The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Sprouted Amaranth Bread Loaf

It's been awhile since I've played with any sprouts so this week I decided to try one of the sprouted breads from Tartine Book No. 3. I also wanted to try working with a grain I've never tried sprouting before so I went with amaranth which is an extremely tiny pseudograin related to quinoa.

Sprouted Amaranth Bread Loaf Crumb

I've used toasted amaranth in breads before (see: this post. ) and very much liked the flavor. It brought a delicious nuttiness to the bread. Sprouting the amaranth led to a completely different flavor that had the aroma of sweet and fresh grass. It was very strong smelling coming out of the oven but the actual taste was very mild and subtle. It was actually pretty refreshing when paired with the slight sourness of the crumb.

As with the Oat Porridge Bread I made last week the crumb on this bread was extremely soft and had a really pleasant chewiness. I believe this is due to how wet the dough is and getting the proofing exactly right.

I would love to keep experimenting with different sprouted grains with this same base dough. There is honestly not a lot I would change about the texture, flavor and crust.

For more photos, process and formula go to abreaducation.

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Tartine Oat Porridge Bread Like most of my bread friends, I purchased Chad Robertson's new bread book, Tartine Book No. 3, back when it came out over the holidays, however, I only got around to baking from it fairly recently. In Book no. 3, Robertson builds upon his basic country bread formula he established in his first book,Tartine Bread, with a focus on whole grain baking. I had been skimming the book for awhile and noticed a few things:

  1. As with Tartine Bread, the photography is absolutely breathtaking. The book just forces you to want to bake bread by being so beautiful. In that way, it is very inspiring.
  2. Robertson's take on whole grain baking is very different than most bakers. It seems as though Robertson is more interested in whole grain baking from a flavor standpoint rather than a nutritional one. Most of the breads actually contain a majority of white flour and Robertson uses and demonstrates a variety of methods for injecting other grains into the bread. He puts a focus on using grains that would not usually be used in bread baking(because of poor baking properties) and uses them as flavor enhancers.

I decided to put some of the methods described in the book to the test with a formula called "Oat Porridge Bread". This is one of the breads in the "Porridge Bread" chapter that involves cooking grains into a porridge(similar to making oatmeal) and then using it as an inclusion in the final dough. Robertson details using several interesting grains with this method but I decided to go with the most basic, rolled oats, because that's what I had on hand. Oat Porridge Bread Crumb

I actually attempted this bread twice with noticeable improvements on the second attempt. My process reflects the adjustments I had to make to get the results you see here. I must say that this is one of my favorite breads I've ever made mainly because of the texture of the crumb. It is extremely moist, custard-like and soft in a way that I haven't experienced in any standard sourdough I've made in the past(and I've made a lot). I'm thinking that this has to do with the porridge aspect. The flavor is also quite nice but I wouldn't say it is particularly "oaty". I think the key to this bread is making sure you have enough strength in the dough(by doing a lot of strong folds) and getting the proofing right. The first time I made this bread it was very gummy and chewy, most likely because of under proofing. Enjoy!

For the formula, process and more photos visit my blog at aBreaducation.

Oat Porridge Bread Crumb

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Seeded Sandwich Bread Loaf Crumb

      I'm on a mission to not buy anymore bread. Sure, I'll still buy loaves from bakeries that I respect or that have an interesting loaf I want to try but when it comes to my daily sandwich loaves I've decided to make them myself from here on out. Why did I decide this? For one thing, I know how to make bread and I like doing it so it'd be kind of dumb not to. But the real reason stems from a recent visit to the local health food supermarket. While browsing the aisles, I decided to take a look at some sandwich breads and find out what they're made of. I expected the loaves at this store to contain whole ingredients with no added chemicals considering this was a health food store. For the most part the loaves had decent ingredients but I was surprised to find that almost every single sandwich loaf contained added gluten. I was a bit disappointed. I'm definitely not one to jump on the "gluten is evil" bandwagon, in fact I love gluten, but could the fact that we're pumping pure gluten into supposedly healthy loaves of bread have something to do with the rise in people who can't seem to tolerate it? I don't really have the answer to that question(and it doesn't seem like food scientists do either yet) but I do think I could do better than these supermarket breads from both a health and flavor standpoint.

     My goal is to make great tasting sandwich breads that are healthy and last a long time. I will try to document many of them here.

Seeded Sourdough Sandwich Bread Loaf

   The first loaf I've made in this endeavor is a naturally leavened 75% whole wheat sandwich loaf packed with seeds. If my goals are to have a tasty, healthy and long lasting loaf then I think I've definitely found it with this bread.

Flavor & Texture

The combination of toasted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, millet, amaranth and flax seeds is insanely delicious. Honestly, it kind of blew me away. It has a perfect nuttiness that makes me want to eat endless slices of this bread on its own with nothing on it. The grocery store loaves this loaf is replacing cannot compete. The 75% whole wheat adds a nice robustness while still allowing for a nice open and soft texture.

Health

I recently read the bread chapter in Michael Pollan's new and highly fascinating book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, which I highly recommend reading as it was super informative about wheat, milling and the health properties of bread, and two things really stuck out in my mind regarding health. One, is that the way in which grain is milled has a substantial effect on the level of nutrition it contains. For example, the industrial method of milling uses roller mills and first separates the germ and bran(the healthiest parts of wheat) from the endosperm. This creates white flour. So when a big flour company wants to make whole wheat flour it must first make white flour and then add the germ and the bran back to the white. Apparently, many of the nutrients available in the wheat kernel are lost in this process. Traditional stone milling keeps the bran, germ and endosperm together at all stages of the milling process and preserves the entire nutritional spectrum of the wheat. Who knows what method of milling created the flour in the super market loaves!

Seeded Sourdough Sandwich Bread Loaf

Another thing that Pollan explains very well in his book is that whole wheat breads are made significantly more nutritious when used in combination with a sourdough culture. This is because the sourdough breaks down enzymes in the wheat that inhibit nutrient absorption in your body. The sourdough almost pre-digests the grain for you, making it easier to digest and significantly healthier. Given these two bits of information I decided to make this bread(and all future sandwich breads I make) with flour that has been stone milled and using a sourdough starter. This bread features hard red wheat flour from Community Grains, a flour company that stone mills and uses only wheat grown in California(might as well go local too!). It's also completely naturally leavened with a long bulk fermentation in the fridge to ensure that the grain is well broken down by the acids in the sourdough.

Long Lasting

I have made sandwich loaves in the past that were really good for the first couple days and then started to become very weak, dry and crumbly after that. It's hard to eat an entire loaf of bread in a couple days if you're only using it for your daily sandwich. So with this loaf I also wanted to put a focus on keeping quality. I did three things to help extend the life of the bread:

  1. I used sourdough which lowers the Ph of the bread(more acidic) which gives a stronger structure to the final product and inhibits mold growth.
  2. I used apple cider vinegar which has similar effects as the sourdough and acts as a preservative.
  3. I made this very high hydration at 95%. In my experience, the wetter your dough is the longer it takes to dry out. Some bakers, such as Richard Bourdon, also believe that wetter doughs allow the starches in the dough to cook more fully making the final product more digestible.

Conclusion

All in all, this loaf definitely met all my requirements of a good sandwich loaf. It is very tasty with the seeds and a very mild sourness from the sourdough. It is extremely healthy and so far after 4 days of use it still has a very soft and moist crumb. Success!

For the formula and more photos visit http://abreaducation.com/blog/?p=349

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As you can probably tell from my name(it's Jorgen in case you're wondering) I have Scandinavian roots in my family. My great grandparents were immigrants from Norway and while I don't speak Norwegian nor have I ever been there, I've always felt a connection to Norway and the Scandinavian countries in general(I almost always root for the Norwegians when the Olympics come around, which for some reason is much more successful in the winter.). So when I was pointed, by breadsong, to this article and formula, written by Chad Robertson, I got excited and knew I had to give it a try.

I was further interested in trying this bread when I stopped off at Bar Tartine's new sandwich shop on the way home from work one day. This is where Chad Robertson is doing most of his bread experimentation these days so I was hoping to taste something new and interesting. I went in to try and get one of the Smørrebrød(an open faced danish sandwich) but upon entering I was informed that they had just closed. However, they also informed me that they would be happy to make one for me anyways, on the house, so I could get a taste of what they do there! What great customer service! I knew I would be coming back even before I got to taste the Smørrebrød. The Smørrebrød I ended up getting consisted of eggplant, white bean puree and a whole roasted tomato all served on an extremely delicious and seed-dense slice of rye. It was sooo good. Upon comparing the bread in the Smørrebrød to the formula posted on Food Arts I was fairly certain they were one in the same or at least very similar.

Smørrebrød from Bar Tartine's Sandwich Shop

I've already been doing a bit of rye baking recently(See: Sprouted Vollkornbrot with Seeds) and loving the flavor, heartiness and keeping qualities, however, Chad Robertson's formula brings some interesting new ideas to the table that I've never tried before. For one thing, the loaf is partially hydrated with buttermilk and beer. Such a combination sounded too delicious to resist. His loaf is also extremely seed and rye berry dense. The total seeds and rye berries in the formula add up to over 170% of the flour! I'd certainly never pushed seed content that high in any loaf so it was all the more enticing(I love trying new things). Finally I had never retarded a loaf with a high percentage of rye because of concerns about high levels of sourness but Robertson goes for it. And when in doubt, listen to Robertson.

This dough was a little bit scary in the beginning stages of the mix. It started out extremely wet. At first I was seriously concerned that there was a misprint in the formula but as I added seeds and rye berries into the dough, and they started to absorb some of the water, the dough came together some and became more manageable. Let me warn you though that it is still an extremely wet dough so don't panic if you give it a shot. Also, there are no guidelines as to what the dough should feel like at each stage. I would have to rely on the times and temperatures he states in the formula and my own baker's intuition to get through.

I ended up modifying the process some by switching the retarding to the bulk instead of shaped to accommodate my schedule. I also doubled the sunflower seeds because I didn't have pumpkin seeds on hand and used my remaining sprouted rye from my Vollkornbrot bake in place of some of the soaked rye berries. In the article Robertson mentions using sprouted grain in several of his breads so I felt like this would be a proper fit.

This loaf is my new favorite rye bread! I love how many seeds there are. It's almost like you're eating seeds held together with rye and spelt flour which is quite pleasing actually. Also there is only a slight hint of sourness despite retarding the dough. The only disappointment is that the beer and buttermilk flavors don't really come through. I think if I was to make this loaf again I would increase these two ingredients. Perhaps even replace all the water with beer.

I ended up taking a few slices of this loaf with me on a rock climbing session in place of energy bars. It worked great! One or two slices gave me plenty of energy and kept me feeling nourished for hours  without the sugar rush feeling. I'm guessing that was the effect of all the seeds, whole grains and good carbs slowly digesting. I may have to try adding some dried fruit to the bread next to truely make it the ultimate climbing snack.

You can check out my modified formula and process at aBreaducation.

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One of my very favorite snacks is a good old fashion peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can't get enough of these things. Usually I use a whole grain sandwich bread, like a sprouted wheat loaf, as the base because I prefer a more hearty bread and the health benefits whole grain provides. But every now and then I get the urge to make a totally classic peanut butter and jelly, white bread and all. This was the inspiration behind my latest bake: Sourdough Pan de Mie.

The loaf I decided to make was based off the amazing txfarmer's formula found here. However, this formula calls for retarding the dough overnight and a 6 hour(!) proof time. I definitely did not want to wait that long for my pb&j so I added instant yeast to reduce the bulk to to around 1 hour and the proofing time to 2 1/2 hours. The retarding was skipped all together. This probably cut down on a fair amount of sourness but I was fine with this as I wanted very limited levels of sourness in this bread. I also used whole egg instead of egg whites.

I also altered the way this dough is mixed. Txfarmer did the mixing for her bread in a stand mixer and mixed to a high level of gluten development. I don't have access to a mixer at home so I had to figure out a different way to develop the gluten. I decided to use the method I describe in lesson one  on my site with a couple modifications. 1) I folded the dough multiple times after each five minutes rest until the dough resisted more folding and 2) Even after the initial three folds I continued to fold the dough every ten minutes until the end of bulk. This worked very well as I ended up with nice strength despite the dough being surprisingly wet.

The bread turned out exactly as I had hoped! It is quite moist and mild flavored. It is subtly sweet and slightly rich. It is also surprisingly strong for being so soft. A quality that comes in handy when spreading peanut butter on top. I will definitely be making this again the next time I crave white bread.

For the formula and process visit aBreaducation.

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As much as I love making and eating light, open crumbed french breads I have always had a soft spot for a nice dense rye. There is something about holding a brick of pure whole grain goodness in your hands that is, in many ways, more satisfying than a delicately scored baguette. For one thing a baguette starts to stale in a matter of hours while vollkornbrot can stay good for weeks. Then there is the level of nourishment. There is really no comparison between the two. Vollkornbrot is packed with all sorts of nutritious grains and seeds while a baguette contains nothing but highly refined white flour. This week I decided to push vollkornbrot's nutrition and flavor even further by adding sprouted rye to the mix. The results were more than I could have hoped for.

I started with a formula I have used in the past that I have gotten great results from. This formula really has it all, soured coarsely ground rye, a coarse rye soaker, soaked stale bread crumbs and toasted and soaked sunflower seeds. I decided to modify the formula in a few ways: 1) I replaced the coarse rye soaker with ground up sprouted rye berries. I was a little nervous about making this switch but it ended up working beautifully. 2) Instead of using only sunflower seeds I used a combination of sunflower, flax and sesame seeds. 3) I darkly toasted the bread crumbs before soaking them. 4) I used agave nectar instead of honey. On top of all this I ground all the flour and grain for this bread myself using the methods I describe here. I have never ground my own flour at home as I could never justify the expense of a flour mill but using a coffee grinder worked great! I'll probably be grinding much more flour at home from now on.

The process for this bread requires a lot of prep as there are so many components but the reward is very much worth it. I highly recommend you dedicate a weekend to making this bread if you have any interest in rye at all. This is the best vollkornbrot I have tasted and even though it was a lot of work it I will definitely be making it again.

For the formula, process and more photos visit aBreaducation.

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My latest bake continues my recent obsession with sprouted grains in bread. I've been experimenting with them a lot lately and have found the flavor truly excellent. There is a nice sweetness to the sprouted grain and none of the bitterness that you find in whole wheat flour. Combine this with the great healthy benefits that come from sprouting grain and you have a great addition to many breads.

At first I tried playing around with sprouted wheat in country breads and had great results but it was time to step it up. My latest bake is an extremely tasty sprouted wheat sandwich bread. This loaf's flavor is unlike anything I've tasted when using pure whole wheat flour. The sprouted spelt berries really add a nice texture to complement the flavor. I think it is a near perfect sandwich bread. So far it's made several delicious peanut butter banana sandwiches(my favorite snack).  It's likely going to be my go to sandwich bread as long as I've got some sprouted wheat available.

For the formula, process and more photos visit abreaducation.

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I have been on a bit of a country bread kick lately but I’m always trying to mix it up. For my latest variation I’ve replaced the typical 10% whole wheat flour in a country bread with 15% sprouted wheat.

Although I don’t have that much experience using sprouted grains it’s something that has always intrigued me. Mainly because of the purported health benefits but also because of the delicious flavor.

For one thing, when you use a sprouted grain like wheat you are using the entire grain. At this point it’s already much more nutritious than white flour but not any better than your average whole wheat flour. What causes sprouted grains to excel so greatly in nutrition is the activation of enzymes in the sprouting process. These enzymes breakdown some starches before they get to your body making bread made from these grains easier to digest. The sprouting also increases levels of some vitamins and protein.

On top of all these nutritional advantages sprouted wheat also tastes great! It is much more sweet tasting than whole wheat flour and doesn’t have any of the bitterness. It’s these flavors that led me to the idea of trying sprouted wheat in a country bread.

The finished loaf had outstanding flavor! It was quite sweet from the sprouted wheat and very mildly sour probably from making it as a straight dough instead of retarding. I feel like I could increase the sprouted wheat to 25-35% of dough weight and still get a great mild sprouted wheat flavor. If I went that high with normal whole wheat it would dominate the flavor and have that bitter whole wheat taste. I think I’m going to be using sprouted wheat a lot more often in my breads.

For the formula, process and more photos visit aBreaducation.

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In my last post, I experimented with spelt flour in a country bread. The flavor was very appealing with slight nutty undertones and the bread came out great! However, I'm never satisfied with my last bread and always want to push into new areas. So I decided to increase the spelt in the formula from 10% to 20%.

I didn't stop there however, as at the last second I decided to add in polenta. I've tried using polenta in bread before and liked the result. There are a few steps to take when adding polenta or any grain for that matter into a bread.

Soft grains and seeds need to be soaked in water first so that they don't steal water from the dough and change the dough composition. With a hard grain like polenta you may need to go a step further and either use a boiling water soaker or just cook the grain beforehand. I elected to cook the polenta as I didn't have time to let it soak in hot water for 2+ hours. Once the polenta was cooled off I simply hand mixed it into my dough.

The loaf was dusted with cornmeal to hint at the polenta on the inside.

But that is not all! Like I said, I had put polenta in bread before and liked it but this time I really wanted to try something new. I decided to consult The Flavor Bible which is one of my absolute favorite books for cooking and baking. It is essentially a list of just about every ingredient you can think of and then under each ingredient is another list of all the other things that pair well with that ingredient. I simply looked up polenta and found a number of options that would go great with it. I decided on roasted garlic.

 

The still-warm crumb.

If you've never added roasted garlic to your bread I highly recommend it! Think garlic bread except the garlic is built into the bread instead of spread on top. It created a wonderful aroma throughout the apartment while baking. How to add roasted garlic to bread you ask? Simply roast the garlic with your preferred method and allow to cool. Then chop up and mix into your dough by hand. I went with four medium to large sized cloves in my 500g. loaf. I think I could have doubled that though and been fine(the garlic flavor I got was mild and subtle).

All in all this loaf was quite delicious and I would definitely bake it again especially if I was making bread for an Italian dinner.

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I love a good country bread as I think most people do. It is one of the most fun, beautiful and often times challenging styles of bread to make. However, I find myself becoming bored of the standard 10% whole wheat flour in the formula. In an attempt to changes things up I will often raise or lower the percentage of whole wheat in the dough. As little as a 10% change can have drastic effect of flavor. I've also tried putting all the whole wheat in the starter, something that adds quite a bit of sourness to final flavor.

Lately, I've  been playing around with different flours to accent the flavor. In my latest effort I have used spelt flour in place of the whole wheat. The result is quite nice! It has a subtle nutty flavor that is quite pleasing. I think in my next bake I'll try upping the spelt to 20% and see if I like it as much.

Here are the spelt results:

 

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