Baking Suggestions

Why didn’t it work?

Did you ever try to follow a formula/recipe and felt like it just didn’t work for you and you wondered why?
I know I have. I’ve also written hundreds of formulas for others to follow. So I’ve been on both sides of the issue. 

At one point in my formulas, I suggested pre-heating your oven to 500F/260C and then turning it down to 450F/232C when the bake started. That worked perfect for the oven I had at the time.

Then I moved. I got a new oven and suddenly the recommended temperatures weren’t working perfect anymore. So I experimented and found that keeping my oven at a steady 480F/248C in my new oven works great for me. 

For steaming dough in the home oven, I’ve tried several different combinations. Of course with different types of breads and various oven types, this will change. You can steam 5 to 10 minutes and then bake until the bread is finished. Or you can steam even longer.

At this point in time, I often will steam for about 16 minutes then remove the lid and bake for an additional 16 – 25 minutes or until the bread looks as dark as I prefer. 

Your rack placement in the oven can cause issues. If your oven rack is too low, your bread burns on the bottom but the top stays a bit too pale. Too high in the oven and the top of the bread browns too fast while the bottom is pale and you also might not get great oven spring if the bottom heating isn’t adequate. 

I’ve also baked at other people’s homes and found that in each case, I had to tweak oven temperatures or rack placement to achieve a good outcome. 

Then there’s the huge issue with flour. Flour is so different from season to season, bag to bag and brand to brand. Each country has different quality of flour. Old flour can cause problems, improperly stored flour can be an issue. 

Experiment for gluten quality for different brands of flour (see below)

Water quality is another piece of the puzzle. If your water is excessively hard or soft, it will affect your bread. If your tap water has high amounts of Chlorine or Chloramines or other chemicals, they can affect your starter and your dough. Even long term use of reverse osmosis water can eventually be unhealthy for your starter, as the RO process removes minerals necessary for your starter (and for you as well).

Salt doesn’t usually cause an issue, but it can. Once I used a salt with additives and after I added it to the dough, my dough fell apart. It surprised me and I avoided using salt with additives after that. I try to use sea salt whenever I can. 

You don’t have the same expertise and experience someone else has (you might even have more!). The gentle pressure needed to shape dough properly, the experience to know when the dough is ready to bake, how to handle sticky dough, how long to bulk ferment and final proof – these are things that a formula writer can’t tell you in a formula.

It takes experience (and some failures) to learn some aspects of baking. So don’t worry if you have a failure, it doesn’t mean the formula writer didn’t know what they were doing (although that can be true too!), it means that you’ve advanced in wisdom.

With each failure you’ve gained insight so it’s not really a failure but a process, a learning experience. To take full advantage of your newly found wisdom, keep a baking journal.

Formulas are suggestions. Yes, follow them the first time, but if your outcome isn’t what you expected, be prepared to do some tweaking and experimenting. You don’t have the same conditions, experience, oven, flour or other ingredients that the formula writer has, so your outcome will be different.

Be patient with yourself and realize that baking, like any other skill, takes time and practice. 

The online courses shown below have experiments you can follow to improve your baking skills.  $9.99 each – expires February 5th, 2020.

The Sourdough Exploration course has the experiment with the flour gluten. With this experiment, you can test your flour to see the quality of the gluten. 
If you want to learn more about the Mockmill click HERE.

Have fun baking everyone! Teresa

Teresa L Greenway

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