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Old 11-12-2009, 11:05 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
9,616 posts, read 11,374,932 times
Reputation: 3735

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I've been baking bread in earnest for over 3 years, having abandoned it 25 years ago because I couldn't get the results I wanted. Last year, however, in my retirement, I decided "Who's smarter here, a loaf of stubborn bread or (stubborn) me?"

I now have a well-evolved recipe that produces a very tasty bread, but I still have two stumbling blocks.

1) I can't ever seem to get that parchment-like crust of the commercial French bread loaves. I've read all the books and realize that the commercial bakeries probably have steam injectors in their ovens. I've tried all the tricks; spritzing the loaf, placing pans of boiling water in the oven, even placing a selection of clean stainless steel nuts and bolts, preheated, in there and tossing in some boiling water on top just as I place the risen loaves in. That produces lots of steam for the first five minutes, which should do the trick, right? Nope.

I do get a nice crust, but NEVER that paper-thin ultra-crunchy shell. What gives? Should I spray my loaves with shellac when I take 'em out of the oven? (just kidding...)

About half of my fresh-outa-the-oven loaves dissappear (!) within half an hour. A teen-aged son of course... The inner consistency is great but still... commercial loaves have that sort of pliable, elastic and moist consistency that remains for, literally, days. My loaves, as they dry out, tend to become very crumbly.

I assume the commercial loaves have some sort of wonder-chemical amendment. I used to bake them for the recommmended recipe time, about 12 min @ 400˚, then another 12 - 15 @ 375˚. Too long! Now, it's 10 - 12 @ 425˚, then I drop the oven temp on the setting to 350˚ for only 6 - 7 minutes, no longer over-cooking the loaves. That helped, but still...

My recipe does have, in it's latest iteration, two whole eggs in it, which has provided a lovely slightly yellow "egg-loaf" color and flavor, and they are better "bound" together, but still, my bread needs to be eaten within a couple of days if it's to be any good.

Any secret ideas, bread-fans?
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Old 11-12-2009, 01:23 PM
 
Location: Tampa, FL
2,637 posts, read 10,940,348 times
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You can get a very nice crust on homemade bread but you will never be able to acheive a truly professional result on crusty lean breads without professional equipment. I think you might be interested in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, it includes an in-depth explanation of the chemical processes of breadmaking and which variables to manipulate to acheive specific results. It also has plenty of recipes for those who don't want to get that in depth, but somehow I think that you would. I have found it to be a great resource.

Amazon.com: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (9781580082686): Peter Reinhart, Ron Manville: Books
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Old 11-12-2009, 05:36 PM
 
Location: In the real world!
2,178 posts, read 8,482,584 times
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Have you tried olive oil for a crusty crust? I brush olive oil on my dough sometimes are put it on my hands as I handle the dough. I love what olive oil does to it but I only use that when I want a really crusty bread. Olive oil is really good for a crusty pizza! mmmm!

I also find that for loaves, t you have to cook it on a lot lower heat than for rolls... Thick loaves shouldn't be cooked any higher than 350* so that it can bake all the way through..

I don't know what you could do to make it stay fresher longer, my bread is never around that long and if it is, I slice it, butter and put garlic on it and toast it, they eat that up twice as fast!
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Old 11-16-2009, 09:59 PM
 
Location: Rivendell
1,387 posts, read 2,166,698 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tilli View Post
You can get a very nice crust on homemade bread but you will never be able to acheive a truly professional result on crusty lean breads without professional equipment. I think you might be interested in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, it includes an in-depth explanation of the chemical processes of breadmaking and which variables to manipulate to acheive specific results. It also has plenty of recipes for those who don't want to get that in depth, but somehow I think that you would. I have found it to be a great resource.

Amazon.com: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (9781580082686): Peter Reinhart, Ron Manville: Books
LOL!
Rifleman, I recommended this book to you months ago.
All of your bread problems will be solved by the sage advice of Peter Reinhart. His french bread recipe is excellent.
He also has a new book out that I am getting soon, "Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day".


The life expectancy of your basic artisan loaf is very short. If the bread contains only flour, water, yeast and salt it wont keep more than a day or two.
The best breads start with a pre-ferment, and are not made in one day.
Enriched breads containing fats or eggs keep much longer.
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Old 11-30-2009, 05:51 AM
 
263 posts, read 663,625 times
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are you leaving the bread in the oven long enough?
i make french bread on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes or so. i brush the loaves with an egg white wash. when i put the bread in, i throw a quarter cup or so of water on the oven floor. i repeat that 2 or three times when i think of it. i also take the bread off the pan and put it right on the rack for the last 5 minutes.
and, french bread should be left out in the air to keep it crusty. i just put a bag over the cut end.
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:08 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
9,616 posts, read 11,374,932 times
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OK, OK, Sizzly; I'll get the danged book! Sheesh! Actually, I did get this one:

"Baking Artisan Bread" by Ciril Hitz; Quarry Books.

Has a CD in it as well. Very interesting, with many good tips about making better bread through careful, precise design. He recommends the tossing of water on top of a 9" X 9" bread pan filled with new clean nuts and bolts that you preheat in the oven before putting the loaves in. Really... I kid you not! That does make lots of steam, but still no parchment-like crust.

I'll play with the bake times a bit as well.

BTW, it's not a problem with it staying "fresh"; it just doesn't have that commercial bread elasticity, where you can sort of pull on a slice of bakery bread and it stretches out a bit, but mine just comes apart. After a day or two in a plastic bag it's still moist, but it's even more sorta, well... crumbly.

Have a good holiday season, everyone, especially the bread people!
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:48 AM
 
Location: Rivendell
1,387 posts, read 2,166,698 times
Reputation: 1650
Finally. One might think you are not taking your quest seriously.

Peter Reinhart says that any steam in the oven after the first 5 minutes or so will make the crust thicker.

If your are having textural issues with the finished loaf, then the dough has probably been over kneaded.
He will answer all of your questions.
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