Naan, Indian Flatbread Tutorial
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The cooling stage is important because it is the continuation of the Bread Baking Stage. During this time, the baked bread continues to evaporate moisture, dry out and intensify in flavor, as well as present new flavors that the heat masks. The starches in the loaf are still in the process of setting, from being fully saturated and swelled with moisture from baking. Trapped steam inside the loaf needs to evaporate from the crust, helping it to finish solidifying, or be reabsorbed back into the loaf’s crumb as moisture.
Depending on the size and shape of the loaf, it may take up to 2 hours for it to cool completely to room temperature, the optimal time for slicing. (Sourdough is the exception; it is optimal when it cools to 80 degrees F in the center).
SARAH SAYS: I like to cool my loaf breads on their side on a wire cake rack. This way the hottest part of the bread, being the bottom, can be exposed to the most air and prevent having soggy loaves on their bottom. I also like to use a high standing wire cake rack to help prevent condensation from forming between the bread loaf and the work surface as it cools, if they are too close together.
Storing your bread loaf is an important issue. If done properly, your loaf can last the longest. Protect loaves from air movement, which encourages drying of the crust and consequent staling.
Do not wrap WARM bread in plastic wrap or plastic bags; condensation will form and hasten mold development.
Freeze only fresh bread. Place them in air and moisture proof bags AFTER they have throughly cooled. Thaw them, either by placing in a warm, humid envrionment or at room temperature in their wrappers.
Lean, crusty breads: Store them in paper bags and not in plastic wrap, but are best eaten the day they are baked because they stale quickly. For longer storage, wrap the bread in plastic wrap, place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze or store in a cool, dark place, but their crusts must be recrisped.
Soft enriched bread, such as sandwich breads: Best stored in a resealable plastic bag, either kept frozen or in a cool dark place. If stored in a paper bag, they will dry out. When exposed to sunlight, if the loaf is wrapped, it sweats, creating condensation and mold to form on the loaf.
NEVER store bread in the refrigerator; it dries them out. Some researchers have found that accelerated staling occurs at the critical temperature zone right above freezing, explaining why bread should never be refrigerated.
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