Saturday I made 6 loaves of bread. No really! And I was basically at it all day and into the night. But I really wanted to make the most of the day I had free so I packed in a lot of work. This one is the Rustic Bread from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. It’s mostly a white bread with a bit of whole grain thrown in as well. I used both whole wheat and rye flours.
There are a number of challenges when baking artisan bread from home. The main one for me is my oven. I have an oven thermometer in there, but even so it’s about impossible to get it to stay at the temperature you want. The temperature likes to shoot sky high and then it’s really hard to get it to come back down. I’ve even found myself with the oven door standing open. And, I don’t know if this is true of other electric ovens, but the only time the top element comes on is if I’m broiling. So instead of getting an even amount of heat from the top & bottom, it gets all the heat from the bottom. So I have to watch like a hawk and keep adjusting the temperature to try and keep the bottom from burning before the top browns. See what I’m talking about?
A touch darker than I’d like, but the char flavor is minimal and it was worth it to get the top right. Another thing my oven doesn’t have is an automatic steamer for the first part of the baking process. The method I used last time to achieve this was to preheat a cast iron pan in the oven along with my baking stones. When I put the dough in to bake, I poured hot water into the pan and used a spray bottle to spray the sides of the oven. I repeated spraying the sides of the oven a couple of times in the first 10 minutes of baking. I didn’t get good lift on those loaves and ended up with a practically burnt bottom and pale top. So this time, I tried something else. When I put the loaves in, I misted the top of each with the spray bottle, and check 3 or 4 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven. Then that’s it. Way easier and I think it worked better.
I found these loaves took a lot less time to bake than the 35 or so minutes given in the recipe. Looking at the comments in The Fresh Loaf post I linked to above, maybe I didn’t leave the dough wet enough. But the loaves registered somewhere between 200 and 205 degrees, and the bottom couldn’t take any longer in there so out they came. All in all, I’m really happy with these.
Submitted to Wild Yeast Blog’s Yeastspotting feature.