The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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ArtisanGeek

I have relocated my Bread Baker's Toolbox (Volume Conversion Formula Tool , Custom Batch Formula Tool) to one of my hosting servers at BreadMagic.com. Now I can finally shut down my server at the house. I hope you can get some use out of these tools and I will be making more of them soon. If you have any suggestions for formula or conversion tools that would make your life easier, just let me know.

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ArtisanGeek

As promised, I have added another tool to my "Bread Baker's Toolbox" for anyone to use. I call this one "The Custom Batch Formula Tool". You use this one when you have a bread formula with the ingredient quantities already specified by weight and you want to create a custom batch size. The software does the math, calculating the Baker's Percentages and displaying the results for your custom batch in both grams and ounces (US). I chose these units because they are the most common used in bread formulas by the home baker. Some large batch formulas will use pound (lbs.) and fractions of pounds. This is simple enough to solve; If you want a custom batch for 5  pounds so you can have 5 one pound loaves, just multiply 5 x 16 to determine total ounces for your custom batch. Anyway, I've put this tool through the paces...its very fast and accurate. Sometimes the final dough weight will equal 699 ounces when you specified 700...this is because each ingredient is rounded to 1/100 of and ounce or 1/100 of a gram. (you don't want to work with numbers that look like this: 234.34453040304004). Give it a try and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for improvements. Trust me, I can take the critical comments. As a software developer, I know that the product is never good enough for everybody and I can live with that....I just do my best:) Go to breadmagic.com and follow the link. You can now choose between the Volume Conversion Formula  Tool and this new Custom Batch Formula Tool.


Custom Batch Formula Tool

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ArtisanGeek

By trade, I'm a .NET web programmer....who happens to be a former professional artisan baker. I decided to create a tool to make life a little easier. I have seen many questions posted here in regards to volume, weight, and baker's percentage in bread formulas. The tool I have created allows you to convert a "recipe" where the quantities are expressed in volume  to a formula where the quantities are expressed in grams, along with the baker's percentage of each ingredient. This is a database driven tool. I have added the most common bread ingredients and the most common volume measurements (US, Metric, and UK). Once the baker's percentage is calculated, you have a total weight and total baker's percentage you can work with to create any batch size. Right now, the tool resides on my home testing server. I will be moving it to one of my hosted websites in the future. For now, just go to breadmagic.com and click the link for the tool. Keep in mind, this server is in my home so I can't guarantee it will be up all the time. I will be creating another tool soon (where weights are known) for creating formulas for breads with up to three preferments.


Baker's Percentage Tool

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ArtisanGeek

I'm sure 99% of you are familiar with Nancy Silverton, her books, and her bakery, La Brea.  Through a lot of hard work and innovation, La Brea has been able to mass produce artisan loaves of every description. The machinery handles the dough in such a way to produce bread that has a hand-shaped look and artisan taste. The loaves are par-baked, flash frozen, and distributed throughout the country. One of their breads that really appeals to me is the Petite Baguette. These, like their other breads, are available in grocery store deli bakeries and warehouse clubs. I get mine from BJ's in a package of four. Looking over the ingredients, there's basically nothing here but flour, water, salt, yeast,  and the cornmeal used to dust the bottom. Because there are no dough conditioners or preservatives, you have to eat them or freeze them right away. These are definitely NOT the soft, mushy crap that pass for French bread in most in-store bakeries. The crumb is semi-open and the crust is what is to be expected of a good artisan loaf. Just how crispy the crust is depends on how the store baked the frozen loaves. Most stores don't bake them very long so the crust doesn't get really crisp. Why do they do this? To appeal to the majority of Americans who like their bread very soft. (They grew up on Wonder Bread and don't know any better). Unlike us bread snobs, they think anything slightly hard is stale. They also have a tendency to wrap them before they are completely cool and the resulting moisture softens the crust. I usually give mine a few minutes in a hot oven to give the crust a good crisp


La Brea Petite Baguette


These also have a very good taste; not like bland, white mush like many mechanically produced breads.


A Single Petite Loaf


Stay tuned for more reviews. All reviews can also be viewed on my blog, The Bread Portal.

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ArtisanGeek

Well, I had a birthday party to go to (pool-side at my Brother-In-Law's house) and I wanted to do something a little different than the standard birthday cake...so I decided to make a giant chocolate chip sandwich cookie. It's about 12 inches in diameter and contains about a pound each of semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. At the end of the mix, I fold in about 4 ounces of walnuts. The cream filling consists of powdered sugar, egg white, shortening, and vanilla. The cookie dough is from a recipe you can find on any Toll-House chocolate chip bag. Its baked a little on the soft side so it slices like a cake. This one didn't last long after this photo was taken....it was devoured in short order!


Giant Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookie

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ArtisanGeek

This is the second of my reviews on artisan breads available at my local Whole Foods Market. Actually, I visit three locations in my area (Raleigh/Durham, NC) and they are all the same because the are all baked in the same "bakehouse" which distributes them to all of the area stores. As many of you commented in my previous post, nothing quite compares to what you can produce at home....however, there are good bakeries out there and some of this retail stuff is pretty good.


The Whole Food Organic Farm bread is another loaf I really like. Like the Ciabatta, it has the classic crackling crust. This one uses a sourdough preferment that becomes apparent when you take the first bite.; not too tart, but just enough tang where you can taste it.  It contains white and whole wheat flour. Uncut, it will keep for three or four days in a paper bag. If the humidity is high and the crust gets a little soft, about ten minutes in the oven at 425 will revive it. This bread isn't my all time favorite as far as retail breads are concerned, but its definitely on my "pretty dog-gone good" list:


Whole Foods Market Organic Farm Bread


Organic Farm Bread Crumb


Stay tuned for more reviews....My posts can also be viewed on my blog, The Bread Portal.

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ArtisanGeek

Like many of you, I don't always have time to bake my own bread and I buy artisan bread where I can find it; sometimes from chain deli-bakeries and sometimes from independents. This is the first in a series of  retail bakery artisan bread reviews I will be publishing. I'm most interested in hearing your comments and learning where folks who appreciate good bread buy there loaves. First up is Whole Foods Market Ciabatta. The bread you get from Whole Foods will vary according to your region. Each region has a bakehouse that supports several stores. The stores I visit are in the Raleigh/Durham area of  North Carolina. I have found that most of the breads here are excellent and the Ciabatta is one of my favorites.


Whole Foods Ciabatta


The crust on this bread is nice and crispy. The crumb is semi-chewy, almost creamy. I can tell the dough is a proper 100% hydration by the awesome open whole structure. This is a lean Ciabatta (no olive oil) and I actually prefer mine this way. I buy this bread about once a week and will continue to do so. Usually, I will bring it home, cut it into thick slices, and freeze it. I take out a few slices at a time, thaw them, and pop them in the oven at 425 for about 12 minutes. I have found that I can keep it for weeks using this method and it tastes as fresh as day one out of the oven. The Whole Foods Ciabatta is one of those retail loaves that I find not only edible, but downright excellent!


Ciabatta Crumb

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ArtisanGeek

Hello everyone, I've been trolling around here for a while and I decided its time to finally post something. This is my version of soft pretzels. For the formula and details, check out my blog , The Bread Portal. This is very similar to the Pretzel formula post in the "Favorite Reciptes" section of this blog.


Easy Pretzels

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