notes on slicing homemade bread

I posted a few months ago about freezing bread and gave some tips for getting nice thin slices so it can be used for sandwiches. Here were the tips:

1) Make sure the sides and bottom are cooked enough. If they are too soft then your bread will squish and fall apart as you slice. If they look too light when you take them out of the oven, put the loaves directly on the rack in the oven for a minute or two.

2) Make sure the loaves are completely cool before slicing. (Sacrifice one loaf to the great cause of eating warm, fresh bread if you need to.) And remove the loaves from the bread pan as soon as you take them out of the oven so the moisture inside the bread doesn't make the sides and bottom soggy.

3) Don't use too much force with your knife. Start with a gentle sawing motion until you get through the top crust, and then slowly continue to slice downwards. Let the blade do the cutting, not the force of your arm. (This takes some practice.)

Since then I've realized that rising time can also make a big difference in the structural stability of the bread loaves. I made a six-loaf batch and forgot about it while it was rising, and as a result the top half of the loaves had big bubbles and fell apart very easily after baking. Slicing all of that bread was an incredibly frustrating experience because it just wouldn't stay together if I sliced it thinly. And then we had to try to eat sandwiches with that bread for a couple of weeks!

So when you let your bread rise in the pans before baking, make sure it doesn't rise for too long. In my kitchen half an hour is about the right amount of time. Bread rises quite a bit more in the oven, so you don't need to wait until the bread is as tall as you will ultimately want it. I have found that if I let it rise just until the top is about even with the top of the bread pan it ends up being the right size and is pretty stable. If you let bread dough rise for too long, eventually it starts to deflate and flatten again, and that is when you get bread that falls apart and doesn't slice well. Bread that has risen the right amount will still be smooth on top. It takes practice to recognize the difference, but hopefully that description is somewhat helpful.

Comments

  1. If it raises too much, just punch it down, reform the loaves, and let it raise again. It will be much faster the second time, the texture will probably improve, and you won't have to deal with crumbly bread.

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  2. If you slice bread frequently it is worth investing in an electric knife! It makes the slicing so much easier and quicker.

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