Basics of Baking with Chef Avin
To a beginner, the world of baking can seem intimidating. And to the seasoned baker, it can sometimes pose frustrating challenges. It’s during times like these that a thorough knowledge of the basics goes a long way in ensuring your product is perfect.
Coming to your rescue, is our very own Chef Avin, who shares his expertise on the most common cooking mishaps in a Pâtisserie, and gives you simple tips to ensure you create the perfect product.
Last time, we handled all kinds of Icing Faults. This time, we’re going to tackle Bread Faults.
When dealing with breads, there are four broad types of faults that occur—in the shape, the texture, the crust and the flavour profile of the bread.
Let’s start with shape. Getting the perfect shape is essential to consider a loaf of bread well-finished. But this is usually the trickiest part.
#1 Shape Faults
This usually occurs when the amount of yeast in the bread is too little. Other times, low water content (lower than 50-60%) in the bread can also be a cause of low volume.
Sometimes, while baking, people end up using cake flour instead of bread flour. Cake flour contains less than 10% gluten while bread flour has a higher level at 10-15%. If the incorrect type of flour is used, the bread won’t rise properly.
Another reason for this could be that the dough is improperly kneaded before putting it for leavening.
If it’s none of these, then you can turn to the oven temperature. While different breads require different temperatures, when a oven is too hot, the oven spring, which is the final expansion of the bread in the oven, happens too quickly. As a result, the bread becomes too dense and the volume ends up being less.
Too much volume
Since it is exactly the opposite of poor volume, the reasons also are reversed. Too much volume in bread occurs when there is too much yeast or too much water.
Additionally, this also occurs when the bread is over proved. Also, when the tin that is used for baking is too small to hold the volume of the bread, the bread breaks and overlaps, leading to too much of volume in the resulting loaf.
Bread is said to be poorly shaped when it turns out uneven or not in the shape it was meant to be. So it’s usually one side too high, one side too low, or just an overall warped shape.
When cake flour, which is weaker than bread flour, is used, this tends to occur. This is primarily because cake flour doesn’t have enough gluten to hold the shape of the bread.
Also, whenever the liquid content in the flour is too less (bread requires about 60%), the bread doesn’t end up getting shaped the way you want. Improper proving could be another cause for poorly shaped bread.
My favourite solution, which holds true to combat any kind of fault really is this—practice. Getting the perfect shape out of bread requires a lot of practice, and perfecting it comes only with experimenting and improvising.
Another common bread fault is the cracked top. Some people also call this the burst crust.
This happens most commonly because of over-kneading of the bread, leading to a cracked top while baking.
When baking breads, there are certain moulds that are used. Each mould has the capacity to hold only a certain amount of dough, and if you put in more than the mould can hold, it sometimes causes the crust to split.
In some cases, even when you’ve followed all the instructions, the crust ends up splitting. This is caused by some technical inconsistencies within the oven. Sometimes the reading outside shows a particular temperature and the temperature inside is different. The crust burst happens when the oven is too hot. You need to be familiar with your equipment to be able to combat this, which brings us back to more practice!
Bread is said to have a very dense texture when it is not soft inside. But calling this a fault really depends on the kind of bread that is being made. Some breads are characteristically very dense, like the German Pumpernickel. These kinds of breads are low in gluten and use rye flour. When yeast is added to this kind of flour not much leavening happens, and the result is a more dense texture.
But we’re dealing with breads made from refined flour, and these are not meant to have a very dense texture. Too much denseness usually occurs when the moisture is too less or the yeast is less or the the dough is under-proved. Ensure all of these are measured exactly right before starting to bake.
Bread usually ends up being too coarse when there is too much liquid in the mixture. That, or the amount of time that the ingredients have been mixed for is incorrect—could either be from being mixed for too long or being mixed for too short a time.
This happens when a weak flour is used, like when cake flour is used in the place of bread flour. Also occurs when the dough is over proved or over proved or not baked fully. Bread usually needs to be baked for a minimum of 20 minutes, at about 200 degrees centigrade (although this varies based on the bread type). If it is baked for lesser time, like 12-13 minutes, the end-result is a crumbly texture, because only the outside gets baked while the inside becomes crumbly.
#3 The Crust
The crust is the outer layer of the bread, and often times signs of improper baking techniques show up here first. The most common crust fault is discolouring.
The characteristic brown colour of bread comes from the diactase that is present in the sugar in the bread. When the bread is baked too much or the temperature is too high, the sugar caramelises faster than normal and the colour ends up being too dark.
Additionally, this can also occur when the quantity of milk, or honey in the bread are all too high, or when the bread is under-proved.
This happens when the sugar content in the bread is less, along with other ingredients like milk or honey being too less as well. It also happens when the dough is over proved, the oven temperature is too low or the baking time is too short. All of these prevent the resulting loaf from getting its characteristic golden-brown colour.
The final fault, if all turns out right with the shape and texture of the bread, is usually the flavour. It is essential to attain the perfect balance in the flavour of the bread, so that it is flavourful while at the same time not overpowering.
This happens when there is less or no salt in the mix. The right amount of salt is needed to enhance the flavour of the bread, along with the flavour of any herbs or spices that have been added to the bread.
Bread ends up having a poor flavour when inferior quality ingredients have been used. I’ve said this before—there is no substitute to using good quality ingredients. Make sure the ingredients you use are always the best quality ones available.
Sometimes, over or under fermented dough could also be the cause of poor flavour.
Additionally, faults can also extend to the presentation. The method of cutting different breads needs to be perfected for the final presentation to be right.
These faults I’ve discussed with you commonly occur in breads that are made in electrical or gas ovens. There are breads that are prepared in clay ovens using wood fire, and those have a separate set of precautions that need to be followed.
These are some of Chef Avin’s tips, and we hope they help you with your baking pursuits. Watch this space for more such tips and tricks, so that your baking process wields gorgeous results.
All bread fault images courtesy: http://www.bakeiteasy.co.za/trouble.html