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Gedunkleberg

I haven't posted anything in over a month, but don't think I haven't been busy in the kitchen! The last time you heard from me, I was recovering from my first encounter with ciabatta. Since then, I have tried ciabatta for a second time, and with much greater success. What made the difference was flouring the counter heavily, as well as using flexible cutting boards to lift the risen dough off the counter and then slide the proofed loaves onto the baking sheet (I still don't have a baking stone). The shaping went better (thanks to step-by-step pictures on kyleskitchen.net), and I got some very nice, large holes in the finished product. I was quite pleased with myself, but there is still much work to be done.

One problem that I am consistently having with lean breads is crust color. I never seem to be able to achieve a nice deep brown. This may have something to do with another problem that has been plaguing me, which has to do with temperature. I always preheat the oven (mine is gas) for about a half hour, and I have a thermometer in the oven as well. But even when I follow a recipe to the letter, my loaves always seem to get too hot in the middle after a shorter bake time than the recipe calls for. I don't know what to do other than to always bake at a lower temperature.

I am also having trouble with scoring. I have only tried it twice (both times on the French bread recipe from BBA), but my results have been poor. The first time, I used a lame that I bought from a Viking store. I had a lot of difficulty slicing through the dough, so I can only conclude that my lame is lame. The second time, I tried a serrated knife, which worked much better. However, I can't seem to score the proofed dough without deflating it quite a bit. Also, the slashes don't "bloom" the way they are supposed to when baked. I am slicing fairly deep, but perhaps my slashes are too long or too horizontal. Or perhaps I am deflating the loaves too much and not achieving proper oven spring? I don't know, but I will try again.

One recipe that I had none of these problems with is the recipe for Portuguese sweet bread from BBA. No scoring needed, and the egg wash ensured a very deep brown crust...plus it was delicious. It's perfect for breakfast or a snack (with or without butter), especially alongside a nice juicy peach and some Greek yogurt drizzled with honey. Yum. I substituted orange and lemon zests for the orange and lemon extracts, because I didn't want to shell out the extra cash. The substitution worked well. I will definitely make this recipe again soon.

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Gedunkleberg

I took my first stab at ciabatta last night. I used the poolish recipe from Bread Baker's Apprentice, which seemed simple enough, but I hit a few fateful snags along the way. Snag #1: Because the poolish was so glutenous and full of air pockets, I could not get it to blend completely with the flour. Thus, as with my attempt at pain sur poolish, I ended up with some lumps in my dough. Should I have tried to deflate the poolish before mixing it with the other ingredients? Snag #2: It seemed like I had to add quite a bit of extra water to achieve the desired slack consistency. I did not measure my poolish, but I assumed it was the amount that the ciabatta called for, because the poolish recipe specifically says that it makes enough for the ciabatta. Snag #3: Even though I floured my counter, the dough got quite stuck during primary fermentation. When it came time for me to divide and shape the loaves, I had no choice but to be rough in order to get the dough off the counter. Thus, I wound up with a dense crumb and only a few small holes. I haven't tasted the bread yet, but it smells good and has a decent crust. I will definitely be trying this recipe again soon, and I will be sure to line my counter with parchment and flour it very heavily.

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Gedunkleberg

Having tried pain sur poolish and honey whole wheat bread last weekend with some success, I thought I would shake things up a bit this weekend and try the recipe for cinnamon raisin walnut bread from Bread Baker's Apprentice. The recipe was very easy, although I did have just a little bit of trouble getting the raisins and the walnuts incorporated. Making the cinnamon swirl was much easier than I expected it to be and actually kind of fun, and it looked pretty impressive when I cut into the loaf. I also did the cinnamon sugar crust on top for extra flavor, although I still felt that the bread could have been a bit sweeter. But then again, I'm a sugar addict. I think I might add just a touch more sugar and cinnamon to the dough next time I make this recipe and see how it turns out. The dough seemed to rise very, very quickly during both fermentation stages, which was good, because I didn't have a lot of time, but it also left me wondering what the deal was. I guess it was pretty warm over the weekend, so that may have had something to do with it. I still have a lot of work to do on my shaping...all of my sandwich loaves have come out a bit higher on one side than the other. I think I am missing the "rocking" step that is described in the shaping section of BBA. I will pay more attention next time and see what happens.

I really need to get a digital camera...

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Gedunkleberg

I have survived my first baking-centered weekend, and all in all, I consider it a success. I tried Floydm's daily bread recipe on Friday night/Saturday, and it turned out pretty well. Like some other people, I wound up adding extra flour (at least I think it was extra...I don't have a scale yet, so my measurements may not have been entirely accurate). I had trouble getting the poolish and the autolyse to blend thoroughly, so I wound up with some lumps in the dough that seemed to bake into dense little knots in the final product. Perhaps next time I could start with a wetter autolyse, mix it with the poolish, and then add more flour as necessary. Does that sound like it would work? Despite the "knots," I did get a pretty good crumb, and the bread was pretty tasty (especially with the cabbage, potato, and cannellini bean stew that I made last night).

On Sunday, I took a crack at Floydm's honey whole wheat recipe, which was simple to make and turned out quite tasty. I don't have real loaf pans yet (that will be my next purchase), so I wound up using those dinky little foil pans you get at the grocery store. Since the pans I used were so small, I cut some of the dough off of the loaves before shaping them, and I made two rolls that I just baked on a baking sheet. Everything turned out nicely, and I was particularly happy with the color of the crust and the amount of rise I got during secondary fermentation. My boyfriend has already eaten half a loaf since last night, so I guess it's a hit!

Does anyone have any opinions on whether or not it's a good idea to proof shaped loaves directly on the baking sheet that I will bake them on? I don't have a baking stone yet, so I'm baking everything either on a sheet or in a loaf pan.

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Gedunkleberg

Hello, Fresh Loaf friends! My name is Rachael, and I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I very recently discovered my love of bread baking (I baked my first "loaf" about a week ago), though I have always loved eating the stuff. Cooking is a big hobby of mine, so I suppose it was just a matter of time before I made the leap to baking. My first "loaf" was actually a Tuscan flatbread (though it does use yeast) that I made from a recipe I found in Bon Appetit. It was quite tasty, so I made it again yesterday with a few minor adjustments. I think I am going to try making my first real loaf this coming weekend with the basic recipe provided in Lesson One. I am so excited to have discovered this new hobby...it's cheap, fun, creative, relatively easy, and you wind up with an end product that you can eat and share with your friends. What more could you ask for?

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