It would figure that the week after I write about doing a better job in managing my baking in varied environments that I end up baking in a different environment with … poor results. As is often the case, the resulting bread still tasted good, had a nice crust, and a fairly airy crumb, but oven spring was lacking in the first loaf and next to non-existent in the second.
I was at my parent’s “cottage” this weekend with plans for a post expounding the glories of baking with a gas-fired oven, propane in this case. In the past, I’ve baked bread in this particular oven resulting in an amazing crust leaving me with the impression that there was a certain “je ne sais quoi” about the heat from the gas-fired oven as compared to my standard conventional convection or electric oven. Just for fun, here is a past loaf baked in the oven using the Flour Water Salt Yeast method of baking seam side up without scoring for a more “natural” look.
While the above loaf is worthy of sharing, my resulting loaves from this weekend were assuredly not of being the focus of a post with poor oven spring resulting in fairly flat loaves. Despite making do with a napkin holder in place of a bench knife (the perils of traveling with equipment), I believe the environmental culprit to be the ambient fridge temperature in which my loaves spent 17-18 hours. That said, it’s possible that I did not achieve the required surface tension in shaping in utilizing my napkin holder-bench knife; after having placed the loaves into my dutch oven, both relaxed noticeably more than I’d expect. Ignoring the bench knife, part of the challenge, I suppose, is in not getting too accustomed to the environment in which I typically bake: bulk fermentation temperature around 80°F and overnight proofing temperature around 38°F. I spot checked the setting in my parent’s fridge to see that it was reasonable (close to the midpoint, same as in my fridge), but did not go so far as to leave my ambient thermometer in there for a proper test.
Had I done the finger dent test in the morning (I feel like I never follow my own advice on this), I’m sure I would have found the loaves to be unprepared for baking. The second challenge, I suppose, is in managing expectations for would be eaters when the process itself can be (should be?) variable.
“Breakfast should be ready around 9.” Famous last words?