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Simnel Cake/British-Style Moist Fruit Cake

 

Easter passed so quickly, but where we live it brought bluebells in the woods, wisteria blooming on the walls of the nearby manor, bright blossoms in our own garden and Simnel cake. Although the festival is gone we are still enjoying this as a regular moist fruit cake by using the recipe below but leaving out the marzipan. It is delicious with a slice of good British cheese.

 

 

Over the past few months I've been baking as I imagine some of my forebears might have done - special breads for festivals and in between a tried and trusted mixed grain sourdough to feed the household in good times and bad. 

I've loved attempting festival breads from other cultures. Making panettone was particularly enjoyable and I still hope to attempt colomba. However this Easter I chose Simnel cake for a number of reasons: we normally buy a slice to celebrate the season; it is one of my husband's favourite cakes and it is one of the few typically British festival cakes that is special to its time, that you can't buy all year round. 

I've thought about trying Simnel cake before but lacked the confidence to try it. It's testimony to the support I've had on TFL that I felt confident enough to tackle it this time round. Thank you all.

Legend has it that Simnel cake was made traditionally by mothers and daughters together on Mothering Sunday. I can see why it would be good to have more than one pair of hands on the job. It's quite a complex cake and the baker would  probably benefit from having someone else to turn the spoon, mop their fevered brow when the going got tough and share in the final feast!   

We have benefited from the brilliant cake making skills of friends and family in times past and it was so good to finally feel confident enough to return the gift, Thanks D, D and J for all your wonderful cakes and for being patient about the delayed cake love on our part!  Here it comes now…

I am not good at making more conventional celebration cakes with icing or frosting, as I have the piping skills of a pterodactyl, or some other creature without opposable fingers and thumbs. I also love almonds and fruit cake, so Simnel cake, with its fruity body, marzipan covered top and middle and toasted marzipan balls is my kind of festive cake. 

The account below is more or less the story of my first Simnel cake. I haven't done this enough times to advise on the best way to approach each part, but simply offer this as a record of a 'cake journey'.  

The cake I made was an fusion of two recipes gleaned from the Internet. I needed the mixture to fill our cake tin so took the general ingredient amounts from Recipe 1 but added almond flour and an internal marzipan layer, as in Recipe 2. I preferred the more detailed method outlined in Recipe 2 so followed that. The idea of soaking the dried fruits in sherry also appealed:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/simnelcake_792

http://www.jennybristow.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/SimnelCake.pdf

The whole cake making journey nearly ground to a halt at the start, however. We had no high sided cake tin when I gamely started the process by plunging my hands into the butter and sugar. This mixture was half way up my arms (and I was missing my uplifting music to hand mix to because the cd was jammed, itunes was stuck and our city lacks the amazing strolling Tuna bands I used to listen to when living in Granada), when my husband rang to say there were no 7" cake tins at the homewares store, not even for ready money… All was saved, however, when he spotted a little 7.5 inch beauty at the very back of the shelf. This depth tin also fitted the only deep decorative ribbon we had in the house - serendipity!  

So the measurements and method I give below are for a 3 egg cake suitable for a 7 or 7.5 inch high sided cake tin. There are also some reflections on the marzipan making and on baking. 

Cake Ingredients

  • 175g/6oz muscovado sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 175g/6oz plain flour 
  • 175g/6oz butter
  • 50g almond flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp/1/2 coffee spoon ground mixed spice
  • 350g/12oz mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
  • 55g/2oz chopped mixed peel and glacé cherries
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon. 
  • 50ml of light sherry (I used Hidalgo La Gitana 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Glaze

1-2 tablespoons apricot jam

Marzipan - see below

Method

  • At least 12 hours before baking, soak the raisin mix plus any glacé fruit and candied peel in 50ml of  dry sherry. I found it easiest to do this in a kilner/mason jar.
  • On baking day:  Prepare the cake tin by buttering it. Line the bottom and sides with [buttered] parchment, if required. (I did this).
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It is important to create a light mixture and this may take a few minutes. By hand it can take 10 minutes or more.
  • Mix the salt, baking powder, lemon rind and mixed spice into the flour .
  • Gently fold alternate amounts of flour mix and egg into the creamed batter, until all is incorporated. 
  • Stir in the fruit mix (some bakers dust the fruit lightly with flour).
  • Let the mixture sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
  • Spoon half of the mixture into the cake tin and smooth gently.
  • Cover the first half with a marzipan circle. Try not to press down too hard as this will compress the batter underneath. 
  • Cover the circle with the remaining cake mixture.
  • Smooth off the top.

Baking

I found when looking into the baking of Simnel cakes that instructions for baking a 3 egg cake differed wildly, from just 1 3/4 hours at 140C/275F to 2 3/4 - 3 1/4 hours at 150C/300F. I am also sure that this is a recipe that will bake differently in different ovens so the notes below are a rough guide only. 

Baking in my simple gas oven I have gone for a middle path, baking the cake in a preheated oven for 2 1/4 hours. 

If I want a moist cake (because I am preparing the cake in advance or am baking it to mail and will need a cake that cake that can mature without drying out), I bake at 150C/300F for 1 3/4 hours 45 minutes, 150C/300F for 15 minutes and then leave the cake in the oven with the heat off for another 15 minutes.

I have also baked this mixture without the marzipan as a medium, moist fruit cake to eat straight away and in that case I have baked for the whole 2 1/4 hours at 150C/300F.

If your oven is particularly strong you might consider tenting the cake with silver foil in the last stages to avoid burning the top before the middle is cooked. 

Leave the cake to cool in the tin from anywhere to 15 minutes to an hour depending on preference, then turn onto a cooling rack. 

Once cool, glaze the top of the cake with apricot jam and place the second marzipan circle carefully on top. 

Glaze the top of the marzipan with apricot jam also (or egg if you prefer), and place the marzipan balls in a circle on top. 

Toast the cake briefly under a preheated grill until the top just begins to turn golden.  My husband gamely assisted with this, taking it out at just the right moment! This took less than 2 minutes under our grill.

Marzipan

I knew from the start that I wanted to make my own marzipan and that I wanted it to be egg free, as not everyone in our family can eat raw egg. I also wanted the cake to be good to eat after posting.

Moro's Sam and Sam Clark note that when making marzipan with fresh Spanish almonds they don't need to add egg as the oil in the almonds acts as the binding agent. This fits with what I have found when using almonds from a friend's Spanish finca and have struggled to find such fresh almonds in the UK. However, I also discovered that in the Middle Ages British marzipan was made in this way, with rose water added to some versions, and that this is the way it is still made in many Asian cultures. 

I had also read that one common problem with Simnel cakes is that the marzipan layer simply melts during baking. As sugar has a high boiling point I reckoned that using an eggless marzipan with a high sugar content would help to stop this happening, which it did.

I followed a formula that uses sugar syrup taken to soft ball stage. If you prefer not to use sugar syrup (which can burn badly if you accidentally touch it or spill it on yourself), recipes on links below give formulae for egg free marzipan with unmelted sugar. {Trust me I know about the burn part, having followed a recipe that suggested you 'roll the sugar ball between your finger and thumb' to test its consistency. I did this and watched my thumb blow up to something that resembled a barley sugar in its size and translucent orange colour. After that it was no touching the sugar and gloves all the way…)

The day before baking, I prepared 550g of marzipan using proportions in the formula below. Another time I would prepare more, to make thicker marzipan layers and to leave more for the decorative balls. The formula as I give it below makes about 730g.

The marzipan produced by this sugar syrup method is quite crumbly, like the lovely marzipan found in German and Austrian sweets. For the Simnel cake, however, it needed to be more malleable, in order to be rolled out. Therefore, on baking day I hydrated the marzipan by adding sunflower oil, little by little, until the marzipan was soft enough to roll without cracking. That took about 8 tablespoons of oil. Glycerin can also be used. Having prepared almond paste again to fill an ensaimada, and finding that I needed far less oil, I'm even more convinced that the amount of oil used is closely linked to the freshness of the almonds. So in this case be guided by your own nuts, as it were. 

I prepared one marzipan layer before baking and one while the cake was cooling. However, another time I would prepare both together, as the un-oiled marzipan began to stiffen again when returned to the fridge.

Marzipan/Almond paste with sugar syrup

  • 190g sugar 
  • 236g water 

Cook this to the end of the soft ball stage, or 240F 

Then add:

  • 250g ground almonds: (add these first if the mixture is still hot or it will spit
  • 30g water
  • 15g rose water
  • Small capful (approx. 1/2 coffee spoon), of natural vanilla essence
  • Small capful (approx. 1/2 coffee spoon), of natural almond essence

Mix thoroughly

If using for Simnel cake, add oil or glycerin little by little until the paste can be rolled out without cracking

Link to a recipe for egg free marzipan with unmelted sugar:

http://jeenaskitchen.blogspot.com/2008/08/marzipan-recipe.html

  • Pushed down too hard at the right hand side but marzipan makes it through baking, phew.
  • More even marzipan on the other side but where is the rest of the cake?
  • Cake before grilling
  • DH pulls the cake out at just the right time
  • Crumb shot
  • All done and dusted: cake in the once sunny garden. 

Marzipan balls

Legend has it that the balls on the top of the Simnel Cake represent 11 disciples, excluding Judas. Poor Matthias elected after Judas' departure seems not to have been granted a ball!

I am quite nervous of cake decorating and it soon became apparent that the British 'turn out a hearty dollop' approach to making scones and rock cakes was not going to work with the marzipan balls. Decoration on this cake is minimal so If the balls are not similar in size the overall effect can be a bit odd. I really have to thank Akiko for pointing me to a biscuit making technique that helped to get the balls more even. This involves rolling the dough into a long rectangular or circular roll, chilling it for 15-20 mins and then cutting it carefully into even sections using a tape measure or ruler. I followed this up by weighting the segments, until I had 11 of  10-11g each, which I palmed into a ball, as a baker shaped buns. (Pictures below for marzipan roll and square biscuits). My apologies to experienced cake makers for whole making decorative balls is second nature! I thought it worth including for beginners such as myself, as many recipes just say 'put the balls on the top of the cake', which is a bit baffling if you are new to all this. 

 

Again this is a record of my first marzipan ball making journey. It is not a 'how to do it' instruction, although it worked quite well. There are likely to be ways of improving on this and I look forward to finding them out.

If you make this as a Simnel cake or regular moist fruit cake I do hope you enjoy it.

 

© Daisy_A 2011 FIrst published on The Fresh Loaf, June 17, 2011 at 17.32 GM time. I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites.

 

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Daisy_A


Thanks to all who encouraged me with this project. I baked my trial run in a case made out of parchment, with a card and parchment bottom, moulded around the outside of a coffee tin, glued with flour and water paste. This was enough to take 500g of dough. The homemade case lasted the test run but got a bit battered. The high shape was also a bit hard to bake out.  It has a Shakerish charm when spruced up with ribbon but was coming apart at the seams a bit after the bake. However, It did the job and I have now ordered some of the Italian cases.

I looked at a range of formulae for panettone but knew that I wanted to use natural leaven. I was also keen to use an Italian recipe. The formula was an adaptation of a natural leaven panettone milanese from an Italian pastry chef, suggested by Nico. (Putting the URL in Google translate gets an English version for just over 2kg). I scaled this down to slightly less than 500g, reduced the fruit content a little and added lemon zest and a glaze. I reduced the fruit content in line with other formulae because I thought too much fruit would make a dense cake. However I didn't anticipate how much the cake would rise in the oven so will consider scaling it up again slightly. 

I also watched quite a few videos of Italian versions of panettone making posted by TFLers over the years, to get some idea of technique. The main difference was that I would be mixing by hand and most bakers I saw used a dough mixer or special kneader to mix the dough. Nevertheless, one of the videos described the kneader as mimicking the movement of 'a man's hands' so I guess the dough must have been trough needed originally? Well that was it - I could do this with 'a woman's hands' LOL. Andy suggested air kneading, which I use regularly for sourdough. It proved to be a very efficient way to develop the dough: More on that below. 

Below I've given my scaled down formula plus notes on method, particularly when I did things slightly differently from the original. Most departures were to make the dough easier to hand mix, in ways that were meant to keep the integrity of the formula.

This is a beautifully balanced formula. It is not particularly sweet or buttery, which I think makes the dough easier for a beginner to handle. This also suits our tastes, although other bakers may prefer a more enriched formula. Nonetheless, it is shot through with beautiful, intense burst of flavour due to the peel, limoncello coated raisins, zest and essences. It is possible to make more enriched dough with this formula. Nico reports that up to 120g of both butter and sugar per kilo may be added. As the fruits give a lot of the flavour it’s worth making your own or going for a flavoursome store brand. I was wary of overdoing the essence this time and making the dough too 'perfumey': However I will try slightly more next time. Now I’ve kneaded it once I may try a bit more butter, to compare, but will keep the sugar content low, particularly as using the raisin yeast adds subtle fruit sugars.

Do try this formula if you can. It's time consuming but I also found it soothing to just be rhythmically mixing and forming the panettone. Fills the house with gorgeous scents too! When cut into it had an airy crumb (phew), and tasted delicious. This formula suited us down to the ground and was a great find – thanks Nico!

Some notes on initial preparation.

3-4 days before baking: strengthen your leaven.

Many of you probably know this already, but it was interesting for me to learn how traditional Italian artisan panettones use a special stiff, sweet leaven. Instructions for making this are on the original link. Susan at Wild Yeast, whose detailed post on panettone baking was a great help, also gives a way of preparing a leaven, based on a regular sourdough.

Such leavens have strong raising power but are not particularly acidic. They can take a sweet dough through a long fermentation without being broken down and without giving too sour a tang to the final dough.

This type of leaven is traditionally refreshed every 4 hours for several days before being used. However as I have to be away from the starter for several hours at a time I did what Susan did and refreshed it at least twice a day over several days, stepping up feeds the day before baking.

Over the last few weeks I have been using a leaven refreshed with raisin yeast water. This has proved to have very strong raising power. I also thought that as the yeast had grown strong in the presence of a lot of sugar from the raisins, it would cope well with enriched dough. This proved to be the case :-). More about making a raisin yeast water leaven plus much more on fruit and vegetable yeasts is on this thread, started kindly by RonRay, with great additions from Akiko and Karin.

Following Susan's method I also used a gram of fresh yeast in Dough 1. I'm not sure I'd do that again as the power of the raisin leaven was awesome. I know from baguette making that over 12 hours even 1 g of yeast can produce a good rise. However the dough only needed to treble and it quadrupled on an unheated bench! Next time I think I will rely on the raisin yeast alone.

The Italian instructions are for a leaven of about 44% hydration, fed with the flour used in the final dough. There is much debate about what flour to use for panettone. For the second dough I used only Waitrose Canadian Very Strong White Bread Flour at 15% protein. This indeed lives up to its name. I used a mixture of 66% of this flour and 34% of Italian Alimonti Organic Type 00 at 11% protein in the first dough, to give me a little bit extra extensibility as well as strength.  I do have to say though, following advice from Nico, that I think using a strong flour in this formula is key to getting a strong dough and good aeration.

My first test leaven for this project was around 50% hydration, fed with raisin water and the 66/34 flour mix. However in the end I did not use this but went back to my usual leaven. I’m not sure if it was because the Canadian flour is so strong and my yeasts had not been fed it before, or b

ecause low ambient temperatures slowed fermentation, but this mix produced a leaven that rose but which was so strong that it tended to ping in on itself. In the end it fermented less well than my normal leaven.

Since my normal leaven had shown great rising power when used in sourdough, I switched back to that. This is a mix of existing starter, raisin water and 50/50 Waitrose Own plain white and plain wholemeal flours in 1:1.5:2 ratio (approximately 64% hydration?) I refreshed this over 3 days, moving as close as I could to 4 hourly feeds in the day before baking.


Day before baking


Dough 1 is prepared and ingredients are laid out for the next day.


Although raisins traditionally go into panettone dry, as Nico pointed out they also benefit from being soaked in limoncello overnight!


Had only a limoncello miniature :-( so shook raisins in enough limoncello and grappa to just coat them and left them in an airtight container on the bench. This made the limoncello flavour less intense but also meant that they were drier when used and so easier to work into the dough. The limoncello did provide a beautiful flavour, nonetheless. 


One panettone baker on video stresses setting out all the ingredients for the next day, the night before. I guess in bakeries you need to keep to this discipline. I was doing panettone after hours of paperwork for a Friday deadline, so finished first dough at 2am. and was reeling. I prepared the raisins but really wish I had done it all, even down to breaking eggs and keeping them in containers in the fridge. Had spare white but not yolk. Would have saved me up to 3/4 of an hour the next morning, while the leaven was fizzing like a volcano. Didn't help that we arrived to buy candied peel after the super-organised bakers who made their fruitcakes in September had bought the best of the bunch and that I decided that what had been left at the store was too wan. I then hastily threw my own together with organic orange peel, honey, grappa and sugar syrup while I did other things! Was yum, though.


Baking day


Sees the addition of Dough 1 to Dough 2, any decoration you might care to do and the baking and hanging of the panettone. Have been told it's better after 2 day's curing. Oh no…I was like a child at Christmas. Can I open it yet?


The formula and method are below, with notes at the end about where my method was an adaptation of the original and what I might do differently another time.


Have to say the first thing is I would do differently is have a good breakfast!  My husband sat down to sourdough toast and eggs and would gladly have done some for me. However the leaven had risen so high that I just grabbed a bowl of muesli and ran! Several hours later I felt a bit giddy and realised I hadn't had very much to eat all day. Worth having a hearty breakfast, as although it is pleasurable mixing this by hand, it also demands endurance. Well worth it, however!



As a beginner baker, normally baking alone, one of my key needs has been to know more or less what the dough is meant to look like at different stages. When dealing with sweet dough for the first time, I was really helped by the detailed pictures and write up of such doughs given on txfarmer's blog. Many thanks for that tx.


I have included some pictures below, hoping they might be of some value to others. My apologies if some are dim as they were taken in low light in short time gaps between baking stages. Row 1 is Dough 1 and after that Dough 2. Dough 1 also had egg in it but that stage was so messy no photos were taken! Dough 2 pictures on Row 2 start after egg has been added. Air kneading is on this link. Be forewarned, however, the video can take up to 10 minutes to load. 









Below is more information on formula and method. Have done my best with this, but maths is not my strong suit. I would be glad to be told of any errors. Spare column is for any bakers who want to add baker’s percentages. I’ve also kept this column in case I have a sudden upsurge in maths skills and want to add them myself!

Hydration of total formula: (71 water 23 raisin water) 94/153 (97+38+9+9) = 61% (Please note raisin water also contains sugar and yeast but I couldn’t estimate how much. Working hydration might therefore be slightly lower.)

Updated: Just trying this again and noted 9g more butter has to be added to final dough so added this to chart for Dough 2. Is already in Total Formula. Apologies for inconvenience!

Total Formula: Dough

Weight

 

Waitrose Very Strong Canadian White Flour (15% protein)

97g

 

Italian Alimonti Organic Type 00 (11% protein)

38g

 

Waitrose plain white flour (in leaven)

12g

 

Waitrose plain wholemeal flour (in leaven)

12g

 

Water 

71g

 

Raisin yeast water (I added an extra 10g of raisin water to Dough. This is not included here)

16g

 

Fresh yeast

1g

 

Salt

2g

 

Sugar

39g

 

Honey

5g

 

Egg yolk

40g

 

Softened butter

39g

 

Raisins (coated with grappa and limoncello)

50g

 

Orange peel

50g

 

Mixed natural vanilla and orange water essences

2g

 

Lemon zest

2g

 

Total

476g

 

 

Initial leaven

Weight

 

Plain and wholemeal starter at approx. 64% hydration

9g

 

Raisin yeast water

13g

 

Plain white flour

9g

 

Plain wholemeal flour

9g

 

Total

40g

 

 

First Dough

Weight

 

Flour mix (66% Canadian, 34% Italian 00)

111g

 

Water

71 g

 

All leaven

40g

 

Fresh yeast

1g

 

Sugar

30g

 

Egg yolk (1 egg plus little extra)

20g

 

Softened butter

30g

 

Total

303g

 

 

Final Dough

Weight

 

First Dough all, from above

303g

 

*Canadian flour only*

24g

 

Egg yolk (1 egg this time!)

20g

 

Butter

9g

 

Sugar

9g

 

Honey

5g

 

Salt

2g

 

Liqueur coated raisins

50g

 

Orange peel

50g

 

Lemon zest

2g

 

Natural vanilla and orange flower water oils (1 coffee spoon)

2g

 

Total dough

476g

 

Glaze

Weight

 

Almond flour

10g

 

Bread flour

2g

 

Sugar

12g

 

Lemon zest

2g

 

Cocoa powder

1g

 

Egg white (see note below)

16g

 

Total glaze

43g

 

Total panettone weigh, pre-baking, with glaze

519g

 

 

Stage

Method

Preparing panettone leaven

Started to strengthen at least 3 days before, feeding at least twice a day.

Left the leaven covered on the bench.

Day before baking fed it as close to every 4 hours as possible.

Mixing of first dough

Weighed the leaven into a large mixing bowl.

Mixed fresh yeast with sugar, added water at 40C (ambient temperature was only C19. Adjust as necessary).

Poured this solution over the leaven and mixed with a dough whisk to a milky consistency.

I then added the flour and autolysed for 30-40 minutes.

In the bowl, mixed in egg by folding over into the dough with a spatula until there were no visible liquid bits on the outside to fly off when air kneaded.

Then air kneaded dough with oiled hands until the egg seemed well incorporated but the dough was not overworked.

At this stage it looked like a glistening, thick mayonnaise.

Put dough back in the bowl, folded in softened, cubed butter and air kneaded again, until butter was well incorporated.

The dough seemed a bit dry so I added 10g more raisin water, which effectively added more yeast. However please see note below and be led by your own dough. :-)

Temperature

Milanese formula suggests most of the preparation for baking be done at an ambient temperature of 20-22C.

First proof

The first dough was then left on the bench at room temperature for 12 hours, as in the Milanese recipe. Adapt as needed.

Mixing of final dough

First ingredients added to Dough 1, in the order indicated in the Milanese method:

Placed Dough 1 in the bowl: Mixed in flour, honey, salt, sugar

Formed into a ball.

Added the egg and incorporated them in the bowl; Added the butter and began to incorporate it in the bowl.

As I was hand mixing I departed from the Milanese method, at this point and did the following (see notes below for more detail):

Air kneaded in timed 10 minute ‘shifts’, testing the windowpane at each stage.

The dough was coming together well after 10 minutes.

After 20 I could pull and sustain a thin windowpane.

After 30 I could pull the dough to 'latex glove' consistency. 

I then chopped the fruit in using a bench scraper/Scotch cutter.

The dough is then left to rest for an hour.

Shaping

With oiled hands, I shaped the mixture into a rough ball and dropped it into the well-greased panettone ‘case’.

Second proof

Proofed at room temperature until the dough reached just below the top of the case.

Preparation for baking

Glazed the top of the panettone with a glaze based on one used by Nico for colomba and added cocoa. Topped with some blanched almonds. Glaze formula above.

I had heard about forming 'ears' on the panettone, but was not sure how to achieve this. Have since learnt from correspondence between Eric and Nico how this might be done.

Preheated oven to 180C

I left 2 small fajita trays at the bottom of the oven so that I could add some water in the second half of the bake. This does not turn to steam but provides humidity.

Baking

The Milanese method suggests baking for 1 hour at 180C for 1kg. In my oven, the 500g needed about 35 minutes. I suggest you adjust for your own oven. Mine is quite weak.

I added a small amount of water to the small fajita pans for the second half of the bake to aid humidity. The pans were not hot enough to create steam.

I needed to tent the panettone after 20 minutes with aluminium foil, to prevent the top burning.

Advised internal temperatures for panettone range from 185-190-200F. Mine peaked at 187F.

Cooling

Cooled upside down on skewers, overnight. 

Left 2 days before cutting. Note: That bit was hard!

 

Further notes:

Preparing panettone leaven: (See notes at top of blog about how the method in the grid differs

from traditional Milanese preparation).

Mixing of first dough: In one of the Italian videos, I saw bakers start mixing by making a syrup solution in a machine. This seemed a good approach for hand mixing as I find sugar harder to incorporate by hand than either eggs or butter.


I used some fresh yeast, as the raisin yeast was untested in sweet dough. However I think the raisin yeast would have been enough. It is, however, possible to mix fresh yeast with regular sourdough and get a great result, as Susan does.


Very few methods for mixing panettone call for autolysis. Many, and particularly those for mixers, call for all ingredients to be incorporated at once. However I find it hard to imagine making bread now, without autolysis, particularly when the method calls for strong gluten formation, as this one does.


The Canadian flour is very strong and sucks in water. The raisin water is also stickier than filtered water. After mixing the first dough looked a little dry to me so I added 10g extra raisin water.


This was a departure from the formula so be led by your own dough at this stage. In my case adding raisin water also added more yeast.  Also I see on the videos that the traditional Italian first doughs look quite firm.


Temperature and first proof: Ambient temperature in our house was around C19 at this point, falling to 15C at night. The recipe recommends an ambient temperature of 20-22C throughout the whole process. Lower temperatures did not retard the first dough, however, as it quadrupled in 12 hours.


I was worried the dough had gone over and that given the next ‘feed’ only included 24g of flour, it would not have power to do the second rise. This was unfounded as I hope you can see from the pictures above! However, next time I would try to take the dough off when trebled.  I would also try to weigh all ingredients for Day 2 the evening before, if possible so that I could add part 2 straight away if Dough 1 was very well developed.


Mixing of final dough: After adding the butter, I made some strategic departures from the method of the Milanese formula, in order to help the hand mixing. The method recommends that the fruit be added before mixing. When the fruit is incorporated no more kneading is done and the final dough is left to rest for 1 hour.


However I didn’t feel that I could mix a strong enough dough by hand without further kneading.


Thanks to Andy’s great advice I was also going to air knead and I wanted to mix and test the dough to full windowpane without having to bother about bits of orange peel and raisins flying in all directions!


Following Andy’s advice again, I cut the fruit in once the dough had reached a very strong windowpane.


I have never worked a dough to a very strong windowpane before. In fact I’ve never done such an enriched dough before. However I hope you can see from the picture at the start of Row 3 that the dough was very strong and pulled to ‘latex glove’ consistency. (My dh was at the shops at the time I took this picture so I got my friend ET to do the windowpane!). Joking – if ET had been there I would have got him to help with the mixing!


I was a bit concerned about spotting dough readiness but found, once started, that I had a sense of the dough I didn’t have when I started baking. For example, at one point I decided to rest the dough. I checked the timer and it had 4 seconds to go! Uncanny but I guess these skills build up?


However one of the things that helped me the most in terms of judging the strength of the dough was the picture of a strong windowpane that txfarmer gives on this post. Many thanks for giving such a clear illustration. Without it I think I would have stopped too soon.


Second proof: Milanese method suggests ¾ of an hour at 22C for this. However at lower ambient temperature this took about 2 hours, including ¾ final warming under plastic wrap with a bowl of hot water to take the dough from 19C to 24C.


Glazing: I glazed when the dough was just below the top of the case. Egg white was very ‘gloopy’ and hard to measure accurately, so 16g is an approximation. It could have been nearer 19g. I'd say be guided by how well your own mixture holds together. The ideal consistency, following Nico’s colomba method, is that of a ‘dense cream’. I added almonds on top in a star shape. Will place even closer together next time, if I use them, as the panettone rose so much the almonds ended up more like a fringe. Might invest in some pearl sugar next time, although may also use only a simple glaze so that dry ingredients don't risk impeding the crust expansion. (Have done this now in the wider panettone moulds and almonds in a ring in the middle weighed down the fragile dough so I think I would split the nuts and scatter or space them more widely, as seen on Sylvia, breadsong and txfarmer's panettones).


Baking: Thanks to the foil tent, the panettone top did not burn but it was vulnerable because of the abnormally tall homemade case. I think 500g of dough would bake out more evenly in a lower case.


I also greased the panettone case like a mad thing, because I was sure it would stick. In the end I peeled it off anyway, so this may have been superfluous and may have reduced browning? Any ideas on that front welcome.


However, I recommend the tenting technique over turning the oven temperature down to avoid burning the top, as suggested in some methods. I found, with a relatively weak oven, that when I dropped the oven temperature, the internal temperature of the panettone dropped from 186F to 177F.


Checking with a digital probe used outside of the oven that the temperature had climbed again, took so long that the panettone began to wobble on its base like a drunk at the bus stop. Crimped a bit but didn't collapse. Was a close run thing so won't do that again! Will either tent earlier or get a thermometer that can be inserted while the panettone remains in the oven.


My first panettone milanese: notes on the trial run, formula and method, with thanks for all advice! Daisy_A 2010




© Daisy_A 2010 FIrst published on The Fresh Loaf, December 15, 2010 at 12.22 GM time. I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites..

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Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies - Daisy_A


My, these were delicious and soo simple, too - no really!

I am no pastry baker but have been trying to produce a small, flavoursome treat to be eaten at the end of meal with coffee (a bit like the French mignardises), or to give away as gifts. I have been trying macarons, with greater and lesser degrees of success. However I longed for a break from their minxy ways and have realised that it is maybe not a great idea to start with macarons on rainy, autumn days, sigh…Enter the cheering Mexican chocolate cookie.

I have to say from the off that this is not an overly sweet biscuit. It is made with strong, dark chocolate, cut with ancho chile. Although the pepper brings out the flavour of the chocolate, rather than dominating it, the overall effect is of eating a rich, dark chocolate mousse, intense but not particularly sweet. Outside of baking days it takes us over a year to get through a bag of sugar so this is just the effect I was looking for. However it may not be everyone's cup of tea.

It makes me laugh when British food critics praise the pairing of chocolate and chile as a daring new combination. It's thousands of years old, a Mayan or Aztec food. I don't know if these cookies are made in Mexico. I'd be glad if anyone could enlighten me. However, following recent debate on Eric's post about spicy sugar, I think one could make them from Mexican chocolate, particularly the dark chocolate discs used to make drinking chocolate, which are infused already with flavours like chile, cinnamon, vanilla and orange. The formula I used lists chocolate and spices separately. For this bake I used Green and Black's Organic 70% cocoa solid Dark Chocolate with spices added to the dry mix. Would love to try this with Mexican chocolate, though.

I first came across a number of formulae for this biscuit on Tastespotting. I first used a Spanish version from the blog L'Equisit. That post drew on this formula in English from Kitsch in the Kitchen. Both were adapted from a recipe in Cindy Mushet's (2008) Art and Soul of Baking. Josim also adapted a similar recipe from Leanne Kitchen's (2008)The Baker on this blog, which makes key adjustments such as using brown sugar. I haven't had time to try that version but it looks good too! Thanks to Sonia, Taranii and Josim for bringing these cookies to my attention and into my life, :-)

This is the basic formula from Taranii's Kitsch in the Kitchen, 19 August, 2010. I used grams but halved the weights and made a few adjustments. as noted below. I've made some notes on method but fuller information is on the links above.

Formula for Mexican Chocolate Crackle Biscuits (adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking) makes about 20 biscuits

20g (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter

2 teaspoons coffee liqueur

85g (3 oz) bitter-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1 large egg

50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus 50g (1/4 cup) extra for coating, if desired

50g (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour

45g (1/4 cup) whole almonds, lightly toasted

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon anco chile powder 

45g (1/3 cup) unsifted icing sugar (reserve to coat the cookies before baking)

 

Adjustments and notes on method

The formula I followed this time did not have vanilla or orange zest in but I would certainly like to add those another time. I also didn't add cinnamon, despite it being a key ingredient. This is because I managed to make myself allergic to it when living in Granada, Spain by brewing a cinnamon tea so strong that it made my lips blow up bigger than Mick Jagger's. Cinnamon/canela is such a signature Latin spice, though, I'm sure it is well worth adding it if you can. To compensate, I added a tiny pinch more red pepper. I also added a tiny pinch of salt as I was using unsalted butter.

The formula calls for ancho chile, which is quite mild and sweet. It suggests regular chile powder as an alternative. Ancho chile is available at Mexican grocers in London but is not widely available elsewhere. However I think many regular store brands of chile would be too harsh for this recipe. I used a sweet and aromatic Spanish red pepper powder (pimentón dulce).

I didn't have coffee liqueur and didn't fancy stoking up the coffee machine for just one teaspoon so added a particularly aromatic artisan-made grappa that my dear pil brought back from Italy. Not a Mexican flavour but it worked well :-). I also added an extra edge of the knife's worth of baking powder to the dry ingredients and a tiny, tiny pinch of cream of tartar to the egg and sugar while beating the mixture.

I made half the mixture as a test run. This would normally make the measuring of tiny amounts of spices difficult. Luckily my kitchen drawer contains coffee as well as teaspoons. Given that these are around half the size of a teaspoon, if the formula calls for 1/4 of a teaspoon I use a 1/4 of a coffee spoon :-)

Another key change I made was to use almond meal rather than using whole almonds and grinding them. This was because my food processor doesn't chop nuts that well and I had meal around due to the previous macaron making. I realised when reading the recipe back that this meant that the almond wasn't toasted. Another time I would still use meal but toast the meal itself in the oven, as some bakers do to dry it for macaron making. However not having to use the food processor for such a small amount of almond flour made mixing the main dry ingredients that much easier. I put them all into a small jam jar, stirred them round, put on the lid tightly and gave them a good shake about until they were well combined. (Picked up that tip from Stan who does that to mix leaven and water - thanks Stan). In my version the dry mix was almond meal, plain white UK flour, baking powder, spices and a tiny bit of salt. The icing sugar was reserved for a coating.

I wasn't sure how much egg to use for half a 'large egg'. I ended up using 1 small to medium egg and this was fine. However the cookies were so yummy I'll use full measures next time.

First step is to combine butter, chocolate and liqueur in a double boiler or heat proof bowl over a pan with 2 inches of boiling water. Final mixture was lovely and glossy.

While that is cooling the egg is beaten with the granulated sugar for 5-6 minutes until light in colour. I added a knife's edge of cream of tartar to this mixture.

Chocolate mixture is folded into the egg mixture, then the other dry ingredients are added and folded in. At this point the mixture looks like a stiff and glossy chocolate mousse. I chilled it for 1 hour, but it can be chilled for up to 2 hours.

I halved a recipe for around 20 cookies so I was expecting to produce 10. I couldn't, however, work out how I could get 10 equal sized cookies by moulding them with a tablespoon, as advised, so got all bakerish and weighed them. This came out of macaron experiences, which made me realise that the best way to get delicate cookies to bake through evenly in a very short period of time is to make them the same size. It also avoids arguments over who got the biggest cookie!

I was unsure how big to make the original balls so went for 19-20 g. I got exactly 8 balls of that size out of the dough I had. Some recipes roll the balls in granulated sugar and then icing sugar; some icing sugar only. I went for the second option. I think I could have rolled them a bit more lightly. I felt I had to really press them to get the sugar on but I suspect now that this is not necessary. The icing sugar started to absorb into the surface after about a day, although enough lingered to maintain the contrast. I don't know if adding granulated sugar as well would minimise this? Didn't do it as I didn't want such a sugar rush. If using the cookies for gifts or for a dinner party it's also best to move them with a slice. Picking them up leaves fingerprints - ask me how I know! Only did it once...

The balls looked like little truffles going into the oven. Once in, though, they spread out and crackled quite a bit, ending up the size of small, regular cookies. They were great! However if I wanted a smaller size to go with coffee, I think I would have the confidence to start a bit smaller next time.

Baking

While baking In the oven, the mousse-like mixture spread, developing lovely-looking cracks on the outside, which were highlighted by the white icing sugar. The method I used advised cooking for 11-14 minutes at C160 (Gas Mark 3), turning the cookies once. I went for a time in the middle - baking 6 minutes, turning, 6 minutes more. I used a stout steel pan and a 'bake-o-glide' sheet, in the middle of the oven. After 12 minutes the biscuits released from the paper and seemed done.

I then read other recipes, which called for a baking time of up to 25 minutes and was worried that my biscuits would still be mousse-like in the middle. However, you can see from the 'crumb shot' that they were fine. I have to say though, that correct cooking is probably an oven by oven thing. I am beginning to suspect that my oven bakes higher on the lower Gas Marks than advertised. Can't currently check this as my internal oven thermometer bit the dust.

The cookies cooled down, got glammed up. had their pictures taken and then got eaten - SUPER YUM!

Apparently they will keep for a week in an airtight container (like they'll go that long without being eaten), so one poster suggested making them for Christmas presents. Their other name is snowball cookie. Aren't they just so Christmassy, like little, edible baubles?

 

© Daisy_A 2010 FIrst published on The Fresh Loaf, November 22, 2010 at 16.36 GM time. I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites..

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Rye Stories: Daisy_A

I love rye bread and I'm not alone. When faced with a continental buffet my dh will make a bee line for the pumpernickel. As far as rye in mixed grain breads go I always feel there's room for a little more. So it's odd that it's taken me so long to try a 100% rye. I've been working my way towards it but had heard rumours that it might be troublesome. I was worried that it might implode or explode, either crack all over like 'a wedding cake left out in the rain' (as the poet W.H. Auden so famously described his own face), or fall in on itself like the ground over a hidden stream. 

Over the last few weeks, however, I have tried 3 100% rye formulae, the Borodinsky and seeded ryes from Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters and Mini Oven's favourite 100% rye (Bread Matters pp. 168-171, pp. 167-168; Mini Oven here). In the end, given that my rye starter is much more stable and strong than my wheat starters, these ryes have probably given me less trouble than the average sourdough. 

I did not adapt the formulae substantially so what follows are a few notes on method and taste. Bakers wanting to look into the Melmerby Borodinsky outside of Whitley's text might follow up on Andy/ananda's post here about the different Village Bakery versions, including an 85% rye. Andy's post includes a formula. There is a great discussion of Mini's formula on her original thread and in other TFL posts. 

The first 100% rye I baked was the Borodinsky from Bread Matters. When I made this I was running down my stock of Dove's Farm rye to try Bacheldre Mill but could not immediately source the latter. I had to make multiple calculations in order to keep my stock rye going and put together the formula without running out of flour and was congratulating myself on stretching my pea brain maths to the limit when I blanked out and went over on the water. Well that taught me to bake at the end of a long day…

The loaf came out a lovely golden brown but I thought I would have to spend the night on the couch waiting for it to bake out. After cooling the top sagged ever so slightly, like a cotton clothesline, due to the slight overhydration,  but the taste was superb. 

The second Borodinsky was made to share at an art and bread tasting event. Happily every crumb was eaten but I was so preoccupied with getting it to the venue without a hiccup that I forgot to take shots of it. So the elegant still life below is courtesy of event photographer Julian Hughes - thanks Julian.

© Julian Hughes, 2010

The second time I made this bread and after reading up on ways to manage rye, I added 40g extra water and 40g extra rye to the sour after 12 hours.  This was in part to add sweetness to the final bread and in part to allow the high hydration (1.6.3.), sour to mature for another 12 hours without becoming too acidic.

After the first Borodinsky I was able to swap to Bacheldre Mill. This is a much stronger flour than the Dove's Farm and I've found it suits the high hydration of Whitley's formula well. Crust and crumb have baked out well in all loaves made with the Mill flour. I find the crust tends to have a grainy finish due to the high bran content but I like that look, particularly as the crust also tends to be very golden. The flour has a beautiful, nutty flavour.

The next bread I attempted was the seeded rye from Bread Matters. I did make some adjustments to this.  I used 100% sunflower seeds instead of sunflower and pumpkin. This was largely due to availability. I hope to be able to dry seeds from the autumn squashes to use in bread but had none at hand when I made this. Having struggled to keep the coriander seeds on the Borodinsky rye while turning it upside down regularly to check internal temperature I also felt creating a sunflower seed coating for the seeded rye, as Whitley suggests, was beyond my skills. I omitted it but think it would actually be a nice touch. 

I also added a teaspoon of organic blackstrap molasses because I had just bought some at the whole food coop and wanted to play with it. I though this might soften the edge of quite a sour rye but given the sour notes of blackstrap itself it probably made it taste even sourer!  I have used malt syrup or honey since.

The second time I made this bread I also included a second build of 80g of flour to the sour after 12 hours to allow it to go the full 24 hours without becoming too acidic. I then reduced the flour in the final batter by the corresponding amount. The flavour was amazing, similar to that of an aged Manchego cheese. 

My slightly adapted version of Andrew's formula was:

Rye sour

160g of rye sour at 1.6.3 (fermented 12 hours then 80g more flour added)

Final batter

All rye sour   240g

Rye flour     160g

Sea salt           5g

Molasses          5g

Sunflower seeds 100g

Water 140g

Total 650g


Mini Oven's favourite rye. What can I say? It is a super-delicious formula. When I first joined TFL I used to gaze on Mini's post in wonderment. Even though Mini describes the process extremely clearly I couldn't imagine myself attempting the bread. Having and reread read posts on rye from Mini and other TFLers, including Andy, Hans Joakim, Karin, Nico, Khalid and Larry, among others, I finally felt I could attempt it and it went fine! Thanks all for your postings - they were very helpful! Sorry if I've missed any other 'ryesperts' - you were helpful as well!

I started with a small loaf, working the formula up from 60g of starter and added 2 tablespoons (5g) of mixed seeds, with an emphasis on caraway. Based on Mini's (1:3.5:4.16), formula this gave me a nice round 210g cold water, 250g flour to the 60g starter, for a final loaf of around 570g. I also added altus for the first time in any recipe - 20g of mixed grain sourdough with I dessert spoon of warm water and I tsp of honey. I mashed this into a paste in a pestle and mortar then folded it into the final batter. This formula yielded a loaf that was beautifully golden, with a gorgeous aroma, which was sweeter than those from Bread Matters. I will definitely do a larger loaf next time. We managed to wait 24 hours to try it but it was gone in just over a day! Thanks Mini, it was gorgeous! 

 

© Daisy_A 2010 I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites..

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Picture Triptych: Katy at the community oven 1, Oxford, UK; Bread made by Daisy_A with Katy's starter and sourdough tin recipe, against English lavender; Katy & Rebecca Beinart, 'Borscht and Black Bread', Performance, March 2010. Photo: R Beinart. Live event at Malmesbury Museum, Western Cape, South Africa, with kind permission

I have been baking so much I have a backload of blogging. However I need do justice to this really interesting art project, that centres around bread and baking. 

In May we were privileged to catch up with artist Katy Beinart who was taking part in a festival in a community garden in Oxford, UK. As part of her art practice Katy has been tracing her ancestors' migrations from Russia, Belarus and Lithuania to England, Australia and South Africa via their stories, but also the parallel movement of plants and bread cultures. 

For the festival Katy introduced plants to the garden, which are familiar in the UK but which hail originally from Eastern Europe. These were then linked with the stories of individual family members. Beetroot (Beta vulgaris), for example, represented Moishe/Morris Schreibman, (born 1884, Pinsk, Belarus, died 1929, London, UK). Katy records that he came to London to find work as a carpenter, sailing from Bremmen on the "Sperber" and staying briefly at the Poor Jews Shelter in Whitechapel, in London's East End. He married Sarah Gitovich and they lived off Brick Lane, where he also ran a cabinet making business. Katy notes that Sarah, also known as Zlata (born Gomel, Belarus, date unknown, died London, UK 1975), left her country of birth with an uncle to escape pogroms. She never saw her family or the family dairy farm again and when Moishe/Morris died she brought up 8 children on her own. Sarah was represented by Dill (Anethemum graveolens). 

On the day of the festival Katy was also baking bread in a dirt oven that her sister Rebecca Beinart (also an artist), had built along with community garden members. The loaf baked was a white sourdough tin, from a Eastern European recipe that Katy had sourced. 

The bread baking is a fascinating project, part of Katy and Rebecca's wider recuperation and representation of family ties and migrations on their father's side in the Origination project. More information is available on this link.

As part of the wider art project Katy and Rebecca followed a family migration route to South Africa, taking their 'bread-making suitcase' with them on board the transport ship The Green Cape, crewed by predominantly Polish sailors. They chose to sail because this is what their forebears would have done. The transport carrier was the main type of craft now sailing from the UK to South Africa. Katy used their starter to bake bread on board ship, which the sisters shared with the crew. 

Breadmaking suitcase; Katy & Rebecca Beinart, 'Breadmaking', Action, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Beinart, with kind permission; Rebecca Beinart, 'Sal Somnia Omnit', Action, 2010. Photo: Douglas Gimberg, with kind permission.

Once in South Africa the Beinarts baked and shared bread with newly-encountered family members. In some cases they also tried to recreate meals like those their ancestors may have eaten and ate in the places they occupied, including a bare salt pan that once formed part of a family business!  As part of the continuation of the project in the UK, Katy was facilitating her starter's 'migration' to other bread makers. This is how I came to leave Oxford with a small pot of Katy's starter and a recipe to bake in my own home. 

Rebecca, whose practice links art, ecology and politics also has a project involving sourdough cultures called Exponential Growth. Developed as a commission for the University of Loughborough it charts the local, national and global networks into which Rebecca's Loughborough born starter is dispersed. More information is available on these links Radar Arts and Exponential Growth

Rebecca handing out starter culture on Loughborough Market; c.Rebecca Beinart/Exponential Growth 2010, with kind permission

Please note: important information on Exponential Growth and an invitation to contribute to a Bread Fair in Loughborough, UK on Saturday 23 October 2010, and/or to contribute to the mapping of the culture's journey as an international baker is included at the end of the blog in bold type. It would be great if some bakers from TFL could take part! Let's push out the boundaries - info on this link  and below.

Reflections

These initiatives seem to me to touch on so many themes on TFL, including the migration of breads, recipes and starters between countries and the way in which bread is such a strong link to memory, family and place. 

It also touches on the question, raised regularly on the board, of the degree to which starters change when transplanted.  Does a San Francisco starter remain the same in Oxford, Toronto, Tokyo, Madrid? Katy noted that her relatively new starter behaved very differently in the hot South African climate. 

The Beinarts' Origination project also delicately raises wider questions about how people change and adapt when they migrate from one place to another, while also striving to retain familiar characteristics and practices  Much of this human culture can also be traced in bread baking practices. What changes, what remains the same? How far can migration routes be traced by the emergence of similar recipes in different countries? How intense is the link between early memories of bread and personal and family histories? 

This last question is something leading bakers also reflect on. Jeffrey Hamelman, for example, recalls 'My earliest memories may be of bread. One of my grandmothers was Polish or Russian, depending on where the ever-changing boundary line happened to be drawn at a given time […] Gram always had bread' (Bread, p. 5). In the opening paragraph of his book Artisan Breads Jan Hedh relates 'My mother made nearly all the breads, biscuits and cakes for the family, and I remember the lovely smell and the wonderful flavours that awaited me as I returned from school'. (p.13)

On TFL bakers also strive to recreate for themselves, friends and family.much-loved breads enjoyed in childhood or remembered from another country. Some bakers share or seek recipes from their countries of origin or foreign countries they lived in when younger. Others reflect on why certain national recipes are well-known abroad whereas other have not travelled, even when their some of their original bakers have emigrated. Bakers also celebrate well-loved bread recipes that have taken root and are developed and enjoyed in a new place: Stan and Norm's project, which I have read about with great interest seems a great example of this. In the best cases the culture just keeps on growing, in all senses of the word.

 

Baking the bread

When I took on a sample of Katy's starter as part of the involvement of other bakers in this project it behaved very differently to my own. A year after her return from South Africa Katy's starter was much more stable than my own, which were still young and unruly. Whereas my starters tore through dough when well fed on the bench and lay down and refused to move after a stay in the fridge, Katy's raised dough well and reliably and regained strength much more quickly after refrigeration. Katy's starter was kept around 125% hydration. It also had a different scent and flavour, with a keen tang like a good cheese. 

When used to bake the recipe given to me by Katy, the starter raised the dough well and produced an even crumb, aerated with small, well spaced holes. At this point in my baking I had had a breakthrough with using an oven stone and steam to produce a good crust. I also used Marriage's strong white bread flour which I have found to be very good for artisan bread. The bread came out with a strong, golden crust.  The crumb was as shown in the picture at the top of this blog:

The flavour of the bread was milder than I am used to with mixed grain formulae, yet it was pleasant, with a lovely mouth feel. It kept well and we enjoyed it with both savoury and sweet toppings. 

When we met Katy again at a talk she gave at Modern Art Oxford, she added that she was moving on to try rye in loaves, as used in other bread-making traditions in Eastern Europe and that she was happy for bakers to adapt her original recipe. However, given that this was the very recipe that she used while on board ship and in South Africa, I wanted to follow in that line. 

The lean sourdough tin recipe used by Katy and Rebecca is given below: 

Very simple Wheat Sourdough

Makes two large loaves

Stage 1: Evening

200-250g Wheat Starter Culture (use a little less if your culture is very bubbly & active)

450g white bread flour

700ml water

Mix together in a bowl into a sloppy dough. Cover and leave overnight somewhere warm.  Now feed the original starter mix with 150g flour and 150-200ml water to replace what you took out.

Wheat sourdough takes less time than rye. If it’s in a warm place, stage 1 can take just 5-6 hours, so you can start it off on the morning and bake in the afternoon if this fits your schedule.

The next morning

450g white bread flour (or add half wholemeal flour

2-3 teaspoons salt

Mix the flour and salt into the existing bowl of dough that you left overnight. Knead it by hand in the bowl – it is a very wet and sticky dough, but it should feel elastic. If it feels too wet, add a little more flour. Work on it for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Rest it for 10 minutes. Mix it again for another couple of minutes.

Oil two large bread tins well, then dust generously with flour. Divide the dough and put into tins, they should be just over half full. Cover tins with an upturned bowl, leaving space for the dough to rise. Leave it to rise in a warm place. Depending on the heat and the liveliness of the culture this will take between 2 and 5 hours.

Baking

Once the dough has risen to the top of the tins, you’re ready to bake. As you get to know the timings you can be cunning and pre-heat the oven so it’s hot at the right time.

Place the tins in the oven at 220◦C/ Gas 7. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the bread from the tins and bake for a further 10-15 minutes to form a good crust. The loaves should sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Remove from tins and leave them to cool before cutting.

Exponential Growth

As part of the Exponential Growth project there will be a Bread Fair in Loughborough (UK), Town Hall on Saturday October 23rd. from 2/2/30 p.m. 'Culture caretakers' have been invited to this event to share their breads and to enter a competition in which breads will be judged on 'Regional specificity; Flavour; Appearance; Originality of recipe; Method of passing on the culture'.  

There are currently 93 caretakers but there is still time for more people to join! If you would like to have some of the Loughborough culture and/or attend this event please contact Rebecca on radar.info@lboro.ac.uk

As part of the wider project Rebecca is recording on world map how far the culture has travelled globally. It would be great if some TFLers felt that they could contribute to this part of the project. 

If you are interested please contact Rebecca asap on radar.info@lboro.ac.uk with a mailing address and she will send out a sample, postage paid. The bread baked can be your own recipe, or one that relates to this project in terms of geography and culture. It does not have to be the recipe given in this blog. Of course if you do bake, don't forget to share on TFL! 

   

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I was led to Swedish baker Jan Hedh's book Artisan Bread by Dan Lepard's recommendation on TFL. I owe him thanks for that as it full of great formulae and beautifully photographed by Klas Andersson. There is lots in it to inspire.
One of my favourite Hedh breads is a lemon bread flavoured with lemon zest and green olive oil (pp.126-7). Created by Hedh when lead baker on a Swedish cruise ship, this aromatic bread was designed to work well with fish dishes. It can be made in the shape of a lemon-shaped, small dinner bread or a more traditional round roll. The breads are dusted in yellow semolina flour during the second proof, to make them even more lemon-like.

Hedh's recipe gives enough for a small batch,  In fact this is one of the few breads that I can batch bake in an hour after preheating my small domestic oven, baking 3 dinner breads in the first firing and 4-6 round rolls in the second.

The bread has a great texture. It is moist but remains firm even when sliced thinly. It takes savoury toppings well without bending or getting soggy, making it also ideal for open sandwiches and canapés.
We have enjoyed it with fish dishes and also topped it with tomato, oil and vinegar or tangy cheese and pickles. It is also good dipped simply in olive oil. However one of my favourite ways to eat it is sliced thinly with no accompaniments, so that the subtle and delicious lemon taste can be enjoyed to the full.

Even before recent discussions on TFL about copyright  I had been trying to contact Hedh's British publishers to get permission to reprint the recipe. I have had no success so far as it looks as though they have gone into receivership.

This means also that Hedh's book will become harder and harder to find.  Large sellers like Amazon and Smiths are logging it up already as out of stock. The bakery that Hedh co-owns - St. Peter's Yard in Edinburgh  - still had around 60  copies of the book when I rang them a couple of months ago. They don't post out; however if you have friends in Edinburgh do sweet talk them into getting a copy for you as it could be your last chance to get your hands on this great book!

Hedh's original lemon bread is a yeasted bread made with a preferment of yellow durum wheat flour (grown traditionally on the Swedish island of Ven), and light rye flour with stone ground, strong wheat flour added to the final, machine-mixed dough. The version I am writing up here is my adaptation, a sourdough made with semolato, whole rye flour and wholemeal flour, which is hand mixed.

Some pictures of the different stages plus a chart of the adapted formula and process follow:



Sourdough Wholemeal Lemon Bread: Adaptation of Jan Hedh Recipe

This bread is flavoured with lemon zest rather than lemon juice. This results in subtle highnotes in the final bread, rather than a widespread lemon taste. It is well worth getting organic and unwaxed lemons to zest if available. When grated and mixed with the flour the lovely aroma also fills the kitchen! The wholemeal, olive oil infused dough has a lovely, silky consistency and is good to work with.

I have baked this bread several times. The original instructions make no reference to scoring the bread. I made the first batch without slashes and they came out well. However the picture in the book shows a loaf with an open top. I later read in the Introduction that Hedh proofs and bakes some of his breads with the seam side upwards. The loaf then splits along the seam, giving it an attractive rustic look. My shaping skills are not yet so good that I can prevent an unscored loaf rupturing elsewhere. I now normally score the breads with one long stroke along the top and this has worked well to date.

I was concerned that a predominantly whole grain formula at lowish hydration might produce too dense a crumb and loaf. I imagine that the loaves might rise higher when Hedh's original formula is used. However the preferment seems to work well with sourdough as well as baker's yeast and I have been able to get quite an open crumb and good rise for the size of loaf and type of flour used.

My sourdough starters are quite feisty but the relatively low levels of starter in the preferment and final dough have meant that the overall fermentation has taken place without the dough losing elasticity. The amount of starter and fermentation times I give are relevant to my own situation. I am realizing more and more now that with sourdough starters any formula is just a guideline! Please feel free to adjust this to suit your own starters.

I hope that other TFLers might enjoy this bread. If you do try it I would be glad to learn from your feedback.

Daisy_A

 

The quantities below are for 4 dinner breads:

With this formula I used a wholemeal starter at approximately 66% hydration. I have made this bread successfully with wholemeal flours from Dove's Farm, Waitrose and Bacheldre Mill. Bacheldre Mill was the most fruity and aromatic. I used Dallari semolato because it was the only one available locally at the time but would prefer to use DeCecco, a brand that is sometimes available, also recommended by nicobdv.

I estimate overall hydration including starter hydration at 530/945 = 56% but I'm always open to correction!

Total FormulaWeight 
Wholemeal flour695g 650+45
Semolato or other yellow durum wheat flour150g 
Whole grain rye flour100g 
Water530 250+250+30
Green, virgin olive oil50g 
Sea salt or other salt20g 
Zest of 2 medium lemons, preferably unwaxed, organicApprox. 10gWill weigh next time!
Total1555

 

PrefermentWeight 
Semolato or other yellow durum wheat flour150g 
Whole grain rye flour100g 
Whole meal starter at approx. 66% hydration30g 
Water250g 
Total530g 
Final DoughWeight 
Wholemeal flour

650g

 
Water250g 
All preferment 530g 
Wholemeal starter at 66% hydration45g 
Green, virgin olive oil50g 
Sea salt or other salt20g 
Zest of 2 medium lemons, preferably unwaxed, organicApprox. 10g 
Total1555 
Method 

 

Preferment

Make the preferment approximately 12 hours before baking, normally the evening before:

Mix a small amount of starter with water to form a paste

Add the rest of the water to the starter mixture

Combine the flours and pour the water and starter over the flour.

Mix for 8-10 minutes in preferred fashion. (I 'air knead' in the manner of Andrew Whitley in order to incorporate the starter fully)

Cover and leave in an oiled container in the fridge

 
Mixing of final dough

Wash and zest lemons, mix into flour

Add preferment to flour

Dissolve second lot of starter in second lot of water and pour over flour

Mix by preferred method for 3 minutes

Add oil and salt and mix by preferred method for 8 minutes. (I air knead for 8 minutes then perform one stretch and fold on the bench). 

Make sure that all new starter and preferment are mixed in well.

Mix for another 7 minutes if needed, to form an elastic dough.

Place in a lightly oiled, covered container

 
DDTC26 
First proofApprox. 90 minutes with 1 S&F at 45 mins. Adapt as needed. 
PreshapingQuarter, form into balls and leave covered for 10 mins. 
ShapingShape dinner breads into tapered, lemon-like rolls and smaller rolls as small rounds. Brush with water and dust with polenta or other yellow flour. 
Second proofProof on a floured couche for 60 mins. or until doubled in size 
PreparationPreheat oven to C250 and prepare to steam. For steaming I preheat 2 small fajita trays and pour boiling water onto them as soon as the bread is in the oven. 
Baking

I bake the dinner breads for 10 minutes at C250 with steam, open door to releas steam and turn the oven down to C230 for the rest of the bake

Check internal temperature after another 12 minutes, bake for further increments of 3-5 minutes, if needed, until internal temperature of around C90 is reached and crust is an attractive light golden colour.

Jan Hedh recommends baking rolls for around 12 minutes

 
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Daisy_A

 


I decided to attempt this bread, which Daniel Leader records in Local Breads, after seeing the beautiful pictures on Zolablue's blog.

After working so hard to shape and steam the barm bread I also wanted to relax about shaping and concentrate on opening up the crumb of the next loaf I made. Made with white flour the barm bread can be open, but I had chosen to make it with quite a high amount of rye for a denser crumb and that much-loved rye flavour. Nury's rye with its rustic shape and lower rye content seemed an ideal bread to make next.

Maybe it's true that we can learn as much from what goes wrong as well as what goes right, even if it's not always so enjoyable? Certainly with my first two sourdough breads there were a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to get good loaves out of the oven!  Looking back, the story of making these breads reads a little like this - baker attempts sourdough bread, baker seems to be losing bread, baker rescues bread - eventual happy ending (phew). Can any other novice bakers relate to this? In comparison baking Pierre Nury's rye was much more straightforward.

The only adaptation I made to the formula was to use dark rye in place of light rye. Since starting to bake sourdough in May I've had to get up to speed fast with the different flours and grains used in artisan baking but wasn't yet aware of the range of rye flours. According to historian E.J.T. Collins, prior to 1800 rye bread was eaten widely in Britain and only 4% of bread was made of white wheat only. However breads made with rye flour are not so common now. Pumpernickel is available in some shops but is generally imported.

So, unused to a range of ryes, I have to admit to my chagrin that my first thought was that 'light rye' meant 'light on the rye', as in 'light on the mustard' or 'hold the mayo'.  Even when I realized that light rye was a type of rye flour I couldn't find any locally, not even at our local whole food cooperative, which carries a very good range of flours. I now realize I will have to look online. In the meantime, having scheduled time for baking, I pressed on with the darker rye. Zolablue notes on her blog that a stick made with darker rye is a different loaf from the original Pierre Nury's Light Rye. I have to agree but it was still delicious and I have baked with the darker rye a second time and again loved the flavour, although  I suspect the loaf may not rise as much. The flours used were from the Dove's Farm organic range; Strong White Bread Flour, Wholemeal and Wholemeal Rye.

I have to attribute success with this bread to Nury's beautiful formula. Although wet the dough handled well. The resulting loaf had a wonderful crunchy walnut crust and an open crumb. The flavour was fantastic! Tardis-like it seemed to have more rye flavour on the inside than might be guessed from a quick glance at the formula. Several bakers have posted on this being part of the attraction of the bread. I'm currently experimenting with different sourdough recipes but when the experimentation calms down I'm sure we could go for this as our weekly or even daily bread. Put it this way I baked two of these sticks in the evening and by the early next morning both were gone...

This was also one of only two sourdough formulae that I have been able to get through a long retardation without the dough losing elasticity. The other is a sourdough adaptation of Jan Hedh's lemon bread.  With a high concentration of sourdough in the initial mix my starters can get going like kittens in the wool box and reduce a nice tight ball to a much looser scattering of chewed gluten strands in a relatively short time. However in the case of both formulae mentioned here the amount of sourdough in the preferment is relatively low.

I haven't included the formula and method as it is given in full on Zolablue's blog and I followed that more or less to the letter. Thanks Zola.

I have just one main reflection on method. Several people on TFL have pondered how to hand mix a dough that calls for 12-14 minutes of initial development by machine until smooth and very stretchy. I obtained a well-developed dough with 20 minutes of continuous S&F on the bench, 10 minutes rest then another 10 minutes S&F, although this can be achieved in a variety of ways as other TFL bakers show.

I have since adapted Nury's formula to make a boule. I read Janedo's inspiring blog on her development of a boule from this formula and was encouraged by that. However I chose to start with a lower hydration dough. Following welcome advice from Andy/Ananda I  kept the hydration percentage in the 60s so I could work on my shaping skills with a lower hydration dough. Nevertheless, writing up the formula for the chart I think it could have gone up as far as 69%. I was also working with re-strengthened starters, which had previously been too acidic and were rendering wetter doughs too elastic to be shaped easily. In fact they were turning some boules into Dalí-like clock faces! This was another reason for trying a less wet dough. Obviously more experienced bakers who prefer to work with higher hydration dough can adjust the formula accordingly but it may suit those wishing to start with lower hydrations. I will also continue to experiment with this formula.

The final crumb was less open than in the unshaped sticks but it was even and still moist. I found I could shape and slash the bread more effectively with a lower hydration dough yet the crust was still well-coloured and crisp. The flours used were Marriage's Organic Strong White Bread Flour and Organic Whole Wheat with Dove's Farm Organic Wholemeal Rye. The Marriage's flour performed particularly well, yielding a nicely-developed, well-flavoured bread.

The process of mixing used was as for the sticks, following the information for initial autloyse, mixing and S&F from Leader as described by Zolablue, with the substitution of hand mixing for machine mixing.

The bread was baked on a stone with steam in the first 10 minutes of baking. I had been using an iron pan which I wet with half a cup of water before baking. However my domestic oven was struggling to get both this and the stone up to temperature. Since I replaced this with two much smaller fajita pans, one on each side of the oven, the steaming has been great.

The rye formed a slightly lower percentage of the overall flour in this formula and the rye taste was less prevalent than in the original sticks. However the mellower taste suited the boule and the bread was still extremely flavoursome.

Crust and Crumb

 


The formula below is for a 845g boule at approximately 69%  hydration once flour and water from the levain are accounted for. (I hope this is correct. As said below, any maths corrections accepted gladly. I have left in some of the 'working out' in the last column'. I've been enjoying doing the maths but it's testing me!)

Total Formula

Weight

Weight

Marriages organic white strong bread flour

449g

 (397 + 7 + 45)
Marriages 0rganic wholemeal flour

37g

Dove's Farm organic wholemeal rye flour

10g

 (7 + 3)
Water

342g

 (310 + 8 + 24)
Salt

7g

Total

845g

 

I estimate the hydration at 342/496 = 69% once the levain is factored in

Levain

Weight 

Weight

Original stiff levain 34g (approx. 11 water, 12 white flour, 11 wheat flour)
23g (7, 8, 7 in final 94g)
Marriages organic strong white bread flour

71g

 45g
Marriages 0rganic wholemeal flour

4g

 2g
Water

37g

 24g
Total

146g

94g

Final Dough

Weight

                     

Marriages organic strong white bread flour

397g

 
Dove's Farm wholemeal rye flour

37g

 
Water

310g

Salt

7g

Levain

94g

 
Total

845g

 
Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A


 

As a Briton I have been encouraged by TFL posts in which British foods from Bermaline to barm bread, scones to muffins to malt loaf appear as objects of desire rather than derision!  Having been teased for years by European friends about the state of food in Britain this is a strange position to be in. Please do keep the cake love coming - it helps to heal the scars!
Surely memories of tea time treats prompt a wish to recreate certain breads and cakes among those who have lived in Britain for a spell. However I'm sure we also have ambassadors like Nigel Slater and Dan Lepard to thank for spreading British cake love abroad. Although not chauvinistic in their tastes they've given the best of British baked goods a positive press. I'm with Nigel when he states that while they lack the finesse of French and Austrian patisserie and viennoisserie, there is something about the heartiness of British cakes and sweets that appeals.

And yet, while I consider good tea and cake a top treat when out and about, I rarely bake sweet goods at home. One bag of sugar can last literally years in our house. Occasionally someone calls who has sugar in their tea. We take the sugar out of the back of the cupboard, shake the crystals off, dole out a couple of teaspoons and then put it back again for months. Thank goodness sugar doesn't go off!

This is a long term thing. Sugar used to last a long time in my family home too. My mother baked little as my father much preferred savoury foods. I do remember some cake baking sessions in which I eagerly stirred the pots in anticipation of licking 'em afterwards. I took in some of the method but also remember pleading for more to be left in the bowl for the small assistant to lick. It was a precious time but it wasn't a comprehensive introduction to baking.

However in the spirit of thinking positively about British baking I decided to bake a malt loaf. This is a cake I do remember eating as a child. Although it was never baked at home I remember friends and neighbours making it. The version they made was moistened with tea, which is why I chose the adaptation of a Gary Rhodes recipe , also flagged up on this thread. The formula is also high in malt which I think is vital to reproducing a good, malty loaf. chunkeyman has also posted a very similar recipe, inherited from his grandparents on this thread.

The recipe worked extremely well. The gooey batter was very easy to mix and the cake baked well. I didn't have whole wheat self raising flour, which is what the recipe calls for, so added two teaspoons of baking powder and .75 of a teaspoon of salt to 175g of whole wheat flour. The loaf didn't rise much in the tin so I may add more baking powder next time. However, as I remember it this type of loaf doesn't normally have much oven spring and has a flat top. I used Lady Grey tea to add the extra flavours of citrus and bergamot. As this type of tea can brew quite slowly when made with tea bags I used two bags to add strength. I imagine it would be even more aromatic if made with leaf tea. The baking time was around 1.25 hours. I'm not sure how well such a sticky cake would freeze but I think if it does freeze it would be more economic to batch bake this recipe. As the oven was only required to hold the heat at Gas Mark 1(250F, 120C), I didn't use the oven stone for this bake.

The loaf emerged from the oven well cooked and beautifully golden. It was hard not to dive into it straight away. However it definitely improved when kept for a couple of days before eating, wrapped up and in an airtight container,  After being stored the texture of the loaf had changed and all of it was suffused with a malty gooeyness which was delicious. The crumb was dense, moist and malty with a hint of spice and a good distribution of fruit. It was lovely with a cup of tea and a slick of unsalted butter.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A


 

Since I started reading about artisan breads I've been really attracted to the idea of making barm bread and I've come across some lovely examples of Dan Lepard's barm bread made by both home and commercial bakers. You may have seen the stellar example on Shiao-Ping's blog. I also love the way the Loaf, Crich bakes this bread for regular sale and for celebrations, baking it with 9 different beers for a local festival.

I'm attracted to barm bread because I remember phrases like 'barm cake' and 'barm pot' from my childhood. Also, for me, the evocation of 'barm', when it refers to raising bread with the still yeasted froth left over from beer making, is one place where traces of traditional British baking practices still linger. It feels good to see these being revived and adapted. When barm breads are baked again they cease to be a sort of ghostly 'leftover' of what was once a rich tradition.
I set off to make Dan's barm bread armed with some lovely Dove's Farm white and rye flours, a bottle of cask-conditioned Nutty Black, my rye and wheat starters and an oat soaker. The mix of grains I used, in proportions based on Dan's formula, is included at the end of this post. I have to say at this point that I had not made any other sourdough with my wheat starter. The barm bread was my second only bread using sourdough in any form. Looking back it would have been better to have baked with the wheat starter before adding barm to my repertoire, but I was so keen to bake this bread I pressed on.

There has been some debate on blogs and bread boards about how long fermentation of the barm can take in this recipe. The initial aim is to ferment the barm overnight. However in some conditions and with particular beers the fermentation can take as long as 30 hours. I have to admit that my barm did not ferment overnight. Also I was still trying to work out how to fit bread baking into an uncertain schedule where most baking had to be done in the evenings and where I could be unexpectedly away from the dough for up to 16 hours, something I was faced with at that point. Again I should have thought this through but the desire to make the bread prevailed!

I thought about leaving the barm until I could return to it but became prone to fears of over fermentation. This was for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a basic newbie fear that I was culturing something not quite right in my untested white starter. My main fear was that if there was something malign lurking in my starter then in the absence of alcohol (which had been burned off the beer), and the presence of sugar, it could multiply at a rate of knots. I have since realized that this fear of producing a mutant starter is a widespread one. Bread sites ring with new sourdough bakers asking questions such as 'does my taster smell right?', 'does it taste right?','will I poison my family and friends with it?'

I know now that my starters are fine but they are feisty. Once my rye starter (Rosie) gets going she can quadruple dough during refrigeration. So, the fear that if left for 16 hours Rosie and Sydney (the wheat starter), might have got bored of sitting bubbling in the barm and redistributed it around the breakfast room was a more realistic one. However I also fear over-fermentation for more personal reasons....

Does anyone remember when instead of worrying in general about people being overweight, the main worry was about people being too skinny? If my mother or any of her neighbours in the predominantly rural county in which I grew up saw someone thin, they didn't think them an ideal size 8 (4) or a supermodel in the making. They simply thought  - there is someone who needs feeding up. (I wonder if this is a general thing in farming communities or just Cumbria?)

This feeding up was great when it came in the form of baked goods. As a teenager I once lost weight so quickly due to a viral infection that I was hospitalized. When I was discharged, the farming community's Auntie Annie invited my mother and me to a 'farmhouse tea'.  By farmhouse tea I don't mean a couple of dry scones and a wan piece of malt loaf.  There were beautiful scones, lemon curd tarts, fruitcake and other delicious cakes, malted loaves, muffins, breads and homemade jams. If you had leant on a chair with your eyes at the level of the table, there would have been baked goods as far as the eye could see. No sentimentalities were exchanged, but it was an act of care and concern, spelt out with cakes and breads.

Feeding up with fresh food was great, then; raw food less so. Another ruse used by Cumbrian mothers on people they thought were not feeding themselves enough was to give them raw food to take away. My friend's mother did this to one of my friend's skinny boyfriends. She gave him a whole raw fish to take home on the bus with him.  Embarrassed, he hid it under his jacket. As more passengers got on and the bus heated up, he started to emit warm, fishy smells...

My mother did a similar number on me with stewing steak. She gave it to me In a plastic bag to take on a 4 hour train journey. It would never have been safe to eat after that. On the good side I didn't eat it; on the bad side, young, foolish and in a jelly-brained state of mental exhaustion in my first year of teaching, I absentmindedly filed the bag with the books on educational theory I had been reading. I then forgot about it for a while. I will say no more about it but it was a quick and ugly introduction to the dangers of over-fermentation.

In the end I decided not to risk losing the barm through over-fermentation and didn't leave it any longer. To compensate for the fact that there would be less fermentation in the beer mixture I did what I have read other bakers do when the barm fermentation time is limited, which was to cut the initial mix with more starter and mix up the whole dough. My apologies are due to Dan for diverging from the recipe at this point because of my newbie fears. I do very much hope to make the bread again according to the original instructions.

I mixed the dough for around 8 minutes using continuous S&F on the board and popped it in the refrigerator. At that point I wasn't familiar with how my starter acts during retardation and I thought naively that the dough would go into a sort of cryogenic suspension of activity. However the 16 hour overnight retardation (which I have since learned is roughly equivalent to 2 hours on the bench), acted as the first proof. In fact when warming up time was allowed for there was a risk of the dough getting close to over proof. This time, however, I was better prepared than when I baked my first sourdough and I got the oven ready quickly. Some of my aims for this loaf were to improve my shaping, scoring and peeling. The dough hydration was 69%. It was a beautiful consistency and took the shaping and scoring well. I also managed to peel and add steam quickly during transfer to the oven.

There is an entry on Madrid tiene miga in which artisan baker QJones talks about watching the oven door sometimes being better than watching the television screen. The light on our oven is broken so I find it hard to see the loaves in process. I had no real idea how this loaf was baking until I cracked the door open after about 10 minutes to let out the steam. When I saw the loaf's small, domed  head quivering in the steam and got some measure of how it had risen, I was so elated I actually started trembling a little. Please forgive me; this was only my second sourdough, although I hope you experienced bakers out there still get some similar moments!

The bread came out beautifully. The crust was golden and crisp, the scored and split top opening over gently rounded sides marked by banneton rings. The inside was moist and tangy, redolent of rye and hops and with a decent crumb for a bread with around 30% rye. The bread ate well and kept well. I attribute these qualities to Dan's formula as the Loaf bakers also get these great characteristics when they bake this bread. However it was also a happy occasion on which things came together well in my own kitchen, even the shaping, which is still often a struggle.

This loaf has been much photographed, like a prize pet as my husband noted!

One of my aims for this loaf was to improve scoring. As it was when taking photographs, I got so taken with the aesthetics of the ripped side I took hardly any photos of the neater slash. Here it is for the record!

 

I am sending details of this post to
Susan at Yeastspotting
while the going good, in case never manage to make quite such a lovely looking loaf again.

 

This is a beautiful bread and Dan offers lots of ways to be creative with it, from using white flour or mixed grains, choosing different beers to adding soakers. I'm including a chart of my flour mix and final dough plus notes on beer and flours for reference but think it preferable to use Dan's method, as elaborated in The Handmade Loaf. Please note that the amounts of water and flour in the final dough are adjusted to maintain a hydration of 69% in the total formula after the addition of the oat soaker and extra starter. Without these additions the amounts are 250g water and 500g flour with 150g barm in the final dough. Salt remains the same.

Adaption of Dan Lepard Barm Bread (With Oat Soaker and Additional Starter)

Total Formula                                        

Weight

Bakers %

White organic bread flour

435g

Rye organic flour

156g

 
Oats

25g

Water

237g

 
Beer (inc. 10g from soaker)

136g

 
Salt

10 grams

Total

920 g

 

 

Soaker

Weight 

Bakers %

Oats (soaked in beer overnight, drained)

25g

 
Beer (absorbed by oats)

12g

 
Total

35g

 

 

Barm                                                      

Weight  

Bakers %

Starter 1: rye

12g

 
Starter2: whole wheat

12g

 
Beer: Nutty Black

126g

 
Total                                                          

150g

 

 

Additional Starter                                

Weight 

Bakers %

Rye organic flour

50g

 
Water

50g

 
Total

100g

 

 

Final Dough                                           

Weight

Bakers %

White organic bread flour

350

Rye organic flour

100g

 
Oat soaker

35g

Additional rye starter

100g

Water

237g

 
Beer

126g

 
Salt

10 grams

Total

920 g

 


69% Hydration dough with 100% Hydration Rye and White Wheat Starters

Flours: Dove’s Farm white organic bread flour and rye flour.
Cask conditioned beer: Nutty Black

 

 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

 




 

It was exciting to make this first sourdough after all the work that had gone into nurturing my starters. I thought I'd lost the loaf at several stages but I learned so much through making it. There are many things I need to work on but it tasted delicious!

I'd like to thank TFL members for their encouragement and also QJones at Madrid tiene miga [Madrid's Got Crumb] for the wonderful recipe for Hogaza integral (con masa madre de centeno 100%) [Whole grain loaf (with 100% rye starter)]. As you can see on the latter website, in the hands of an accomplished baker, this is a beautiful loaf . An English translation of the formula and method for this bread is included in the chart at the bottom of this blog, with notes on my own attempt.

Like others here I arrived at TFL via SourdoLady's instructions on how to cultivate a starter, found on Google. I would like to thank you all for your help at every stage - welcome, answers to queries, encouragement to start my first loaf and also specialist advice via live posts and messages and the archives. Many people have helped me but I would particularly like to thank Ananda (Andy) for his specialist guidance and feedback.

I've lurked on several bread boards now but what really made TFL stand out for me was its strong building of mutually supportive networks across baking levels, which is mentioned by so many new participants. Thanks Floyd and Dorota for building this place!

While waiting for my starters to develop I read TFL archives,  baked several yeasted breads, including Jason's ciabatta and Floyd's hot cross buns from TFL and bollos preñaos from Madrid tiene miga. I also added to my baking equipment. I started with the 'hogaza integral' because it just sang out to me as a sourdough but also because I could bake it with the small selection of equipment I had at the start, which did not allow me to proof batards or safely cover loaves during baking.

One of the key things of this first foray into sourdough baking was getting to know how my rye starter, Rosie, worked to raise a loaf. As it happened she whipped through a projected 4 hour second proof in 1.5 hours. This meant that when the dough and Rosie were ripe and ready to go the oven was stone cold. I'd not wanted to preheat it for 3 hours. Mercifully as advised by Ananda and Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters, as well as many members of TFL, I was watching the dough intently through the second proof. I put in back in the fridge briefly then removed it to heat up in preparation for baking. Time was of the essence at that point as I could see that the skin was growing tighter. It became important to transfer it to the oven quickly. Previous to this I had developed some good shaping and peeling skills working on rounded Swedish rye breads. However I lost them in the stress and excitement of the moment.

The banneton, which had been a focus of interest in our household, supported and released the dough well. It was looking good - a nice, tight boule. By the time I'd slashed it weakly, taken an photograph of it, mis-peeled for first time ever, got the dough back onto board for a random reshape and re-peeled it, it was a teardrop miche shape with no evident slashing...Now I know that 30 seconds to get the dough into the oven means just that.

Another key thing about this bake was getting to know my oven. I had assumed from a temperature reading taken near the bottom of oven that it was under heating. When I baked my second loaf I took the temperature higher up at my DH' s suggestion and it was off the scale. Unknowingly, I put this first loaf into a really hot zone. It cracked into Maillard caramelization early then darkened. It also cooked more quickly than predicted by the recipe. I didn't think to use a probe on this first loaf so I had no idea what was happening in its interior. At this point I fully expected to be paving the patio with it. I thought I had nurtured a starter and worked for 1.5 days in order to produce a brick. I tried to be philosophical but it would have been a big disappointment not to have gained a loaf after all the labour. At that point I was just hoping for something edible.

When the loaf emerged from the oven its exterior was crackled, with a sort of dappled look due to the yellow maize flour dusting. I thought at first that the crackling was a flaw and do think it arose in some part due to the tightening of the dough while waiting for the oven to heat. I didn't like to look at it at first, as I was hoping for even and golden. However I was comforted by reading in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters that crackling can occur anyway on loaves and can be attractive; also by looking at the lovely loaves in Jan Hedh's Artisan Bread, many of which have a pronounced crackle.

By the next day, I'd decided to embrace my crackled loaf, as a lovely thing. To convince myself in the first photograph I paired it with the melon that had just arrived in the organic box - telling myself these were two good, round, crackled yellowish things together! 

We had a wonderful surprise when I cut into the loaf. The interior was not rock hard. It was dense with the rye and I know that I need to work on creating more open textures through kneading. but no way was it inedible. I've been finding with some of my loaves that the outsides tend to have a more open crumb than the middles. As I get to know my dough and oven better this is changing. However the shot above in front of the bread bin is through the middle of the loaf and my knife isn't brilliant so it tore it somewhat. I wanted to keep the shot of the bread bin, as it sets the loaf in the context of our kitchen. However, this shot of a more 'cake like' slice gives a much better idea of the crumb in the loaf as a whole. 

The crust was very crackly as you can probably see from the shot above. However, having been introduced to sourdoughs via Moro sourdough, this is how we like it! (Thankfully I'm blessed with a DH who loves crackly crusts. The idea that they would be softer the next day doesn't appeal to him).

And the taste? Well I've been frank about the flaws in my bread making, so let's be honest about the good points. The taste was delicious. I can attribute part of our reaction to tasting the bread to our general excitement at eating our own sourdough for the first time. Maybe all home baked sourdough tastes like this? Well, after baking two more sourdough loaves I can say that it doesn't. All the loaves have tasted good and some of the milder loaves would be more to other people's taste. But we really like strong flavours and the bread really delivered on this front. I think this is due to the recipe. QJones notes how it really foregrounds the rye. The nutty notes of the rye mixed with sour were delicious. After all that cultivation Rosie had done a really good job of delivering a satisfying tang. And the flavour was complex. Like a good wine it coated the inside of your mouth and continued to deliver complex tastes long after the first bite of the bread.

I asked my husband whether he wanted anything with his first slice and his response was that a bread that tasted so good didn't need anything with it. For the crackle and taste reminded him of Moro's bread at its best (Wow - though they also have phenomenal gluten development [no rye]) My DH is no unbiased taster, obviously. However I can tell when he's faking it. If unsure of something I've offered him he cautiously says it's 'tasty'. Not so this time. As many have noted on TFL, it's a joy to share a good bread with friends and family.

After the first slices we tried it with Beenleigh Blue cheese and a green virgin olive oil. These foods are so strong in flavour they will see milder ingredients off the plate. The rye went well with them. I can see why rye is traditionally paired with cured meats and fish.

And yes, I confess, we ate the bread warm. I know there are reasons to avoid this but how many poets have romanticized about bread cold from the oven? That and the fact that the other half was more bulbous is the reason that there is only half a loaf in the pictures!

Well a lot learned there and lots to work on in the future but it was a good end to the first adventure. Thanks again.

(More technical information follows. I tried hard with the maths but it's not my strongest point. Any corrections welcome).

Total Formula

Weight

Bakers %

White organic bread flour

400 grams

66.67%
Rye organic flour

100 grams

16.67%
Whole wheat organic flour

100 grams

16.67%
Water

370 grams

61.67%
Salt

10 grams

1.67%
Total

980 grams

163.33%

 

Rye Starter                   

Weight

Bakers %

Rye organic flour

100 grams

100%
Water

100 grams

100%
Total

200 grams

200%

 

Final Dough

Weight

Bakers %

White organic bread flour

400 grams

80%
Whole wheat organic flour

100 grams

20%
Water

270 grams

54%
Salt

10 grams

2%
Rye starter

200 grams

40%
Total

980 grams

196%

 

62% Hydration dough with 100% Hydration Rye Starter

Flours: Dove’s Farm white organic bread flour, whole wheat and rye flour, Dove’s Farm rye flour in starter.

Process

Weight

Notes

Starter

Mix 12 hours in advance. Leave at room temperature

Mixing

Mix all ingredients of final dough, except salt, to a mass.

Leave 30 minutes before continuing mix.

Mix Dan Lepard technique, short bursts with rests.

Dan Lepard 10,10.20,30,

1 hr 3 hrs = 5 hrs. 

1 hr = at the one hour mark i.e.

leave 30 mins., not leave 1 hr.

DDT

@C20

Perhaps raise to C21?
First Proof

5-5.5 hours

Fold and Shape

Shape and place in banneton

First use of banneton went well
Retard Retard covered in fridge 4.5 hours

Note: this was to accommodate baker’s schedule.

Not normally so long, although retardation does take place.

I retarded for 2 hours

DDT

@24C

Second proof

3 hours in proofing bath/box

With my rye starter, second proof

was over in 1.5 hours.

Not expected so oven not heated

Bake

10 minutes at 240C on a preheated metal tray

in a preheated oven with initial steam,

35 minutes at 200C then

10 minutes with oven off and door ajar.

My own loaf cooked more quickly.

Oven had probably heated higher than 230C

 

General notes

Difficult to coordinate proof and oven: thanks to advice was monitoring second proof closely. Skin was tightening by time oven fully heated.  Could have been a brick but mercifully wasn’t!

See above in notes column.

Notes on loaf

Loaf emerged with crackly, stippled crust. Miche shaped with some but not high oven spring.

Given the circumstances the crumb came out well. Some compaction in middle, which I would like to get rid of. However more even holes in cross section – see ‘cake’ shot.

Loaf suffered from being cut with a poor knife – need to get better one!

Flavour exceptional - a complex mix of rye, nutty overtones and sour, which lingered on the palate.

Focus for next time: slashing and transfer to oven.

Pre-heating of oven and use of stone.

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