I haven’t been consistently blogging for a while now, and it’s time to get back on track. To start up the new year, I need to express a little recent frustration – I’ve been baking quite a bit (regular rustic loaves) and for some reason, I seem to have lost my mojo. Specifically, I’ve lost the ability to get a decent oven-spring, and my crusts are not as crunchy as I once was able to achieve on a regular basis. What in the world is going on? I’ve tried everything, as I outline below. Like my breads, I’m a bit deflated as of late.
If you read up on oven spring in the literature, you’ll find that basically writers attribute it to a few sources:
1. High initial oven temperature (450+)
2. Steam in the oven
3. Solid bread proofing beforehand to build up CO2
These reasons for achieving good oven-spring all make sense to me. So I started making sure that each was happening. I think in a week I baked probably 8 loaves, trying out different things to assure that all of these conditions were present.
(1) I raised my initial temp to 475 for 10 minutes, then dropping to 425 (my typical temp).
This had zero effect on oven-spring. In fact, when I achieved great oven-spring in the past, I never raised the temp at all – I just stuck with 425 the whole way.
(2) I started adding ice cubes to the base of the oven, and sprayed the loaves a few times to keep surface temp low and to allow for maximum spring.
Zero effect. Again, before I achieved good oven-spring with no water or steam.
(3) Proofing. I tried a whole bunch of variations on proofing time. The last time I tried there was a ton of CO2 in the dough peeking out from the top.
I even went further to:
(4) New Yeast. Maybe my yeast was too old? Bought new yeast.
At this point I am completely clueless as to what is going on. Is it the winter? Low humidity in the house? What in the world is the deal with my oven-spring? I haven’t even mentioned my problem with crusts yet, since the two are related – crap oven-spring won’t yield a good crust, in my opinion. So first things first.