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Basic Techniques - Preparing for Baking

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Preparing for Baking

Slashing a loaf before baking has both a functional and a decorative purpose. Cuts made through the surface of the dough allow the bread to rise and expand as it bakes without tearing or cracking along the sides or bottom. The deeper the slashes, the more the bread will open when baked, giving the baked loaf a maximum area of crust. It is best to cut the slashes using an extremely sharp blade and firm strokes. If you hesitate as you slash, the dough will stick to the blade and tear. The use of steam in the oven before or during baking produces a moist heat that helps create a glazed, crisp crust on the loaf.


Slashing the loaf

Using a blade

A razor-sharp blade is the best tool for making clean, perfect slashes. It is worth investing in a scalpel that allows you to safely hold the blade. Use decisive strokes to make the slashes clean and crisp. Keep the slashes equal in depth and length.


Slashing a pan loaf

A long slash, about 1/2in ( 1cm) deep, will allow a pan loaf to rise and open evenly when baked, without breaking open at the sides. With a firm, steady hand, plunge the blade into the surface of the dough and draw it quickly along the length of the loaf.


Using scissors

Sharp scissors are a helpful and effective tool for making decorative slashes. Hold a pair of scissors almost horizontally to cut a Baguette into the Pain d’Epi variation. Cut about three-quarters of the way through the dough, leaving about 2in (5cm) between each cut. Gently place the flaps to alternate sides.

Quick snips with a pair of sharp scissors produce a rough, sculptural cut. This is an effective alternative to using a scapel.


Applying steam to the oven

Steam plays an important role in many bread recipes, especially those that require a crisp, crusty exterior. It is introduced into the oven before and sometimes during baking. The moisture in the air surrounding the bread in the oven affects both its texture and its appearance. Moisture helps soften the crust during the initial stages of baking. This allows the dough to rise fully and a thin, crisp crust to form. Moisture also helps caramelize the natural sugars in the bread, resulting in a rich, golden brown crust.

Steam plays an important role in many bread recipes, especially those that require a crisp, crusty exterior. It is introduced into the oven before and sometimes during baking. The moisture in the air surrounding the bread in the oven affects both its texture and its appearance. Moisture helps soften the crust during the initial stages of baking. This allows the dough to rise fully and a thin, crisp crust to form. Moisture also helps caramelize the natural sugars in the bread, resulting in a rich, golden brown crust.


Using a sprayer

Apply steam with a water sprayer after placing the loaf in the preheated oven. Mist the oven walls eight to ten times, then repeat the process after 2 minutes and again after 2 minutes more. Shut the door rapidly each time to minimize any heat loss from the oven. Be careful to spray only the sides of the oven, avoiding the oven light, electric heating coils, and oven fan.


Using ice cubes

Apply steam by placing a wide dish filled with ice cubes on the bottom rack or floor of the oven while the oven preheats. Place the loaf in the oven before the ice cubes have completely melted. When the ice cubes have melted, carefully remove the dish from the oven. This should occur within the first 15–20 minutes of the bread’s baking time.


Using ceramic tiles

Line the bottom rack of the oven with unglazed ceramic tiles, leaving 2in (5cm) of air space all the way around the tiles and the oven wall to allow for air circulation. The tiles will produce a steady, radiating heat as well as help retain a maximum amount of moisture in the oven. When tiles are used in combination with the applied steam methods shown, and the bread is baked directly on the tiled surface, it will form the crispest crust of the three methods.

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