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Old 04-12-2011, 06:06 PM   #1
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Italian Bread Crust not Smooth

Tried making a nice round loaf of Italian bread. I used a dough recipe from the book that came with my bread maker. And the end of the 70 minute cycle it had me put the dough in a greased bowl and let it rest for 25 minutes, then it said to punch it down and then form a round ball, then let that rise for 30 minutes before baking.

At the end of the 25 minute rest I had a good amount of dough, so I tried kneading (I'm new at this!). I flattened it out then started folding the dough onto itself, then a quarter turn, fold, repeat numerous times. The ball never really got super smooth like I've seen, so I kept kneading. After awhile though the dough ball looked like the surface of the moon! Well, no craters per se, but definitely not smooth. It looked more like a brain. I baked it anyway for about 30 minutes at 400 and it tastes great (LOOOOOVE fresh baked bread!) but just did not have that traditional look.

Do I just need more practice or did I screw up somewhere?

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Old 04-12-2011, 06:16 PM   #2
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Before the second rising, instructions usually say, "punch it down..." which is really unfortunate, because getting rough with the risen dough at this point is not a good thing to do.

It should read, "Lightly press it down with your fingertips and gently fold the edges into the center as if you were making a envelope, then gather the ends and edges and carefully work them into a pinch, like the neck of a balloon. The top should now have stretched smooth. Place the formed loaf, pinch side down on your baking sheet (or floured peel if you are using a pre-heated baking stone), and let rise until doubled, then bake."

For as lightly crunchy crust, either spritz the hot oven walls with water after 10 minutes or so of baking, or place an oven-safe container with water beneath the loaf as it bakes. Moisture in the oven promotes a crunchy crust.

I hope this helps.
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Old 04-12-2011, 07:58 PM   #3
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Thank you, can't wait to try another loaf!

Approximately how many times would I fold the edges into the center? I guess I don't expect a number but I would assume more than just a couple or few?
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Old 04-12-2011, 08:10 PM   #4
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After deflating the first rising with your fingertips, just fold in the edges once, four corners and then the corners between them, bringing together eight points into the center, pinching together the seams and corners. This will stretch the underside, which you then turn over to make the top.

The gluten development should be done during the first kneading before the first rising. The second kneading (the one talked about above), is primarily for crumb development (the hole size and exterior shaping).

It's not necessary to overwork the gluten during the second rising with rustic loaves. But for French bread and baguettes - yes. They are different.
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Old 04-13-2011, 03:07 PM   #5
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You don't want to overwork good bread. Fold it in hallf and seal the bottom edge then bring the two ends together then softly round, like this
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:53 AM   #6
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My next attempt came out much better!! Nice round, smooth loaf, quite tasty. Thanks for the help!!

Now I need to find out how the breads different Italian bakeries around here can have such different flavors. I mean, there's only so many ingredients in Italian bread!
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