Q: I love to bake fresh bread and aspire to the tall, fluffy loaves in bakery windows. However, whenever I cover the rising dough with a towel, after it's risen it will inevitably stick to the towel and deflate immediately. I've tried sprinkling the dough with flour but it seems to soak right into the dough.
Any tips for bakery-window-worthy bread loaves?
Sent by Lauren
Editor: Lauren, we know exactly what you mean and have been there many times ourselves!
First of all, make sure the towel you're using is a finely-woven, non-textured cotton cloth. Terry cloth or waffle-weave towels will end up sticking to the dough like crazy. A piece of canvas or linen works great, or even a large man's handkerchief (clean and unused!).
Next, it can help to work some flour into the cloth itself. Lay it flat on the counter, sprinkle some flour on top, and then use your fingers to gently rub the flour into the fabric weave. Still dust the top of the loaf with a little flour, too. We reuse the same towel several times and just keep it folded inside our baking tins.
We've also been experimenting with removing the covering from the rising loaf about a half hour before baking - that is to say, before the rising loaf would start touching the covering! This is something Peter Reinhart mentions in one of his books, and he says it helps create a thin dry skin. The surface is still flexible enough to rise in the oven, but it makes cutting the slashes in the top easier and helps control the oven spring. AND you'll avoid the problem of the dough sticking to the cloth!
How do other people deal with this problem? Any suggestions for Lauren?
Related: How to Shape a Round Loaf of Bread: The Video
(Image: Emma Christensen)