The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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breadnerd

I grew up in the chicago area, and a staple in college was the deep dish stuffed pizza. Now I live elsewhere, and it's harder to find. Plus, the whole challenge of making your own is hard to resist. I've been happy enough with varios thin crust pizzas, but the other day on a whim searched on recipezaar for the ubiquitous stuffed pizza.... and I found it!

http://www.recipezaar.com/88044

The main thing I didn't know was the order of ingredients and crust. Here it was---crust, fillings (cheese plus "toppings") followed by another crust, and topped with the sauce. It really works. Since then I've played around with crusts. I've been happiest so far with the BBA pizza napolean crust, which is thin and stretchy. I use a bit of WW flour for flavor/color/nutrition. I've found about 10-11 ounces for the bottom crust, and 5-6 for the top is about right. I'm using my cast iron skillet for the pan, which is a little smaller than the original recipe calls for, but works just great. I'm lucky to still have homemade home grown sauce from last summer, which helps a lot :)

I've been debating whether to prick the top crust or not--tonight I didn't and got a BIG bubble, so I think I'd recommend it.  This week was just pepperoni/mushroom, but I can vouch for the spinach as well--it's very good and seemed to make for a fuller filling after baking.  Tonight's was a bit thinner but tasty anyway...

 

 

 

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We don't really watch the superbowl, and in fact don't have a tv this year (don't ask) but why not eat silly food anyway?

 

Not my greatest photo, but we ate all the pretty samples so there's no chance for a re-shoot. In the bowl (impossible to make out) is homemade nacho cheese sauce. I made a simple white sauce with cheddar and monterey jack, and added some chopped whole jalapenos that I froze from the garden last year. Could be thicker but WAY tastier than the kind you get at the cafeteria!

 

These are from Daniel Leader's Local Breads (newest cookbook acquisition) and the dough was lovely to work with.

 

Also have my first ever batch of baked beans in the oven. May have to post a picture (they are baked so that counts, right?) because I'm quite smitten with them--they take forever though and your house smells good ALL DAY.

 

Anybody else making fun food for super sunday?

 

 

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2332/2240462432_cacffac8be.jpg

 

 

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breadnerd

Continued from an earlier entry....

 

We let the first layer dry a few days, and some fairly big cracks started to form. I decided to pull out the sand to give the oven more room to shrink as needed, and to help it dry out faster. I cut a smaller door than the final size, you can see the final door scored into the surface:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1239/1443314684_81e061fa2b.jpg?v=0

 

We ended up letting it dry for a couple of weeks due to rainy weather and other activities. It was covered with a tarp and opened up when the weather permitted to dry out. Next came the second layer. The first layer is just sand and clay—the second is cob: sand and clay mixed with straw.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1368/1443313710_f479fba985.jpg?v=0

 

The second layer goes on much faster, but as it's 6 inches thick you use up a lot more material as you go. We made LOTS of batches of this.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1260/1442449505_b5cda095e2.jpg?v=0

 

Almost there:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1182/1442450317_7efc87c836.jpg?v=0

 

Refining the doorway:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1208/1443313758_b3154e54b5.jpg?v=0

 

Our door, made from glued-up 4 x 4s, and shaped with a sawzall. Did I mention I have a very handy assistant?

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1244/1442450793_11879b0dcc.jpg?v=0

 

We lit some small fires at this point to aid in drying, and after a couple of weeks started using it. The first few attempts had a big learning curve, and I think I joined the fresh loaf soon after that and documented my later bakes.

 

The oven was built in May and June, and we left it without a final protective plaster because we were undecided on what to do. We would cover it with a tarp when not in use. Finally, we decided just to make a roof over it, so there is no final plaster layer. It made it through a winter and another summer without much damage. Here’s the final oven with it’s roof:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1435/1443313790_6629aee699.jpg?v=0


Many thanks to Kiko Denzer for a great book--its a wonderful way to give wood-fired hearth baking a try without a huge amount of investment (well, if you don't count your time!). I also have the Bread Builders book which I found useful as well, I just didn't have the right location and finances for a masonry oven, and I think after a few years using the "mud hut" I will know better my needs and desires for any future ovens.

 

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breadnerd

I finally got up the gumption to move my construction photos over to my flickr account. Here they are in the entirety, I tried to make the titles fairly self-explanatory:

http://www.flickr.com/gp/7541655@N03/aX31kR

 

Here's a condensed version with some commentary:

First off is the foundation. Our frost line in in theory 48 inches, so we dug down quite a bit. We hit a VERY large rock, which made us decide the hole was big enough, and which we figured would act as a foundation in itself.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1012/1443314626_31ba338401.jpg?v=0

 

Next, we filled the hole with gravel and started building a foundation from rather unattractive landscaping bricks we already had from another project. We added a layer of lava rock for insulation, Kiko’s new edition has a lot of better ideas for this, but this has worked okay for us.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1410/1443314822_1f6502d8de.jpg?v=0

 

Next sand is added, packed, and leveled, and we laid the oven floor bricks. A string was used to draw a circle as large as we could fit on the floor, as our guide for the sand mold form.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1367/1442450837_2025385af8.jpg?v=0

 

The sand form took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it turned out nice.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1110/1443315018_c94673ba68.jpg?v=0

 

Because of this, we didn’t get very far with our first layer before dark, but you can see the width of the walls, and how compact it was. We were probably overly persnickety with this first layer:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1319/1442451223_365f1a3e72.jpg?v=0

 

We covered it in plastic, and resumed the next day.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1331/1442450183_71089d3c3f.jpg?v=0

 

Final first layer, wacked with a 2 x 4 and scored for the next layer to stick:

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1162/1442450281_d233d47f01.jpg?v=0

 

 

more to come....

 

 

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breadnerd

Still working on the nuances of oven temperature. It’s really a comedy of timing between two ancient processes—bread making and fire building. It seem like if I get it over 600 degrees at the start, it takes a good 45 minutes to reach a more comfortable 550 for bread baking, but then it holds the temps nicely for hours. Handy if you have multiple batches, less handy if you were hoping to cook your dinner at 350 degrees anytime soon. I do crack the door to bring the temp down a bit quicker.

 

Common occurrences when firing your mud oven:

  • If you think the fire is not hot enough, it will be MUCH hotter than you think.
  • If your oven is ready, and your bread is not, it will only get HOTTER if you wait to pull the coals out, and you will spend even more waiting for it to cool down. Fortunately, this will give your bread plenty of time to catch up!
  • By the time your oven cools to 350 degrees, you will be too tired and/or stuffed with bread and other roasted goodies to bake that last batch of cookies that you had planned.

Improvised proof box: Sunshine + moisture to keep it from getting a skin. Worked fine in a pinch...

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1260/1425173125_fb0d261355.jpg

 

Like opening a package, it’s always a thrill to open the door and discover loaves like these:

 

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1129/1426058300_6a233fae2d.jpg

 

I guess there’s always this thought in the back of my mind that the loaves will be charred black, or pale little lumps with no oven spring. Even though it’s not that much different in the end than using my indoor oven, there’s something magical about baking in my little mud hut. It also smells better. Also? The low-angled sunlight of fall doesn’t hurt the aesthetics.

 



http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1311/1426057062_b5f6f233a1.jpg

 

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1311/1426056540_4941d7432f.jpg

 

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http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1124/1426057916_bf9ab49a10.jpg

I just did a bit of bread this time--a batch of Columbia and some Multigrain loaves. After the bread came out (well actually, while the last multigrains were still in—I was hungry) I made a pot roast and some baked potatoes. Also roasted a butternut squash to make soup out of the next day.

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breadnerd

Played with the mud oven again today, and we got it good and hot! We even succeeded with the apocryphal "four minute pizza" of lore.

 

 

Ever since we built the oven we've heard that the ultimate woodfired pizza ovens cook in four minutes. BTW, I did bake them straight on the hearth (on parchment), they're just waiting on the sheet pan for the last pie to come out of the oven. The parchment pretty much turned black on the edges but did not combust, so I think I can safely vouch for 600 degrees + for parchment use!

 

Anyway, nothing like homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella from the farmer's market, with chopped basil, zucchini, peppers, and onions from the backyard (plus mushrooms and pepperoni).

 

Besides that, the usual batches of bread for some good summer eating for the next few weeks: sourdough, ciabatta, and a jalapeno cheddar loaf I've been playing with. I overproofed this batch but it still looks pretty tasty.

 

Also roasted some beets and garlic, and just pulled a couple of zucchini quick breads out as well. I'm pretty pooped but may still stick some tomatoes in to dry overnight, but then again, maybe I'll save it for next time!

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breadnerd

I haven't been around as much lately, lots of fun busy-ness like gardening and outdoor activities. But I've have lurked a bit at all the lovely baking on the fresh loaf!

We haven't used the mud oven as much this spring (funny we used it more over the winter) but had a good excuse to fire it up today. We discovered a good system of teamwork--DH managed the fire, and I stuck to the breadmaking. Not that I don't like playing with fire, but trying to do both was a stretch of my multitasking skills. It was a long day of baking but pretty relaxing overall.

 

Today's breads--an "order" for brat and hamburger buns (honey wheat), ABAA's Columbia Sourdough, Semolina, and french:

Semolina:

Attempt at an artsy crust shot (I was happy with the "ears" on this loaf):

 

I picked up the new edition of Kiko Denzer's book, and tried out a few new techniques on building a more efficient fire. We burned a less wood for a little less time, and I think we were just a bit cooler than ideal. Our top heat was about 575, and quickly cooled down to 450 or so. Plenty of heat for baking all these breads--about 4 consecutive bakes with some overlap, but I didn't get quite the crust color as usual and the french didn't have a huge oven spring from the hot hearth as usual. Also, the last batch of buns took 30 minutes to bake, which is a lot longer than usual. Right now the oven's at about 300 and I have a tiny chicken roasting and a batch of brownies. It's a little cool, but I figure it's like a big crockpot, they'll probably get done eventually!

 

Still learning, obviously, but still having fun too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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breadnerd

I love getting up early on sundays with a good excuse to bake. Today we have family passing through town, and they'll be on the road a bit so I wanted to make them some portable snacks.

 

BBA Bagels, with oh about 50% wheat flour. I love this recipe because you can leave them in the fridge until you've got everything set up for baking, and because you can have hot bagels first thing in the morning without a lot of effort. I made a few toppings--poppyseed, salt, "everything" (with fresh onion and garlic tossed in olive oil, mixed with the previous toppings).

 

ready to go:

 

 

Boiling:

 

Out of the oven:

 

I also made a scones: Cranberry orange, and oatmeal date. It smells rather good in here!

 

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breadnerd

I made a half-serious resolution to bake in the outdoor oven at least once a month, and after a few weeks with subzero temperatures, and a weekend out of town, this was my last chance for February. We had a warm up all week, but it was only about 20 degrees at 8 am when I started the fire. We have a pretty good view of the oven from the house, so I was able to load it up with fuel and keep an eye on it from inside, so it's not too bad! The only problem was the warm temps created a very muddy yard, so between me and the dog coming in and out all day my house is not a pretty sight.

 

For this bake, I made three batches of bread: 2 ABAA recipes: the columbia sourdough, and Ponsford's ciabatta, with a levain-risen biga. I also made a couple of loaves of my favorite multigrain sandwich bread, my own recipe adapted from Reinhart's multigran extraordinaire. I mixed the columbia the night before, and as Mountaindog suggested in another thread let it rise about an hour before refrigerating it. I pulled it first thing in the morning, and let it warm up for 3 hours or so before shaping. The ciabatta biga calls for a minute amount of yeast, so I wasn't sure how much levain to substitute. The recipe's description is that the biga may not do much for hours, but will triple in volume in 24 hours, so I decided on a couple of tablespoonfuls of levain, and it perfomed just about right. I would probably use even less in summertime, or if my starter was exuberant.

 

All in all it was pretty uneventful, though I'm starting to realize that I need to let the fire burn down sooner, and/or allow extra time for the oven to cool off before baking. I keep finding myself with ready-to-go loaves and a 500+ oven, which is fine for some breads but a little too hot for others. Anyway my timing was such that it was consistenly 25 degrees or so hotter than I needed for each batch. I can leave the door open to speed up the cooling, but I worry about overdoing that too. I'm still learning, obviously. Here's some pics from the day:

 

Multigrain loaves in the oven with chcken curry--that turned out very well (made by my SO).

 

Some of the ciabattas got a wee bit dark. I've had a habit of taking them out a little too early, so I left them in longer--and overdid it the other way. Everything was quite dark actually, the flash makes them look just right though... :)

 

Ciabatta crumb: Not bad, but a little less holey than the non-levain version I made last time. The flavor is excellent though...

 

And finally, while finishing up with granola, it started snowing!! This wasn't expected to start until after midnight, but you know how that goes. I burned one batch of granola, and I blame blizzard conditions for my tardiness on checking on it!  We now have 8 inches of snow with more on the way--so I'm happy at home with wayyyy too much to eat.

 

 

 

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breadnerd

This weekend I was very happy to find Harvest King Flour at my local grocery. I used Harvest King in my baking classes, and convinced my boss to use it at the bakery I helped start up. I liked its creamy color, and that it was formulated for longer, cooler rises and artisan breads. I'm hoping to find the retail variety similar in quality--so far, so good.

 

Since Mountaindog has inspired me to look at the Artisan Baking book (I think I'll just start calling it ABAA!), I re-read the ciabatta recipe and found it different than most. Like the Essential Columbia recipe, it has a little wheat and rye flour, and uses a firm pre-ferment (this time a biga). I've been using a wet poolish (or my sourdough levain).

 

I was pretty good at following the ciabatta formula, though I did use a little more yeast as it's cold here and things have been moving slowly in my house. Of interest, the recipe calls for dissolving 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in a cup of water, and then using only a teaspoon of that liquid! I felt it was safe to use an entire tablespoon of the yeast-water--and my biga did perform pretty much as described (just about tripled in size in 24 hours at cool room temperature). Actually it could have been more developed, it was risen but not very light or airy once I pulled it apart. The dough in the formula is described as "gloopy" and they're not kidding. I thought I had my ciabatta dough wet enough in the past, but this was extreme--nearly batter. There's no way I could have benched this as I normally do, so I left it in the bowl for several "turns" (which were in fact more like stirring with a spatula). After a few turns it was starting to develop into dough--much like the NYT no knead bread in texture. The last turn I could do on a floured bench, and I returned it to the bowl for another hour or so of rising. I divided it into four loaves (instead of 2 per the recipe) and made an error in my final proofing--I forgot to put the seam-side down. So, my final loaves were baked 2 seam down, and 2 seam up to compare. In any case I was very happy with the results:

 

 

I forgot to take a "crumb shot" but the texture was much better--larger holes, but not too large or out of control. We had roast beef sandwiches for dinner which were literally to die for :) I do like the flavor I get from using the levain, so I might try that next time, with the new techniques learned on this batch!

 

Also on the hearth this day was a batch of Vermont Sourdough (as I have BREAD checked out from the library):

 

 

Apparently trying to video yourself scoring loaves causes some performance problems! I'm going to try to compile a video of slashing and find a way to post the edited version---Anyway, this loaf has some nice ears but the round loaf behind it has a definite "blow-out" that I've conveniently hidden from view!

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