The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

The plan for this loaf started out to be the Overnight Country Brown, from Flour Water Salt Yeast.  However, I ran out of all purpose flour and made up the difference with whole wheat from my red winter wheat berries freshly milled for the occasion.

For the flours, I autolyzed 200 grams KA AP flour with 680 grams of the whole wheat flour.  I decided to use 699 grams of water and that seemed just about right for moistening all of the flour. After an hour or so, I added 22 grams of salt and the levain.

Unfortunately, as I was measuring out the levain and seeing that I was not going to have enough, I realized, I messed up somewhere along the way, most likely in not zeroing out the scale before I started removing the levain, since I was pretty certain I had made enough.

Sure enough, when I weighed my dough and container, it was a bit heavier than it should have been, so instead of the 216 grams of levain I had intended, I had probably used 228.  Not a terribly large difference, but I think it made the bread tangier than usual.  It is quite soft, but easily sliced without tearing and tastes great with butter.

The crumb was quite closed but not dense.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Obviously, a lot of us are baking or will be baking bread for the upcoming U.S. Thanksgiving.  I decided to do a "double" on Ken Forkish's Overnight Country Brown, using a mixture of Red and White wheat berries for the whole grain portion fo the formula.

Took the starter out of the fridge Friday evening, and fed it.  Saturday morning, I mixed the levain. Six or so hours later, it looked ready to go, so I autolysed the remaining flour and water for an hour, then mixed in the levain and salt.  It came up to the 2 liter mark on my container, meaning it was supposed to get to 6 liters before it was ready for shaping.

I was in a bit of a dilema because it was early afternoon when I mixed the dough and I was afraid it would be over-fermented if I left it out at room temperature. So, into the "butler's pantry" it went. Our pantry is in an uninsulated part of the kitchen and is quite cold in winter and quite warm in the summer.  By the following morning the dough had risen to the 3 litre mark, so I took it out and put it in the stove with the light on.  A few hours later, we were at 5 litres plus, and I decided that it was time to bake because the dough was looking more ripe than I like.

I scraped the dough out with my flexible scraper and it came out pretty much all in one piece.  Being it was a double batch for four loaves, I had cleared off my entire kitchen counter removing the blender, coffee maker and other sundries.  I floured an "+" in the dough and cut 1/4 at a time to shape it into a boule.  The dough was too sticky for my nerves, still more like fly paper than dough, but I quickly folded and shaped it and popped it into the baskets which were "dusted" with sesame seeds and rolled oats.

Proofed for a couple of hours and then baked. Two of the loaves released cleanly from the basket, which was more than I coudl hope for. Two stuck a bit, one of them tore a little.

I am eating the bread this morning and it is delicious. Moist, with a crisp crust.  Made a peanutbutter sandwich with it, and took some fresh blackberries, mashed them with a fork and spred them on the peanutbutter.  It is delicious. 

I wrapped two of the loaves this morning and put them in the freezer. I will take them out Wednesday night and let them thaw, wrapped for Thursday's festivities.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I was planning to make a "field blend #2" bread, using starter and the directions for the overnight country brown.  However, I started earlier in the morning and by the time the dough was tripled, it was very much over fermented.  I knew this because the dough was much more fragile than usual.  I could see the gluten web being fully developed as it poured/pulled out of the bucket.

The dough was super duper sticky, incapable of being handled or shaped. I just kept reverting to a mess, remaining sticky as ever after the bulk ferment.  So, I did what I had to do. I greased up some tins and deposited the dough into them, let them proof for a few hours and baked up some loaves.

The thermometer read 210 degrees so I figured it was done.  But several hours later the bread was very moist inside, damp to the touch.  It made fantastic toast, wonderful tang, but I would not want a sandwich made out of it ... at least not on day 1.  But a few days later, the bread "dried out" and had a much more pleasing quality about it, and made great sandwiches.

Very glad that it was not a total failure as a bread. The coloration on the top is due to an uneven application of butter after it came out of the oven.

Here it is after the proofing.


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

People often criticize the Forkish method of managing one's starter.  For example, if you were to make his double-fed sweet levain according to his instructions, you would throw away everything but 50 grams of your starter that you fed 24 hours ago, feed it 250 grams of flour and (200 grams of water) for a total of 450 grams of levain.  Then you'd throw out 200 grams of the levain and feed it 500 grams of flour and 500 grams of water for a total of 1000 grams of levain, before using only 540 grams of it, and presumably, keeping the remaining 460 grams of levain only to discard 410 grams of it for the next bake.

The benefit to creating so much starter that winds up in the trash is that small errors in measurement are much less significant when dealing with huge quantities whereas the same small errors when dealing with smaller quantities are significant (in terms of percentages.  What the impact on the bread is, is unknown to me).

I house my starter in a 1/2 pint mason jar. Here it is after having been fed and then used to create a levain for an overnight country brown.

My jar weighs 147 grams empty. With my culture in it above, it weighed 153 grams.  Since I had 6 grams of culture it was time to feed.  Rounding, I fed it 3 grams water, 3 grams AP flour and 1 gram of whole wheat flour.  That turns out to be 75% hydration rather than his recommended 80%. If I was to not round, I would have fed it 2.7 grams, 2.7 grams and 0.7 grams respectively,bringing me to 79%.  Given the resolution of this scale, lord only knows what I actually put into the mix.  However, to be sure of getting one thing right, I measured the water with a syringe.  Not because I am crazy exact, but because I have trouble pouring that little water into the jar and didn't want to over-pour by a lot.

Here it is, all fed right before going in the fridge.

Note, this is not how I normally do things. But that is because I have no real "normal" way of doing things. Sometimes, for a bake, if I have too much in the jar, I will take out a portion of my already small starter and build it in a new jar, feed the old and stick it in the fridge, and keep the new on the counter until it is ready for use.  I might then have two jars in the fridge, or simply add the old and the new into a single jar, cleaning the old one.     


David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

This weekend was a "disaster" in terms of baking waste. I don't even recall what I was trying to bake, but I got distracted and used the wrong quantity of water.  I determined this because the autolyse was very dry and when I weighed my container it was short by a whole lot.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to incorporate the missing water at this point. I tried to overcome the problem with time, and eventually the pools of water in my dough bucket began to subside and I had a crappy looking dough that felt awful.  More time passed and it seemed almost passable except for the tumors of hard matter which I can only assume were clumps of drier dough in the mix.

At this point, I had already started down the path of making the Forkish Double Fed Sweet Levain bread and given the huge quantities of discard that he calls for, I had enough to make four loaves by the end of the second feeding. (I did not do a full forkish feeding for the first one, but did so for the second).  When I got to adding the salt to the Sweet Levain dough, I realized I forgot to add it to the first dough disaster I had created, so I just dumped the mess into the trash and said, good riddance.  I promise to have my notebook nearby next time I bake so I can keep better track of things.

Anyway, back to the double fed sweet levain bread -- his process calls for 1/2 tsp of yeast, he says, because the levain he uses is not particularly active, having been recently fed before mixing.  I decided to experiment and skip the yeast for the first batch and then add the yeast for the second batch.  The second batch also contained rye and more ground white whole wheat.

The dough is supposed to grow 2-2.5 times in size, and the one with the yeast, which was started nearly an hour after the one without, rose admirably and allowed me to shape and put in the fridge before bed.  The second set of dough started an hour earlier and without the yeast was barely budging, I think it came to just above 1 liter in the cambro container when it started just below 1 liter. I had no idea how long it would take to get to nearly 3 liters, but I put the bucket in the pantry which is a bit cooler than the kitchen this time of year, and went to bed.

In the morning, my shaped and yeasted dough had grown quite a bit in the baskets and were ready to bake first thing (6:30 a.m.).  I had added rolled oats to the proofing baskets and even sprinkled them around the perimeter of the dough, in addition to using rice flour.  These babies dropped out without leaving any bits behind FINALLY!

Scored Dough

The loaves baked up very nicely though they did not open up much.

And, as you can see, the crumb is beautiful.  It is very soft. No sourness at all. Just lovely to eat.

Even though it was baked fresh that day, I decided to make some grilled cheese for dinner.  I have been using my cast iron skillets to grill my sandwich, using the second skillet as a panini press. This makes the bread toast up beautifully.  I am using coconut oil and cheddar. Yum!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Am I the only one who takes some sort of idiotic pride in using the minimum amount of flour to get the job done -- and by job, I mean, having the dough release from the basket without ripping?  And by "idiotic pride" I mean, using too little and having my dough stick/rip on occasion because I put it in the basket somewhat sticky instead of adequately floured?

In addition to the idiotic part, I also have a practical question -- how do you get the seam side to be less sticky? Do you flour it before turning it over and shaping, or do you let it stay sticky and then run it through some bench flour at the end of shaping?  For some reason, It doesn't seem like a good idea to turn it over, flour it and then turn it over again.

In any case, my loaves came out pretty good considering the damage I did to them just before baking.

I blogged about it with lots of photographs, here.

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.


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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.



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