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need bread chemisty lesson

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
OK, have been doing some "no knead" bread, really like it, but would like some basic lesson in the "whys" of how some of this stuff works so I can do more manipulating & understand what I am doing better. I really like how chewy this bread is, & how crisp the crust is. But what causes it, how much is due to the wetness of the dough & how much the cooking, the length of rise etc?

What would happen if I took a more traditional bread dough & cooked it in this cast iron dutch oven?

What would happen if I made a divot along the wall (i line my dutch oven w/ foil) & tossed a couple of ice cubes between the foil & the wall when I put the bread in if I cook a more traditional loaf in a dutch oven, instead of trying to kill myself tossing ice cubes into the bottom of a hot frying pan on the bottom of the oven & hoping I get the door closed fast enough to hold in the steam (I have my doubts that I move that fast & I'm just waiting to burn myself on the racks)

I have made bread for years, but I don't really have too much understanding of how adding fat or milk or sugar changes the dough so any help would be appreciated. Or a good reference that tells you that stuff so I can mess around on my own.
post #2 of 4
Lots of good questions. The answer is complicated by the fact that bread making is a complex system in which each factor affects all of the others. In math, these kinds of systems are examined with a technique called "fluid dynamics," which gave me a headache even when I could do it. It's not any better with bread.

The bread is so wet to compensate for the lack of knead, and couldn't really be kneaded anyway because it's so wet. Rather, a great deal of the homogenization of ingredients is by autolysis. So there. "Autolysis" is an actual term of art, but really the word as used here is an American take on pretentious French baking jargon for "diffusion." Hard to think of the French as pretentious, I know.

Anyway... Yes. The high moisture content does have a lot to do with the ultimate texture and chew. Using moister doughs with more autolytic "mixing," and less kneading is very hot in the hobby baking community now. I suggest looking in on The Fresh Loaf site and following the threads on almost French or Italian type bread, like Pain de Campagne, Pain de Poolish, etc. The moisture and (lack of) handling have everything to do with the internal structure of the bread. The way the heat is brought to bread has a lot to do with the spring and the crustiness.

Even though I know YOU know, I'm going to add that it's a common misconception that bread dough should be dry. It should not. It should be wet and sticky. It should be just dry enough to handle in whatever way it needs to be handled. For instance, if it's going to be kneaded, it should be just dry enough so as not to stick to the board -- but it should certainly be sticky enough to stick to itself.

Crustier, faster baked bread. Dutch oven, and other close vessel cooking has been around for a long time. IIRC, King Arthur has a ceramic baker on its site that does the same thing.

You can't trap that much water in a tightly closed vessel and expect anything good to come out of it. Steam injection works the way it does, because the humid air is quickly dried. The oven is not supposed to stay humid. The closed pan method kind of skates on the edge already. You'd push it over with the ice cubes.

Fat lubricates the solids and the barriers between layers (if you fold), making the dough more elastic. It makes for a very tender bread. Think biscuits.

Milk proteins feed the yeast, giving more rise and a slightly blander taste. Buttermilk acidulates the dough, tenderizes, adds to keeping properties, and adds tang -- in addition to more rise. And of course, it's a traditional component in soda leavened quick breads.

Sugar makes bread sweeter (hadn't thought of that, had you?). It increases moistness of the finished bread and lengthens the time the bread will keep fresh (interrelated). Sugar is not the preferred sweetener. Go with honey, malt syrup or molasses as first choices -- if they fit your flavor profile. Barley malt syrup is typical, wheat malt is really intense. A little goes a very long way, a little more will take over.

This stuff is all over the web. I'm not sure if anyone's really done a bread chemistry for home bakers book yet; although some of the better books devote a few pages to the subject. I'm not an expert on the literature or the subject either. A web page I've found helpful as a quick gloss on a lot of bread topics is Bread Making It's not terribly deep though.

The best information on baking I've found on the web is posted on WikiAnswers to the question, "Why is milk used in bread?" Answer: "it's a ingredient for bread , without it it won't be bread. [sic, capitalization, punctuation and spacing]"


PS. My link to the AOOB site is not an endorsement in any way of "survivalism."
post #3 of 4
Milk is a food for yeast, acid to slack the gluten, sugar that caramelizes the crust, flavor and texture for the crumb not to mention a liquid component to the dough, a hydrater(or).

The diestatict barley malt syrup contains enzymes that break down the starches and complex sugars in the dough to simple sugars to better feed the yeast, making for a lighter loaf with greater depth of flavor.

Autolysis is the act of developing the liquid with the flour and allowing the flour to hydrate before adding in the yeast, salt and other ingredients.

Don't forget soakers! You are adding whole grains? Soak them in a portion of the liquid called for in the formula so they won't dry out your final loaf.

American Baking Institute has lots of information also, baking text books.
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!

Professor Pastry
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
thank you so much for the info, helps quite a bit & gives me a place to start. May give cooking some of my regular recipes a try in my dutch oven. Have several I really like except for wimpy crusts, sounds like it wouldn't make my kitchen explode or anything so at worst maybe I end up w/ a brick, maybe I improve something I liked anyway.

Never thought hubbies camping gear would actually turn out so useful.:)
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