Glossary and Tips
Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat. It helps with the structure and rise of yeast bread. Gluten can be formed by kneading and mixing. This is desirable in breads, so kneading time is usually between 5 and 12 minutes. Gluten is not desirable in cookies, cakes, muffins, etc, so the mixing time is shorter. Cake flour has a lower gluten level, making it desirable for cakes and other pastries. I like to buy all-purpose flour and gluten seperately. This way I can control the amount of gluten in a recipe.
Bread flour is basically just all-purpose flour with gluten. I like to buy all-purpose flour and gluten seperately. This way I can control the amount of gluten in a recipe.
Refrigerating some doughs is necessary for the structure of both the crust and interior of some breads. Without the refrigeration of the french bread and ciabatta, the crust will not be crisp and the interior will be gummy.
Steam pans are great for crusty breads. They should be on a rack below the baking stone. The stone and steampan need to be in the oven while it is preheating, so they can be hot when the dough comes in. Right after the dough is slid onto the stone, water should be poured into the steam pan giving it an immediate burst of steam.
I use a jellyroll pan for a steam pan. It does warp it, but that's all I use it for. I like the large hot surface area it gives. It produces a lot of steam very quickly and the rest slowly througout the baking period. Do not use a glass pan, it will shatter when you pour the water in. (I've done this). A smaller aluminum pan will work, but it won't let off as much steam as a jellyroll pan does.
Getting the oven temperature correct is critical. You can purchase an oven thermometer for about $5. As you see in the picture I set my oven to 415 and the true temperature is 375. Forty degrees will definately change and usually ruin what you are baking. My oven isn't always consistent either. When I set my oven to 550 it's right on. When I set it to 325 it's only ten degrees off. It is good to always keep the thermomter in the oven as the oven can change over time. What used to register as 400 degrees now takes 10 degrees more to actually be there.
My oven beeps to tell me when it thinks it's preheated, but it is usually 50-200 degrees too cool at this point. It takes an additional 5-20 minute to get it to the desired temperature.
Baking time - Breads should be baked as long as they can be without burning. It makes the crust crisper and the inside drier as opposed to gummy. For most baked goods, overbaking ruins them. Breads are different.
Dough temperature in yeast breads
The temperature of the dough in yeast bread can be critical. French bread requires a slow rise, so it needs a lower temperature. Whole wheat sandwich bread requires a rapid rise, so it needs a higher temperature. Kneading dough raises the temperature, so if dough needs to be kept cooler, place it in the refrigerator the first 15-20 minutes of the fermenting period (first rise). If the dough needs to be warmer, place a heat pack under the bowl.
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