Bread: School lunch edition

It's the new school year, and, another year of school lunches.

Frankie's bread preferences for school lunch aren't in sync with what I've given her.  She's currently in a PB&J phase and her bread of choice is the Giant Eagle "Italian."  It's a squishy white semolina loaf with, dare I say, a very nice flavor.

I'm no snob when it comes to bread.  I like my crusty artisan loaves and crackly baguettes, but I do love white squishy bread (and boloney and mustard).  However, white bread has always been an insurmountable challenge. I've never been able to reproduce it in my kitchen.  I dismissed it as an industrial process formulated with secret knowledge only Dick Cheney is privy to.

This morning, I studied all the labels in Giant Eagle's bread case and tried to identify the ingredients responsible for: volume, moisture retention, sweetness, texture and a preservative - although, if it's good, the preservative won't matter.  Any loaf, good or manufactured will last at least a couple days.  I was pleasantly surprised that I recognized most ingredients in the loaf she liked; my pursuit gained importance.  The toughest attribute to reproduce in a home kitchen is volume.  I've never been able to get that one.  Moisture retention can come from whole grains, even in a low concentration (bulgur, semolina).  Texture is usually tight, indicative of a fast straight dough process, also easy to reproduce.  Sweetness - also pretty easy, a handful of sweeteners are all you need to play with.

Formulating any new dough, I start with 600 grams grain : 400 grams liquid (my standard starting place = 67% hydration) and a notepad.

water, 390 g, near boiling
white vinegar, 10 g
bulgur, medium grind, 10 g
semolina, fine smeed, 40 g
salt, 10 g
yeast, dried, 1 packet (contains ascorbic acid)
vegetable oil, 20 g
sugar, 10 g
dextrose, 10 g
unbleached white, Montana Sapphire, 560 g

Process particulars
Straight dough method.  Hot water and bulgur set until water cooled to 120°F.  Then added everything and spun it in a bread machine dough cycle for 7 minutes, dumped into a container to rise at room temperature for an hour.  Punched down and let rest for 20 minutes.  Shaped into a batard on a floured counter and covered for 20 minutes.  Slid whole thing onto my perforated stainless flat baking sheet.

Baked in preheated 425°F with 2 tablespoons water tossed in bottom for steam shot.  After 5 minutes, cooled oven to 400 and let cook 40 minutes.  After a few minutes, placed a loose foil tent over the top to prevent dark browning.  Pale is the kid's preference.

Removed from the oven, let cool an hour and sliced.
Giant Eagle                                              Mine

Texture inside looks spot on.
Crust: tougher and more crisp than store bought
Taste?  Kid will check it tonight at dinner.
Wife suggested cooler baking temperature and I think maybe a tad more shortening.
Any ideas?

Post mortem
Kid never got to taste it.  It was obviously not the squishy white bread I yearned to make.  I think the recipe was good, but the loaf was crustier, drier and didn't age well.  I'll be trying different baking methods and will report back if I get something closer.


Andrew said...

Maybe a few minutes in the oven to develop a crust, and then steam bun time!

I made steamed buns and my kids couldn't get enough.

Dave said...

I think you're right Andrew. We were thinking lower temp or more humidity. Long ago I had supersoakers and dumped huge amounts of humidity at the start of baking. I learned more was NOT better when it comes to humidity and crust. Getting the humidity out of the oven is as important as getting it in. I think my next attempt on this will be 400F and moisten the exterior of the loaf before launching it in the oven.

mac said...

For a tender crumb more fat. Steam gelatinizes the crust, no steam = kid friendly crust. Do you run convection? On my convection I preheat to 375, and bake off the loaf at 325 for 35 mins. Now I'm doing a loaf pan, but it shouldn't make too much difference...

Dave said...

Andrew, A few times I've killed the oven with steam, tons of it, sprayed sides, bottom, several times in first 5 minutes and got a pretty soft exterior. Steam gives good crust if the steam goes away during the beginning of the bake. But, there were other factors going on.

So, if no steam, just dry oven? And, wow, 325F. Do you still get a good opening of at the slash? Also, is that a big loaf (ca. 2 lb) loaf?

This is tough.