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  • Best oven spring yet

    It seems as though the "no-knead" video touches on three different aspects of bread baking: kneading your dough to get a nice texture; shaping your loaf; and creating steam. Great innovation coming up with the long, slow fermentation with no kneading, and using the dutch oven to shape the loaf.

    So my thinking was to experiment with traditional methods for the first two steps, and the dutch oven for the steam. I made a traditional Pugliese dough with 80% hydration and a kneaded it by hand. Did a traditional fermentation, and used Jim's excellent Boule Shaping Video (http://fornobravo.com/video/boule_shaping.mov) to shape by bread.

    As an aside, I've been trying to make good bread for about 10 years, and I think Jim's video on loaf shaping is the best thing I have ever seen. Great technique and instruction wrapped up in a 45 second video. Excellent.

    Then, I carefully placed my boule in a pre-heated (30 minutes to 450ºF) dutch oven, covered it and baked. It's the best bread I've even made outside of a real brick oven. The oven spring was great, where the loaf barely touched the sides of the dutch oven. The skin you get using Jim's technique is great, and the loaf rose up, not out.

    Plus, the dutch oven does a great job of creating steam. Better than anything I've ever done with bricks, cast iron pans with ice cubes, spray bottles, etc.

    I'm pretty happy. Photo attached, and I will post it to the Photo Gallery (http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/phot...ndex.php?n=21).

    Last edited by james; 11-26-2006, 12:47 PM.
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  • #2


    What a very cool way to incorporate the techniques. That is one spectacular loaf of bread. Well done; you must be very pleased. How was the crumb? With that shape and spring, that's probably a silly question.

    For my part, I pursued the no-knead recipe as written, with a few minor variations.

    Unlike the last time, I let the dough rise for fourteen hours instead of twenty-four, to see if there was a discernible difference. Really didn't seem to be any, because the breads are better than my first attempt, as the thumbnails will show. I got a really consistent show of fermentation bubbles across both bowls. For the one on the left, I used 50/50 hard bread and AP, as before. For the one one the right, I added a couple of tablespoons of raw wheat germ and a couple of tablespoons of organic, hard whole wheat flour from a local water-powered mill. I thought my previous attempt was a bit bland, hence the additions to the second dough.

    Also, I wanted to see the effect of different pots on this method, so I used my 6 Qt Le Creusset and a cast-iron oval German pot that's somewhat smaller in volume (I'd say about 4 1/2 Qts). For the round pot, I quickly shaped the dough into a ball. For the oblong, I simply left it in the shape I got after folding it four times, because that's a sort of oblong.

    This time, I misted parchment paper with spray oil, then used a fine sieve to dust with flour. The paper was put on the backs of two sheet pans, and the dough was left to rise for two hours.

    Preheated the pots for about half an hour on a 550F hearth. The doughs released very well from the paper into said pots. Followed the original recipe closely for bake times: half hour covered, 15 minutes with the lid off. You'll see the results. The loaf from the oblong pot has about a half inch more spring than from the round. Both have great crumb, and the additions to the one dough produced a more flavouful bread. In summer, this would make a great herb bread, with fresh basil, or thyme, or oregano.

    For high hydration doughs, Peter Reinhart has a formula where the dough is streched, folded four times, rested half and hour. This is repeated two more times before the dough is baked. The purpose is to strengthen the gluten structure. Might be worth a try.

    James, can you give me the proportions you use for Pugliese? I can get very good Golden Durham flour here, and usually make mine with 50 percent bread flour, 50 percent Durham, but I'd like to try any variations.

    To anticipate a possible question (Marcel?), the only thing I know about the oval pot is that it was bought for me by a friend in Germany about fifteen years ago. There is no maker's name, only a stock number on the bottom. It weighs an honest ton.

    I'm very pleased you liked the shaping video. Seems to me it's one of the most difficult things to describe in words (shouldn't say that, I'm a writer after all), but it's much easier to show.

    Depending on weather, I have one more week of masonry odds and sods to sort out, then I can really get going on the bread section.

    Wendy has agreed to be the camera operator and leave the voice over to me.

    "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


    • #3


      Should have added in my last post that I've learned one crucial thing about shaping: with most breads, hearth, pan, free standing, couche technique, etc., it's very important to create surface tension in the shaped loaf. This is true even with the whole wheat pan bread technique shown in the other video clip. Surface tension creates a sort of skin (though you don't want it to dry out) that encourages the dough to ferment inside it's own shell, more or less. You can manipulate the shape (batard, baguette, etc.), but the theory remains the same. I should add that there are many, many ways to shape bread, and the boule technique I use suits my hands and temperament.

      "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827