Bread for the teachers (again)

The other morning, I made bread for the teachers at Frankie's school. It's a fun morning of baking which I've done once before where I make about 40 pieces of bread for our hardworking public teachers as a small tribute to their dedication.  This run was a little different than in the past and I learned a lot.

Testing yeast and flour on smaller scale is helpful, but nothing is like the real run. I used to cook on perforated thin sheets of stainless steel for convenience and other reasons but have turned back to clay tiles. The most significant factor in baking crusty loaves at home, I believe, is humidity in the oven. Anyone can humidify an oven with any "trick" they think works but I also believe most crust faults result from too much humidity. Anything else I say is without substance because measuring relative humidity in an oven at 400-450F requires a really expensive probe. Until I do some measurements, feel free to read Julia Child's famous recipe on how to make crusty baguettes. Her too many ways to humidify the oven convinced me none of them are very effective.

In this run, I tested no steam and relied on a pretty full oven full of bread to provide the initial moist environment. I cooked about 2 lbs of dough at a time in 75 g rolls using 450F and convection on preheated tile. The convection was a further attempt to dehumidify the oven in late stages of baking. 

Dough prep: I went with a basic lean bread dough: water 360 g, Fleischmann's fast yeast 1 pkt (7 g), olive oil 10 g, salt 10 g, unbleached white flour (Montana Sapphire) 600 g, and kneaded in a bread machine. I did this 4 times and set the blobs in a 15 qt stainless pot on my ca. 40F deck for the day. 7 hours before baking, I pulled in the pot to let warm up, when I woke up, it was 60F. The dough was portioned in 75 g balls (about 65 g after baking), rounded, let rest and shaped them into minis. I cooked 12 at a time for about 20 mins each. The total baking session was about 2.5 hours. The crusts were slightly crackled on the surface and the crust may have been the best I ever achieved. This is a sloppy post, I just needed to document it. Here's some action shots:

I made the dough about 24 hours before and left it outside at about 40F the entire day.

I took the pot in 7 hours before baking to warm up in a 60F house.