The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Floydm's blog

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I made pizzas last night using the Neapolitan Denominazione de Origine Controllata crust from American Pie. It is basically the same as the Neo-Neapolitan dough except it totally omits sugar and fats. I meant to make the pizzas the day before but didn't have time, so I just punched the dough down and left it in the fridge a second day.

I made a couple of small ones for the kids. I guess I didn't dress them w/ enough cheese and sauce, because they totally poofed up and ended up looking more like pizza bagels than pizzas.

kids pizza

I don't know if you can tell here, but they ended up being about 2 inches tall.

Our pizza came out more normal, with a thick, poofy crown and thin crust in the middle.

our pizza

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I'm still feeding my starter. Pretty amazing separation:


But there is still activity.


I'm not sure if that is hooch (an alcoholic by-product of fermentation) on top or if it is just water that separated out because it was so thin. I thought about tasting it, but then figured that might not be such a good idea.

I fed it again today, this time a bit more flour and a bit less water to try to stiffen it up some. It appears to be working, and I'm not seeing any fluid on top.

My hope is to be able to bake with it for the first time Sunday. It smells good, like sourdough already.

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There are signs of life in my new starter.

sourdough starter, day 3

I fed it more whole wheat flour and water again today.

On that note, I saw a professional baking blog post that irked me yesterday. Basically, when faced with a simple question about starters by an enthusiast new baker, Rose punts and says "it is too hard to explain to you. Go buy from a professional."

That is a load of crap, and that is a ridiculous response in what is supposed to be a baking advice column. I won't go so far as to say that making a starter is easy, but it isn't impossible, and it certainly isn't an impossible process to describe: I've done it, Sourdolady has done it, and Carltonb has done it. An idiot like me can do it; why can't she?!? Besides, if you screw up and have to throw it away, what are you out? About 75 cents worth of flour and a few minutes a day for 3 or 4 days.

Remind me not to buy her book if that is what her attitude toward amateur bakers is like.

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I am trying to start another sourdough starter. I started it a couple of days ago.

I looked at SourdoLady's starter recipe but didn't have any pineapple juice in the house, so I began with 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup water, and a half a capful of apple cider vinegar. Day two (today) I added 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup rye flour.

I'm not seeing any signs of activity yet, but neither of the flours are particularly fresh so I may not have enough wild yeast in them to get started. I figure I'll give it one or two days of food and if I don't see any signs of life I'll dump it and try again.

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Tonight we are baking cookies for Santa. Lebkuchen and Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, two recipes that "Santa" is particularly fond of. :)

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For my weekly batch of French bread, I tried autolyse again. This time I successfully combined it with a poolish.

My overnight sponge was 8 ounces bread flour, 8 ounces water, and 1/8 teaspoon of instant yeast. My autolyse the next day was 10 ounces of water and 8 ounces of flour. I let that soak for 20 minutes, then mixed in the poolish along with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast. I then mixed it in the stand mixer, adding an additional 3 or 4 ounces of flour until I had a dough that was slack but more substantial than a batter.

Fermentation was 3 hours, with 2 folds an hour apart. I divided it in two for final shaping and used a lot of flour so that I could handle it without it sticking. It actually toughened up and shaped better than I had expected.

I let it rise 90 minutes while preheating my baking stone at my max oven temperature, 550. I used to not be impressed by the baking stone, but I've found that if you preheat it at max temperature for at least an hour you do get a significant increase in spring.

I threw them in the oven, added steam, and reduced heat to 475. I think they took about 20 to 25 minutes to bake: the hot stone also reduces baking time noticeable. Very good results, nice open crumb.

I'll try to bake this one again next weekend and post photos.

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I'm back from Texas. Afraid I didn't find the time to go bakery hunting. The closest thing to an artisan bakery I found was the Au Bon Pain sandwich shop in the DFW airport.

I did get to try one of the cakes from Collin Street Bakery, their pecan apricot cake. I'm not a fruit cake fan, but I have to admit it was darn good.

Glad to see that folks were able to help each other out here while I was out.

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Since we had another half a pot of soup leftover for dinner, I tried the autolyse approach again today (see yesterday's post). Much better results this time.

My dough was real basic again:

13 ounces bread flour
9 to 10 ounces water
2 teaspoons salt
1 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast (activated in 1 ounce of the water for 5 minutes).

I changed my technique a bit. I mixed the bread flour (all I had in the house) and 9 ounces of the water together in a bowl until the flour was all moist. I covered the bowl, let it sit for 20 minutes, then activated the yeast in another ounce or so of water. I then pulled the dough out onto a well-floured cutting board, poured the yeast/water mixture on top, sprinkled on the flour, and worked the water/yeast/salt in by hand just until mixed in. It was a mess, but it seems to have done the trick: I got a real nice, slow rise, good gluten development, and minimal oxygenation (which causes the crumb to appear yellow).

I did the same folding and baking routine as yesterday, I just didn't try shaping it into rounds.

I kept it pretty slack, so I dealt with it like a Ciabatta.



ciabatta inside

We gorged on it. It was wonderful. :)

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I, too, had a doughy disaster today. I was trying to make a simple French/Italian bread using both a poolish (a wet, yeasted, overnight pre-ferment) and an autolyse (a flour and water quick pre-ferment). The poolish was too wet, the autolyse too dry, and when I tried to mix them together I could not get the chunks of autolyse dough to combine with poolish. It ended up having the consistency of chicken and dumplings. I ended up throwing the batch out and starting over.

The next batch turned out better.

16 oz. bread flour
11 oz. water
1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt

I combined the flour and water in a bowl and mixed just until the flour was full hydrated. I covered the bowl and let it hydrate for 20 minutes. Then I mixed in the yeast and salt, mixed for about 3 minutes, and placed the dough in covered bowl. I gave it 45 minutes, then folded, another 45 then a fold, and a final 45 before shaping into rounds, placing in my floured baskets, which I covered, and let them rise for a final 75 minutes.

I baked them at 475 with initial steam. They were in for about 25 or 30 minutes. They turned out quite nice:

We had a pot of vegetable soup and a bottle of Chianti with them. You couldn't ask for a better meal on a wet, wintery day.

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Today I baked the baguettes with Pâte Fermenté and the Roasted Potato Bread from Hamelman's Bread book.

many breads I baked today

The potato loaves are the round ones with the fendu style crease.

I love how Hamelman gives advice on how one should shape hundreds of fendu style loaves, but very little advice for the home baker. Typical of him: great recipes, but he rarely bothers helping out the novices.

I'll try to post more photos and a recipe soon.


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