The Bread Hairdresser
Soy microbiólogo y panadero aficionado. He trabajado en varios laboratorios de España (Valencia, Pamplona), EE. UU. (Universidad de Berkeley) y Francia (Institut Pasteur). Dirijo el grupo de Biotecnología del I2SysBio, un centro mixto de la Universidad de Valencia y el CSIC. Mi especialidad es la búsqueda de microorganismos ambientales con aplicación industrial.
Llevo una década haciendo pan en casa y soy el alquimista detrás de Masa Mater, la masa madre en polvo con microorganismos naturales seleccionados.
In this entry we will talk about two important steps so that our bread looks in all its splendor: the second fermentation and the greñado.
The second fermentation
With regard to the second fermentation, I’ll be like her: brief. Generally speaking, it’s much better to fall short than to go. The second fermentation serves to allow the bread to rise a little after forming and reach a good volume in the oven. But if we pass in this step and let the dough rise like a balloon, it will lose the strength needed to open in the oven. In fact, if we overfer a dough, it may deflate during cooking.
So how do you know when to finish the second fermentation and, therefore, when do we already have the bread ready to bake? It is a matter of practice, but a simple rule will serve: let the dough ferment 1 hour in summer (or less if the first fermentation has been very long), 3 hours in winter, and something intermediate in spring and autumn. All this refers to the temperature of the kitchen, of course. If your winter kitchen has a spring heat temperature, it’s best not to go 2 hours before putting the bread in the oven.
Once the second fermentation is completed, the bread will be ready to enter the oven, but it is almost always very advisable to grit it earlier, that is, make one or more cuts. The greñas are breaklines of the surface of the dough that allow it to expand and reach a large volume in the oven. They also give a very nice and appetizing appearance to bread, of course.
Almost all the breads are improved with a grizzly, but there are a couple of exceptions. The page of pags is a typical loaf of Catalonia whose second fermentation is done in a floured mold, the other way around the usual: with the wrinkles down. This causes when we unmould the loaf to put it in the oven, turning it like a custard, the wrinkles remain on top. Without the need to grit it, the page of pags will be opened by the wrinkles of the formed, which will result in that rustic and irregular appearance so characteristic.
The other notable exception is chapata, a bread with so much water that is difficult to grivel and that, in addition, rises very well without any cutting. It is usually cooked slightly overfermented, so that the bark does not break. Look the next time you go to the bakery: the veneers look like plump bread bars, and they don’t have cuts.
How to gri tune
By removing the page of pags and the chapata, the other breads we will sing them almost always. What can we do with it? Basically with four utensils: with a very sharp kitchen knife, with a saw knife, with a cutter, or with a special blade to grind (basically it is a barber blade but with a handle to handle it without risk of hurting us). If you don’t have the latter, the best thing is the cutter. In any case, we suggest that you tilt the knife or blade a little when making the cuts, tangentially (i.e., do not cut with the hand from above, as the one who cuts a melon, but a little sideways, with an angle similar to the one that forms the pencil with the paper when you write).
More questions we usually ask ourselves, blade in hand: how many cuts do I make to my bread? It’s a matter of taste. A loaf can make one (it’s the option I like the most), or make two, on the cross; you can also make four, forming a square, which combines very well with the roundness of the loaf.
The b’tard or torpedoes (short and thick bars) can be cut along, and a little to one side: when the bread grows, you will see that the side greña tends to open towards the center of the bread, leaving a rustic look very attractive. Finally, baguettes and long bars are often grial with several cuts that must meet at least two rules (although almost no one meets the first times he makes bread, by the way).
The first rule for greñar is that cuts should be made almost parallel to the length of the bread and not perpendicular. That is, greñar a baguette should look more like cutting ham (cut along) than cutting chorizo (made wide). So don’t cut the baguette thinking about how you want them to look (the baking will take care of that) and force yourself to move your hand almost parallel along the bar. The second feature, very simple to remember and do, is the overlap between the cuts. That is, it is not convenient to make a cut on the bar and, separate from this, another cut. Cuts must overlap on a stretch. The key bar symbol is very useful to illustrate this: Do not shout the bars like this: / /, but like this: //
That said, you don’t have to go around the greñado much more. In case of doubt, think that less is more, and that a good cut from side to side as a wide smile is valid for any type of bread. And that greing, in addition to volume, has an important aesthetic component. SECALE is a dark bread, and if it is well floured, it will offer us an irresistible contrast when opened by the greña, between that dark crumb and the white crust by the flour.
Experiment with the greñas, with their number, angle, depth or blades, and tell us. Don’t cut yourself.
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The forming consists of a gentle manipulation of the dough to make your bread look perfect.