The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

janij's blog

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I have been gone from baking and TFL for a LONG while.

In January we got to move into the little farmhouse we bought in East Texas.  It is an old farmhouse and it needed MAJOR repairs.  This is not the cause of my bread baking hiatus though.  My oven was the issue.  The previous owners took the electric oven with them.  I saw this a a wonderful thing since I HATE electric cooktops.  As in I burn everything on them.  Now electric ovens I don't mind, but I am also a cheap soul by nature.  So I lucked out and got a new, but very generic propane stove.  I was so excited.  I brought my quarry tiles, all my bread making supplies and dove in.  The dough would be perfect and the oven would not cook hot enough for me to get decent results.  That is frustrating.  To say the least.  I brought my sourdough starter from Houston and it worked so much better here.  But still the oven would not get hot enough to cook right.  I gave some of my starter to a friend who had never baked and he got wonderful results.  Now I have had MAJOR issues with sourdough.  It would turn to chewing gum basically.  I think it got too acidic in Houston.  Or like me it just thought the place sucked, pardon my language.  Now that I had a lovely starter and a not really working stove I got occupied painting, gardening, canning, making beer and wine, and buying and raising chickens, donekys and cows.  But I kept wanting to bake.

So I went back to square one on the oven.  I knew that the whole thing just didn't get hot enough, burners and all.  So I went back to Lowes, talked with a plumber, etc.  Then finally I started to get low on propane and called the prpane man out.  He is in his 70's at least.  I told him my problem and he said he would look at it.  Come to find out, the conversion kit for the lp to propane had not been done right by my husband.  I wanted to kiss that man.  As a matter of fact I have $50 for him in my drawer the next time he comes out.

So now I have a working propane ove.  And propane gets hot!  Plus I have an awesome starter.  And I finally, I mean FINALLY bake true sourdough bread with out having to spike it with yeast.  I have made a sanwich type loaf and Vermont Sourdough from Bread.  Or I should call it Berryville Sourdough.

So thanks to everyone here.  I kept checking in, and drooling over everyone's breads.  And it would make me sad.  But i am so happy to have figured out the problem and also to have a working sourdough!!!

I can't get the pictures resized so I am attaching a Flickr link.

As alwys this is a fabulous forum and I am blessed to be a part of it!


janij's picture

Over the holidays my husband has been trying to increase his carbon footprint by leaps and bounds.  This time of year is quiet for us, we own an A/C and heating company in Texas.  So summers are crazy and winters allow us some time to play.  Our big new toy has been the wood fire oven.  I didn't realize how into cooking in it my husband would become.  I swear he has decimated the chicken population around here in recent weeks and I have made more bread than I could really give away.  I am waiting for my neighbors to not look me in the eye and try to run whenever they see me coming with anything in my arms.  I actually had one guy down the street, who I have never met really, almost turn down a chicken from us.  I guess I would be suspicious of someone handing out chickens I didn't know.  As you can see, I am getting desperate for takers.  Last night as I was trying to get ride of 3 of the 6 loaves we baked yesterday, which is what I got on here to write about in the first place, I gave them to friends of our neighbors who just happened to be leaving the neighbors house when I walked out the door.  Don't know them either.  It was rather funny.  I asked them if they would like a loaf of bread.  One of the guys replies, "Umm, we have a loaf at home thank you."  I told him it was homemade and baked in a wood fire oven and he gave in.  I didn't wait to hear what the second guy had to say, I just shoved the bread in his hands and knocked on the neighbor's door.  I am sure people are somewhere thinking I am very strange indeed.  So I need to find a soup kitchen or something to donate bread to.  That is one of the things I would like to do this year is give more.  So if anyone knows where to find places to donate bread I am open to ideas.

But back to reason for this entry.  Kyle, my husband, decided the other night he wanted to make the bread.  From start to finish all by himself.  So I asked what kind he wanted.  He wanted a light rye hearth bread.  So thanks to Hamelman and DiMuzio, I got out a calculator and made up a formula for a 20% rye, 40% preferment, 65% hydration dough.  In hind sight I should have gone to 68% to get a little bigger holes but I didn't want the dough to be too slack for my begninner husband who would have to mix the dough by hand.  The DLX is too small for 6 loaves.  So Kyle ground the rye, made the poolish, learned the french fold, and stretch and fold.  Where would I have been with out all the excellent videos I have found from this site?  I would ahve been in trouble indeed!  I weighed out all the ingredients and helped with shaping and such, but Kyle did the bulk of the work by himself.  I even tried hard not to hover!  The dough turned out really nice.   I thought he did an excellent job for his first rodeo so to speak.  But there are 2 big tricks with baking in a WFO.  The first is timing.  It is hard to get the loaves and the oven ready at the same time.  Lucky for us it has been about 50 deg here so I put the loaves in the garage to retard/proof while the oven temp gets in range.  The second trick is loading the bread.  I realized I needed a narrow peel.  Since Kyle is an avid fisherman he suggested buying a oar and sanding the varnish off.  It works like a champ!!  I would have never thought of it.  But it is hard to get all the loaves in and spaced correctly.  So below are some pictures.  One is the oar, sanded and oiled.  One is of the Counrty Rye oaves we made yesterday.  And we will see if I find any other ones to put in.

My next experiment is going to be with different grains.  I recently purchased 50lbs of spelt berries, 50lbs or durum berries and 50lbs of hard white spring wheat.  So I would like to come up with a formula and do a test and see the differences in flavor and behavior.  I am thinking of doing about 50% whole grain and 50% AP flour.  I will let you know how that goes.

The Oar- or new Peel

The loaves in the oven...nicely spaced if I may say so myself.  Or atleast better than before! :)

Lastly, the crumb..


janij's picture

This weekend we decided to bake a bunch of bread to give to the neighbors for Christmas.  We decided to warm up the wood fire oven Sat night.  SInce it is cooler we tend to fire it the day before and cook meat or something then bread the next day after the oven has been refired.  So last night we cooked a pork loin.  We have had good luck with birds (chickens or turkeys) but not with beef.  So we thought we would try pork this time.  It did not brown as nicely as I would have liked but it tasted wonderful.  So we baked that last night.  Then this morning I made a triple batch of multigrain whole wheat, a double batch of whole wheat, cinnamon, raisin and oat bread, and a double batch of plain white bread.  I was happy with all the dough.  I think I did a pretty good job.  I forgot to add the honey to the ww multigrain and added it after the autolayse and had a soupy mess.  But with a few fold and a little extra flour we were on our way.

I was grateful that it did not hit 70 today, even though I am sorely missing the sun.  It was about 50 and I could put the white and cinnamon raisin bread outside to proof since I needed to hold it longer that the ww multigrain.  I got concerned when my husband pulled out the coals really early.  But when it was time to load the bread, the temp was low, just undeer 400 and there wasn't much I could do.  I had 15 loaves of read and not enough fridge space.  I had my husband put some coals around the sides of the oven then we loaded the ww multigrain.  I need to work on my loading skills.  Actually I think I need a differnt peel.  But that is for later.  When I checked it 42 minutes later is was almost done and I got good oven spring.  Then we loaded the 8 loaves of white and cinnamon raisin.  Talk about oven spring.  Those loaves grew a good 2 niches in height.  I was so proud.  The oven was at about 350 by then.  So the part of the loaf in the pan did not brown as well as I wanted but they were good. 

After all the bread we put the weeks granola in the oven.  It will be good in the morning.  So I will post a few pictures.  I know that I need to work on some things, but I think we are coming right along in baking in the WFO!

janij's picture

Here in Texas the weather is cooling off and here in Houston we are catching up on some much needed rain.  Go figure the summer I get a wood fire oven there is a burn ban in effect from, oh, June til mid September.  So this summer I spent most of my time drooling and plotting over my new oven.  We did have time before the burn ban to get some experience with firing it, maintaining temperatures and such.  We still have disasters.  Like the burnt sanwich loaves from last weekend.  My hubby, the fire man, said I needed to put the pans in the oven, but the oven was still upwards of 600 deg.  I knew better but also knew arguing with him was pointless and he could learn the burnt way! 

So in essence I wanted to show off some pictures from some of our recent baking both in the WFO and in the regular oven.

Last weekend we fired the oven Saturday and baked a beef roast (forgot a picture but was very good) and the 5 loaves of burn bread.  Sunday we refired the oven in the am and had pizza for lunch.  Said pizzas are pictured below.  The small ones in the back were made by my 5 yr old and 2 yr old.  Our new favorite homemade pizza is Pesto, sliced romas, cooked chicken and parm mixed with mozarella. And our current favorite dough is Reinhart's Roman Dough from American Pie.

Pizza Bottom

As the oven cooled from the pizza I baked 6 new loaves of sandwich bread.  This time I made my hubby wait til 400 deg to load the bread.  After they baked we refired the oven a little and cooked 2 chickens.  When you cook meat in a wood fire oven the meat gets a great smoky, bbq flavor.  In this picture you can see the chickens and 1 1/2 of the sandwich loaves.

The last one I wanted to add was the sourdough ciabatta I made today.  I am so proud of it!  I used the recipe from here

Anyway, I was proud because this was the first straight wild yeast bread I have made that was open and not gummy.  So all in all I was happy.  It went well with out butternut squash soup tonight.  The first pic is of the loaves, the second the crumb.  And there were cooked in my regular oven.

I just wanted to share. :)

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