Stage VII: Final Touches and Baking

After the bread's Secondary or Final Fermentation (Proofing), the bread is ready to be baked. The oven must be well preheated and very hot before placing your loaf inside. For some bread's utilizing Pre-ferments or Sourdough Starters, the use of preheated baking stone(s) or quarry tiles are idea.The recipe will instruct you how to prepare the oven shelf and preheating, whether to apply any finishing touches before baking, baking times and tests for doneness.

Final touches are applied to many bread recipes. Many serve a function, such as helping to provide browning or helping adhere seeds with glazes, or letting the dough expand without blow-outs through slashing or scoring. They also serve some decorative purposes

Cookie Dough or anther type of dough: Some bread can be covered with cookie dough before baking to give a decorative touch, also offering a different flavor and texture contrast to the bread. The Brown Sugar Cookie Buns recipe is an example of this.Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread With Cinnamon Bun Variation Recipe

Glazes: Some breads call for finishing touches before being baked, called glazes. Its purpose is to give the crust a shiny appearance and, sometimes a deeper color, or to serve as "glue" in order to attach seeds or coarse salt to the dough before baking. Some artisan breads are best left unglazed. Glazes are best applied with a pastry brush before the dough has reached 80 or 90 percent of its rise and again after baking. Some can be applied before rising and again, before baking. Make sure you do not "seal" the bread dough to the pan with it so it can rise freely.
Examples are:

  • Egg yolk (1 large egg yolk): Deepest browning; need to tent the bread loosely during the first or last 20 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning.
  • Whole egg wash (1 large egg with 1 tablespoon water, lightly beaten): medium shiny golden crust
  • Egg yolk wash (1 large egg yolk with 1 teaspoon heavy cream or 1 teaspoon milk, lightly beaten): shiny, deep golden brown crust or shiny medium
  • Egg white wash (1 large egg white with 1/2 teaspoon water, lightly beaten): crisp light brown crust and used as "glue"
  • Flour (dusted): Powdery, rustic chewy crust
  • Melted butter (preferably clarified), 1/2 tablespoon per loaf: Soft velvety crust  
  • Water (brushed or spritzed): crisp crust and helps nuts and seeds adhere to the bread loaf, which are sprinkled on before baking.
  • Milk: Brushing with milk will help to color the crust, the sugars in the milk helping to brown the crust. 
  • Sweeteners--honey, syrup, etc.: will give bread a sweeter, softer crust.

Stromboli Recipe TutorialSlashing or Scoring: Careful slashing or scoring of the dough's risen surface with a razor, called a “lame” (pronounced “lahm”), creates “bursts” on many artisan breads or serve the purpose of allowing the dough – which experiences a very rapid final rise in the oven, called “oven spring” – to expand into a pre-determined shape. They are also decorative. You can also use sharp scissors with some recipes. A single edged razor also works well as long as you use the front tip of the razor. Do so AFTER applying the glaze so there is a more dramatic contrast between the interior and the exterior of the bread.

Homemade Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns RecipeIf slashes are not done in certain recipes, the expanding gasses in the bread from oven spring would find weak points in the surface and create a torn, lumpish, unattractive bread. The French have given a name to this portion of expanded dough: They refer to it as la grigne, or “the grin” of the bread.
SARAH SAYS: When slashing fully proofed (risen) dough, in these cases, it may collapse. You want to catch it when it is almost risen as the bread will then spring in the oven and bloom open at the cut points!

Seeds and Toppings: After slashing your bread, sprinkle any seeds or toppings on your recipe. Having a glaze placed on the bread before slashing helps them stick to the dough.

SARAH SAYS: Then put the bread into the oven right away, and do not open the oven door for the first 10 to 15 minutes of baking.

The goal in baking is to get good volume and a beautiful crust. The crux of the baking stage is where three very important functions take place:
1. The gelatinization of the flour’s starches
2. The caramelization of the sugars
3. The coagulation and roasting of the proteins

Oven Temperature
A standard loaf of bread will bake in about 45 to 60 minutes. The oven is usually heated at 350 to 400 degrees F. Temperatures and times will vary for different types of breads. It is important to preheat the oven a good 30 to 40 minutes before baking. The initial hot temperature contributes to oven spring. 

What is oven spring (oven kick or ovenspring)?
Volume of the bread is determined by oven spring. It takes place during the first third of the baking cycle. Here fermentation rapidly increases, until 140 degree F heat kills the yeast. During that time, the rise is produced by expansion of the gas and moisture in the dough that turns to steam. When bread is made with a Sourdough Starter, is is generally thicker and relatively dense, the oven spring is slower. A round or elongated shape is more appropriate for this type of expansion.

Oven shelf position
Shelf position will vary from the middle of the oven to the lowest rung. The changes associated with baking require even heat exposure. so a minimum distance between baked items should be at least 3-inches between loaves and 1-inch between rolls.

Easy French Baguettes RecipeBaking Stones or quarry tiles
A preheated baking stone or UNGLAZED quarry tiles are idea because they retain heat, giving better oven spring or rise to the loaf, and absorb moisture, yielding a crisper crust. Place in the oven before preheating, usually on the bottom of the lowest shelf. Allow it to preheat for a minimum of 45 minutes. To avoid sprinkling flour or cornmeal on the stone, but placing parchment or a baking sheet directly on it is surface. Leave in the oven after it has been turned off to cool.

It is best used with bread that does not have a high amount of fat or sugar, such as Artisan types. Steam's presence or absence during the first part of the baking cyEasy French Baguettes Recipecle has a great impact on the crust, flavor and look of the bread.

During baking, as the dough's temperature rises, the outer surface of the dough dries and the crust starts to form. The goal is to delay the formation of this crust until the dough can expand to its full capacity. Bakers will use steam during the first moments of baking to obtain a thin, fine, more crisp crust or a thicker, browner, and chewier one, depending on the recipe, and to control its oven spring. Steam also helps to gelatinize the surface starches, which gives the crust a glossy shine and a more pronounced hazelnut flavor. Without the advantage of steam, bread crust takes on an earthy brown tint, and its surface is dull and uneven; it is commonly called "gray bread" with a corresponding flat taste.

One way is do it is to spritz the shaped, risen dough with water just before placing it in the oven. The other way is to produce steam in the oven. Some recipes call for using both methods.

By steaming the oven, it will condense on the dough. It is created by using boiling water or ice cubes poured into a preheated pan placed on the lowest oven shelf on placed on the floor of the oven. The risen bread is placed inside, and sometimes the sides of the oven are sprayed with water from a spray bottle, to create more steam. Sometimes the oven door can be left partially ajar during the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to help dry the crust. 

How to tell when the bread is done baking
Always insert the Instant Read Thermometer or probe into the center of the loaf through the bottom. It is the last place to receive heat from the oven and will be the coolest part of the bread. You can also tap the bottom of the loaf and listen for a hollow sound, and the sides should be firm and golden brown. But, the thermometer test is the most reliable.

  • Hard, crusty bread is baked until the center of the loaf registers 200 to 210 degrees F (212 degrees F when steam is used).
  • Soft bread, such as enriched dinner rolls and sandwich bread, is baked until the center of the loaf registers 185 to 190 degrees F.

Fougasse Bread Tutorial RecipeBread color varies, depending on the recipe and can also be the baker’s choice.

After baking, some recipes instruct you to apply finishing touches, such as olive oil or butter, to the baked bread to add flavor and help soften their crusts. This technique is used with the Fougasse Bread Tutorial.

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