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Undercooked Baked Goods


lperry
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Three recent experiences with three different vendors have me wondering what's going on with local bakers. We bought some bread at a bakery that was highly recommended by neighbors, and when I tasted the bread, it was still a bit raw. I always allow a place to have an off day, so I tried two more times with the same results. Each of the different breads was undercooked and took a bit of time in the oven to finish. Next, we went to a farmer's market and were greeted by a woman selling her "gourmet" cookies. She talked them up so highly that we purchased a couple of bags, but when we tried them on the way home, they were raw. I've eaten enough raw cookie dough in my time to know what it tastes like, and this was undercooked. Strike three was a baguette that I picked up at a grocery store two nights ago. It took an extra fifteen minutes in the oven to get cooked through.

Sometimes I don't mind if the bread is a bit undercooked because I want to crisp it up in the oven, and some products are sold for that purpose. And I also should say that there are lots of places out there who do a beautiful job, although unfortunately, they aren't located as conveniently as those that are currently annoying me. For me, the whole point of purchasing a baked item is NOT to have to use the oven. If I wanted to do that, I would make something from scratch and bake it. Is anyone else noticing this trend?

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Three recent experiences with three different vendors have me wondering what's going on with local bakers. We bought some bread at a bakery that was highly recommended by neighbors, and when I tasted the bread, it was still a bit raw. I always allow a place to have an off day, so I tried two more times with the same results. Each of the different breads was undercooked and took a bit of time in the oven to finish. Next, we went to a farmer's market and were greeted by a woman selling her "gourmet" cookies. She talked them up so highly that we purchased a couple of bags, but when we tried them on the way home, they were raw. I've eaten enough raw cookie dough in my time to know what it tastes like, and this was undercooked. Strike three was a baguette that I picked up at a grocery store two nights ago. It took an extra fifteen minutes in the oven to get cooked through.

Sometimes I don't mind if the bread is a bit undercooked because I want to crisp it up in the oven, and some products are sold for that purpose. And I also should say that there are lots of places out there who do a beautiful job, although unfortunately, they aren't located as conveniently as those that are currently annoying me. For me, the whole point of purchasing a baked item is NOT to have to use the oven. If I wanted to do that, I would make something from scratch and bake it. Is anyone else noticing this trend?

Trend? This has been going on for a long time and is certainly nothing new. Way too many places under cook bread and other baked goods. For some reason most folks think that a dark crust is burnt. When is the last time you have seen anything but a lightly colored crust on a loaf anywhere but a specialty bakery?

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Maybe I've just been lucky. I like to bake and tend to buy bread only in the summer when I don't care to heat up the house with the oven, and I've always had good luck. Even the bread from Costco is baked through with a good crust. But at our local "specialty" bakery, it's raw.

Last year we went in to a little local bakery because we heard how wonderful the challah was. I looked at the pale loaves and tried a piece from the sample tray. Everyone else was eating it and raving about it, and I was whispering, "it's raw" to my friend. Is it that people don't bake anymore so they don't know what it's supposed to taste like?

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Maybe I've just been lucky. I like to bake and tend to buy bread only in the summer when I don't care to heat up the house with the oven, and I've always had good luck. Even the bread from Costco is baked through with a good crust. But at our local "specialty" bakery, it's raw.

Last year we went in to a little local bakery because we heard how wonderful the challah was. I looked at the pale loaves and tried a piece from the sample tray. Everyone else was eating it and raving about it, and I was whispering, "it's raw" to my friend. Is it that people don't bake anymore so they don't know what it's supposed to taste like?

No idea, I guess folks just get used to what is available and think that is good.

BTW, what is the local "specialty" bakery?

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BTW, what is the local "specialty" bakery?

The one that everyone we spoke to raved about and recommended was Great Harvest, but we have found the bread to be on the raw side with no crust at all. Every time I go by the place is packed with customers and I think that maybe this time it will be good...

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Last year we went in to a little local bakery because we heard how wonderful the challah was. I looked at the pale loaves and tried a piece from the sample tray. Everyone else was eating it and raving about it, and I was whispering, "it's raw" to my friend. Is it that people don't bake anymore so they don't know what it's supposed to taste like?
I think a bit of both. Some people think good bread is supposed to be soft & fluffy when, as you said, in reality the "baked bread" is actually "raw." I feel like traditional baking is lost and it's now all about "artisan" and fluff. I still haven't found a good bakery and find myself spitting into my napkin at most places because of the undercooked bread served. Troubling.

ETA: I'm not a bread baker, so I'm definitely not an expert by any means, but I know what I like and am seeing.

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I think a bit of both. Some people think good bread is supposed to be soft & fluffy when, as you said, in reality the "baked bread" is actually "raw." I feel like traditional baking is lost and it's now all about "artisan" and fluff. I still haven't found a good bakery and find myself spitting into my napkin at most places because of the undercooked bread served. Troubling.

ETA: I'm not a bread baker, so I'm definitely not an expert by any means, but I know what I like and am seeing.

How would you define traditional baking as different from artisan? When I think of artisan I tend to associate it when traditional methods.

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The one that everyone we spoke to raved about and recommended was Great Harvest, but we have found the bread to be on the raw side with no crust at all. Every time I go by the place is packed with customers and I think that maybe this time it will be good...

This seems to be the deal with Great Harvest. I really want to like them. Unfortunately, their breads have no crust to them. All of their breads have a soft "crust" which makes the exterior indistinguishable from the inside of the bread, kind of like eating Wonder Bread. We used to like their scones; however, they seem to have changed their recipe a few years ago and now they taste like raw flour and cream cheese. It is a shame, as the people are friendly and we have one less than 5 minutes from our house.

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Next, we went to a farmer's market and were greeted by a woman selling her "gourmet" cookies. She talked them up so highly that we purchased a couple of bags, but when we tried them on the way home, they were raw. I've eaten enough raw cookie dough in my time to know what it tastes like, and this was undercooked.

Cookies seem to be the biggest culprit, undercooking them gives them the chew that they must believe that their customers would like, but there are ways of achieving this without undercooking, it just takes more skill than the likes of Au Bon Pon are willing to have in each of their stores. But as you point out it is not only the large chains that are guilty of this, I had a similar experience at a market baker that is well regarded on this board, but with a savory item that I found to be uneatable.

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How would you define traditional baking as different from artisan? When I think of artisan I tend to associate it when traditional methods.
It is supposed to be synonymous but the trend emerging from what I see is something different altogether. I guess I should have put artisan in quotes or something....
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Trend? This has been going on for a long time and is certainly nothing new. Way too many places under cook bread and other baked goods. For some reason most folks think that a dark crust is burnt. When is the last time you have seen anything but a lightly colored crust on a loaf anywhere but a specialty bakery?
Is this a way of coping with the dreaded word 'stale'?

(edited to add:

I think (based on no real facts) that what used to be considered a good crunchy

crust is now considered a defective product.)

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This seems to be the deal with Great Harvest. I really want to like them. Unfortunately, their breads have no crust to them. All of their breads have a soft "crust" which makes the exterior indistinguishable from the inside of the bread, kind of like eating Wonder Bread. We used to like their scones; however, they seem to have changed their recipe a few years ago and now they taste like raw flour and cream cheese. It is a shame, as the people are friendly and we have one less than 5 minutes from our house.

That's exactly how I feel. They are so friendly, helpful, and convenient, that I just think what a shame it is that they aren't better.

Cookies seem to be the biggest culprit, undercooking them gives them the chew that they must believe that their customers would like, but there are ways of achieving this without undercooking, it just takes more skill than the likes of Au Bon Pon are willing to have in each of their stores. But as you point out it is not only the large chains that are guilty of this, I had a similar experience at a market baker that is well regarded on this board, but with a savory item that I found to be uneatable.

If cookies are the worst offender, it could explain why I've missed out on the problem baked goods in the past. I usually bake a batch every week so we have fresh around for snacking. Apart from those I mentioned, I can't remember the last time I bought a cookie. I hate wasting food - it bothers me on some very basic level - and we ended up throwing those out.

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I bought several baked goods from "Best Buns" in Shirlington yesterday for an office gathering. The cupcakes were really good, moist but still the edge had a bit of crips to it. The toffey cookie was liked by several people. It was a bit gooey in the middle, but crisp on the outside (the way I like cookies). Best was the 2 raisin bread I took home. It was delicious, but more of a sweet bread for breakfast with all the raisins. But the crust was dark and crunchy -- yum!

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How would you define traditional baking as different from artisan? When I think of artisan I tend to associate it when traditional methods.
It is supposed to be synonymous but the trend emerging from what I see is something different altogether. I guess I should have put artisan in quotes or something....
My friend who is an "artisanal" bread baker would probably die seeing this. And as has been already well-lamented on this board, there aren't really any bakers who do the European bake on the bread. European being defined as the brown, crusty caramelization that most people would interpret as the bread being burnt. When we were in New York, we saw the same thing fairly frequently. As far as answering V.H.'s question, my friend says that the differences with artisanal bread are the ingredients - mainly the type of flour, the time spent proofing the bread (you can see this in an irregular hole structure in the innards), and the level to which it is baked. Too bad my friend is also a twit, and is now studying bioinformatics.
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This is a great thread. I recently was asked to judge an amateur cookie contest and had to taste 21 different cookies that were almost all raw in the center. I felt like I was going to hurl.I think rare is associated with "fresh" or proof that the cookies are not from the grocery store or something. Bottom line.....raw flour tastes awful and a raw cookie is not the same as a fresh cookie.

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Fortunately, Atwater's is not one of those companies succumbing to the underbaked trend.

My wife manages to make cookies that are both crispy on the edges and slightly chewy by using a combination of white and brown sugar. Yeah, I don't even bother buying cookies.

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Bottom line.....raw flour tastes awful and a raw cookie is not the same as a fresh cookie.

Exactly my point. So who's eating this stuff? It tastes bad enough that certainly people should notice, right? Maybe people don't bake at home anymore? When I learned to bake bread, Mom showed me how to knock on the bottom of the loaf of bread to listen for the hollow sound (especially useful if you are baking whole wheat and can't tell brownish from browner), and then later on I saw Julia Child explaining that you can test it with an instant thermometer, although I can't remember what the internal temp of a fully baked loaf is. I bake the same breads so much that I know when they are finished.

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Next, we went to a farmer's market and were greeted by a woman selling her "gourmet" cookies. She talked them up so highly that we purchased a couple of bags, but when we tried them on the way home, they were raw. I've eaten enough raw cookie dough in my time to know what it tastes like, and this was undercooked.
Arlington Farmers' Market? I bought some there last summer; there was a long line and the woman was selling out of cookies as I waited. I took a bite and then looked at the bag they came in, hoping there were baking directions. Like par-baked, or something? Not even the edges were baked through. I bake pretty delicious cookies, so I just bought these to see how mine compared. Yeah, mine were way better. But I agree that the under-baking might be to stave off staleness.
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Exactly my point. So who's eating this stuff? It tastes bad enough that certainly people should notice, right? Maybe people don't bake at home anymore? When I learned to bake bread, Mom showed me how to knock on the bottom of the loaf of bread to listen for the hollow sound (especially useful if you are baking whole wheat and can't tell brownish from browner), and then later on I saw Julia Child explaining that you can test it with an instant thermometer, although I can't remember what the internal temp of a fully baked loaf is. I bake the same breads so much that I know when they are finished.

IIRC it is around 200F.

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This is a great thread. I recently was asked to judge an amateur cookie contest and had to taste 21 different cookies that were almost all raw in the center. I felt like I was going to hurl.I think rare is associated with "fresh" or proof that the cookies are not from the grocery store or something. Bottom line.....raw flour tastes awful and a raw cookie is not the same as a fresh cookie.

Cookie dough ice cream is pretty damn popular and I know more than a few folks that enjoy eating cookie dough from the bowl as some are baking.

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Cookie dough ice cream is pretty damn popular and I know more than a few folks that enjoy eating cookie dough from the bowl as some are baking.
I think I'd put this into the same category as hamburger (or beef). I'll eat it raw under some circumstances, but if I'm eating it cooked, I don't want it to be partially raw. It's probably the contrast between the baked part of the cookie and the unbaked that's unpleasant.
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