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Why do you need to let bread cool down before slicing it?


BatchCooker
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Hi everyone,

 

I was wondering whether someone can explain the science behind why you should let your bread cool down before cutting into it. I've read multiple blog posts on this issue, but all that I've found are somewhat vague ("There is steam in the bread which would mess up the crumb"). Does somebody know? And also more generally: Which kind of baked goods do need to cool down first and which don't? What does determine this?

 

Thanks a lot!

 

BatchCooker

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I would let bread cool just a bit before slicing. You'll find that when it comes out of the oven the crust is very crisp - so when you try to cut the bread it might squish down too much and mash the bread. Maybe that's what they mean about messing up the crumb. But hey - it's bread! Do what you want with it. Seems to me that the structure sets a little as well, once it's cooled a bit.

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It's mostly about the starch retrograding. Out of the oven it is fully gelated so it is sticky and holds lots of moisture. As it cools it will harden, making the bread less doughy and more chewy and firm. Ever tried cutting bread right of the oven? It often sticks to the knife, and if pressed too firmly may compress and stick together (i.e. mess the crumb). You can also see it with rice. Right off the heat it is sticky-gummy, then as it cools a little the grains become more solid.

 

Generally, it's best to let baked goods come to room temperature, or at least close to it. You can then reheat them to recrisp the crust and/or warm and them up. The starch won't fully gelate again, so it won't become sticky. You actually can cut the bread while it's hot, it might stick to the knife a bit, but it will be able too cool faster. I haven't noticed much difference in end result.

 

High hydration goods are more sticky while hot. That's why pizzas can be eaten hot - the crust is thin so it dries while baking. You may notice that the part under the sauce often feels doughy even though it's fully cooked. That's because it stays mositer and hotter than the crust, so it doesn't get to retrograde.

 

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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On 12/8/2020 at 10:42 AM, shain said:

It's mostly about the starch retrograding. Out of the oven it is fully gelated so it is sticky and holds lots of moisture. As it cools it will harden, making the bread less doughy and more chewy and firm. Ever tried cutting bread right of the oven? It often sticks to the knife, and if pressed too firmly may compress and stick together (i.e. mess the crumb). You can also see it with rice. Right off the heat it is sticky-gummy, then as it cools a little the grains become more solid.

 

Generally, it's best to let baked goods come to room temperature, or at least close to it. You can then reheat them to recrisp the crust and/or warm and them up. The starch won't fully gelate again, so it won't become sticky. You actually can cut the bread while it's hot, it might stick to the knife a bit, but it will be able too cool faster. I haven't noticed much difference in end result.

 

High hydration goods are more sticky while hot. That's why pizzas can be eaten hot - the crust is thin so it dries while baking. You may notice that the part under the sauce often feels doughy even though it's fully cooked. That's because it stays mositer and hotter than the crust, so it doesn't get to retrograde.

 

Thank you for the explanation, that is very helpful! :)

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