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Bread: shaping, slashing and transferring


snowangel
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I'll confess. I'm new to bread baking, but finally have some starter, that "barmed" is rising like crazy, and starting to make my bread more sour.

But, my bread is denser than I'd like, and I have a bunch of questions (all related to non-loaf pan loaves):

Shaping. If I flour the counter, I can't seem to get as much tension. Quite frankly, my shaping sucks, and I can't seem to get the tension that is necessary for a Great Loaf.

Slashing. When do I do this? If I slash right before I put the loaf in the oven, I don't seem to get the bloom I need.

Couching. What's the best way to keep a wet dough from spreading too much? Today, the loaves are couching on a floured flour sack dish cloth, kept in check with bricks. Or, do I even care if the loaves spread? It's helpful it the bread is taller so the kids can get their toast out of the toaster...

What's the best way to transfer these loaves so they don't wrinkle?

Plea for help, please!

How do I know when they are over-proofed?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Slashing.  When do I do this?  If I slash right before I put the loaf in the oven, I don't seem to get the bloom I need.

I always slash immediately before putting in the oven. If you're not getting enough rise, try introducing steam. Or your loaves could be overproofed, in which case you won't see much oven spring.

Some people use a cold oven method to get oven spring. (Place bread in cold oven, crank to high, lower the oven temp when it reaches your desired temperature.) With this method, I find that you need to watch for overbrowning of the crust. In that case, tent some foil over the loaf once it gets close to your desired color.

But, my bread is denser than I'd like

You could try increasing the hydration.

I think it would help the bread mavens to know what kind of recipe/proportions you are using.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Whew! That's a long list of questions. I'll start at the top and work my way down. :biggrin:

If the bread is denser than you like, it could be for one of two reasons: either the dough is not hydrated enough or it isn't fully proofed when you put it into the oven. Are you "steaming" the oven after you put the bread into the oven? This steam helps to keep the outside of the loaf from crusting up before having a change to bloom in the oven. Not slashing deep enough can also prevent the loaf from rising to it's fullest height.

Shaping: This takes practice. I almost never flour the work surface when I am shaping. In fact, when I am making boules, I actually spritz my work surface with some water to cause the dough to stick a little bit.

Slashing: Do this right before you put the loaf into the oven. I like to load the fully-proofed dough onto my peel (or other delivery device), slash the loaf accordingly, place into the oven right away, and then steam the oven. If you are loading multiple loaves, steam the oven before you put the first loaf in, slash and place each loaf into the oven, and then steam again afterwards. You should use either a lame or a sharp serrated knife (like a small utility knife). You shouldn't need to clean it between slashes, but sometimes dipping it into water helps it slice through the dough.

Couching: Wet doughs tend to spread out, not up. Wet doughs also tend to have that lovely irregular hole pattern that we all strive for, too. So, it's a toss-up. I once made a potato rosemary bread two times, the only difference being that in one I added 30 grams less water (1 ounce). The difference was noticeable. One rose upwards, the other outwards. As far as couching itself goes, you could always use a basket or banneton (that has been well floured), or barring that, a colander that's been lined with a well-seasoned linen towel.

Transferring: I'm guessing you are talking about transferring the loaves from the place they are proofing to the peel to the stone in the oven? In the case where you were using a banneton or colander to proof the loaf, it would be proofing upside-down (seam side up), so you could just flip it over onto the peel. If you aren't using a bowl, shape the loaves and the place seam side down onto a piece of parchment paper. Then when they are ready to go into the oven, simply slide the parchment onto the peel, slash, and place into the oven. Half-way through the cooking time you can simply slide the loaf off of the paper and discard.

Over-proofed: If you can push a finger into the dough and the indentation does not come out or comes out VERY slowly, you more than likely have over-proofed.

I know that sounds like a lot of rules to remember, but you'll get the hang of it ... it just takes practice.

Good luck.

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Wow. What a lot of information for me to digest!

But, back to slashing. At an angle?

I've got two "batards" (read not really pretty; perhaps bastards?) in the oven and I seem to have better "oven pop than before. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, when we have dinner.

I am using Reinhart's basic method for sourdough bread (as seen in BBA).

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Over-proofed: If you can push a finger into the dough and the indentation does not come out or comes out VERY slowly, you more than likely have over-proofed.

Actually, people tend to have more problems with underproofing rather than overproofing, so concentrate on that. I poke a finger into the dough, and if the indentation doesn't immediately fill up, or fills up only slowly, then I consider the dough to be properly proofed.

About shaping. It does take practice. Snowangel, is there any particular shape you're having problems with? Baguettes can be a little fussy for everyone. For a round loaf, Peter Reinhart once suggested: patting the dough into a rectangular shape; folding it in thirds like an envelope; turning the dough 90 degrees and folding it into thirds again like an envelope; then pull up the corners. This method produces a high, round loaf.

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About shaping. It does take practice. Snowangel, is there any particular shape you're having problems with? Baguettes can be a little fussy for everyone. For a round loaf, Peter Reinhart once suggested: patting the dough into a rectangular shape; folding it in thirds like an envelope; turning the dough 90 degrees and folding it into thirds again like an envelope; then pull up the corners. This method produces a high, round loaf.

Thanks for this hint; I need to re-read the shaping technique section in BBA more carefully. The batard is the one I've had the most trouble with.

But, I am finding it easier to shape the dough when it is cold, after a retard in the fridge. Am I missing out on something that can be achieved by shaping the dough right after a rise and before the fridge retard?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I would agree. The batard is one of the more difficult shapes to master simply by relying on a book. And even then, five different bakers could show you five different ways to make the batard shape.

When I've been pressed for time, I have actually done as you suggested and done my bulk fermentation, shaped the dough into it's final shape, and then let it proof overnight in the refrigerator. I wouldn't bake it right out of the fridge (although I've read that some people have tried that), but would let it rest on the counter for maybe an hour or so. Then slash it right before you put it into the oven.

I've never tried shaping the dough straight out of the fridge though.

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Here is one I made earlier:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=88...1935&q=baguette

or

http://www.danlepard.com/real/jackbaguette.rm

(thanks Dan!)

A batard is similar, except the piece is larger (about 550gm),

Here is what I do

Flatten into a rough rectangle

fold the corners to the centre (insteadof the whole side for a baguette)

fold in half

press the seam together

roll gently and put in the couche

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Shaping.

1/ Its not just about producing the shape, its about producing a surface that is in tension, *and* (recent revelation) controlling the thickness and qualities of that stretched surface layer...

... and that the thickness of the stretched layer is related to the depth that the slashes must be cut for ideal results. Where it gets seriously non-verbal is that the state of proof (firm to floppy) affects the thickness of the surface stretched layer, as well as how much the cuts immediately open... so the ideal depth of the slash.

2/ The top (stretched smooth) surface of the loaf is being produced, upside down, against the floured tabletop. Which is why, at this stage, you don't want it to stick. Which is why its lightly floured.

Transferring.

1/ Baguettes and peels. The baguette must go parallel to the peel handle, so if it snags, it might stretch, but it shouldn't kink or roll over.

2/ I'd rather have a nice looking loaf than mess up with a sticky peel, so I cheat. With baking parchment. Parchment on the peel, dust with flour, loaf on top. Parchment plus loaf onto the stone. At about 1/3 through the bake, when I want to drop the humidity, I open the oven, remove my boiling water pan (whether or not its dry), and also remove the parchment. The loaf is plenty strong enough to slide, undamaged, from parchment to stone. Having (still) a rather thin stone, I usually reposition the loaf on an unchilled bit of stone to maximise the base heat. This bit, at least, works well for me!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Jackal, I noticed in your very instructive video that the dough didn't stick to your fingers, work surface, arms, elbows etc etc like mine always does. Is that because you work with a dough that is less wet than mine or because you cover each piece of dough with enough flour to make it non sticky on the surface?

In general, my doughs are wet enough to basically stick to anything like crazy. That makes them quite hard to work with (a pain really), but I'm somehow gotten the impression that wetter equals better when it comes to doughs.

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The dough is very wet - 72% or so

Not sure what the answer is. The dough is well developed and rested.

Probably some surficant

In the clip the dough and the surface are well dusted with flour. Wet hands also does it, but too much flour or waer will disturb the balance in the dough.

I usually use a little oil.

You only need a small amount rubbed on your hands and surface, the bowls, or the surface of the dough.

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Jackal, I noticed in your very instructive video that the dough didn't stick to your fingers, work surface, arms, elbows etc etc like mine always does. Is that because you work with a dough that is less wet than mine or because you cover each piece of dough with enough flour to make it non sticky on the surface?

In general, my doughs are wet enough to basically stick to anything like crazy. That makes them quite hard to work with (a pain really), but I'm somehow gotten the impression that wetter equals better when it comes to doughs.

My doughs are generally very wet as well, and as a rule I shape my breads using two bench scrapers. It works really well, once you get the hang of it.

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In general, my doughs are wet enough to basically stick to anything like crazy. That makes them quite hard to work with (a pain really), but I'm somehow gotten the impression that wetter equals better when it comes to doughs.

You bring up a good point. Actually, IMO, wetter is not necessarily better. You have to know about the kind of bread you're making. Lean breads with an airy texture (big holes) that are baked in very hot ovens should be on the wet side, i.e., very moist. Ciabatta, pizza, and other artisanal style breads come to mind as examples of that kind of bread. But other breads, like whole wheat pan loaves, or breads that are embellished with butter, eggs, or dried fruit (challah, kugelhopf, brioche)--those doughs are drier in comparison (at least when I make them). Those doughs may be a little tacky, but I wouldn't call them wet, and that's how those doughs are supposed to be.

When I first made lean artisanal breads, my doughs were very sticky, really unhandleable. Over the years I've learned to sacrifice some wetness for a dough that's easier to handle and shape. The breads still turn out well.

Anybody else with thoughts about this?

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You bring up a good point. Actually, IMO, wetter is not necessarily better.

Anybody else with thoughts about this?

I agree wholeheartedly.

Wetter doughs are simply a means to an end. Wetter = more holes, and the pendulum (fashion) right now seems to have swung toward more holes or breads of this type. In the end, it's largely a matter of personal preference and the crumb that we associate with certain types of bread.

Early on, I realized that I prefer a tighter crumb minus irregular holes for most of my daily breads (pain au levain, pain de campagne, pain de seigle, sandwich breads and challah). My kids and wife have the same preference.

Of course, I still like to shoot for an open crumb for certain breads: baguettes, ciabatta, pizza dough, focaccia, etc.

It all depends on the application.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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In general, my doughs are wet enough to basically stick to anything like crazy. That makes them quite hard to work with (a pain really), but I'm somehow gotten the impression that wetter equals better when it comes to doughs.

...

When I first made lean artisanal breads, my doughs were very sticky, really unhandleable. Over the years I've learned to sacrifice some wetness for a dough that's easier to handle and shape. The breads still turn out well.

Thanks for the advice. I don't bake that often, but when I do I usually aim for (but never reach..) that perfect artisanal sourdough bread.

I actually did my fist sourdough-only bread the other week following jackals excellent tutorial here on eGullet. Turned out pretty well, but not perfect. A slightly sour/off smell when baking, a little bit too flat and not enough large holes in the crumb. Taste and texture was good though.

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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In general, my doughs are wet enough to basically stick to anything like crazy. That makes them quite hard to work with (a pain really), but I'm somehow gotten the impression that wetter equals better when it comes to doughs.

...

When I first made lean artisanal breads, my doughs were very sticky, really unhandleable. Over the years I've learned to sacrifice some wetness for a dough that's easier to handle and shape. The breads still turn out well.

Thanks for the advice. I don't bake that often, but when I do I usually aim for (but never reach..) that perfect artisanal sourdough bread.

I actually did my fist sourdough-only bread the other week following jackals excellent tutorial here on eGullet. Turned out pretty well, but not perfect. A slightly sour/off smell when baking, a little bit too flat and not enough large holes in the crumb. Taste and texture was good though.

Perhaps they were over proofed?

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Proofing is the final fermentation before baking.

I have developed the formula a bit since the eGCI tutorial

This is my current version:

First is the elaboration from the starter to preferment.

I am now using a firm preferment (biga) 50% hydration

I think it gives better flavour

(for 1Kg dough)

200g flour

100g water

10g starter

Ferment at 27C for 12-24 hours.

This step generates most of the final flavour

Second is bulk fermentation - 70% hydration

all the preferment

400g flour

320g water

12g salt

(vitamin C optional)

Mix roughly Stretch and fold every 15 to 30 mins for 2 hours at 27C

For additional refinement you can pre-mix the flour and water (and salt) for a few hours before the main dough. I think this increases the taste of the grain, especially for whole grains.

Mix in seeds, olives, nuts etc at this point if you are using them

Third fermentation: Proof

Bear in mind that the dough is increasingly delicate from this point on.

Try not to knock out the gas.

Shape and put in a banneton or couche, and put it all in a plastic bag, and either prove for 2 hours at 27C or overnight in a fridge

Bake hot (250C), for 40 minutes lots of bottom heat (baking stone), steam in the first minute.

For flour I use soft flour (9.5% protein) to get bigger holes. In fact for white bread I now only use soft flour.

However this formula also works with wholemeal flour and with spelt

If you use yeast instead of sourdough halve the fermentation times.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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For slashing - I use a pair of thin scissors. I slash deep and get good results. This works especially well for soft doughs.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Third fermentation: Proof

Bear in mind that the dough is increasingly delicate from this point on.

Try not to knock out the gas.

Shape and put in a banneton or couche, and put it all in a plastic bag, and either prove for 2 hours at 27C or overnight in a fridge

Bake hot (250C), for 40 minutes lots of bottom heat (baking stone), steam in the first minute.

Any tips and hints on how to best get the dough from the banneton or couche into the oven?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Make sure to flour the banneton WELL. Very well. I've never had to do this, but I've heard of people using rice flour in the banneton with great success. Also, once you've shaped your loaf, make sure you do the final proofing seam side up. That way, when it is fully proofed, you just have to flip it onto a floured peel, slash, and into the oven it goes.

Also, it should go without saying that you don't wash bannetons between use.

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...

Any tips and hints on how to best get the dough from the banneton or couche into the oven?

That is where the peel comes in !! :smile:

Absent a 'proper' peel, an upturned (or lip-less) tray or similar can be used as an improvisation...

I commented above about using parchment on the peel, rather than just flour. (Semolina is the commonly advised peel lubricant.)

As tino27 says, adding to my comments above regarding 'seam' and 'top' sides of the dough, the dough is proofed in bannetons seam-side up, so it is simply tipped out onto the peel.

I've heard Rye flour mentioned as being the standard for making the linen cloth non-stick... :smile:

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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      Carefully wash the cucumbers and bell pepper. Slice all vegetables very thin, using a food processor with a narrow slicing blade, or by hand, or using a V-slicer or mandoline. Toss the sliced vegetables together in a glass or crockery bowl large enough to hold twice the volume of the vegetables. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables, add the cracked ice, toss again to blend all ingredients and add water to just barely cover the vegetables. Place a heavy plate on top of the vegetables to keep them below the top of the liquid.
      *Set aside for 4 hours.
      PREPARE THE SYRUP:
      Place the vinegar, sugar and pickling spices in a 4-quart Pyrex or other microwavable container (the large Pyrex measure works very well)
      Microwave on high for 15 to 20 minutes. [if a microwave is not available, simmer the syrup in a narrow saucepan on the stovetop, over low heat, for the same length of time.] Allow the syrup to cool. Strain the syrup and discard the spices.
      ASSEMBLE THE PICKLES:
      Place one wide-mouth quart canning jar (or two wide-mouth pint jars) with their lids in a pot of water to cover, place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees). Remove the pot from the heat and allow jar(s) and lid(s) to remain in the hot water until needed.
      *After the 4 hours are up (crisping the vegetables as described above) pour the vegetables into a large colander and rinse well. The cucumber slices should taste only slightly salty. Return the rinsed vegetables to the bowl, add the mustard seeds and celery seeds and toss well until evenly distributed. Set aside.
      Return the syrup to the microwave, microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes [or heat the syrup on the stovetop] until an instant read thermometer shows the temperature of the syrup is 190 to 200 degrees.
      Place the vegetables into one wide-mouth quart jar, or in 2 wide-mouth pint
      jars that have been scalded as described above. Pour the syrup over the vegetables, place the lids on the jar or jars, tighten well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
      The following day, turn the jar upside down - then continue to turn every day for 2 weeks. (This is to insure that the pickles are evenly flavored)
      After 2 weeks open the jar and taste. The pickles should be ready to eat.
      Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months.
      ( RG2154 )
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