Ghost Loaf and the death of an oven

Last week I posted a recipe for wholegrain and millet sourdough, and mentioned that one of the loaves did not come out of the oven as I would have hoped.

pasty_loaf
The pasty ghost loaf. Over proofed, and worse!

The large loaf ended up with a pasty, dull coloured crust and an uneven rise. After thinking about the disappointing results from a few angles, I’ve decided that three factors combined to create the unfortunate looking “ghost loaf”.

  1. The dough was over-proofed – Although the dough was refrigerated overnight in the same manner as previous loaves, it was significantly larger, and probably took longer to cool in the fridge. This would mean that it was proofing for longer than intended. The deflated look around the slashed parts and uneven colouring also point to over-proofing. Additionally, in a seriously over-proofed loaf, much of the sugar in the bread that causes the colouring has been used up.
  2. The crust developed a skin– also during the refrigeration process, the dough seemed to have dried out. This made it difficult to cut, but also had an adverse effect on the conversion of starch to sugars in the crust.
  3. The oven temperature was not high enough – The other loaf baked from this batch of dough, as well as being smaller and the first out of the fridge, was baked in a cast iron pot. This would have created a more concentrated, hot, and moist environment, all of which would have aided the colouration of the crust. The next time I baked with the oven, I placed an oven thermometer on the inside. At maximum, the thermometer only reached 180˚C – it looks like my little gas oven has finally given up!
ghost loaf
The slash opened out, but it looks as though the sugars in the loaf, for one reason or another, were not caramelised

So, three factors combining to make this pasty looking “ghost loaf”. The loaf was cooked through, and actually tasted good,  but between now and when we get a new oven, it looks like we’ll be baking at low temperatures, or visiting someone else’s house to bake!

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