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July is the hottest month of the year in Fresno. For the past couple years, since I retired from practice, we have tried to get to cooler areas for as much of the month as possible. Being away from home more than usual, I do less baking than usual in July.

My baking for the first half of July has had an Italian theme. 

 First, here is a sandwich roll version of my Sourdough Italian Bread (Sourdough Italian Baguettes) which is an Italian version of my San Joaquin Sourdough. The dough was mixed and fermented as described previously. Then 4.25 oz pieces were made into balls, rested for an hour, then re-shaped, seeded and proofed for 30 minutes. They were baked on a sheet pan at 480dF for about 15 minutes.

 

Rolls proofing

Rolls Cooling

My favorite pizza dough is still Forkish’s “Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain” made with 00 flour (Pizza Bliss). I made a full batch and used two 350g balls for pizzas one night and one 350g and one 700g ball for focacce.

  

 

The smaller, round focaccia has olive oil, slivered garlic, chopped fresh rosemary and thinly sliced zucchini. I learned (from this experience) that zucchini has a lot of water in it, and the top of the dough will be gummy, if the zucchini are applied too densely. The rectangular focaccia has olive oil, rosemary and a very sparse spread of the tomato sauce I made for pizzas. Very yummy. I froze most of the second focaccia, and I will try using it for grilled panini, maybe in a week or two.

 

And last but not least, a couple loaves of San Joaquin Sourdough (San Joaquin Sourdough: Update) just came out of the oven.

I hope all of you (in the Northern Hemisphere) are keeping cool, and Happy baking!

David 

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Back in April, Khaled let me know he had enrolled in the Sourdough Bread workshop at the San Francisco Baking Institute. I volunteered to meet him there and, after he had a night to recover a bit from the 15 hour flight from Dubai, take him on a tour of San Francisco bakeries and show him some of the city sights. I also volunteered brother Glenn, who lives in San Francisco, to act as native guide. 

So, Khaled and his friend and business associate, Jamal, arrived last Friday. My wife and I picked them up at their hotel Saturday morning and drove to downtown. We parked in the Mission Street Garage, because we expected to leave the car most of the day, and I thought Khaled and Jamal would enjoy the walk to the Ferry Building, where Glenn joined us. I had warned Khaled that July can be chilly in San Francisco. Even though, it turned out to be unseasonably warm (68 dF), coming from the UAE, the visitors said it seemed quite chilly to them.

There is a fabulous Farmer's Market at the San Francisco Ferry Building on Saturday mornings. In addition to wonderful produce and other foods, there are three bakeries that come: Acme (Acme Bread Company - Ferry Building Marketplace), which has a permanent stall inside the Ferry Building, Della Fattoria (Della Fattoria Homepage), from Petaluma and Downtown Bakery (Downtown Bakery & Creamery | Home - Healdsburg), from Healdsburg. We tasted samples and bought various pastries and breads at each.

Glenn's office is on the 22nd floor of one of the Embarcadero Center towers, a couple hundred yards from the Ferry Building, so he took us up for a panoramic view of the Bay. By then, it was time for lunch. We walked over to California Street and up to Tadich Grill (Tadich Grill | San Francisco, CA), which, for those of you who don't know, is the oldest restaurant in the City (founded during the Gold Rush era) and still one of the best, especially for fish.  Hmmmm ... If you take into account the delicious, very much old-style San Francisco Sourdough that Boudin custom bakes for Tadich Grill, we actually "visited" 7 (seven) bakeries.

We then hopped on the Muni and headed down Market to the Castro. We got off the trolly close to Thorough Bread Bakery (Thorough Bread and Pastry), one of my favorites, but Khaled was very focused on visiting Tartine (Tartine Bakery), so we walked there first. He said he just needed to see it. As usual, the line was half a block long. I stood in line, "just in case," while Susan and Khaled squeezed past the line, into the bakery/cafe, so Khaled could see their offerings. He came back to the end of the line with this really intense, serious look and announced he "had to get something," no matter how long we had to wait. So, another of those really tough sacrifices one makes for a friend, we had coffee and (too many) pastries at Tartine. Everything was amazingly wonderful.

So, we walked back to Thorough Bread Bakery. Their breads and Pastries looked wonderful as they always do, but we were already suffering from a mixture of butter intoxication and hyper-caffeination, so we just looked. Then we took the Muni back downtown to retrieve our cars and met again at B Patisserie (b. patisserie) on California and Divisadero. 

Now, it occurs to me that you might get the idea this was some sort of self-indulgent carbohydrate orgy. I want you to understand, Khaled and Jamal are serious businessmen, in San Francisco for professional training. They have very high standards and are both clearly committed to producing an authentic product of the highest quality to their clientele. They have an exceptional challenge: They aim to introduce French-style, artisanal pains au levain in several varieties to a country that has no prior exposure to these foods. Moreover, neither man has personally traveled in France, Italy or other countries where the breads they will be baking are "native." They know what they have read about and seen photos of here on TFL and in their cookbooks and what they have baked themselves. One of their goals for this trip was to taste as many of the types of breads they anticipate baking as possible at as many excellent bakeries as possible. I do think that the bakeries they visited would be hard to beat, setting a standard of quality for which to strive for any baker.

 

Jamal and Khaled performing intensive product assessment at b. patisserie

Susan, Glenn and I had great fun facilitating Khaled and Jamal's investigations. 

David

 

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I've made focaccia just a few times, usually as an afterthought when I had some dough left over from another bake. Frankly, it's never been very good. Today, I made a focaccia that was really good. Really, really good! 

This past weekend, I made a couple loaves of Ken Forkish's "Overnight Country Blonde." Since I was mixing the levain anyway, I made a bit extra for Pizzas. Now, the formula in FWYS makes enough dough for 5 pizzas. I usually make 2 pizzas for the two of us. This time, I made enough dough to have 340g left, with the thought I would make focaccia, and that's what I did. 

340g of dough is enough to make a 9" round focaccia in a cast iron skillet, according to Forkish. I made mine in an 8" cake pan. My procedure was as follows:

1. Make Pizza dough according to the Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain. (There was no overnight fermentation for me. The bulk fermentation was complete in about 6 hours.) Divide the dough into 340g pieces. Roll into balls and put in Ziploc sandwich bags with a Tbs of olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

2. 2 hours before baking, take one ball out of the refrigerator. Let it proof at room temperature until increased in volume by about 50%. It should be very puffy.

3. Transfer the dough to a floured board. Gently degas it, turning it over to flour both sides. 

4. Stretch the dough as for a pizza into a 8" round.

5. Lightly oil a non-stick 8" cake pan. Transfer the dough to it, and, if needed, stretch it to the pan walls. Cover with a damp towel and let proof for 30-60 minutes, depending on room temperature. The dough should increase in volume by maybe 30%.

6. Pre-heat oven to 500dF (convection-bake, if you have it).

7. Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil on the dough. Spread it around with your fingers while dimpling the dough deeply all over with your finger tips. With your clean hand, sprinkle the dough surface with finely chopped fresh rosemary, coarse salt and any other toppings. ( I pressed pitted, halved Kalamata olives into half of the focaccia.)

8. Bake for 12 minutes. The top should be lightly browned.

9. When ready to serve, cut into rectangular pieces. Can be cut for panini or used for dipping.

Focaccia in pan, ready to bake

Just out of the oven

Ready to slice

 

Yum!

This dough had been refrigerated for 3 days. The flavor of the focaccia was complex with moderate sourdough tang. We ate it at room temperature. The crust was thin and soft. The crumb was delightfully chewy but not at all tough. I ate some dipped in hummus and more accompanying roast wild king salmon, corn on the cob and a tomato salad for dinner.

I will definitely make this again! I'm looking forward to using it for Panini and un-grilled sandwiches as well.

Here are some photos of the other weekend baking:

Overnight Country Blonde from FWSY

Overnight Country Blonde crumb

And a slice of Pizza Margherita

Happy baking!

David

 

 

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I allowed myself to completely run out of San Joaquin Sourdough Baguettes. This is not acceptable, but it is remediable.

And in the mood for some whole wheaty bread. PiPs is in the queue, but today I made Hamelman's Whole Wheat Levain. It's pretty delicious fresh baked or toasted with almond butter.

Gotta get dressed for a concert now.

Happy baking!

David

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Pain au Levain with mixed sourdough starters

Last week, I baked Hamelman's "66 Percent Sourdough Rye." Searching my TFL blog, I found I hadn't made this bread since 2008! This bread is leavened with a rye sour fed with Medium rye. It is interesting to make in that the dough handles like a high-percentage rye (very sticky with not much gluten development) yet the rye flavor is not dominent. It does have the advantage, shared with other high-rye-percentage breads, of brief bulk fermentation and proofing, which makes it a quick bread to make, assuming you have elaborated the sour the preceding day. This is a mellow, tasty, "all-purpose" bread, to my taste. Good fresh and toasted. It's a great bread for sandwiches. 

Well, I had made way too much rye sour for that bread and had a lot left over which provided a perfect excuse to make Hamelman's "Pain au Levain with mixed sourdough starters." This is also a bread I had made before, but not for some time - not since 2011. As the name implies, this bread uses both a wheat flour fed liquid levain and a rye sour. But it is basically a white bread with 84% bread flour, 8% rye (all in the sour) and 8% whole wheat. This formula is also remarkable for using only 16% pre-fermented flour. Yet, with that mix of levains, the bulk fermentation is very vigorous and takes no longer than Hamelman's usual 2.5 hours for his Pains au Levain, and that is without any commercial yeast.

I chose to cold retard the formed loaves overnight (about 16 hours, actually). They had about 45 minutes of proofing before refrigeration and about 2 hours at room temperature before baking.

The crumb was typical for a 68% hydration large loaf. On tasting a slice after the loaves had completely cooled, the crust was crunchy. The crumb was moderately chewy. The crust flavor is sweet and nutty - very flavorful as anticipated with a bold bake. The crumb flavor was quite complex. The flavors have not yet melded, and the rye and whole wheat flavor tones are identifiable. There is a late-appearing sourdough tang that is quite prominent. All in all, this bread is delicious with many discernible flavors which I expect will have mellowed by tomorrow morning. 

Anyone who enjoys any of Hamelman's Pains au Levain should be sure to give this one a try. I like them all, and I hope I remember to keep this one in my "rotation."

Happy baking!

David

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Today was the party for which I have been "practicing" - featuring my WFO-baked breads. Well, that was kind of the excuse, but it was a potluck with friends from the Italian community, so, needless to say, there was no lack of many other delicious foods.

I got to J.'s about 10:30am. She had fired her oven at about 6 am but had been afraid it wouldn't be hot enough by 10am, so she had added another log of walnut. In fact, the floor of the oven was near 800 dF and the roof was near 900 dF. So, although my breads were ready to bake, I thought it prudent to wait until the floor temp fell to 500-550dF. I shoveled out the coals and left the door open for a while.

I then swept the ashes out and mopped the floor. I had brought along a garden sprayer and tested it. Water sprayed towards the roof turned to steam instantly. I put up the oven door for 10 minutes or so while I moved my peel, the proofing loaves, my lame, some semolina, etc. to where I could load the 4 loaves as quickly as possible, once I was ready to do so.

My preceding WFO bake included a 1kg loaf of my SF-style SD with increased WW. That turned out to be really delicious, so I decided to make that bread for the party. My defense against a too-hot fire was to make smaller loaves that would bake with a shorter exposure to the heat. So, I made 2 kg of dough, the same formula except I added 25g of toasted wheat germ, just for fun.

When the oven floor temperature fell below 600dF, i decided to bake the loaves. The wait for the oven to cool this far meant the loaves were a bit over-proofed, but not so much there was any collapse when they were scored.

I sprayed the oven roof for 5 seconds or so, then loaded the loaves one at a time but as quickly as possible. I closed the door for only about 10 minutes, then opened it and rotated the loaves to bake evenly. After 20 minutes, I took one out to test. It sounded hollow when thumped, and the internal temperature was about 207dF.

There was good oven spring but only modest bloom. A couple of the loaves had some bursting. I think the over-proofing resulted in less oven spring but more fragile loaves which probably had some damage to the gluten sheath when they were dumped on the peel.

The crust was a little crunchy, but not as thick or crunchy as the previous WFO bakes. The taste of the bread was wonderful. 

Today's WFO-baked breads plus some SD Italian breads and a Fig-Hazelnut WW Soudough baked at home

Various people brought wonderful antipasti, lasagne, salads and meat. J. had told me she wasn't going to need the WFO after I finished but evidently changed her mind by today, because she baked a pork roast in the WFO which was sweet tasting and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I drank quite enough of a delicious red wine that came from somewhere. It might have been a Syrah or some sort of Rhône blend. Hmmm ... It could have been a Amarone too. It was big enough.

The best desert was the flourless dark chocolate, ground almond mini-cupcakes my wife baked. 

The breads were appreciated by all. The bread I baked in the WFO is one I have baked at home many times. It tastes different and remarkably better baked in the WFO. There is nothing "smokey" about the flavor. It is just more complex and mellow. I have no idea why, but it has been true every time.

It was a good party. Great food. Great wine. Delightful conversations. Everyone thought it needs repeating.

David

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I just returned home from my second bake in a wood fired oven. My first bake, about 3 weeks ago, is described in My first WFO bake: Lessons in time, temperature and humility. That experience demonstrated the wisdom of the advice I had received, especially the advice I disregarded.  

Last week, I got a phone call from my friend, L. , inviting me to a potluck dinner at J.'s where members of the Italian social group that meets weekly at J.'s store would be eager to sample my bread, baked in J.'s WFO. Yikes! A "command performance!" So, I called J. and told her I needed another "practice session" before baking for 20 hungry Italians. 

I re-read all the TFL responses to my request for WFO words of wisdom and, from them, distilled a protocol that I shared with J. She translated it into a concrete schedule, and we agreed on a date and time for the practice session, which was today.

I added one item to the list of suggestions: Because of the incredible oven spring with burst loaves I had from the first WFO bake, it seemed to me that I should more fully proof the loaves to reduce the oven spring to a more "normal," controlled level.

J. Fired her oven at 4 am. I arrived at her house at 2 pm. In retrospect, she had built too big a fire. The oven floor was over 750 dF, and the coals were still burning. We shoveled out the coals, and in about an hour the oven was cool enough (around 500 dF) to try baking bread. We decided to do one of the 3 loaves first, just in case ... I choose a 1 Kg boule of my San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread with increased whole wheat flour. We had a large cast iron skill filled with water in the back of the oven. We mopped the floor with a damp cloth. I loaded the boule, shut the door for 20 minutes. Then I peaked and rotated the loaf. It baked for 25 minutes.

After baking the other loaves - two 900g bâtards of Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat -, we sliced the SFSD and tasted it with some fantastic local olive oil which I am going to have to buy next time I'm at J.'s store.

The bâtards had a slightly cooler oven. They baked in about 26 minutes and were less darkly colored.

As you can see, these loaves have a somewhat dull crust. This is because the oven could not be adequately humidified. It's big and really needed to be baking 15, 20 or more loaves at once to function optimally. However, the tasting is the critical test.

The SFSD with increase whole wheat was simply the best tasting bread I have ever baked. The crust was very crunchy. The crumb was well-aerated, very tender and light. The crust had a dark, nutty, mildly bitter flavor which was offset by the very sweet, milky flavor of the crumb. There was a subtle, late-appearing but lingering acetic acid tang, but the lactic acid flavor was much more prominent. After tasting a slice, with and without olive oil and declaring it delicious, J. said, "You know, growing up, I never liked sourdough bread, but this is wonderful." 

Before I left for home, we set a schedule for preparing the oven and baking the breads for the potluck. I'm ready to party!

I couldn't have learned what I have learned in just two bakes without the wonderful, generous wisdom shared by  TFL members mrvegemite,  yozzause, Sjadad, Arlo, etheil, BobSponge, embth, and Josh. Thanks, guys! You make me (even more) proud to be a member of this community.

David

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Sourdough Italian Demi-Baguettes: Variations on a Theme 

David M. Snyder

May 3, 2015

  

Last month, I made some Sourdough Italian Rolls, using a formula I had developed and used previously to make bâtards. This week, I continued to play with this formula. I increased the proportion of durum flour in the dough, doubling the amount in the final dough, and I shaped the dough as demi-baguettes. (I wanted to make bâtards. My wife wanted more rolls to use for sandwiches. Demi-Baguettes was the compromise. We use that shape for sandwiches frequently.)

 

Total Dough

 

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

Bakers' %

AP flour

334

60.7

Fine Durum flour

200

36.4

WW flour

11

2

Whole Rye flour

5

1

Water

400

72.7

Salt

10

1.8

Sugar

14

2.5

EVOO

14

2.5

Total

988

179.6

  

Liquid Levain

 

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

Bakers' %

Liquid starter

40

40

Water

100

100

AP flour

70

70

WW flour

20

20

Whole Rye flour

10

10

Total

240

240

  1. Disperse the liquid starter in the water.

  2. Add the flours and mix thoroughly.

  3. Ferment at room temperature until expanded and bubbly (8-12 hours). If necessary, refrigerate overnight and let warm up for an hour before using.

 

Final Dough

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

AP flour

300

Fine Durum flour

200

Water

350

Salt

10

Sugar

14

Active liquid levain

100

EVOO

14

Total

988

Procedures

  1. In a large bowl, disperse the levain in the water.

  2. Add the flours and sugar to the liquid and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Add the salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. (Note: I squish the dough with my hands until it comes back together, then do stretch and folds in the bowl until it forms a smooth ball and the oil appears completely incorporated.)

  5. Transfer the dough to a 2 quart lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl tightly.

  6. After 30 minutes, do stretch and folds in the bowl. Repeat 3 more times at 30 minute intervals.

  7. Continue bulk fermentation for another 30-90 minutes, until the dough is puffy. If fermented in a glass bowl, you should see lots of little bubbles throughout the dough. Volume of the dough may have increased by 50% or so.

  8. Refrigerate for 12-36 hours.

  9. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and pre-shape as rounds or logs. Cover with a clean towel, baker's linen or plasti-crap and let rest for one hour.

  10. Shape as Demi-Baguettes or Ficelles.

  11. Roll the loaves on damp paper towels, then in a tray of sesame seeds. Alternatively, you can brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

  12. Proof for about 45 minutes, seam-side down, on parchment paper pleated to separate the loaves and supported at both long sides by rolled-up dish towels. Cover with a damp towel, baker's linen or plasti-crap.

  13. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480ºF with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  14. When ready to bake, uncover the loaves. Pull the parchment from both long sides to flatten out the pleats and separate the loaves.

  15. Transfer the loaves, on the parchment, to a peel. Score them as baguettes. Transfer them to the baking stone. 

  16. Steam the oven, and turn the temperature down to 460ºF.

  17. After 10-12 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus. (Note: If you have a convection oven, switch to convection bake and turn the oven down to 435ºF for the remainder of the bake.) Continue baking for another 6-8 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 205ºF.

  18. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. Cool completely before eating.

 

After cooling, the Italian bread crust was soft. The crumb was nicely aerated, but not as open as expected for this level of hydration. I suspect this is because of the durum flour (higher protein but poorer quality gluten) and the extra handling installing the sesame seeds. The flavor is heavenly. This is a sweet white roll with the nuttiness of durum and sesame seeds, dipped in high quality EVOO. How could that not be delicious?

One of the baguettes was consumed for dinner. 

Panino with roast chicken breast, caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar, sliced dried calmyrna figs, emmenthaler cheese and a light smear of Dijon mustard.

Such a sandwich can only be washed down with good Italian beer, of course. 

I also baked a couple boules based on the "Overnight Country Blonde" from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. Summer has arrived, and my kitchen is running 75 to 78 dF, so fermentation runs faster than the book specifies. The result is that bulk fermentation was complete in 5 hours. I refrigerated the dough overnight and divided and shaped the next morning. Even with the dough starting out cold, proofing was complete in about 2 hours. 

All of the sourdough breads I have made from FWSY have a strong family resemblance but more or less distinctive flavor profiles, depending on the flour mix used, the percentage pre-fermented flour and the fermentation routine. This bread had a crunchy crust and cool, chewy crumb. The flavor had that nice wheaty sweetness and a quite present but mild sourdough tang, with the creamy lactic acid tone dominating. Although this is a higher hydration dough, the flavor profile is very much like the Pain de Campagne from Hamelman's Bread. And that's not bad! Like my San Joaquin Sourdough, it contains mostly AP flour but with about 10% whole grain flours, divided between whole wheat and whole rye. The procedures I used for this bake, with the overnight retardation before dividing and shaping, gave such nice results, I am going to use it for a while and try increasing the whole grain flours, maybe adding some toasted wheat germ for its nutty flavor and who knows what else.

It has been a good bread baking day.

Happy baking!

David

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Sourdough Italian Rolls

April 18, 2015

Those familiar with my San Joaquin Sourdough will recognize the rolls I baked today as its Italian cousin. Besides the obvious difference that these are rolls rather than bâtards, they also have around 20% Durum flour, some sugar and olive oil, and they have a sesame seed coating.

I developed this formula in 2011. Originally, it had both diastatic malt and suger. It was pointed out to me that the AP flour is already malted, and, as a sweetener, the malt is redundant. I really didn't need both malt and sugar. So, today's version omits the malt.

 

Total Dough

 

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

Bakers' %

AP flour

434

79

Fine Durum flour

100

18

WW flour

11

2

Whole Rye flour

5

1

Water

400

73

Salt

10

1.8

Sugar

14

2.5

EVOO

14

2.5

Total

988

179.8

  

Liquid Levain

 

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

Bakers' %

Liquid starter

40

40

Water

100

100

AP flour

70

70

WW flour

20

20

Whole Rye flour

10

10

Total

240

240

  1. Disperse the liquid starter in the water.

  2. Add the flours and mix thoroughly.

  3. Ferment at room temperature until expanded and bubbly (8-12 hours). If necessary, refrigerate overnight and let warm up for an hour before using.

 

Final Dough

 

Ingredient

Amount (gms)

AP flour

400

Fine Durum flour

100

Water

350

Salt

10

Sugar

14

Active liquid levain

100

EVOO

14

Total

988

Procedures

  1. In a large bowl, disperse the levain in the water.

  2. Add the flours and sugar to the liquid and mix to a shaggy mass.

  3. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 20-60 minutes.

  4. Add the salt and olive oil and mix thoroughly. (Note: I squish the dough with my hands until it comes back together, then do stretch and folds in the bowl until it forms a smooth ball and the oil appears completely incorporated.)

  5. Transfer the dough to a 2 quart lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl tightly.

  6. After 30 minutes, do stretch and folds in the bowl. Repeat 3 more times at 30 minute intervals.

  7. Refrigerate for 12-36 hours. (Today, I retarded for 23 hrs.)

  8. Divide the dough into 8 or 9 equal pieces and pre-shape as rounds or logs. Cover with a clean towel, baker's linen or plasti-crap and let rest for one hour. (Today, I scaled 6 rolls at 4 oz and 3 rolls to 3.65 oz.)

  9. Shape as long rolls and proof en couche or on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes. (Note: Optionally, roll the rolls on damp paper towels, then in a tray of sesame seeds. Alternatively, you can brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.)

  10. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480ºF with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  11. Transfer the rolls to a peel. Score them, if desired. Transfer the rolls to the baking stone. Or, if the rolls were proofed on a baking sheet, score the rolls and place the sheet in the oven. 

  12. Steam the oven, and turn the temperature down to 460ºF.

  13. After 10 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus. (Note: If you have a convection oven, switch to convection bake and turn the oven down to 435ºF for the remainder of the bake.) Continue baking for another 6-8 minutes or until the rolls are nicely browned and the internal temperature is at least 205ºF.

  14. Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack. Cool completely before eating.

Sourdough Italian Roll crumb

My wife frequently asks me to make “soft” rolls to use for her sandwiches, but I seldom do so for some reason. I baked these while she was out. When she got home and saw them, she asked if she could use them to make sandwiches for the bridge group she is hosting next week. I know I can make more, so I just asked to save one for us to share with dinner. Well, after tasting the dinner roll, she started talking about getting rolls from the bakery for her bridge group and reserving the sourdough Italian rolls for us. I thought they were pretty good too. In fact, the flavor was so good I would hesitate to cover it with sandwich fillings.

 

I also made some blueberry muffins. The recipe is from The Best Recipe, by the America's Test Kitchen folks. 


They were delicious as well.

 

Happy baking!

David

Submitted to yeastspotting

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Warning!: This report contains graphic images of misshapen loaves and loaves subjected to extreme thermal trauma. Young children and those easily upset by pictures of charred crust are advised to immediately go on to the next blog.

My long-awaited first bake in a wood-fired oven occurred yesterday. The day before had been hopping from dough to dough. I had mixed one large liquid levain to use in both San Joaquin Sourdough baguettes and the miche from the San Francisco Baking Instute's "Artisan II" workshop. That was made with a mix of AP and CM T85 flours. A 100% Whole Wheat liquid starter was mixed to make Hamelman's "Whole Wheat Levain."

For most of the day, I was a slave to my kitchen timer.

By late afternoon, I had the SJSD dough in the fridge and was shaping the other two doughs, the WW levain as two 940g bâtards and the miche dough divided into two 1010g boules. I figured that, except for the baguettes, all the bread should be in the same size loaves, so the bake times might be the same.

An hour before going to the WFO venue, I divided and pre-shaped the SJSD into rounds, and, just before loading the car, I shaped the pieces into 4 demi-baguettes. So, we loaded the car with 4 baguettes en couch on a proofing board, 4 loves in bannetons and a box with assorted bread baking paraphernalia - oven gauntlets, a lame, my super peel, cooling racks and more. We drove the 20 minutes to J.S.'s house and unloaded the car.

I was introduced to the WFO. I thought it was pretty neat.

J. had fired her oven the night before. When I arrived, the wood was burned to coals and ashes and raked to one side. The oven flour was at about 650dF. The "roof" was about 100dF hotter. We discussed raking out the ashes. I didn't want J. to go to too much trouble, so we left them in the oven. That was a big mistake. I wanted the oven somewhere between 480 and 580dF, and the oven floor could be brought to that range by leaving the oven open for a while. But, as soon as the door was put up, the oven floor temperature went right back up.

We discussed options for humidifying the oven. Since I wasn't going to come close to filling it with bread, there was no question that we needed to do something. We decided to fill a cast iron skillet with water and place it deep in the oven before loading the breads. That worked reasonably well.

I decided to bake the baguettes first. I transferred them from the couche to my SuperPeel. I then discovered that the oven door was narrower than the SuperPeel was wide. The loaves were therefore transferred to a semolina-dusted aluminum pizza peel and loaded to the oven deck with only moderate distortion of their shape. I would call the result "a movement disorder." (That's a medical joke. Sorry.)

All the advice I had read told me to not even peek at the loves for the first 20 minutes, so the steam in the oven isn't let out. Well, I figured the baguettes would probably bake in much less time than that, so I "peeked" in 15 minutes. And quickly removed the baguettes from the oven.

The second transfer clearly damaged my baguettes' structural integrity and provided a very nice illustration of how oven spring will always find the weak spots in your gluten sheath and expand at those spots. Anyway, the two baguettes on the outsides of this pathetic line-up were judged worth trying. 

The crust was very crunchy and the flavor was delicious. That was a relief!

Before loading the other loaves, I left the oven door open until the floor was down to 640dF. I then refilled the cast iron skillet, loaded the 4 loaves and closed the oven door. After 15 minutes, I opened the door, expecting to rotate the loaves, but they appeared quite well-baked. I took them out, knocked their bottoms and checked their internal temperatures with an instant read digital thermometer. In fact, 3 of the 4 loves were done, with internal temperatures over 205dF. The 4th was almost done. I gave it another 5 minutes in the oven, and that was plenty. 

As had been mentioned, oven spring in a wood-fired oven is exuberant. That was nice. Having the experience with the baguettes, I was more cautious with the larger loaves. all were somewhat charred in places, but none was ruined.

On slicing (still warm), I saw that the loaves were not cooked evenly. No part was totally under-cooked or gummy, but some could have used a few minutes' more baking at one end, at least. 

Appearances aside, the eating quality of all the breads was very good, and the WW Levain was amazingly good. The crusts were very crunchy. The crumbs were tender and slightly chewy. The flavors of the WW levain and of the baguettes were as good as I have every had. I think the "miche" would have been improved by more whole grain flour.

While the breads were baking, J.S. opened bottles of Chablis and Sangiovese and did the final cooking of a cioppino with talapia, shrimp, clams and mussels. The chef from her deli had made the sauce for her, and it was by far the best fish stew I have ever tasted. J. had decided to make it with the thought of having a delicious sauce for dipping bread into. An excellent decision! I apologize. By the time we sat down to eat, I was too tired and too hungry to even think about taking more photos.

We all had a delightful afternoon. I was disappointed in how the breads looked, although I really cannot complain about their eating quality. I did learn a lot, and I think I won't make the same mistakes again. (I'll make new ones!) The most important mistakes were not sweeping out the coals and not waiting until the oven was cool enough. If I am to try baguettes again in a WFO, I need to get an appropriate peel. The oven steaming method I used was adequate and a lot easier than using a mop or a garden sprayer.

I want to thank all those generous TFL members who responded to my request for advice on WFO baking. I collected all the suggestions into a single document and left a printed copy with my hostess. 

She invited me to use her oven whenever I wanted to, and I am eager to apply what I learned yesterday.

Happy baking!

David

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