Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Justin Pinkney

Bread, hollow bottom sound reliability?

Recommended Posts

The classic 'tell tale' sign that bread is ready is having a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, almost every bread baking recipe happily recommends this as a fool proof way of telling bread is done. But, quite apart from figuring out just what a 'hollow sound' is, how reliable is this method?

It would seem to make sense that as excess moisture is driven out and the crumb is set that it should sound more hollow. But I have certainly had breads that sounded hollow, but were under done, or even had a core of unbaked dough in the centre.

Clearly temperature is the most reliable indicator, but is tapping a decent substitute (or are there any others?), and why always the bottom?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

. . . .

Clearly temperature is the most reliable indicator, but is tapping a decent substitute

Nope.

(or are there any others?),

Crust colour is a pretty decent guide (unless you brush some sort of muck over the top).

In fact, colour+temperature has always struck me as the best bet for determining bread doneness, because in my experience, bread actuallly reaches the correct internal temperature (which then goes little or no higher) before it's done. So, I bake the bread until it reaches a deep shade of brown. These days, when I've found the oven thermometer I have access to to be maddeniingly unreliable, I just follow the recommended baking time and temperature, then add however much more time is needed to bring the crust to a deep brown. It should be kept in mind that things like egg washes and so on brushed over the surface will (misleadingly) brown long before the bread surface itself is actually browned.

and why always the bottom?

This advice is so old I'm not even sure when or where it was first used, but there may have once been a good reason... or not (it may have just sounded more esoteric). I certainly don't know of any.

N.B. It's also possible that some people really do have a feel for how a finished bread should resonate (not just sound), sort of the way that Parmigiano Reggiano testers do, when they tap on the cheeses to determine their soundness. To my own undeveloped senses, the sound+vibration of a loaf of bread that's been baked always sounds relatively hollow (even when slicing it open reveals it is still doughy inside), and I'm guessing that that's the case for most people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a particular timbre to properly cooked bread when rapped, sort of like the sound of an ideally ripe melon or squash. FWIW, I'll tap both the top crust and the bottom when sounding the loaf, as I get a better idea of how the loaf is done that way (especially since I normally use an egg wash to stick seeds / grains to the top of my loaves).

I'm thinking it might be something that has to be learned when quite young - I was taught to sound bread by my great-aunt, using loaves from her wood stove.... I still listen for that distinctive tone when tapping my own bread, even though I'm baking in a gas oven. The sound is exactly the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was taught to push bread to as deep a golden brown as possible without starting to burn it. It's always worked for me, but it is true that bread has a particular sound when tapped, and with a little experience, it's also pretty reliable. For the most part, oven temperature for all the breads I've made has been the same, between 200 and 220 celcius thereabouts.

I would say that the reason for tapping the bottom has more to do with ensuring you have a flat surface which gives a more consistent sound from loaf to loaf.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IME colopur as a gauge for bread is a dangerous game. Fine if you're always using the same flour and you know what colour you like it at, but different flours brown to startlingly different degrees.


Edited by Blether (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And woe unto you if you use a blend of specialty flours. Quinua, without the direct influence of the gas broiler, won't brown at all, even if the bread has become a hockey puck. Barley browns faster than wheat, and rye unevenly. And breads including golden pea or broadbean flours brown very quickly and stay that way.....

I'm going to keep tapping.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a particular timbre to properly cooked bread when rapped, sort of like the sound of an ideally ripe melon or squash. FWIW, I'll tap both the top crust and the bottom when sounding the loaf, as I get a better idea of how the loaf is done that way (especially since I normally use an egg wash to stick seeds / grains to the top of my loaves).

I'm thinking it might be something that has to be learned when quite young - I was taught to sound bread by my great-aunt, using loaves from her wood stove.... I still listen for that distinctive tone when tapping my own bread, even though I'm baking in a gas oven. The sound is exactly the same.

I agree - I learned from my Grandmother, who learned from her mother, and I know exactly what to listen for. But I think you 'get it' or you don't. My brother, who is a chef (not wild keen on baking) is convinced there is some voodoo in there with the bread tapping, because he never got it right like that :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tapping and listening works for me. I've never had underdone bread with this method. If it looks too dark, then it's overdone. Can't say I've encountered bread that was burned on the outside and raw inside, though I suppose it's possible at really high temperatures.

I suppose rapping the bottom might be because the bottom is more dense with some kinds of bread, and if you bake in any kind of loaf pan, you've got to take it out to rap it. Also there's no risk of messing up the top, if you tap the bottom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all the replies, I guess it works for some. But even if you know the sound of done bread, surely this varies hugely between different types of loaf, e.g. ciabatta vs white sandwich loaf? Maybe someone should make a CD of example bread sounds.

Having to be the flat bottom makes sense though. But I think I'll stick to crust colour/temperature, I don't mind a discreet little hole from a temperature probe after all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If this makes any sense, it's more a timbre than a tone that you're looking for. In that respect, a ciabatta and a sandwich loaf are exactly the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Chris Hennes
      On Nov. 7, 2017, Modernist Bread will finally arrive on my doorstep. Having preordered it literally the first day it was available, to say I'm excited about this book is a bit of an understatement. The team at The Cooking Lab have been gracious enough to give @Dave the Cook and me early electronic access to the book and so I've spent the last week pouring over it. I'm just going to start with a few initial comments here (it's 2600 pages long, so a full review is going to take some time, and require a bunch of baking!). Dave and I would also be happy to answer any questions you've got.
       
      One of the main things I've noticed about this book is a change in tone from the original Modernist Cuisine. It comes across as less "everything you know is wrong" and more "eighty bazillion other bakers have contributed to this knowledge and here's our synthesis of it." I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Myhrvold and company are now the most experienced bread-bakers in the world. Not necessarily in terms of the number of identical loaves they've produced, but in the shear number of different recipes and techniques they've tried and the care with which they've analyzed the results. These volumes are a distillation of 100,000 years of human breadmaking experience, topped off with a dose of the Modernist ethos of taking what we know to the next level.
       
      The recipes include weight, volume, and baker's percentages, and almost all of them can be made by both a home baker and someone baking in a commercial facility. The home baker might need to compromise on shape (e.g. you can't fit a full-length baguette in most home ovens) but the book provides clear instructions for both the amateur and professional. The recipes are almost entirely concentrated in volumes 4 and 5, with very few in the other volumes (in contrast to Modernist Cuisine, where there were many recipes scattered throughout). I can't wait for the physical volumes to arrive so that I can have multiple volumes open at once, the recipes cross-reference techniques taught earlier quite frequently.
    • By pastrygirl
      I was cooking for a party last night at which a gluten free cake was served for dessert.  I had a few bites and aside from the cake being dry and the frosting very sweet, there was that tell-tale grittiness that GF baked goods seem to have. This particular bakery uses a blend of millet, sorghum, tapioca and potato flours.  I used some Bob's Red Mill GF flour to satisfy a customer request for GF shortbread and found the same grittiness - they use garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, whole grain white sorghum flour, tapioca flour and fava bean flour. 
       
      Obviously some sacrifices of flavor and texture are made when trying to replicate the magic of gluten, but why can't these flour blends be softer?  Can't they be milled more finely?  Or is it just the way the particular starches or proteins in those other flours are felt on the tongue? 
       
      It's like that chalky cold cooked rice texture, do you know what I mean?  Why can't it be better?  Almost every time I eat something made with substitute flours, it makes me sad and want to fix it.
    • By Kasia
      Today I would like to share with you a recipe for a slightly different sandwich. Instead of traditional vegetables, I recommend strawberry salsa, and rather than a slice of ham – a golden grilled slice of Halloumi cheese. Only one thing is missing – a fresh and fragrant bread roll.

      Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese made with sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep's, goat's and cow's milk. It is semihard and so flexible that it is excellent for frying and barbecuing, and it is great fresh too.

      Ingredients (for two people)
      2 fresh rolls of your choice
      2 big lettuce leaves
      4 slices of Halloumi cheese
      2 teaspoons of butter
      salsa:
      8 strawberries
      half a chili pepper
      2 tablespoons of minced peppermint leaves
      ¼ a red onion
      2 tablespoons of chopped almond without the skin
      1 teaspoon of honey
      2 tablespoons of lemon juice
      2 tablespoons of balsamic sauce

      Start by preparing the salsa. Wash the strawberries, remove the shanks and cube them. Dice the onion and chili pepper. Mix the strawberries with the onion, chili pepper, peppermint and almonds. Spice it up with honey and lemon juice. Leave in the fridge for half an hour. Grill the slices of Halloumi cheese until they are golden. Cut the fresh rolls in half and spread them with butter. Put a lettuce leaf on each half of roll, then a slice of the Halloumi cheese, one tablespoon of salsa, another slice of cheese and two tablespoons of salsa. Spice it up with balsamic sauce. Cover with the other half of the roll. Prepare the second sandwich in the same way. Serve at once while the cheese is still hot.

      Enjoy your meal!
       
       
       


    • By Shel_B
      Not sure if the subject line really reflects the situation and my question.
       
      Sweetie made a couple of loaves of soda bread the other day, and cut the top of the loaf in order to make a pattern something like THIS.  However, the pattern or cut mark didn't show on the finished loaf.  I don't know much more other than she said she made the cut "pretty deep."
       
      What might be the cause of the cut mark not showing on the finished loaf?  Thanks!
    • By nonkeyman
       How to Make Rye Sourdough Bread
      I don't know what it is about bread, but it is my favorite thing to make and eat. A freshly baked loaf of bread solves a world of problems. I was lucky enough to get to be one of the main bakers when I worked at the Herbfarm. We baked Epi, Baguettes, Rolls, Pretzels and so much more.
       

      Rye Sourdough Wood Oven Baked Bread
       
      My fondest memory when I worked there was our field trip to the Bread Lab(wait something this cool came out of WSU, of course!) here in Washington. They grow thousands of varieties of wheat and have some pretty cool equipment to test gluten levels, protein, genetics and so on. I nerded out so hard.
       
      What came out of that trip was this bread. Now I can't recall the exact flour we got from them, but using a basic bread and rye will do the trick. We used to get a special flour for our 100 mile menu. This was where we were limited to only serving food from 100 miles away. So finding a wheat farm that made actual hulled wheat in 100 miles was a miracle. The year before...the thing we made, was closer to hard tack.
       
      Now if you don't have a starter, I recommend starting one! It is a great investment!
       
      Rye Sourdough
      1000 g flour (60% Bread Flour, 40% Rye)
      25 g salt
       
      75 g of honey/molasses
      200 g of Rye starter 
      650 g of water, cold
      Equipment
      Baker Scale (or other gram scale)
      Bench Cutter
      Bread Razor (you could also use one of those straight razors)
       
      Start by taking the cold water, yeast and Honey and mix together and let sit for 10-15 minutes
       
      I know, some of you just freaked out, cold water? Won't that kill the yeast.
       
      Nope, the yeast just needs to re hydrate. I prefer using cold water to slow the yeast down. That way the lactobacillus in the starter has  a good amount of time to start making lactic acid, and really get to flavor town!
       
      While that is sitting, I mix the flour and the salt together(How many times I have forgotten to salt the bread).
       
      Now mix the two products with a kneading hook for 3-5 minutes, only until thoroughly mixed but not yet at the window pane stage of kneading.
       
       
      Instead, place into a bowl and set a timer for one hour. Then when that hour is up, push the dough down and fold all the corners in
       
      Repeat this step 2-3 more times, pending on the outside temperature.
       
      If you happen to have those cool bowls to shape round loafs! Awesome, use them. I would break the boules into 3 balls of about 333 grams
       
      If not then just put the dough in the fridge and do the steps below the next day.
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      Once you have bouled the bread, can put it into the fridge and let it sit over night
       
      Again, this lets the bacteria, really get to work(misconception is the yeast adds the sour flavor, nope, think yogurt!)
       
      Now on the next day, heat up whatever form of oven you plan to use. We used a brick oven but if you just have a normal oven, that is fine. Crank it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
       
      If you have not bouled your bread yet, go back and watch the video and break the dough down into three balls of abut 333 grams. Then place the balls on a lightly greased sheet pan. Let sit for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

      If you have used the fancy bowls then turn the the bread out on a lightly greased sheet pan, without the bowl and let temper for 15-30 minutes.
       
       
      If your oven is steam injected, build up a good blast of steam.
       
      If not, throw in a few ice cubes and close the door or put a bath of hot water inside.
       
      The steam is what creates the sexy crust!
       
      Let it build up for a few minutes!
       
      Right before you put the bread into the oven use a bread razor to slice the top of the bread.
       
      Place the dough balls into the oven and douse with another blast of steam or ice and close the oven.
       
      Let them bake for 13 minutes at 450 degrees. Then turn the loaves and bake for another 10 minutes.
       
      Remove when the crust is as dark as you want and the internal temperature exceeds 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
       
      Now pull out and make sure to let cool off of the sheet pan with room to breath underneath. You don't want your crust steaming!
       
      Now here is the hardest part, wait at least 20 minutes before getting into the bread. Also, cutting into bread to early really seems to come out poorly. I would rip the bread until 1-2 hours has passed.
       
      Now serve it with your favorite butter, goat butter or whipped duck fat!
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×