Home Bread-Bakers v104.n027.8

RE: Slashing Wet Dough & RE: Convection ovens

"Werner Gansz" <wwgansz@madriver.com>
Mon, 7 Jun 2004 08:18:54 -0400
Re:Slashing wet dough:
Thanks to all the bakers that responded to my question about slashing soft 
dough.  It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one having 
difficulties.  Most baking books treat this step as though it is too simple 
to explain but it has never been simple for me.  The answers ranged 
everywhere from: Don't bother, wet dough stay softer longer in the oven 
allowing the dough to expand fully and therefore don't need slashing, to 
trying virtually every sharp instrument in the kitchen and the tool shed.

Of all the instruments suggested the scissor was the only one I hadn't 
tried so I mixed up a very soft sourdough and shaped it into 6" diameter 
loaves.  When this loaf is rolled onto the peel the dough flattens 
significantly as it is no longer supported by the couch, making it even 
harder to slash the flattened top surface.  The large kitchen scissors we 
have cut clean high-angled slashes into the loaves.  When baked, the loaves 
rose back to almost round and the slashes flared open nicely.  The only 
downside is the cosmetics, the slashes are triangular and the "point" burns 
slightly during baking.

When I do get a slash into a wet dough the oven rise causes a bulge in the 
region of the slash so I think even in wet dough the slash creates a less 
dense crumb.  I don't try to slash "shapeless" breads like ciabatta but 
Pain Ancienne from Reinhart's BBA is almost the same hydration as ciabatta 
and responds well to slashes.

Re: Convection ovens;
I have been baking in a convection oven for two years now.  The oven has 
both convection and radiant modes.  It has a 3/4" thick baking stone 
directly above a radiant element.   I preheat the oven to 500 F using the 
radiant element for at least 45 min.  I put the loaves on the stone, turn 
the oven completely off, and steam the oven.  When the temperature has 
cooled to 425 F (about 5 minutes)  I turn on the convection mode and set it 
to 425 F.  (If you turn on the convection mode too early the fan will drive 
the steam out of the oven).  By then the oven rise is mostly over and the 
crusts are starting to firm up.  The convection fan helps remove the excess 
moisture from the crusts.  Total baking time for thin loaves like ciabatta 
or baguettes is 20 to 25 minutes.  The crusts are thick and chewy for 
ciabattas and thick and crisp for baguettes depending on the final internal 
temperatures.  For larger diameter loaves the starting temperature is 475 F 
and the convection temperature is 400 F and the baking time extended to 35 
to 45 minutes.