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Thick Skin on my Bread Dough?

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Last week I started my first batch of bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I haven't disturbed the dough in about a week. Yesterday I went to look at it and there's a thick skin on top of the dough. Is this supposed to happen?

I've followed the instructions meticulously, specifically on keeping it lidded but not air tight. Why did this happen and can I still use it?

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  1. A thick skin forming on the surface indicates, to my mind, a loss of moisture. But I'm no authority on artisan breads so the best I can offer is that you might find this site:
    http://www.thefreshloaf.com/
    offers greater resources for the specialized process you're involved with.

    1. I made this dough a lot last winter. Not yet this year but we are about to haul out our dough bucket and get going again. I was trying to remember my doughs and think they sometimes had a skin.

      I was curious so I checked out the web site the book's authors have. They have a question and answer page on that site. Here is one question that relates to yours and Zoe's answer:

      Q: I put [the dough] in an air tight tupperware with the lid cracked and after a few hours in the fridge went to shape my dough and it had formed a dry crusty layer on top. Is that normal? What can I do to prevent it because even after baked there were hard parts in the bread. Thanks so much, I can’t wait for the second book!

      Zoe's answer: As for the dry layer of dough on your last batch, it is caused by too much air circulating in the bucket. Just pop the seal to your bucket, but you should not actually have a big enough opening to even see into the bucket.

      And another person had a related question that Jeff answered:

      Q: I don’t see other posts addressing how to handle the dough after a piece has been pinched off. Does one punch down and quickly reshape the remaining dough so that it is even again? Also, should the remaining dough be covered in plastic wrap or “cloaked”in flour again to prevent a thick unbaked dough crust from forming?
      I will appreciate your answer, as will my whole neighborhood who have been benefiting from my nearly daily baking again!

      Jeff's answer: Good question, and one we’ve never addressed. In order to prevent the cut surface from getting dry and leathery, I gently push down any stray dough that’s worked its way up the sides of the container. I use wet fingers for that. But don’t punch down the dough, that knocks the precious air out of the remainder, air which we’ll need for rising and oven spring as the dough ages.
      Don’t use flour on the surface before you put it back in the fridge; I’d think that would be drying. The covered bucket will be adequate to prevent a crust from forming; I don’t use plastic wrap.

      My conclusions: I think you could just cut or tear off the skin that is formed and use the rest of the dough. And cover it more tightly. I know they emphasize not covering the container tightly, but from following how they do this more closely, I think it's easy to overdo that and leave the container too open. I think you should put the lid on so there is no gap showing at all. Just don't twist it on tightly and you should be fine.

      Try another batch and let us know how it goes.

      1. I had not seen the video previously. Now that I've seen several versions of it I noted that she speaks to the fact the the dough can be store in the refrigerator for "up to" two weeks but, over that time, the baker is expected to remove portions of the dough to prepare bread at various points in time. She also uses what looks to me to be a plastic food storage container which, although she says it isn't tightly sealed, appears to me to have a very close fitting lid; at least tight enough to seal it allowing only enough "venting" to permit atmospheric equilibrium (so yeast gases can escape) without admitting a lot of air to dry the dough out.
        Take a look at these three videos:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce3k5u...
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFJZPm...
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMxJgI...

        I think they'll help you find the solution to the problems you're experiencing.

        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          Yes, you use the dough over the two week period. It will rise less in the second week and is especially good for flatbreads then. You can freeze it if you want a dough that will rise more rather than let it get into the second-week phase.

          I think it's correct that the container should be more completely covered than it kind of sounds like. I imagine the videos show that.

        2. Great! Thank you so much for the information.. I ended up taking off the hard outer skin and made a loaf last night. It turned out great. I think I need to find a new vessel to put the dough in though. I had it in a glass Pyrex and it's very hard to keep the lid on without it being air tight.

          The videos were great too. Thanks again!

          1 Reply
          1. re: krisrishere

            I don't think I would worry about the air-tight thing. I bet if you tried another batch with your pyrex lid fitting on normally it would be fine. Might be worth the experiment.