The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

gary.turner's blog

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Everyone, shut down your ovens.  Save the world.

Bread Causes Global Warming Shock

You just have to shake your head in wonder sometimes.


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I downsized from a 1500sq ft house with a 60s style kitchen best used for 60s style TV dinners. You know, no counter space. I am now in a small apartment with even less counter space and I'm still searching for storage space.

I have solved the counter space problem. A friend spoke highly of the John Boos JNS09 Maple Wood Top Stallion Work Table, Galvanized Legs, Adjustable Lower Shelf, 1-1/2" Thick, 48" Length x 30" Width (as Amazon lists it).

This is a heavy, ~100lbs, maple bench top on sturdy legs that hold an undershelf. I am not done finishing the top, only having applied four coats of penetrating oil. I apply three coats, then scrape the surface back to bare wood. This allows succeeding coats to further penetrate the wood without building up a thick surface coat which, when it cures, could chip off.

It is an absolute pleasure on which to work my dough. I wish I had got this when I first started baking. The top picture shows the bench top and a couple of sourdough, panned sandwich loaves cooling.

Back in the late fifties or early sixties, there was an oil well service company whose tag line for their ads was something like, "You don't have an oil well? Well, buy one." If I may steal, if you don't have a proper work surface for bread making, buy one. You won't regret it.


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There was a recent post (which I cannot seem to find) that discussed a cover that went over the baking stone and had a hole for injecting steam. The steam generator appeared to be a Bissell home steam cleaner.

Rather than buy another large container that required already non-existent shelf space, I went to Amazon. There were several home steam cleaners, including Bissell's. I settled on one of the less expensive clones, the DBTech steam cleaner. My review is here.

My Amazon review covers the general method of use, so I'll mostly let a few pics tell the story.

First, as a baseline to judge the oven spring is the shaped dough. My bread form is flat bottomed, thus a flat top when turned out.

Steam is injected to saturate the oven space.

The vent is blocked with a wetted dish towel.

I  repeat the stream injection a couple more times, and get this oven spring.

Once spring has sprung, unblock the vent, rotate and allow to finish. The example loaf is a white sourdough, about 62% hydration. There is a bit of whole wheat for a flavor kick and about half milk from DMS.

Here is a crumb shot which clearly shows the spring.

There are certain issues to be worked out, such as temperatures (compared to pre-injection), and the timing and duration of steam shots. The control I gain with this method gives me a warm fuzzy regarding the possible quality of results. It's just so simple compared to pans of hot water or spritzing.



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Ever wonder why supermarkets have bakeries close to the store entrance? Not only does the fragrance of just-baked bread signal freshness and comfort, but store managers know that when you smell bread you get hungry. Some supermarkets don’t even bother with actual bakeries. Rather, they pump the scent of (artificial) fresh-baked-bread through the ceiling vents.

I found the article interesting from a branding perspective, but the final paragraph was the killer app.




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Lately I've been trying to codify the variables of mixing and kneading dough in my DLX. Since it seems to act as a spiral mixer would, I used that as my base. Spiral mixers run at   about 100RPM in first speed, and 200RPM in second; that's the hook rotational speed. Bowl speed is more on the order of 15RPM. Commercial spiral mixers that I've checked use separate motors for each.

The DLX has a spiral pattern roller that depends on the bowl's rotation to drive it. The  bowl's speed is adjustable from ~45 to 135RPM. The ratio of the roller's and the bowl's radii acts as a step-up gear to raise the roller's speed.

Depending on the amount of flour, a proxy for the total dough, the roller runs at ~95 to 135RPM with the bowl running its dead slowest. So, speed 1 is decided for you.

For speed 2, the effective ratio is computed and the desired bowl speed is set to drive the roller at 200RPM. The bowl's effective radius is reduced by the amount of spacing between the roller and the bowl's rim.

The speed setting dial has eight little blocks. My nomenclature is simply the number of complete blocks, starting below the first, at zero, i.e. dead slow. Thus, a speed of 4 means turned up through the first four blocks, right into the space between the fourth and fifth blocks. Speed 3½ would be in the center of the fourth block.

Here is the chart of my speed settings and mixing times.

Flour weightRoller spacingBowl speed dial settingMix time @ speed 1Knead time @ speed 2
Speed 1Speed 2LightImprovedIntensive
560g or less½ in0½2 to 3 min3 to 4 min5min8+ min
561g to 980g1 in2
981g to 1960g1½ in4
1961g to 3220g2 in6

I am hoping other DLX users will give these values a test run or three, and add your findings to the conversation. I have found the times and speeds to be very close to values described by Hamelman, Suas, et al. For users of other mixers, do yours have a similar pattern?

I look forward to some input on this.



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I was browsing through Fannie Farmer's  The Boston School of Cooking Cookbook, 1918, and ran across a recipe for Boston brown bread. It is a steam cooked bread from a batter. A search through the Fresh Loaf found several posts on this bread, mostly from Maggie Glezer's book, made with a fairly stiff dough.

Farmer's recipe calls for 1 cup each of rye meal, corn meal and Graham flour,  ¾ cup molasses, 1 tsp salt, ¾ tbsp soda and 1¾ cup milk or water (or 2 cups sour milk).

I converted to weights as follows:

  • 130g rolled rye (like oatmeal, but from rye)
  • 130g cornmeal
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 11g baking soda
  • 6g salt
  • 240g molasses (I was a little short so made up the difference with blackstrap molasses)
  • 400g milk
I whisked the dry ingredients together, added the milk and molasses and mixed well. The batter was poured into a buttered melon mold, the lid was secured and it was put on a trivet in a stock pot. I poured boiling water around the mold to halfway up, covered the pot and set the stove-top's burner to simmer.

From the crumb pic, you can see that the bread fell before completely setting up. I think this was due to my bumping the pot about an hour into the steaming. After 3½ hours, I turned the burner off and allowed the whole thing to cool enough that I could lift the mold from the water bath; then turned it out to cool on the rack.

That was Monday evening. Tuesday morning I cut a slice. The taste was of sweet cornbread with a strong rye kick. Using the rolled rye adds a texture that complements the density of the bread. I might try using all blackstrap molasses next time, as the corn and rye pretty much cover the molasses flavor — and I like molasses.

Each day, the flavor and mouth feel have improved. By today, Thursday, the flavors have melded much like leftover stew and the bread still has moisture with no sign of staling. Opening the bread box brings a wonderful corn+rye aroma into the kitchen. Heated and spread with butter, you have breakfast Nirvana.

The molded bread. Notice the melon mold in the rear.

My mom would yell at me for running through the kitchen while a cake was in the oven; now I grok in fullness why.

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Since the liquids in nearly every dough need to be tempered, I went looking for some straight forward, repeatable method to get the temperature I wanted. My answer was to use the microwave. The next step was to figure out how to get the right time for any mass of water or milk, and for any temperature change.

We can see that the time required (Sec) is proportional to the mass of the water (M) and to the change in temperature (ΔT), multiplied by some constant (C). 

M × ΔT = C × Sec

Rearranging to solve for the time; Sec = M × ΔT / C

With my microwave oven, the constant is 312.5 for weight in grams and temp in Fahrenheit. There's a kink in the formula though. My oven requires about 3 seconds to come up to speed, so I add that to the calculated time. For example, let's say I have 350g of  40F milk from the frig that needs to be 65F for an intensively mixed Vienna style dough. I need to raise the temp by 25F, so 350×25/312.5+3 yields 31sec to raise the temp to 65F.

How do you find your magic number? Measure some water, say in the 300-450g range. Take its temperature, and zap it for some reasonable time, e.g. 30 seconds. Measure the temp. Repeat with the same weight of water, for a different length of time. Plot the two tests on graph paper (or use a spreadsheet or graphing calculator), and extend the line through the points to where it crosses the zero temperature change line. Where it intercepts the zero temp, the time line will have some small value. That's your start-up time. Now multiply the weight of the liquid by the temperature change and divide by the time less the start-up time. For example, 350 × 25 / (31 - 3) = 312.5 Notice that that is from my own earlier example. Do the math on your other test(s). The C values should closely agree.

Once you have your magic number, any weight of water or milk and any (upward) temperature adjustment will provide the zapping time for your microwave.



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For turkey day this year the family get-together will be smaller than usual, 18 rather than the more usual 25 to 30. Maybe that's not a bad thing, though. I volunteered to bring the bread and a dessert.

I have wanted to try a baklava since turosdolci posted her version. Then there was breadsong's bread pumpkin, which I thought way cool.

Just in case, I  put some dinner rolls on my list, and since I was about to run out of sandwich bread, and I was using the same formula for the rolls, I mixed up a four pound batch of dough.

Get the picture? Three breads, each requiring a different time and temperature combo and a pastry requiring yet another. Now David (dmsnyder) may feel completely at ease doing six breads, five pies, separate menus for those who keep kosher and the family vegans, and a partridge in a pear tree. I, on the other hand am a bit stressed.

Let me say that I  expect the baklava to taste wonderful, but to say that prep time is 30 minutes might be understating the case. I think if I never try to  handle philo dough again, it will be too soon. For someone with a palsy from a bout with Gillain-Barré Syndrome back in '98, those sheets are just a bit flimsy. Lots of patchwork in that pastry. But, it did  get done Tuesday evening, and it should be properly cured by dinner Thursday. Now, if I can just borrow a forklift to carry it to the car.

The bread pumpkin was interesting. I  had made a test bake, and found the dough less wet than I expected, and with 25% whole grain flours (I only had whole grain rye), it was pretty dense. I  used medium rye this time, but I think the canned pumpkin puree was considerably wetter than that previously used. The dough was wet. Really wet. Even with a new razor, slashing was an adventure. The loaf does look interesting, if not nearly the perfection breadsong got. It might have been easier had I made the same size loaves she made. Mine was just shy of 1kg.

The rolls are nothing special, simply a sourdough white sandwich bread in 2oz balls. I spritzed them before putting them in the oven,  and the oven spring was enough to cause some  of the rolls to split. I consider that a Good Thing.

I don't have a digital still camera, so  I got out the video with the dead battery. :shock: They're always dead when you need them. So, charge up the battery and shoot a couple  of pics. That's why it's 6AM Thursday morning and I haven't been to bed yet. I'll get a few hours sleep, load the car and head to my niece's for dinner and football.

I hope you all have as good a day as I  will.



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