So yesterday around 11am we decided on a meal that a loaf of fresh bread would be good with. I didn't have a refreshed starter or preferment going, but I quickly mixed up a cup of AP flour, a cup of luke warm water, and about a third of a teaspoon of yeast and let it sit while I figured out what I wanted to do with it.
About two hours later I took a look. It wasn't even close to ripe and had just a few bubbles, but it was better than nothing, so I mixed it is with around 600 more grams AP flour, 400 or so grams water, and 15 grams kosher salt. Oh yeah, and another 2/3 teaspoon yeast. Mixed it up real well until I could see good gluten development and then let it sit.
Folded an hour or so later, around 2pm, then again around 3pm. I split and shaped it around 4 and baked it around 5.
It came out really nice. The crumb is lovely, I think, about as nice as I've ever gotten from a dough without a meaningful preferment and with such a short rise time. I guess that is the sign of the better gluten development?
The flavour is a bit plain, as one would expect, but not bad at all. It is also staling slower than I typically expect a straight dough to stale. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I'll have to try this again.
The first was with chanterelle mushrooms on a white sauce. My wife's all time favourite.
The second BBQ chicken with red onion and cilantro. The kids got to it before I got my camera out.
The third chicken, red onion, and pesto.
All came out well. I was playing with Reinhart's American style pizza dough. It is good too and makes a thicker, stiffer slice than his neo-Neapolitan dough does, one that is easier to pick up with your fingers rather than eat with a fork and knife. It is a good option to consider for a setting where you want people to be able to grab a slice and wander off.
I baked for many years without using a mixer or any special gear. I really enjoy mixing and kneading by hand, and think it is a great way to get to know about dough.
But after a while it became clear a mixer would be helpful. Not so much because there were things I couldn't do without a mixer, but because I could do much more of it with the help of a mixer. Three or four batches of bread in an afternoon barehanded is exhausting; with a decent mixer it just becomes challenging to schedule everything so that it is ready to go into the oven at the right time. A good mixer is a tremendous labour saver.
My first mixer was an entry level KitchenAid, something like this. I found it on super duper sale and was very pleased with it. I've put a lot of mileage on it and never had a breakdown, though there definitely were times I had to divide a batch or take a break from mixing because I could tell I was putting too much strain on it.
Last spring I decided it was time for an upgrade. I think it was the Milk Bread with Tangzhong that finally did it: that dough was so sticky it would climb up the hook and get into the head of the mixer in a matter of seconds. For every second spent mixing, I think I spent five scraping down the dough. I'd had it.
After much research, including reading many of your threads here, I set my sights on an Ankarsrum Original mixer (aka Assistent, DLX, Electrolux, Verona, or Magic Mill). It is a pricy machine, but given the amount of time and energy I spend baking, it seemed like a worthy investment that would pay off over the years.
I've been using this mixer since September and really enjoying it. Super sturdy build with a much larger capacity. My KitchenAid used to walk all over the counter when it was mixing and I always had to stop it and scrape the dough back down into the bowl, whereas this thing barely moves and rarely does the dough get stuck on hook. This is the most I've ever seen it budge:
So while it has a bigger footprint than my KitchenAid, I don't have to give it as much clearance since it isn't whipping all over the place and bumping around like my old machine was.
I'm still getting adjusted to using a spiral mixer -- meaning the bowl spins and the hook stays still -- rather than a planetary mixer where the hook moves and the bowl is stationary. My preliminary impression is that while it takes a bit longer to knead the doughs in the spiral mixer with the dough hook, it does a better job, something much more akin to a hand kneading than the serious beating that my dough would get in the KitchenAid.
Also, it may be completely irrational but I've always been scared of getting injured by a planetary mixer. I saw a colleague of mine get his hand caught in a large planetary mixer the first week I worked at a bakery. That was a much more powerful and dangerous machine than my little countertop mixer, for certain. But I like that my new mixer has a large, open bowl that makes it easy to watch the dough develop or poke it while the mixer is running (which I'm certain the instructions tell you never to do) without fear of having the hook swing around and catch a finger. Make of that what you will.
What else? Yes, I actually feel like I am learning a lot more about dough development since it so easy to watch it now. That's a pretty big deal, actually.
The two attachments I use a lot are this heavy beater thing for getting ingredients incorporated:
And then the dough hook once my dough is together:
There also is a plastic bowl and attachments that allow you to use this as a standard mixer/beater, which we've used to beat eggs, make whipping cream and cake with. See?
My favourite accessory that comes with it? Very silly, but the plastic lid that fits the bowl just so. For things like autolyze it is so handy to have. I'm sure you can buy something similar for a KitchenAid, but I never did.
This mixer is a huge step forward for me. I think is both going to make baking easier (and less frustrating) for me and, ultimately, make me a better baker, which is a very good thing! :)
I know some other folks have been considering getting one and asking questions about them. Let me know if there are any questions I can answer or particular features you want me to demo. I should note though that I've never used the Bosch mixer or a higher end KitchenAid so I don't think I can offer a meaningful comparison.
My other experiment yesterday was a Roasted Garlic Sourdough with about 30% whole wheat flour.
I didn't time this one quite right. First it was going to fast and I had to leave the house, so I folded it and set it outside, where I guess it was a little cooler than I thought. That really showed down the fermentation and I wanted it out of the oven by dinner, so I ended up switching the order of my bakes (hence the really hot oven for the White Chocolate Apricot Sourdough, which I'd planned on baking second once I'd cooled the oven a bit). So the crumb is tighter that I wanted, but still perfectly acceptable.
It's pretty good. There is a strong garlic flavour even in the slices without cloves in them. Fairly heavy in that you don't need to eat much to fill up. I'm not sure I'll make it again unless I have an occasion when I know I'll have folks around to share with, but I'm glad I tried.
I made two experimental doughs yesterday. The winner by a landslide was the White Chocolate Apricot Sourdough.
I really loaded it down with white chocolate chunks and chopped dried apricots. I was afraid it was going to come out too heavy, but it rose quite nicely.
The only fault was that I had the oven too hot for a sweet bread, so the bottoms of the loaves came out a bit blackened.
Still, this one is a huge winner.
I know I've seen someone else use the white chocolate and apricot pairing somewhere, but I can't find it on the site or in any of the baking books I have easy access to (some are in storage), but still... a hat tip to my unknown inspiration. This one is delicious!
I started a dough last night that was somewhere between Ken Forkish's Poolish Pizza Dough and Peter Reinhart's Neo-Neopolitian Dough.
Not bad. Using AP flour, it was nice and extensible, but I'm not getting as much crunch on the crust as I was when I used a stronger flour. I'm not sure if there is much I can do about that, but I'll keep tinkering.
Neither place was much more than a mixer, bench, a wood oven, and a cash register. You don't come to these places for the decor, just the bagels!
But the bagels...
It is hard to do justice to the bagels! Sweet and crisp on the outside and slightly charred sometimes. Wow...
In Vancouver we have Siegal's Bagels and Rosemary Rocksalt -- run by the same family -- that are doing a good job of recreating Montréal bagels. They've certainly got the rig set up right:
But ... I don't know what it is, but I've never found myself just standing on the sidewalk lost in thought while munching on their bagels the way I did the Fairmount bagels. They were that good. Truly something to experience, if you ever get the chance!
I baked a couple of times last week. Both were sourdoughs with a rye-fed stiff levain and approximately a 70% hydration, 50% whole wheat final dough.
This is the first batch, in which I used up my Red Fife whole wheat flour.
The second batch I used a 2012 crop BC soft whole wheat that was grown by a farmer BreadSong knows and which she was kind enough to share some of with me. I also added 10% spelt flour, just out of curiosity.
It didn't look quite a nice on the outside, but the second batch had fantastic crumb and really wonderful flavour. It had this beautiful, warm, almost caramel coloured crumb, which really doesn't come through in the photos.
The first batch was very good too. I love baking in the cool fall weather we've been having because it makes it very easy to do a long, slow fermentation that really seems to bring out the best my sourdough.
That's it for baking for the next few weeks. We are heading back East for a bit to see friends and sightsee in Montreal, Vermont, and Boston. The fall colours should be fantastic and I hope to get a chance to check out a few of the bakeries, mills, and bagel shops back there I've heard so much about.
I hope everyone else is getting a chance to fire up their ovens again, and my best to fellow Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving next weekend.
My biggest takeaway, baking-wise, from the Kneading Conference West this year is that I've been baking with too strong flour. I almost always use bread flour, and generally try to bake with the highest protein flour I can find. It works, in the sense that I usually have strong loaves that can hold their shape well, but they are tougher and less tasty than they need to be. So I'm trying to ease up and get used to mixing in more AP flour. I did this with a batch of pizza dough last week and it turned out really nice, much more extensible than what I typically make.