The Fresh Loaf

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Alpana's blog

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When Karin posted her Aroma Bread, I promptly added it to my bucket list. This was one bread that I had to try out. With my family putting an embargo on nuts, seeds & grains in bread, I had to put it on hold. Later dabrownman posted his version1 and version2 of this tantalizing bread, nudging me further. Yesterday marked six months of my starting to bake bread (one attempt in 2006 is not counted). What started on a lark or more out of my love of trying a new gadget (bread machine in this case), has come a long way and become way too much fun & serious. It is no longer about playing with an appliance - I have actually realised that I love the feel of sticky, squishy dough and watching oven spring on bread has become an infinite sense of pleasure and accomplishment. So I decided to make this bread only for myself and what I would love in a bread if only I was to eat (no worries about rest as I have made Leader's Semolina Sandwich Bread for them).

I decided to go with IY as it has been a long time since I have made a bread with commercial yeast, YW being my staple these days. Sorghum was my choice for whole berries, but I cooked them in rice cooker instead of cold soaker in Karin's recipe.

For the aroma spice blend I toasted 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds & 1 teaspoon on schezwan pepper and used my grinder to powder them.

After putting my berries to cook, I made a short trip to grocery store. While roaming the aisle, I chanced upon Kirin beer from Japan, which is pretty good. I though using Kirin beer in Karin's bread (corny, isn't it?) would be perfect. So that became the liquid. After reaching home, I measured the can contents and they came to around 325 gms. I was thinking of adding a slight sweet note to bread, where you can't taste the sweetness, but will balance the spices and beer. So Coca cola want in to bridge the deficit of 150 gms.

When the berries had cooled down and beer+cola had chilled, I mixed up the dough. I didn't have coarse cornmeal, so went with coarse semolina. I forgot Karin's instructions & put the cooked berries along with dry stuff at the outset. No idea how it affected the bread, but will remember next time.

My dough was ready in around 6-7 hours, but I had time to proceed only after 8 hours. As I am fairly confident of forgiving time lines of no knead bread, it was not an issue. Folded over the dough in 4 folds and kept it to proof in a linen towel in a colander as my round banneton is too small. Pre heated my claypot at 250C. My second proof was 30 minutes as usual. Kept in claypot with lid on for 30 minutes and then without the lid for 25 minutes with oven turned down to 230C. And yes, I once again attempted to score!

Excellent oven spring and nice crispy crust. It has survived my shaping & scoring quite well. Kept it to cool overnight & sliced today morning. The crumb :

I ate it as is, toasted and with EVOO. The spices, the seeds and berries and the nuttiness of spelt is superb. Not sure if beer & cola made any difference as I cannot recognise them, but I have not made this without them so wouldn't know.

If all things on my bucket list are this good, I better start ticking off items soon! Thanks, Karin, for  this one :)

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After reading blogs of Dabrownman, Ian & Khalid in last few months, I was waiting to get my hands on whole spelt flour. Some time back, I found Bob's Red Mill's whole spelt flour in a supermarket and jumped to buy it. As it is not cheap, I wanted to make sure that every bread made from it was worth the price. So the flour had been lying in my freezer for quite some time now. Finally in the last week, I managed to make 3 breads from the whole spelt flour.

First one I tried was Hamelman's Honey Spelt Bread, with Pate Fermentee. It has 75% whole spelt flour. The changes I made from original formula were using agave nectar instead of honey and making pate fermentee with RYW instead of instant yeast. I don't really bother about results while making Hamelman's breads as there is hardly any chance of bad outcome. This one also remained true to form. A perfect bread to intoduce my household to whole spelt. Light, airy & tasty, the bread gave all the flavour of wholegrain flour, without the denseness. Here are the crust & crumb. The crumb shot is grainy, but it still shows the character of the bread.

Now that I knew we all liked spelt, the next step was to make it part of my children's daily bread. So once again I turned to Hamelman and the bread much loved by my kids - Pain De Mei. Changes I made to the PDM - Used 60% whole spelt flour & 40% bread flour, made tangzhong with 8% flour (used bread flour) and used levain made from my SD & RYW instead of instant yeast. Hydration had also to be increased from 60% to 68% to get the right dough consistency. My son ate half of this bread without anything on it. So another winner on hand. 

Bread out of oven :

I was too impatient to wait, so cut the first slice within 20 minutes while still warm :

This is thelast slice after 4 days. I hid it to see how long it stays soft. Still pretty soft, with an added slight (pleasant) tang from sourdough.

After 2 very nice results from spelt, I was contemplating the next one yesterday, when I read Floyd's post about Ken Forkish's FWSY winning the James Beard Award. My choice was obvious - Harvest bread with poolish. This one uses minimum whole spelt (10%), but it still comes through. I changed whole wheat flour to whole spelt flour and used Apple Yeast Water levain instead of poolish  & skipped instant yeast in final dough. I also toasted the wheat germ (5%) and oat bran (2.5%) , thanks to dabrownman's toadies. It came out of my claypot DO with a great oven spring and have just cut one slice to taste and for crumb shot.

The crumb

A bite of this bread is a testimony to the well deserved award!

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Floyd's post on Hokkaido Milk Bread, which mentioned red bean filling, started nagging me to make red bean rolls. Fortunately, I had a stash of home made red bean paste in my freezer, which was given to me by a good friend. So why delay?

I decided to use Hamelman's Soft Butter Rolls formula as a base for my rolls. Instead of instant yeast I decided to go with RYW levain. I usually don't use sourdough starter in my soft breads, but I thought this time it would give a nice contrast to the red bean paste. But either my sourdough is too sour or I am too much of a sourdough wimp, so I always build my sourdough with RYW in my hearth breads and I did the same here and used a small amount. And as the post on tang zhong seemed to be the driving force behind these rolls, it was a given.

These are the proportions I used :

RYW Levain 

Bread Flour : 150 gms 

RYW : 150 gms

Total : 300 gms

Sourdough Levain

Seed : 10 gms

Bread Flour : 20 gms

RYW : 20 gms

Total : 50 gms

Tang Zhong  

Bread Flour : 25 gms

Water : 125 gms

Total : 150 gms

Final Dough 

Bread Flour : 300 gms

RYW Levain : 300 gms

SD Levain : 50 gms

Tang Zhong 150 gms

Egg : 60 gms

Softened Butter : 40 gms

Milk Powder (non-fat) : 25 gms

Sugar : 30 gms

Salt : 10 gms

Kneaded in Bread Machine till I got a window pane (almost full 20 minutes of dough cycle).

Put the dough in an oiled bowl. Did 3 S&F at 30 minutes interval. The dough was quite well developed & strong after the last S&F. Retarded in fridge overnight. Next day, divided it in 20 pieces and pre shaped in rough rounds and rested for 15 minutes. Decided to make 10 red bean rolls & 10 ham-n-cheese for kids. Used monterey jack cheese with black pepper ham.

My shaping skills are hilarious, as the photos testify, so shaping rolls is always the most tedious part for me. I was just glad to be done with it. Kept for final proof for one hour. Fifteen minutes before baking, put egg wash & sprinkled sesame seeds over red bean rolls. Baked at 180 C for 20 minutes, rotating the tray after 10 minutes.

Notwithstanding their ugly look, the rolls were all that I wanted. The slight tang  added by sourdough gave an extra flavour note to the rolls. The tang zhong & ryw helped the softness. If they had lasted beyond one day, I hope the SD & TZ would have kept them from getting stale. But as it goes, my daughter and her school friends managed to devour them in no time and have ordered another batch ASAP. I have agreed on the condition that they help me to shape the rolls next time. They are quite willing and I am confident the 12 year olds have better dexterity than me :).

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After Easter extravaganza of hot cross buns, marzipans & lamb roast, it is time to at least make an effort to eat less heavy stuff. Which bread to start the new week? I remembered this recently revived post on flaxseed bread  :

Read both Dan Lepard's recipe and Floyd's version, with all the comments, once again. The bread seemed exactly what I was looking for. I adore flaxseeds and they are part of every multigrain mix in my breads, but had never used in such high proportion or as a star ingredient. The comments from many TFLers about the bread being dense made it challenging enought to give it a try. So here is how it went -

I kept the basic quantities in the recipe. I have promised my husband no seeds in bread for few more days, so I settled on brown flaxseed meal. I was not ready to use flaxseeds without any pre processing. Used 100 gms flaxseed meal and made a hot soaker with 100 gms water. Kept  it in warm oven for 4 hours. Decided for RYW levain instead of IY. Along with soaker, made a RYW levain of 50 gms WWF & 50 gms RYW. The next question was to knead or not to knead. The more I thought over it, kneading seemed to be a better way. Kneading is delegated to my BM as it kneads better than me (or so I tell it to make it feel motivated).

After 4 hours, the levain was ready. I dumped the levain, soaker, 200 gms BF, 2 tsp agave nectar, 1 tsp salt and 100 gms old refrigerated stock of RYW in BM and set it on dough cycle. I did not consider the water in soaker in my final hydration. Decided to add extra flour if needed. But did not need - the dough was beautiful as is. Soft, tacky and extremely easy to work with (ok so my BM did most of the hard work in the first half, but still it was a pleasure to watch the dough being kneaded). Checked after kneading was done to see if extra cycle was in order but it was good to rise. Did bulk ferment in BM itself. Looking at the dough after kneading was done, I was expecting a decent rise, but knowing the high amount of flaxseeds, would have been happy with anything between one and half times to double. At the end of dough cycle, it had more than doubled. Happy time.

Took out the dough and shaped roughly into a ball to give bench rest of 30 minutes. The dough was so easy that it did not need any flour or oil on work surface. The dough shaped beautifully with slightly wet hands. Put my claypot in oven to preheat at 500F. After 30 minutes, shaped the dough in a tight ball and placed in proofing basket, which was generously dusted with rice flour (didn't want to repeat my earlier blooper, but in this case it was probably excessive). Kept the dough seam side down as I didn't want to score. Another 30 minutes and the dough was ready for oven. Inverted on parchment paper, reduced oven temp to 475F and put in closed DO for 30 minutes. When I removed the cover after half an hour, I had to do a happy jig. The oven spring far exceeded my expectation. Kept for another 20 minutes uncovered at 450F. Then kept in turned off oven on rack, with door partially open for 30 minutes. Cooled overnight on wire rack. Today morning cut into a crusty and surprisingly light bread, which tastes amazing. Of course, it is not as light as white bread, but for this amount of flaxseed meal, I feel it did a great job. Thanks to Floyd & Dan Lepard for this winner. Here are pics of loaf and the crumb shot :

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This one is inspired by TFL posts, specifically ones by Yuko & Evon Lim, of breads made with red wine.

My raisin yeast water was ready and raring to go. Till now I have always added a bit of instant yeast to my YW breads for luck. This time I decided to take risk and see if the YW could manage on its own. As this was to be a test for my YW,  I decided to stick to few simple ingredients. First I soaked 100 gms chopped dried figs in 100 gms Shiraz and kept overnight.

I had a  2 build YW levain ready in fridge. First build was 30 gms RYW & 30 gms APF. Added another 60 gms RYW & 60 gms APF for second build and refrigerated overnight.

For the final dough I strained Shiraz from figs, added extra to make 100 gms. Added 160 gms of water to Shiraz. Added YW levain and 310 gms BF. Autolysed for 20 minutes and then mixed 9 gms salt, soaked figs & 100 gms chopped walnuts, till evrything came together. Kept for bulk fermentation. Did 3 S&Fs in first hour.

Got a nice bubbly dough, which had tripled in 6 hours. Quickly folded it over itself on floured surface and kept for second proof in floured plastic basket. I must not have been thinking clearly. Usually, I proof my high hydration doughs on floured tea towels or if I have to use proofing baskets,  I coat them with rice flour. This time I did the unforgivable mistake of putting an extremely wet dough with ordinary flour. And I paid for it. After heating my claypot in 500F oven for an hour, I turned the dough on parchment as ususal. To my horror, only the bottom portion of the dough plopped on the paper and the top got stuck to the basket. I somehow scraped the stuck part down as gently as I could. I gave a thought to re folding the dough and giving it one more rise, but I didn't have time. So I decided to go ahead. How bad can a bread with all right ingredients get? I proceeded to put the dough in DO, turned the oven down to 475F and kept my fingers crossed for next 30 mins till the lid came off. Finally, when I took off the lid, I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice oven spring. Baked for another 20 minutes at 450F, till the crust was nicely dark, the way I like. I should have photographed my disaster, but was too busy feeling sorry for myself. Anyway, the bread turned out ugly, but extremely flavourful & tasty. 

From now on, I am going to have rice flour standing next to me before preparing proofing baskets. Glad that the lesson did not harm the taste of bread. Sweet figs, crunchy walnuts and the subtle after taste of Shiraz (or is it in my mind) made up for the crater shaped bread. And I am finally ready to bake my bread on the strength of  YW alone!

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My breads are bipolar. One day they are soft, white & enriched, made in BM, cut into neat slices with help of a slicing guide, and exactly what kids' order and on another day they are made fully by hand, using any combination of flours that strikes my fancy, chock-a-block with seeds, nuts, dried fruits, meats, cheese and almost anything I like. I think I must be really going overboard with my bells & whistles as my husband sweetly told me yesterday that he loves all the breads which I make, but for one day could I make a simple crusty bread, without any seeds, nuts, et al. Hmm...

So I started rummaging through the tomes lying on my bed to select one that would have minimum ingredients. I realised that I have not made Ciabatta till now, so bread for the day will be just that. How many additions can ciabatta have? I short listed Jason's ciabatta from TFL, PR's ciabatta with poolish, JH's ciabatta with biga & Jim Lahey's ciabatta. But then I saw JH's Ciabatta with olive oil and toasted wheatgerm. Great! Just two more additions should keep me happy and not come to hubby's notice. 

JH's recipe uses poolish. I had ripe levain of almost same quantity that of poolish. Both had equal hydration, so I decided to use levain in place of poolish. I kept the rest same as per recipe, but mixed by hand. I was not very happy with the hydration of the dough. So I went ahead and increased from 72% to around 85%. Once it became a gloopy mess, I was satisfied. Did 3 s&f in first 30 minutes and refrigerated the dough for overnight bulk ferment. Today morning allowed it to come to room temp & rise fully. It took just about 1 hour (tropics!). Quickly shaped the best as I could, put on parchment paper & covered with tea towel. The second proof was around 30 minutes. Baked at 460F on pizza stone for first 20 minutes, using foil container to cover (thanks to Floyd's tip) and then uncoverd it & baked for another 20 minutes at 440F.

This is the result :


Though my shaping skills are deplorable, the bread tasted awesome. The toasted wheatgerm was so much there yet not in your face and the EVOO left a nice aftertaste. The bread got torn into and demolished in no time. Made a ham sandwich with peri peri mayo for kids & for once they didn't ask why the bread was not soft & neatly sliced :)

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