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In Maggie Gleer's Artisanal Baking, there is a recipe for a focaccia-style rosemary bread (ACME's herb slab).

The dough is fortified with oil, and spends a long time proofing. the recipe then goes out of its way to keep the bread flat. Firstly, the dough is stippled all over twice, and most important of all, five minutes after the bread goes into the oven, it's flipped over.

This basically means that it gets a solid crust on both sides that the force of the oven spring can't break, keeping the bread flat.

I've been wondering about the effect this has on the crumb, since normally, you do everything you can to get as much height as possible. My theory is that providing a counter force to the oven spring, what you're doing is increasing the pressure inside the bread. I'm imagining that this might cause the steam to superheat (or at least reach much higher temperatures). This would then heat the oil in the dough to much higher temperatures than it would reach if we let the bread spring normally. This, I imagine, would have some effect on the crumb that might be nice.

Is this hypothesis reasonable? Is this why you would want to flip the bread? Or is it just for the shape. And if so, could we provide even greater counter-force, keeping the dough almost the same size, and almost deep frying the crumb (and would this be desirable)?

  • You do have a tighter crumb -- as it can't rise, the air bubbles can't expand as much. I'm not sure about the flipping through -- I've never done it. As for frying -- native american fry bread is quite different from foccaccia. They're both good, but they're nothing alike. – Joe Apr 24 '15 at 12:11
  • Had my share of problems when letting shaped loaves get too dry and tough when storing them unbaked, probably same effect? – rackandboneman May 13 '15 at 8:17
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The theory is unlikely. The interior of dough rarely gets more than a few degrees above boiling, and it usually "stalls" for a significant amount of time in the 210-212F range. The only way to go above that is to dry the dough out completely, resulting in a cracker-like consistency.

That's the reason why the crust has a different texture, color, etc. than the interior. The crust is the portion of the bread which actually reaches temperatures significantly higher than boiling. That allows other types of chemical (and thus flavor) reactions to happen, like the Maillard reaction and caramelization.

Another way to think about this is that 212F is boiling at sea level, and bread dough contains a lot of water, and the large interior "surface area" surrounding each bubble means there is a huge amount of surface area for water to evaporate. So, if you heat water to 212F, it will evaporate, and it will leave all of those interior bubble surfaces at 212F. Until the dough dries out enough to slow that moisture production significantly, the interior will maintain a temperature of roughly 212F.

Furthermore, even if you somehow did create pressure inside the dough to raise the temperature inside significantly above boiling, it would exert significant pressure on every surface of the loaf, and it would burst at any location. Achieving even a few extra degrees of temperature would require significant extra pressure to be continuously exerted on the entire exterior of the loaf. So, "deep frying the crumb" would be really difficult to achieve, and would you want that? (Think of a hushpuppy or something that's deep fried dough -- would you really want the interior to be all crustlike and dried out?)

Regarding the flip -- I've never done it, but I assume it must just be for the shape and perhaps the coloring/crust consistency. Dimpling on focaccia is done for similar reasons: on thin dough, if you have giant holes, it can create areas that might expand and become misshapen or burnt or mess up the consistency. I've never dimpled to deliberately deflate the dough or decrease oven spring. I do it to ensure a relatively consistent loaf during baking.

Focaccia can have enough oil on the surface so that it effectively does "fry" a bit, and if you have excess oil in the pan and flip it partway through the bake, you will effectively panfry the crust. If your pan isn't that oily, I'm guessing it's only about the shape. (I also don't know why you'd like to limit focaccia's oven spring -- I've gotten the most compliments on mine when I've accidentally let it rise a little too far, resulting in something that was thicker than typical but a truly amazing tender interior.)

But the interior? You can only get the "fried" texture and flavor by raising the temperature significantly above boiling and getting rid of most of the moisture. But then you end up with an interior that tastes like a cracker (i.e., all crust). If you don't get rid of the moisture but raise the pressure, you end up with something that is sticky and bagel-like, not typical desired focaccia characteristics. (Don't believe me? Try baking bread in a pressure cooker -- which requires excess steam -- and see what happens.)

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Yeast Dies at 140 Degrees f . Any internal temp past that and you are getting 0 oven spring. The dough you speak of is being punched down and spread out in a pan so the internal temp is going to heat past 140 way faster than a loaf of bread. And yes the solid crust that is formed right away due to lack of oven steam is going to counteract any oven spring.

I fought with oven spring for quite a while before i understood it fully.

Read this link i provide about temperatures. And you never want to cook your breads above 210 degrees. 205 is the sweet spot. This is common bread bakers knowledge.

Source http://www.classofoods.com/page2_3.html

  • This is not the way I understand it. You need live yeast for the rising outside of the oven. The oven spring happens even with dead yeast, due to the thermal expansion of the gas already trapped within the dough - but most of the gas was produced before the yeast died, in the proofing stages outside of the oven. Sure there is yeast growth in the oven too, because the inside of the dough needs time to reach 140 F when placed in a 350 F oven, but it is only a small contributor to oven spring. – rumtscho May 10 '15 at 9:43
  • Your source contradicts you. The section on oven spring states that the oven spring is about gases expanding, gases being released from the dough, and water turning into steam. Once the loaf goes into the over, the yeast have done their job already. As you mention, they'll die once the inside of the loaf hits 60 degrees C. – Peter May 11 '15 at 9:02
  • And if you still think that live yeast makes the oven spring, remember that pound cakes and popovers rise wonderfully in the oven, even without chemical leaveners. Read more on this in my answer to a question on leaveners here. – Stephie May 11 '15 at 9:23

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