Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sandwich Loaf Molding and Baking

I am often asked how to I make my bread have such a nice shape. "Vigorous exercise and a strict diet" is my common sarcastic answer. Honestly folks, there is a method. It's called molding. Not the nasty blue mold on old bread. Goof. It's like molding clay into a shape. That kind of molding is done with dough. Once you see it and try it, you will be surprised how much your bread really holds a nice shape. I think the main beauty of this loaf molding procedure is that it stacks the mesh-like structure of gluten, basic math and architecture meet my loaf pan. Here's how I do it:

First take half the dough from the basic bread recipe( Are You Afraid of Germs? Or the overnight started bread recipe soon to follow in an upcoming post.)

For whole grain bread, I don't flour the counter top, just lightly mist with water.

For three reasons, first, it doesn't put any undue dry yucky flour streaks in my bread. Second, if I used oil, it wouldn't allow the bread to seal correctly and there would be seams in the bread that don't connect. Third, it adds moisture, which is always good for whole grain bread!

Pat dough out into a 16 inch rectangle. It doesn't have to be exact, but close.

Fold one third over.

Fold the other third over the top.

It should look like this. Like most brochures...well ones made of dough anyway.

Now roll and pinch into a log.

Once it's rolled, pinch the seams and the end...and tuck under the roll like this:

Place loaf in a lightly oiled standard loaf pan. The pan size is important. 8 inch by 4 inch. Any larger, and the loaf will end up squatted without a well shaped slice. You can still use the larger pans, but just note, I don't recommend them for that reason.

To keep the top crust from separating from the loaf, spread with butter or oil. This keeps it from getting dry, which is one of the leading causes of crust separation.

I use a little melted butter spreading with a silicone brush so there aren't any loose bristles left on my bread. One of the least exciting things to find on food is a piece of hair from a pastry brush (or worse, a head!)

I then lightly tent the loaves with plastic or plastic bags.
OR place in a moist place to raise...

You may not be like a bakery with a special moisture filled box called a "proofer" just for raising bread. Something else that works however is putting the bread in an unheated oven and misting generously with water from a spray bottle (I have one that I only use for bread and that has never had any chemicals in it). It generally takes between 1 hour , or 1 and 1/2 hours for the bread to raise like this. If it has been in the unheated oven, I remove them a little early to allow the oven to preheat.This gives them space to rise over the top edge of the loaf pan like this:

A preheated oven is also essential for great shaped bread. I recommend a hot oven (425) for sandwich loaves. This hot temperature allows the yeast to reach maximum activity, the loaf to get hot enough to have good oven spring (the loaf gets really tall and keeps nice shape), but then the yeast dies and doesn't keep the dough rising so it sets the outside structure. This keeps big bulges from oozing out the side of the loaf, or the loaf from getting so tall that the top of the bread kind of collapses and the inside of the bread looking almost hollow.

I keep the oven at 425 for the first half of baking, then lower it to 350 for the final 15-20 minutes. This ensures the top crust doesn't get to dark, allows the inside to cook through. At higher altitudes this gets even more important, since the air is lighter and it is easy to over-raise in the oven. In Utah for example, I would go as high as 450 degrees for the first 20 minutes!

Right before I put the loaf in the oven, I lightly slit the top with a very sharp knife. This vent also helps give the loaf a good shape and allows the loaf to raise correctly in the oven. It's not just for a pretty design, but it sure helps.
Baked at 425 degrees 20 minutes. Open oven to vent heat. Lower temperature to 350 and finish baking 15-20 minutes. (Hint: if you have a regular meat thermometer, bread is cooked when the internal temperature reaches between 170 and 175 degrees).

Remove from the pans immediately. This keeps the bottom crusts crisp as well as ensures an easy release. Cool completely before slicing and putting in bags.
Enjoy more beautiful bread.

Hopefully this helps!


Kathy said...

If I could bake and/or eat bread I would definately follow your instructions. :o) I'm glad you're finally feeling better.

I linked this entry on my blog - I hope it's OK.

♥ Kathy

Chef Tess said...

Oh my gosh! Yes! Please link me to your blog anytime! It means you like me enough to admit it! Thank you! It's okay if you don't bake know I love ya!

Sharron said...

This is wonderful! Is it OK if I put your link on my food storage blog, ( not just for storing) so others can find it?

Chef Tess said...

Okay, for the record...anyone wanting to link to my site, go for it! It is my hope to get the word out about how to use basic ingredients and get back to wholesome whole grain baking. Anyone interested in sending your friends here or posting me on your blog, I not only welcome, but embrace! YES! Thank you!! Please validate my efforts! OH I LOVE YOU!!

Sean said...

Living in a rather dry area, I find that proofing is best accomplished by bringing a saucepan of water to a boil, them putting that in the unheated over with the loaves. This really helps retain the moisture in the bread while proofing. The bit of warmth that is added will make the yeast multiply fast, so proofing time may run about 25 percent shorter (25 to 45 minutes instead of a half hour to an hour). Just remember to remove it, as well as the proofed loaves, when pre-heating the oven.

Unknown said...

I have never read a bread recipe that says the bread is baked when the interior temperature reaches between 170 and 175 deg. For sandwich loaves they seem to recommend temps between 185 and 200 deg.

Chef Tess said...

Dave, I have found great success with that temperature in producing nice moisture in the bread. It can be cooked longer if you are worried about it being done, but I've done it that way for years and never once had a problem with the bread being under baked.

Unknown said...

I certainly am not being critical. I intend to try your temp. suggestion on the next sandwich loaf I make. I did your overnight whole wheat (Laurel's) yesterday and baked today. Happily it looks like yours. Thanks much.

Chef Tess said...

Thank you Dave. I didn't take your question as criticism, but as an honest question. I'm always happy to answer to the best of my knowledge. I'm excited to hear you tried the overnight bread. It is still one of my all time favorites. Thank you for your welcome input. I'd love to hear how that temperature works for you.

grayce said...

Great recipe! I'm trying it out now. I read that the internal temp depends on your elevation, for example 205F at sea level, and lower temps at higher elevations. My bread usually seems to be done when it's about 195F, but I'm still experimenting with recipes, temps, and timing. :) I love your blog!

Chef Tess said...

Grayce, the temperature for protein being cooked will remain the same for the internal temperature. 165 to 170 degrees no matter what the altitude. The only time that changes is with water boiling as it is liquid. The protein temperature is not effected by that. xo.

SharleneT said...

Believe it, or not, I've actually had great success in solar baking my artisan breads at lower temperatures. I cover the bread for the first 40 minutes and then remove the cover till it's finished. I use the old method of thumping the bread for doneness. Will try a thermometer. Thanks for this great recipe. Gonna do it, soon and post pix.

Anonymous said...

Technique question. When you say to roll and pinch it into a log, does that mean to roll it in a rolling pin motion? The dough seems sticky too (I'm using the overnight bread recipe). With white bread flour should I sprinkle some flour or can I also just use a water spritzer? Thank you!

(As a side note, disregarding my loaf forming challenges the overnight bread is turning out wonderfully! My husband has been asking all week for some of that "awesome overnight bread." Thank you!!)

Chef Tess said...

Hooray! I'm so glad you're loving the recipe! Yes, on the rolling, you can sprinkle the counter with a little flour if you prefer. Also, the rolling motion is similar to a rolling pin motion, but more like a cinnamon roll where you tightly roll the dough. Try not to use much flour on the inside of the dough where you are rolling or you will end up with streaks of flour in your finished loaf. Xoxo! Thanks for your sweet comment.

Heidi said...

The most helpful thing I have ever read about making bread....thank you, can't wait to try it.

Pete&BJ said...

So excited to find your blog. :) great tips!

jess said...

I've made a few loaves of bread in the last week and have used this tutorial for shaping. Also, great tip on using the smaller pan. Just wanted to say thanks!

Lisa C. said...

so glad I came across this page, your tips helped me to achieve my first successful loaves of bread that did not fall and are wonderful for sandwiches. The tips on rolling, the temperature and using smaller pans helped me so much! Going to try your overnight bread tonight!