drop it down to 425 for the remaining bake time. See the recipe link for detailed procedure.
- To determine when I should stop baking, I used a thermometer to check the internal temp which was about 200 degrees before I turned the heat off.
- I did talk to King Arthur and they said you could let the internal temp go up to 210 if you wanted to, so I’ll need to experiment and see how that impacts the end result.
- Overall, the flavor was good, rich, and complex. One a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best, I’d rate it conservatively at a 7 or 8.
- The texture was dense and the air holes not very big. The top crust was missing, so the only crunch I got was from the bottom.
So that was my first attempt at rustic bread. What do you think?
Have you encountered similar problems or do you have other tips I could use to make better bread?
The bread disc sliced so you can see the crumb… irregular holes and nice crust on the bottom, on top, not so much
inspired by kingarthur