The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I've finally gotten around to baking from The Rye Baker.  I made red rye malt powder, so the Borodinsky Rye, which he describes as the national bread of Russia, was in my sights.  I loved the process of making the scald sponge, which (here) means making a hot soaker of coarse (freshly milled of course) rye with ground coriander and red rye malt, and then fermenting it for 3-4 hourse with the overnight sponge the next morning before mixing the final dough.  The final dough includes some molasses, the salt, more medium rye flour, some bread flour, and more red rye malt.

The resulting bread is as tasty as any bread I've ever eaten.  It's complex, at once gently sour and mildly sweet, and the crumb is soft like a typical high percentage rye with a rye sourdough preferment.

The overnight sponge:

The overnight sponge and the scald mixed ("scald-sponge"):

The final dough:

The final shape, with wet hands, sprayed with water:

The risen loaf:

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Acme in San Francisco makes a lot of different breads.  I often pick up their sourdough cheese rolls, and finally decided to attempt them myself.  Hamelman has a cheese bread with 60% hydration stiff levain.  It got very active and stickier than I expected, never having made a stiff levain before.  The dough itself was 60% hydration, considerably lower than I ever make.

Before baking I called Acme to see if I could find anything out about their method, and to my surprise they were an open book.  It seemed that their process is similar to what I was going to do, and they told me what cheeses they use.  The result was mixed.  The rolls overcooked on the bottom, and the dough was drier than Acme's.  Otherwise, the crumb was decent and the flavor quite similar to the model.

They were shaped and cold retarded overnight, and cooked on a sheet pan on parchment at 460 F for about 30 minutes.  Clearly the heat was too high.  If I make these again I'd lower the heat to 400 or 375, up the hydration a bit and the olive oil more than a bit, and possibly add more cheese.  Please let me know your thoughts.

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My parents bought me a Komo mill for my 50th birthday.  These Hamelman WW multigrain loaves used 50% freshly milled whole grains on the finest setting, and included an overnight soaker of cracked wheat/cornmeal/sesame seeds.  

The crumb is as soft as sandwich bread, which is a total surprise.  All other factors were my normal routine, including adding a considerable amount of water during to mix to achieve medium looseness, 4 folds over about 3 hours (more than Hamelman calls for) and a 30 hour cold retard.

Does anyone else find that freshly milled flour yield a softer crumb?

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It seems like forever since I baked bread that wasn't rye.  This bake had the most explosive oven rise I have ever had, and I'm not sure why.  These were shaped oval, but almost grew round.  I used 50-50 Central Milling Artisan Baker's Craft and 85 Extraction Wheat, both malted.  I'm not sure what the equivalent percentage WW in this recipe would be.  The recipe is 75-25 bread flour to WW, so my experiment seemed low risk.

In place of the cracked rye called for in this recipe I used an old rye bread soaker, now a third generation, since the old bread I used itself had included an old rye bread soaker.  I also upped the hydration during the mix by almost a cup.  The dough was sticky, but after working with rye the last couple months, handling seemed easy by comparison.  The Central Milling flour also has beautiful extensibility.

I regret taking the loaf on the left out too soon, but it had reached 209F.  The one on the right required about 10 extra minutes to get to temperature, thankfully.  I used only natural leaven and cold retarded the shaped loaves about 20 hours, baking straight from the fridge on stone.

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The latest in my rye series is a Hamelman 70% medium rye with 30% WW, and a sizable pumpernickel soaker.  My cracked rye was bug infested (doesn't move very quickly at the only bulk store that carries it); the pumpernickel was coarse.  San Francisco Bay Area folks, if you know of a local source, please let me know.

All the rye was pre-fermented, and as a result took only 45 minutes to bulk rise and 75 for final rise in a pullman pan.  It was baked uncovered with steam, and had good oven spring; the loaf was about an inch below the pan and rose near 1/2 inch above the pan at the middle.

The result is a pleasing, mildly sweet, faintly sour loaf with soft crumb and a pretty chewy crust.  I'd prefer less chew, but some people like it.  It has the character of what I think of as German bread.  Not an everyday bread for me, but a welcome stop on my rye quest.

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My first Hamelman rye bake.  Someone please explain why I waited so long to start baking Hamelman rye recipes.  This took much less time than a normal bread, with 90-minutes each of bulk and final rise, then into the oven.  I love the mild sweet sourness of the rye, complimented by my non-controversial addition of caraway seeds after shaping.  Next time I will autolyse the WW and bread flour since it didn't occur to me at the time.


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I couldn't wait another day to order Tartine 3, and when I went to buy it, I found a "used like new" copy for under $12.  Must have been my day.  I made the first recipe using starter I had on hand, feeding twice daily preceding the bake, and used a young levain.  I'm not sure why the recipe calls for twice as much levain to be made as the recipe calls for.  Also, dutch ovens always burn the bottoms.

Other than than, I'm overall pleased with the result, and the crumb is pretty open for the percentage of WW used.  I wouldn't describe the crumb as "custardy," though.  I used 50/50 WW/AP for the "high extraction" per Robertson's suggestion.  I would prefer a dabrownman method sifting and pre-ferment of the bran, but I don't really have the setup for that yet (a mill, for instance).

I really enjoyed working with the high hydration dough at high temperature fermentation.  Here it is in stages.

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I recently had to revive my starter.  I had attempted dabrownman's stiff, sour rye build method, and I must have screwed it up somehow, because it wasn't activating well.  I also was putting it straight into levains, which I had done before with decent results, but I now prefer to do at least one build prior to making the levain.  So I resorted to rebuilding it with 2-1-1 feeds, 1-1-1 feeds, and 1-2-2 feeds until it was very active, before allowing it back in its cave (the fridge).  The evening of the levain build I did one refresh to nearly double it, and this worked well.  Mistakes are instructive.  I omitted the commercial yeast in the recipe, and yet I have a more open crumb than the one I made before that included it.

This is my best bread yet, and I believe revving up the starter and the 24-hour retard were significant factors.  The crumb shot is from the loaf on the right, and the crumb was tighter on the left one, since the cuts were not very successful.  All fermentation was done at 82F (starter, levain, 30-minute autolyse, bulk, and an hour of post shaping proofing before the cold retard).  I did 4 stretch and folds every 30 minutes during a 2-hour bulk, although Hamelman only calls for one.  I'm not experienced enough to know how much of a difference this made.



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I finally achieved a proper, (if off-center) ear on one of the loaves, so I'm overjoyed.  I thought I made deep enough cuts into the round loaf, but apparently not.  I really enjoyed incorporating a soaker, and this dough was quite easy to work with.  The crumb seems good to me, but I welcome any criticisms.  It felt like cheating using both levain and commercial yeast, but I love the recipe.  Changes made from previous Hamelman Vermont SD bake:

1.  Use of Brod & Taylor proofing box.  It performed as expected.  I really like that the water pan allows you not to cover the dough; the dough surface did not form a skin and was not wet either.

2.  Longer final proof.  It occurred to me that that as I learn to shape, I'm probably going to degas more than do experienced bakers during the pre- and final shaping, so it's a fair assumption that I'll need longer final proofing times.  I realize, of course, the need to monitor and poke the dough.

3.  Deeper score on oval loaf, and I thought on round loaf.  Better use of tip of razor to get cleaner cuts. Question: any idea what I did wrong on the round loaf?

4.  Lava rocks separated into two iron griddles.  One was used for pre- and the other post-load steaming.  I poured more water into the first pan after the second steaming, but that timing seems to provide minimal steam.  Again, I have a Blue Star gas oven, and the steam vents out quickly, so I don't know if I'm getting proper steam. Question: The bread has good crust and color, and expansion on the oval loaf, but is there any sign of poor oven spring on that loaf?

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This is the actually the second attempt.  The first loaves stuck to the bannetons.  Much soul searching ensued.  I have found both times that the dough is quite sticky to work with.  I made several changes this time:

1. Fed culture 3 times before building levain (vs. building straight from fridge after week or two of no feeding);
2. Full hour autolyse (vs. to 20-30 minutes);
3. Mixing in Kitchen Aid, dough reached recommended temp (vs. sticky, frustrating hand kneading)
4. 2 folds (vs. 1);
5. Pre-shaped, followed by bench rest (vs. not);
6. Final proof in cloth inside bannetons (vs. not)
7. Though I never got this far last time due to the disaster, use of lava rocks, with 2 cups.  I have a Blue Star range/oven, and the steam seemed to exit the oven very quickly.  I did two subsequent steamings, but didn't get the same amount of steam as the first time.  I'm thinking of separating the lava rocks into two different containers next time.

Result from my point of view.  I'd appreciate your thoughts:

1. Great color
2. Do razor blades only stay sharp for a few cuttings?  I had difficulty making the cuts, and the bread shows it.  Oven spring was not bad, considering. 
3. Crust is good, nice and crunchy the first day, pretty hard to slice.  Perhaps a little too thick?
4. Crumb - here is where I have several questions.
    a. Clearly more holes on the top.  Final proof had seam side up, so is it underproofed? [EDIT: I've since seen dabrownman's claim elsewhere that this is due to lack of preshaping         with bench rest--ouch!  I did both after watching Hamelman's video 10 times!]  It proofed 2:45, 15 minutes longer that Hamelman's max due to oven taking longer to preheat than expected.
    b.  The crumb is good, but fairly heavy, too.  I've certainly had store bought artisan bread that is similar, but I also assume the poor lame cuts and possible shorter steam lead to reduced oven spring, and thus denser crumb.

5. Overall flavor is quite good.  The family loves it.  It has artisan bakery qualities.  My culture is no longer very sour.  I tried to refresh it up to sourness with WW flour feeds at 84 (the highest I could get), but it wasn't enough.  I have ordered the Brod & Taylor device.   It felt great to do the pre- and final shaping from Hamelman's videos and book.  I wish I could spend a week working on my dough handling skills.



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