The bulge and the pot


This morning's bake.

A variation on the formula that I have been baking in the last week or two, with 80% hydration. This time with 32% supermarket white organic flour (10.8% protein), and the rest my usual Kialla unbleached.

After a final retard overnight in the fridge, loaf one was baked on the stone, and loaf 2 was baked in a covered casserole. The slashes were as close to identical as I could make them. See for yourself the difference...



I'm a big fan of the pot!


229 users have voted.


TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2006 December 1

The one with the bulge is the one baked on the stone? And the one which split open so beautifully is the potted bread? Wow.

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 December 1

Cheers Dom,
I think I have to say I was hoping the beauty on the right was done by hand?
For me I am staying with the harder and proven old fashioned way, although if you prefer by all means go for what feels good! ?no kneading, that is the best part?


Pab's picture
Pab 2006 December 2

Very interesting, Dom. It is obvious which one we would have all preferred to produce - might try using the pot again.


northwestsourdough's picture
northwestsourdough 2006 December 3

Great looking bread and interesting experiment Dom, and I hope to be using a pot soon, however there is something else in the equation, many of my breads have looked like the one on the right, not because they have been in a pot, but because they are the last bread in the oven and the oven/stone is very heated, and the bread is at it's peak proofing. Did you do the pot one last? If you did, try doing it first and comparing it to the open one on the stone. I have consistantly gotten nicer looking bread with the later baked loaves. That is one reason I now do a preheat of my oven at 300 degrees for about half an hour and then heat it for a good hour at 450/500 degrees.It makes a difference.

SourDom 2006 December 4

Have been working too hard, so haven't been able to reply sooner.

Yes, the one on the right was the bread baked in the 'pot'. Teresa - the two loaves were baked at exactly the same time, so no difference in the preheating factor!

These breads were based on the formula that I have been using. The dough had a couple of short kneads, rather than just the single rough mix in the NYT recipe (I haven't decided yet whether it makes a difference). So it has some similarities to that recipe (high hydration, not much kneading, baked in casserole), but a number of differences (sourdough, couple of periods in the fridge, repeated folding during bulk fermentation)

I have a few theories about why the bulge occurs, and why the pot works (and keeps the bulge at bay).

One of the features of baking relatively underproved loaves straight from the fridge is the huge amount of oven spring. The bulge occurs when the top of the loaf sets, but the dough is still trying to expand, and the relatively softer underside of the loaf gives way. I have been trying to work out why my loaves are particularly susceptible to this problem, and I have concluded that it relates to the fan in my oven. I have a fan forced oven that tends to run pretty hot. I suspect that the hot dry air over the top of the loaf leads to it cooking and 'setting' relatively quickly. The two ways that I have found to reduce this effect are to slash deeply (allowing more expansion where it is desired, and to increase the steam in the oven (to prevent the top drying out). Even with hot water in a pan at the bottom of the oven, and spraying the loaf and oven vigorously I have still had problems with this.

(Incidentally the steam causes other problems. In my oven, lots of steam seems to slow the cooking of the base of the loaf, so that the base reamins undercooked even when the top is overcooked)

The casserole works for a couple of reasons. The preheated pot provides a lot of radiant heat all around the dough. The effect is a bit like the heated bricks of a brick oven, promoting even and vigorous expansion of the loaf. (It is the same sort of effect that Bill described with a second stone placed above a loaf). The tight fitting lid traps the steam released from the baking dough, and this prevents the surface of the dough from drying out too quickly. This again maximises the expansion of the loaf. The steam also improves the crust, in the same way as 'spraying' or ice cubes on a tray or any other trick that a home baker might use - but in this case just using the steam liberated from the dough itself.

So, yes, I am a convert to the casserole/pot technique. It reliably leads to a great crust and shape of loaves. Because it works really well with loaves from the fridge it makes it considerably easier to fit baking around a busy life.


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