The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread


I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:

In the oven:


And out:



After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.



Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)



Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day. 





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Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!


A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.


I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.



All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 

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We had plans with friends for a mud oven pizza party, and the weather was extremely cooperative. A lovely fall afternoon! We built our mud oven this spring/summer following Kiko Denzer's book, and after a few runs I'm now getting the hang of baking with it.


Today's baking, besides the pizza, was three kinds of bread: Sourdough (I used the basic Bread Alone formula, which is a pretty standard sourdough recipe). I was quite happy with how these turned out, and they smell really good. I shifted my sourdough culture over to whole wheat since I've been trying out a few whole wheat recipes, but used white flour for the final dough--the result was a lovely colored dough--just a touch wheaty but still light.


some plain ol' french,

and a test recipe for Reinhart's 100% whole wheat Struan (a multigrain).



The baguettes were not my best! Loading off the peel didn't go as smoothly as it could have. Then, I took them out a little too early and the crust softened up after they cooled. They'll still be tasty, but I can do better! The oven was a bit too hot when the Struan went in (probably close to 450) so they're a little dark. I haven't tasted them yet (too full on pizza) but I'm looking forward to it.


After bread baking, we let the oven cool down a bit and then roasted some pumpkin seeds from our jack-o-lanterns. Finally, the temp was down to about 325 degrees, and I threw in some granola. This has been a surprising good use of the oven, and I'm so fond of it I have to make a batch every time so I don't run out! I'll add some dried fruit to it one it cools off--usually cranberries and raisins.


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I almost forgot it was World Bread Day! But, my weekend baking actually applies pretty well to the holiday.

Yesterday I baked bialys. I learned about these breads from an employer, who wanted me to develop them as a product for their bakery. She loaned me her book The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World by Mimi Sheraton. The bialy is a small yeast roll, similar to a bagel, which was invented by jewish bakers in Bialystok Poland. Unfortunately, after the holocaust and World War II, the bread was mostly lost to Poland and exists only in adopted countries where survivors immigrated and recreated traditional breads. In the book, Mimi Sheraton travels to Bialystok and talks to people about their memories of the rolls. It's a rather sad book, as she often discovers how much was lost from the traditions of Poland, and is really more of an anthropological tale more than a food book, but it's still an interesting read.

This batch I used the recipe from Artisan Breads Across America, by Maggie Glazer. Supposedly it is adapted from Kossar's Baker in New York, who is famous for their Bialys.

Bialys are made from a stiff, lean dough, and Glazer recommends a food processor for kneading, which I didn't find necessary (my DLX was fine with the workload). When I baked these at the bakery, I used to retard the dough overnight, which worked great. This time I just made them in a single day: a 2-3 hour first rise, then formed them into 2.75 ounce rounds, and let them proof another couple of hours unti large, soft, and puffy. My house was a little dry so I spritzed the rounds with water to keep them from forming a skin.

Once the rounds are proofed, the special shaping comes into play. You pick up the round, stick your thumbs in the middle and gently pull outward, creating a thin depression (but not a hole!) in the middle. The center dough will be nearly see-through, and will bake up crispy. An onion/poppyseed mixture is schmeared on top of the rolls, and they are then baked in a very hot (450 degrees+) oven. They will brown up nicely in 8 or 9 minutes: watch them closely and pull them out when they are brown. Unlike Bagels these rolls are not boiled first: they have a nice chewy crust right out of the oven but can lose a little something with age--reheating or a quick toasting helps with that! It's a little tricky to get the center "hole' big enough so that it doesn't close up during baking--every roll turns out a little different!



We ate them plain right out of the oven, and later on split them and ate them toasted with cream cheese.




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