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davidg618

or Too Many Changes Addle the Brain

Recently, I made some sourdough levained baguettes, Sourdough in Baguette's clothing and was delighted to find their flavor included a distinct acidic tang (sourness) that I especially like, but my wife usually doesn't. However, with this bake, I caught her returning more than once for another slice of the cut loaf. When I confronted her, she allowed the flavor was "interesting"--and took another bite.

 The baguette dough was similar to the dough I bake weekly in batards: our daily bread. The differences are:

                         Original Formula                                          Baguette Formula

Flour ratio:     45%AP/45%Bread/10%Whole Rye          66%AP/24%Bread/10%Whole Rye

Preferment:    28% (100% Hyd., all Bread Flour)            49% (100% Hyd., all Bread Flour)

Additionally, I routinely build levain from refrigerated seed starter in three progressive steps, feeding 2:1:1 at eight hour intervals. For the baguettes I allowed the third feeding to ferment for 12 hours.

Salt and Hydration was the same for both: 2% and 68% percent respectively, and, except for the loaves' final shape, all the dough handling, fermentation times, fermentation temperatures, and baking temperatures were the same. Batards are generally proofed at 82°F, baguettes at 76°F (RT) because they won't fit into my proofing box.

Over the last two days I built levain, made dough and shaped three batards. The intention was to duplicate the dough I used to make the sourdough baguettes, and experience the same flavor.

However, I have a very strong Imp of the Perverse in my flawed character. I couldn't resist making more changes. Specifically, I built the levain in three progressive stages reducing the hydration of each build by one-third the difference between the seed starter hydration (100%) and the final dough hydration (68%). I let the final build, at 68% Hyd., ferment for 12 hours. Seduced by the sourdough lore that stiffer levain favors bacterial acid production, I reasoned "Hey, it can't hurt!".

Furthermore, I returned to the original flour ratio 45%AP/45%Bread/10% Whole Rye. And, to exacerbate my sins, I put three teaspoons of diastatic malt powder in the final dough. I wanted a darker crust.

I cannot detect any flavor difference in the finished loaves compared to our weekly sourdough bake. The distinct tang has vanished. Of course, with all the changes I've nary a clue why.

But I did get a darker crust.

David G

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Yesterday I made Orange Marmalade with Single Malt Scotch. It's bursting with flavors: rabid orange with a slightly bitter tang, and subtle smokey undertones of peat smoked whiskey. No ordinary baguette's wheatiness could stand up to this flavor.

Concurrently, I was making sourdough levain for my refrigerated seed starter's refreshment; I simply made 300g extra.

I made 1050g of 68% hydrated sourdough, with 66/24/10 ratio of All-purpose/Bread/Whole Rye flours. The levain was fed only with Bread flour, and I also let the levain ferment for 12 hours to develop its sourness a bit more. This is a slight variant of my usual sourdough 45/45/10 flour ratio; only 250g of levain is used in 1500g of final dough, and the levain ferments for only 8 hours. The dough was retarded for 15 hours @ 55°F. I shaped three 350g loaves into baguettes.

This combination of tweaks yielded yielded a bread with a baguette-like crumb, softer than my usual chewier sourdough, and a distincitve acidic tang that stands side-by-side with the bursts of orange rind, the scotch-smokiness, and the marmalade's bitter low note.

Whether, or not, these loaves are deserving of being called "baguettes of a different color" or are pretenders merely dressed up like baguettes, they certainly are keepers.

David G

 

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Mid-February I wrote a blog entry http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/27427/fine-tuning-process that included using  grill humidifying containers to generate steam. I've been using these for a couple months now, and can report I'm delighted with them.

These are sold by Amazon: Charcoal Companion CC4071 Moistly Grilled Grill Humidifier.

Although the manufacturer claims they are pre-conditioned, I've conditioned them further, and make certain I dry them immediately after removing them. They tend to rust slightly if not cared for. 

I place them on a rack in the top-most position in the oven. I  experimented with placing them on a bottom-most rack, but found it difficult--and less safe--removing them. The small rolled towel fragments at each end keep them from sloshing as all long and thin containers do, again a minor safety adjustment.

I fill them with preheated water, and place them on each side of the top-most rack about 10 minutes before loading loaves.  I've found they take a bit longer to produce steam, than a pan with more surface area. Nonetheless, once boiling they produce steam abundantly. I use them without their perforated covers. When the initial steamed baking time is completed I remove them, using oven gloves, immediately, and uncover the oven vent.  Then I place the oven into convection mode to finish the bake; the convection fan quickly vents the oven.

Prior, I created steam by putting a half-sheet pan, lined with wet towels, on the top-most rack. I got plenty of steam, but the pan blocked the radiant heat from the top heating coil. Consequently, I wasn't getting all the oven spring and bloom available. This method is the safest I've found to date, and as effective, or better, than any other method I've used previously.

David G

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After practicing daily with my six-string braiding crutch

Today I built and baked a six-strand challah

Nailed the braiding, but I hadn't expected (hadn't thought it through) how big this loaf would turn out: it's resting on a 17" drying rack.

The formula is from Ciril Hitz Baking Artisan Bread. Total dough weight was 1172 grams (about 2.5 lb). I use grams to measure ingredients, and calculate bakers' percentage for its accuracy and ease, but, being American, casually, I think and "sense" in pounds and ounces, except this time.  And Master Baker Hitz' directions state "Makes 2 3-strand loaves, or 1 5-strand loaf"; surely 6-strand would be even smaller? With only two of us, both wedded to doughs leaner than challah--I prefer sourdoughs, my wife baguettes--this giant will be rock-hard stale before we eat a fifth.

No problem. We love challah as the base for French toast. We have a recipe for "Baked French Toast". We're going to let this loaf sit uncovered for two days, cube it and make it the prime ingredient. Done, breakfast-for-two sized portions will be frozen.

David G

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Because of competing, food related commitments I chose to merely replace my refrigerated starter this weekend, in lieu of both replacing and baking. However, returning home from the home brewing club meeting last night, and having replaced my saved starter, I had some good looking ripe levain left over. Reluctant to throw it out, I refreshed it, and went to bed with no clear plan what to bake today, but a head-full of ideas, and yet another competing food chore too. I've planned to smoke some baby-back ribs, turkey legs, and pastrami Monday--the meat cure finished yesterday-- which makes Sunday "get-ready" day. First things first, I put the rub on the ribs, began brining the turkey legs, exposed the pastrami cure to air---the smoke adhere better--and prepared its coriander/black pepper rub.

While doing these chores, I decided to bake: A Big Loaf.

I had 500g of 100% hydrated ripe levain, so I made 1750g of 70% hydrated dough, with a mixture of 60% whole wheat flour, 30% bread flour (25% in the levain), and 10% whole rye flour; I baked it all as one Big Loaf.  I don't know if the result qualifies as a miche, but it sure looks like one; and since "miche" translates to simply "loaf", I guess it does.  Sorry, no crumb shot. I'll freeze this behemoth and refresh it for our next neighborhood pot-luck.

David G

 

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I bake challah rarely, once every two or three months, usually two loaves. One I pan bake; it gets sliced and frozen for French toast, two or four slices thawed each time; it lasts a good while. The second loaf I braid, only because I like the way the shiny, chocolate-colored, bulging braid looks: eye candy. However, each time I bake challah I have to relearn six-strand braiding--my favorite. I baked challah two days ago, and the braiding was especially frustrating, in part because I'd tried a new recipe--it turned out delicious, but I'd made the dough softer than usual--as well as having to, once again, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, answer the phone, try to figure out where I was...well, you know the rest. I finally got it to look half-way decent; proofing, oven spring and browning aided considerably.

Yesterday, I recalled how, when I was about ten years old, I'd learned to braid four strands of flat, plastic lacing--called "Gimp"--into an attractive round braid. With a metal snaphook on its beginning end,  a yard of it, doubled back on itself and the loop closed with a square-braided slide finished in a Turks-head knot it made a handsome lanyard. I got so good at making lanyards I supplemented my meager weekly allowance by making them for other, less-talented Boys' Club campers, and kids in my neighborhood. I recall I also made a few dog leashes too.

With that memory recalled...

I made my self a practice string which I carry with me in my shirt pocket.  Now, at most free moments, I take it out; my latest mantra is, 6 over 1, 2 over 6, 1 over 3, 5 over 1, 6 over 4,...etc., etc., etc.

David G

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Over the past three or four weeks I've been experimenting with small adjustments, one at a time, to my process. Three of them appear to be adding positive nuances to my loaves. They are:

• longer autolyse, prior to adding yeast (or levain) and salt.

• using  new steam-generating containers.

• warming retarded, pre-shaped dough, and final proofing at elevated temperature: 82°F

With both baguettes and sourdough loaves I've been hydrating the flours for five hours before adding yeast, levain or salt. With the sourdough I've cut the hydrated flour-water ball into cubes, with a bench knife, before adding the liquid levain. With baguettes I simply sprinkle the yeast and salt on the dough ball (on alternate sides) before resting it in the refrigerator for five hours--a trick I adapted from the USA baking team's baguette formula published by the BBGA in Bread Lines.

Recently, a TFLer posted a backyard grill "moisturizer" (?) as a potential steam-generating vessal for bread baking. I tried to find his/her post again using the search function, but couldn't find the magic words, so I can't give credit. Nonetheless, when I read it it seemed like a possible alternative for me. In response to an earlier posting I'd made Mebake commented I should be getting better bloom from my baguette scoring, and attributed the lack thereof to my using a towel-lined sheet pan, on the top shelf, to generate steam; i.e., the pan was seriously preventing radiant heat from reaching the tops of my baggettes.  I took that comment to heart, and have since been searching for long, narrow pans--two of them--to replace the sheet pan to place one on each side. Until I read the aforementioned post I'd had no success. Subsequently, I found the pair pictured on Amazon--they are longer and narrower than ones in the post. I found, loaded with hot water, they sloshed badly so I added the small towel fragment rolls on either end, and I've been using them without their lids. I'm certainly satisfied with the bloom I'm getting on sourdough loaves. Next weekend I'm baking baguettes for the first time since purchasing them. I'll also be revisiting steaming from the bottom of the oven with these new containers in another future bake.

I retard both sourdoughs and baguette dough at 54°F for 15 hours. Heretofore, I've been preshaping the loaves immediately after removing the dough from the chiller, and resting them for an hour at room temperature, which varies between 68°F and 76°F depending on the seasons. Subsequently, I'd final proof in my homemade proofing box at 76°F, or in the kitchen when the air-conditioner was controlling the temperature, also 76°F. For the past three weekly bakes I've pre-warmed the proof-box, and rested the pre-shaped dough in it at 82°F, and final proofed at the same temperature. Doing so has consistently cut 1/2 hour off of the final proof time. More importantly, I'm perceiving I'm also consistently getting a modestly more open crumb.

....and today's results.

David G

 

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Back in November http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25804/whole-wheat-sunday I specified what I want in a sourdough loaf's crumb...

2. Al dente crumb; i.e., when you mash it, it springs back; when you bite it, there is resistance.

3. Open crumb. Now I'm not looking for gaping holes. I want irregular size aveoles,  the biggest of which occupy no more than the thickness of a good sandwich slice--about 3/8ths of an inch radius. I frequently use sourdough breads for sandwiches. Unquestionably, sandwich-making is its singlemost use. So, I don't want mustard or mayo dribbling on my shirt front. I also think #2 is closely related to #3--if you don't have 3, you don't have 2.

I've been baking the same 50%WW sourdough formula, every two weeks,  since November without any changes, until now. Today I baked two 1.5 lb loave of 50% Whole Wheat sourdough, using the same formula and techniques, with one change: during the last 5 hours the levain build was working I hydrated (autolysed) the balance of the non-prefermented flour while chilling it too. Subsequently, as usual, I retarded the final dough 15 hours.

Specifically, I pre-chill all the flour not used in the levain build, and mixed the final dough with ice water. My target DDT is 54°F. Because of mixer friction--the hydrated dough is machine kneaded for 2 minutes on speed 1, and 7 minutes at speed 2--I never achieve DDT; the dough is always warmer. Consequently, during autolyse, the early hours of fermentation, and simultaneously with any dough manipulations (i.e., Stretch and Folds) I continue to chill the dough in the refrigerator until it reaches DDT; then I transfer it to our wine closet, where the ambient temperature is 54°F, for the remainder of its retardation. Yesterday, I mixed the balance of the dough's flour with the balance of the water, and hydrated (and chilled for 5 hours) the mix before adding the levain and salt.

I cut one of the cooled loaves, and was greeted with a crumb that is the closest to my ideal I've ever reached--although I've had a lot of "close, but no cigar" moments. Not certain I'll ever see the like again, but I'm going to try.

David G

By-the-way. I didn't photograph this bread slice, I scanned it.

D. G.

Monday: 2/6/12

Same formula, same ingredients, same techniques and process; smaller loaves: 1 lb. this time.

I'm satisfied. You be the judge.

David G

 

 

 

 

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I've made croissants before now, twice: once during a King Arthur baking class, and, shortly after, at home, a bit more than two years ago.  I was nominally satisfied with both attempts, but in that same time frame my focus was elsewhere: sourdough and baguettes. With due humility I've been satisfied with my consistent successes with both baguettes, and a handful of sourdough formulae that I've felt the urge to try a new challenge: croissants--high on my "enjoy eating" list.

While studying the subject, and formulating an approach, I frequently reminded myself that it took nearly three years to reach satisfaction with my sourdoughs, and more than two in regard to baguettes. And I'm still learning. Nonetheless, it's time to stretch.

Over that last two days I've begun a new goal: consistently produce satisfactory croissants. Satisfactory means good flavor, wonderfully flaky crumb, and eye appeal, in that order. Examining those criteria I decided flaky crumb, i.e., building properly laminated dough was, initially the most challenging. My thinking was flavor was determined by ingredients, and relatively passive techniques: fermentation; poolish or natural levain vs. straight dough; and quality of ingredients. Eye appeal is primarily manual techniques, which equates to practice, practice, practice. For my first "real" home attempt at croissants I decided to focus intensely on dough lamination.

I used a straight dough formula--the same formula used in the KA classroom, a straight dough, with two modifications. Guided by Michael Saus' Advanced Bread and Pastry: a professional approach, I lowered the baking temperature to 385°F. I found the KA and SFBI straight dough formulae differed only in 2% hydration and malt powder, and baking temperature. I opted for the lower, SFBI, temperature. Additonally, I added malt powder to the mix, ala SFBI. I also used osmotolerent yeast prescribed by SFBI, although neither the sugar nor fat content in the dough demand its use.

Results: I made four basic croissants and two pain au chocolat. One can see I need practice, practice, practice.

Crumb. I had intial difficulty with the lamination. During the first turn the dough tore, and exposed the butter layer in a small area. I attribute the mistake to too much aggression rolling the first turn. Despite the dough's wound, I contined doing two more turns as prescribed.

Needless to say, I'm satisfied with the crumb, although we did find a "doughy" spot in one croissant.  I'm fairly sure it was caused by the dough rupture mentioned.

Flavorwise, I'm statisfied; more importantly, so is my wife. I used KA AP flour, and Vermont Creamery cultured butter: the primary flavor contributors.

Next effort, will include the same ingredients and techniques, but will incorporate a poolish ala SFBI's formula.

David G

 

 

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This is completely off-topic.

Discounting the ocassional hurricane, and the ever increasing summer heat, Florida is a good state to live in, especially if you grow a winter garden. We generally plant cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli in late October to early November. The broccoli is always the first to mature.

Earlier in the week my wife harvested two heads of broccoli, and asked me to make Cream of Broccoli soup. I'd never done it before, and it sounded like fun. Basically, Bechamel sauce with some added cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg pureed with lots of al dente steamed florets.

Next month: Cauliflower and Cheddar.

David G

 

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