The Fresh Loaf

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David Esq.'s blog

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David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Friday afternoon, I mixed the dough -- again using 50% White Whole Wheat (milled from Praire Gold White Hard Spring Wheat) and 50% Caputo "00" flour.  I put the dough balls in the fridge and left for the weekend.  On Sunday afternoon, I realized that I was out of canned tomatoes. Fortunately, I had a fresh tomato, and I decided to make my own tomato sauce.

Cored the tomato, put it in the blender.  Added a few cloves of garlic, a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and some oregano.  Blended.  The sauce came out quite pink. Like a vodka sauce.  I believe all of the air oxidized my tomato.  It was very liquid and very pink.  I took a few tablespoons of the sauce and spread it on the pizza, followed by sliced tomatoes, sliced red peppers, fresh cremini mushrooms and shredded fresh Mozzarella, cheddar and Parmigiano Reggio.

Oven was pre-heated to 525, with my lodge pizza pan on the top rack. I added a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a measuring cup, and when the oven was ready, removed the pan, put it on the stove top and drizzled the olive oil on the hot pan.  Slid the pizza onto the sizzling hot pizza pan and popped it in the oven for 3 minutes, followed by 3 minutes of broiling on high.

It was stupendous.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

On Friday afternoon, we left for a weekend at the NJ Shore.  I had no idea what time I'd be home on Sunday and did not want to try and figure out a way to pre-plan my loaves for a Sunday bake.  So, I mixed up some pizza dough and stuck it in the fridge, figuring we could eat it for lunch or dinner on Sunday.

We wound up getting back home before 10 a.m., and so I decided it was time to try the Saturday 75% Whole Wheat Bread by Ken Forkish.  This is a same-day, commercial yeast loaf, which for some reason he kicks up to 7% whole wheat.  Perhaps, this is because a same-day bake requires more whole wheat in order to obtain the flavor that a lack of pre-fermented dough delivers.

In any case, I used 750 grams of Prairie Gold White Hard Spring Wheat and ground it up into flour, mixed it with 250 grams AP flour and 800 grams of water, autolysed for 30 minutes and then added 18 grams of salt and 2 grams or so of yeast.

The dough rose nicely in 5 or so hours.  I divided it and wound up with two long strips of dough, folded it top to middle, bottom to middle and then pre-shaped into boules, bench rested 20 minutes then shaped alla Tartine and proofed seam-side down until ready.

The loaves came out looking pretty good:

I cut into one of them an hour or so later, and it tasted okay. Not the best thing since sliced bread, but pretty good.  I think it improved as it cooled.  I made grilled cheese last night and had a peanut butter sandwich this morning.  The bread is good.  It is not my best bread, but it is nice to know that, in an emergency, I can turn out a loaf of bread the same day that I decide to bake one.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Been baking from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt & Yeast, and I decided it was time to keep better notes of what I was doing so that I know how to consistently get the bread I love.  

Let me start off for the record saying that while this bread is fantastic, I won't be following these procedures again, unless I can't get an equally great bread doing things correctly...

Because Forkish recommends making a lot more levain than is called for in the final dough, last week I decided to cut the levain formula in half.  By the way, I don't "refresh" my starter. Last week, I took 25 grams of week old starter (1/4 of what he suggests using) and add it to 25 grams of White Whole Wheat Flour (freshly ground), 100 grams AP four and 100 grams of water.  However, when I wrote this down in my notebook, I erroneously wrote down 100 grams of White Whole Wheat.

Accordingly, my levain was very stiff, being at 50% hydration. It seemed awfully stiff, but it was 8:15pm, after a long day of work and I meticulously followed my notes so I figured I must have just had a bad memory for what the leaving as supposed to feel like.  Though, I knew in my head that something was wrong, I went to bed shortly thereafter, and when I woke up early saturday morning, I looked back at the book and saw my error.

Here is where it gets tricky... to "fix" the problem, my first reaction at 6:30 in the morning was simply to remove 75 grams of flour from the final dough.  However, I had already mixed the white whole wheat and AP the evening before, so I could not simply remove the whole wheat.  After removing 75 grams of flour, I held back some of the water from the autolyse step, figuring I did not need so much water now that I was hydrating less flour.

This caused me to rethink things, and I realized that when I added 216 grams of the levain, I was going to wind up with a lot more flour since it was only 50% hydration.  So I had the brilliant idea of adding 120 grams of water to the starter to get it the right hydration.  For those who do not know, you can't simply add 120 grams of water to 50% hydrated dough and expect the dough ball to hydrate properly.  Oh boy, what to do?  

Next, I just decided to mix up the water and the dough ball, almost like dispersing my 325 grams of levain into 130 grams of water.  Mixed by hand and broke it all up (after the kneading thing clearly was not going to work, and I had a soupy levain by the time my dough was nearly done autolysing.  Meanwhile, I started thinking about the math and calculated, whether rightly or wrongly, that when I removed 75 grams of the flour from the dough, and then added 130 grams of water to the levain, I wound up with too little flour and needed to add back in 55 grams of flour.  So, after the autolyses was done I kneaded in 55 grams of the removed flour and then added in the 216 grams of soupy levain.

(Lost yet? Good. Don't try this at home). Final dough temperature came to 77 degrees by 7:00 a.m.  The dough came just about up to the 1 liter mark on my 12 quart container.  (I am mixing units here, forgive me).

Turned at 7:20, 7:50, 8:20 and 9:10.  By 4:30 the dough had just about doubled, and I decided it was going too slowly, so into the oven with the light on it went.  By 8:20 we were tripled, and by 8:45 we were shaped and in the fridge.

By 6:30 a.m. this morning the dough was ready to come out of the fridge and the oven was preheated to 475.

When the combo cookers were preheated, I tried getting the dough out of the basket and it stick at the bottom/top pretty good.  Dough was misshapen but still in one piece, albeit flattish.

After removing the lid, and baking for 15 minutes or so, the bread was a very dark brown, so I lowered the temp to 450 for the remainder of the bake.  As you can see, they came out "boldly baked" which is a euphemism for burned.  And, yet.... they don't taste burned at all.  The bread has an excellent flavor. Crust is delicious and crumb is wonderful.

A successful bake despite the ridiculous contortions I went through.

 So far, the notebook has been an utter failure, but that is because I kept poor notes and then followed them to a T without thinking.  I am sure I will improve at this all in good time.  Although I would never bake this way deliberately, one thing I will take away from this is that I can get the crust pretty darned brown and the bread is far from inedible. 


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

So, I have been following the formula for Roberta's Pizza Dough, as reported in the New York Times.  However, after spending a fortune on a flour mill, I could not bring myself to purchase the '00' flour (nor did I find any whenever I was looking for it in the supermarkets).

I finally broke down and ordered 22 pounds of the stuff on Amazon, figuring 10 bags of 2.2 pounds of flour was manageable.

Roberta recommends 50% AP and 50% 00 flour. The dough I made was really quite silky smooth. More so than when I used only AP flour. 

I bake on a Lodge cast iron pizza pan. I preheat it on the top rack of my oven to 525, take it out, pour some olive oil on, put the dough on and then back in the oven for 4 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes on low.

Usually I pre-bake the crust and freeze some of them. After thawing, or having one pre-baked, I top it with sauce and cheese.  For this one, I did not par-bake. Instead, I took a few tablespoons of home-made sauce, spread it on very thin and then topped with shredded cheeses. Fresh Mozzarella, Provolone, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Why grate the mozzarella? Well, you wind up using a lot less cheese that way. From a calorie stand point that is a bonus. But is also weighs less therefore is more likely to allow the pizza "hold up" once it is sliced.

By the way, the olive oil on the pan makes it so the crust browns nicely.  This time around it was really a light brown without charring. I suspect that may have been because I used the "00" flour.

As you can see from top shot, the crust did not char at all. I suspect this was because of the "00" flour as well, since I read that it won't brown well in a home oven.  However, I only recently started using my broiler on low instead of high. So, I don't know whether a high setting would have changed things.  Fortunately, I have a lot of "00" flour with which to experiment.

The crumb on the crust was very nice. The pizza held up well for the overnighted dough, but on the two day old dough the dough stretched out very fast very quickly, and was too thin. Still delicious, but not entirely intact.

I also had added thinly sliced tomatoes before the cheese.  The crust held up well making the pizza a joy to eat.  I did not think the flavor of the crust was particularly special.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I scored some Montana Wheat, Prairie Gold Hard White Spring Wheat berries while visiting a friend, and decided to try the Overnight Country Brown with the White Spring Wheat Berries for the whole wheat portion of the formula.

For this bake, to make the levain, at 9:00 p.m. I used 25 grams of my unfed starter (last fed about 10 days prior to making the levain), added 100 grams of AP flour, 100 grams of the milled Prairie Gold, and 100 grams of water. 

At 7:00am, I autolysed the 604 grams of AP flour, 276 grams of white wheat, and 684 grams of water.

At 7:30 I mixed the dough, using 20 (instead of 22) grams of salt. Final dough temp was 79 degrees. I used room temp water, but the freshly ground flour brought the temperature up.

At 8:00 pm I dividend, pre-shaped and bench rested for 20 minutes

The dough hit the 5 liter mark in my bucket. I have no idea where it was when it started, but I think it was over proofed. There were large air bubbles on the surface.

Cambro Bucket


 I have since marked my bucket making it easier to see the volume measurements. Next time I will really know when the dough tripled. I just added 1 liter of water to the bucket and marked with a permanent marker. Then kept adding a liter and marking the bucket.

Marked Cambro

From 8:25pm to 8:30 I shaped and stuck in the fridge.

Took the dough out of the fridge at 6:20, turned the oven on with the dutch ovens inside, at 475 and baked as soon as the oven came to temperature. 30 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered.  

Here is the dough out of the fridge:

Crumb was a bit moist and I think I could have baked longer. However, the crust was dark and the internal temp was 209 so I am not really sure it was necessary.


The bread has a nice tang to it. Very soft crumb.  The wheat berries made great pancakes too.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Because I accidentally melted my 12 Quart Cambro container and wound up baking only a single loaf for my Country Brown, I decided to make a "quick" loaf using the 50% Whole Wheat Biga formula.  I ground the flour the night before, made the AP biga the night before, and mixed the dough in the morning.

I used I bulk fermented the dough in the 6-Quart container and, quite frankly, while it was a little small, I did not really miss using the 12 quart container.  I wonder if I really need such a big container for making only two loaves of bread.

The loaves were proofed and baked Sunday morning. As you can see from the picture below, one of the loaves opened up very nicely, and the other one did not really open up.  It is the latter that I brought to my folks house and which was cut up to accompany dinner Sunday afternoon.

The crumb is close.

My father sliced the bread in smaller pieces and heated them in the toaster oven. They were a bit too crunchy for my liking, but they tasted delicious. The crust was phenomenal.  I have quite a bit of the Country Brown left and am not 100% sure I will get to cut the second loaf before heading out for the weekend.  Maybe I'll freeze it tonight and bring it with me....

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I decided to bake an Overnight Country Brown bread, out of Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt & Yeast book.

During the bulk fermentation, I placed my 12-quart Cambro container in the stove, door slightly ajar and light on.

Note to self and others: When using the oven as a proofing box, put a sticky note on whatever button or dial is needed to turn the stove on, that says "Remove contents before using!".

Unfortunately, during the bulk rise, my wife started to pre-heat the oven.  I did not notice until I saw the oven temperature at 200 or 220 degrees F.  I rushed to the oven, and pulled out my cambro container, which was melted at the top.  The dough was slightly cooked, or at least looked overly dry, along one side of the container.

Rather than throw it all out, I scooped out a lot of the dough, leaving over a lot along the edge, and transferred it to a 6 quart container where I let it continue the bulk fermentation.

I divided and preshaped the dough before deciding that I would make just a single loaf. So I put the slack second "boule" on top of the first and let it rest for 20 minutes before making a larger boule.

The dough was definitely not in an ideal state, but it came out really really good.  It tastes great too. Definitely has a tang to it, and it is very moist.

Here is a phone flash photo of the crumb:

Without the flash:


I wound up baking this loaf after a much shorter fermentation/proofing period than I had intended, but have to say that I am very pleased with the result.



David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I was on vacation for a week and used my starter for nothing but pancakes (which, because they were watered down, came out more like crepes) and when we came home on Saturday, I knew that my usual tartine bake was not going to fit in with my weekend schedule. 

Fortunately, I had yet to bake from Flour, Water, Salt & Yeast and I decided to give it a go with a <gasp!> 100% All Purpose Flour loaf, using <gasp!> commercial yeast!

Of course, I could not start with a straight dough after eating so many country loaves and whole wheat variants of same, so I opted for the 80% Poolish variety of white bread, figuring that this would keep me from finding the bake overly bland.

This also provided me an opportunity to use my nifty Cambro buckets.

The top bucket has some bizarre i-Phone flash reflection going on. In person, the bucket looks just like the bottom one, only smaller.  The top bucket contains my poolish recently mixed. The bottom photo contains the remaining flour, salt and in the baby food container, the yeast for the final dough.  I was not sure if it was safe to mix the yeast with the flour and salt and let it sit overnight but figured it can be left in a glass jar unrefrigerated and be just fine.

The next morning, my poolish was over-ripe.  The book says it should be rounded on top, and tripled in volume.  Instead, it looked like it had collapsed some because the surface was a bit concave rather than domed.

I dispersed the yeast the following morning and added the poolish into the larger bucket.

I did not remember to photograph the bucket before it was time to shape the dough.  Nor did I photograph the dough in the baskets.  The dough was a lot more pillow-like than my tartine doughs. It was very soft. It was also a bit more difficult to handle because it seemed like it was ready to deflate at any moment. Either that or it was just looser dough.

The finished loaves (a bit blurry) looked pretty good, though I overcooked the bottoms (need to raise the oven rack back up a notch).  They did not burst and I wonder if that is the result of my poolish/biga being overly developed prior to dough mixing.

The truth is, I could hardly tell if I was proofing seam side up or seam side down. But these photos make me think I did it seam-side down since I did no scoring.

And, finally, another crumb shot:

Let me say that the bread was delicious. Even though the bottom was burned a bit, it just added to the flavor. It is a very soft bread, a bit more difficult to cut, but oh so delicious with butter.  It made a delicious grilled cheese sandwich too.

And the following day (today) it made a fantastic peanut butter sandwich.  My wife says I should only make white breads like this, but I did remind her that we've had some delicious wheat and rye breads too and she agreed.  Plus, of course, I have a very expensive grain mill and can't possibly shelve it.

Next time I make this bread, I will mix the poolish a little later in the evening so that it is ready to go closer to 12 hours later.


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David Esq.

I pulled the trigger on a pullman 13x4x4 loaf pan recently, and have been itching to bake a sandwich bread.  I was unable to do it last weekend due to travel plans, so I was trying to figure out a way to get the loaf done after work. Unfortunately, I can't begin to bake anything until 7:30 pm at the earliest, and I usually go to bed by 10. 

Then I had an inspiration -- instead of making the oat/white bread recipe from KA Flour's website, I would make the "master loaf" from Whole Grain Breads. I thought that I could mix the "soaker" and "biga" one evening and make and bake the dough the next.

What I forgot, however, was that the formula calls for two rises. For some reason I had thought there was only a single rise, in the pan.  However, by the time I figured it out, I was in for a penny, in for a pound, I sucked it up and realized I'd be up for at least an hour longer than I hoped.

I rushed things along by putting the dough in a warm oven and letting it rise for only 45 minutes or so, during the bulk fermentation and then for the proofing in the pan.

I also forgot how to bake the darned loaf. He uses the "epoxy" method where you make the biga and soaker the day before, and then mix in the final ingredients with the two components.  While the "final ingredients", being a bit of flour, honey, butter and a lot of yeast are to be added to the other components, I decided mix them first....resulting in what looked like wet brown sugar.

Let me just say that it is not easy incorporating that sticky granular mess into the rest of the dough.  However, after a while, it blended in seamlessly.

I still don't think I am getting a proper window pane and do not understand how it is possible to give instructions suggesting a total of 3 minutes hand kneading.  Maybe store-bought whole wheat flour would behave differently.

I get it to a shaggy mass, let it rest, and then kneed for several minutes, including slaps and folds, with wet fingers. It gets super sticky, I let it rest for another five minutes, and repeat.  May have done this 3 times.  It is still pretty darned sticky when I break off a piece for the window pane and it is still very weak.  Next time I am going to break out the kitchen aid and see if I get better development.

The dough rose nicely, and I shaped it into a log by first patting it into a long rectangle and then folding it up to the middle, from the bottom, and down from the top to the middle, and then in half again.  I have absolutely no idea why I did it this way instead of just rolling it up all the way.

I think the dough filled about 1/2 the pan, maybe a little less.  It rose to within 1 inch of the top, rather rapidly. In fact, i think it was probably closer to 3/4 of an inch. I worried it would pop the top but it did not even make it to the top.  Next time I may use more dough or perhaps with better glutton development I will get a better rise.

The loaf it self came out okay, but not fantastic.  I did not run a stick of butter along the top but will probably do that next time around.

It made great toast. It was relatively easy to slice. But it is definitely not the best bread I've made. I've got work to do on the whole grain breads.  This one, like my last one, contains  a bit of rye.  I made myself PB&J for lunch with it, and look forward to seeing how it does. However, the next loaf I make in this pan is going to be the honey oat white bread from KA Flour's site. I want a soft decadent loaf that my son will like. I don't want to try giving him the whole wheat before I get him hooked.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I decided to try the rye bread from the Tartine Bread book.  This is the fourth formula I have more or less followed from the Book.  I've made the Basic Country Loaf numerous times, the Walnut Country Loaf once (my favorite bread so far), the Whole Wheat country loaf, and now the rye.

I only had 500 gram so AP flour in the house, so I made up the rest with home-milled hard red winter wheat berries. And the rye flour called for in the formula was also home milled.

For this bread, I reverted to a levain that was made 50% with AP and 50% with milled whole wheat flour.  I did this because I was advised that my 100% milled whole wheat levain looked past its peak and I figured I could slow things down a bit if I used less whole wheat flour in the Levain.  Plus, that is the formula he suggests in the book.

The dough was very sticky before the autolyse.  And, after the autolyse it was also very sticky.  I was a bit worried about this, so I wound up taking the dough out of the container and doing some slap and folds after the autolyse and then again, after the first 30 minutes.  I really did see the dough develop from doing this, and while it remained sticky, it was much less so.

I have since learned that rye flour makes a very sticky starter (reading Flour Water Salt and Yeast by Ken Forkish now), and I assume that this played a role in the sticky dough even though the Tartine formula does not call for a high percentage of rye flour. 

I believe the dough's starting temperature was 79 degrees. It moved up to 80-81 over the first 2-3 hours while it fermented in the oven with the light on. For the last hour I took it out and left it at room temperature.

The dough came out of the container okay, but it was sticky. I used a generous amount of flour on the top of the dough, flipped it, pre-shaped and let it rest, followed by the shaping.  The dough was fine for the most part, with only a little tackiness in a couple of spots.  I used extra rye flour and sifted it over the boules, together with some rice flour, scooped them up and put them in my baskets, which were generously floured with the rye flour I milled earlier in the day.

I proofed the loaves in the fridge for about 8 hours and then baked. They came out of the baskets quite easily, and I took a pastry brush to remove some of the excess flour before scoring and baking.

Two hours later, the bread was still soft and warm and oh so delicious.  The following morning, the bread was still quite moist and made delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

And, two days after baking, it made another delicious Peanutbutter sandwich.  The crumb is a perfect blend of chew and moistness.

One of the loaves bloomed a bit better than the other, but both are quite good.

There was no real sour flavor, something I attribute to skipping the overnight proofing. I skipped the overnight proofing because I was worried that the dough would overproof and become sticky whereas I could tell that the loaves would release after rising adequately over about 8 hours.

The bread also has no distinct rye flavor that I could discern.  Perhaps that was because I wound up using more whole wheat flour than rye.  Or perhaps I don't really know what rye bread is supposed to taste like. Either way, I will make this loaf again, perhaps with added rye.  I doubt I will reduce the whole wheat though.


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