The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Jeff P's blog

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Jeff P

Since yesterday was my day off, and the weather was a crisp 30 degrees outside, it seemed the perfect time to do some baking. I used a recipe that I tried the first time last year with great success. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use a pate fermentee this time, so resolved to let the loaf sit longer in its fermentation to balance out.

The result was very different from previous breads I've made. The crumb was very moist and tight, more like sandwich bread. It was also a bit lacking in flavor at first slice. After letting it sit overnight, it was still very soft, but had gained some flavor. The crust was great, though: crisp, sour, and complex. 

Can't seem to get pictures to work, so sorry about that. I'll try to post them later. 

 

Jeff P's picture
Jeff P

It's good to be back! With colder weather comes more time indoors, more warm stick-to-your-ribs meals, and more baking!

I tried to do some baking in the Spring and Summer, but it was just too hot. Besides, I like to be outside when it's sunny and warm! Now that we're getting into late Fall and Winter, I'm looking inward once again, and planning to do some major baking projects over the next few months!

I've always loved this time of year, particularly the flavors and scents of the season. Cinnamon and citrus, garlic and onion, apple, pumpkin, and savory spices. I even love the frigid cold, though most people think I'm crazy. This year, my plans are to bake more, bake better, and try some things that go beyond the basics and enter new levels of flavor.

The first hurdle is Thanksgiving. I have a few people who have asked for dinner rolls, and I would like to do a pie or two for my own table. After the holidays, I have a few things I'd like to tackle:

- puff pastry

- cake (piping, fondant, etc)

- Bread, bread, and more bread

- Sourdough starter

- Alternative flours (my wife is grain-free and I'd like to bake that way)

- Did I mention bread?

I'm so excited for the upcoming season, and I can't wait to get back into the kitchen and cook up some amazing eats!

Let's get Baking!

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Jeff P

My wife was craving cinnamon rolls Sunday morning, so I figured I'd give them a shot. I used the recipe in The Baker's Apprentice, with the exception that I omitted the lemon zest.

Overall, I liked working with this enriched dough. The addition of the egg and sugar made it a bit different than my usual bread dough, but it ended up with a very nice consistency. 

One thing I noticed as I was working, though, is that there seems to be limited rise during the first ferment. I think this was due to the fact that we keep our home very cool (about 68° F). I've noticed this with other breads I've made, and resolved the issue by placing the dough on one of our floor heating vents. That way, it gets a blast of warm air every so often. With these, I kept them off to the side of the vent, so they didn't get as much direct heat.

The end result was a large oven spring, and a chewy, more dense roll than I've had before. The filling was good, and I did not make any icing for them. 

Questions that came up during this bake:

- With such a low room temperature during mixing, should I be trying to find/create a warmer space to ferment the dough?

- I omitted lemon zest from the recipe, and am wondering how that may have altered things. Is this purely a flavor thing, or does the zest somehow alter the dough consistency?

- I used Lactaid 2% for the milk in this recipe, which lacks lactose. This is the milk we generally use at home, but I'm wondering if the lack of lactose may have an impact on the result? Not that it was bad, but the consistency was different from "traditional" cinnamon rolls.

 

 

Sorry for the poor picture quality, had to use a different phone for this.

Jeff P's picture
Jeff P

Another day off, another baking adventure!

I don't have my notes with me as I write this, so I'll just give an overview.

After last weeks attempt at a basic french loaf, I went back to re-read a few things, including my copy of The Baker's Apprentice. This book has been a big part of my push to get into baking, and it includes a lot of great tips and ideas that are easy for me to get my head around.

I decided to try the French Bread recipe from the book, using a pate fermentee that I chilled overnight. Below is an approximate measurement of the ingredients. Again, no notes today!

284 g Flour

5.5 g salt

1.9 g yeast

182 g water

The following morning, I cut the dough and let it warm on the counter for about an hour. After mixing in the new flour, salt, yeast, and water, I had a good amount to work with.

While the recipe claimed that the dough would become tacky in 3 - 4 minutes, I found it far more sticky that expected, and so kept adding flour while I worked it. This ended up being fine, though it threw me at first.

Instead of simply letting it rise, I used the pull-and-fold technique 3 times at 30-minute intervals, before letting the dough rest of an hour. I definitely noticed a lot of gas buildup by doing this, and was very careful to not degas any more than necessary to perform the folds.

The biggest change I made was to work the dough into a boule shape instead of the baguettes called for in the book. I decided to extend the baking time but keep the rest of the instructions (heat/steam). I initially started at 450, but ended up dropping it to 425 just before putting the dough in. I also didn't spritz the dough itself; instead, I used a pan of water to steam it in the beginning.

The result was a well-shaped, crispy-crusted wonder! Soft and chewy inside, tight uneven crumb, and delicious. The outside definitely crisped more than my last loaf, with a nice dark brown crackle when I cut into it. 

So, overall, I'm extremely happy with the results. This one is definitely worth making again!

UPDATE: Here's photos of the loaf, a day out of the oven. The top is flaking a bit, so perhaps the crumb was a bit uneven, with too much air at the top. Thoughts?

 

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Jeff P

I had the day off yesterday, and decided it would be a good day for baking! I even got a new scale, and was very excited to try it out!

I decided to try out the basic recipe listed on the site here. I was hoping it would yield a decent loaf that I could then add to in the future for more variety.

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/8 cup water

 

Mixed the flour and water first, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Added the other ingredients, and kneaded for about 10 minutes, then set it to rise for about 90 minutes.

Got pretty good rise out of this, and didn't have to do much shaping, but I think I may have punched down a bit too much (check later photos).

The second rise went well, but the dough lost a lot of volume when I scored it. It puffed up well in the oven, though. I preheated to 450, and had a small pan for water heating with it. When I put the dough in, I added about 2 cups of water to the pan to steam it, then dropped the temperature to 375.

The end result:

 

Overall, this was a fairly easy process. However, there were some issues with the final loaf, and I'm not sure how to correct them for the future.

1. While the crust was good and the crumb seemed alright at first cut (see above). The flavor, however, was quite salty. Not sure if this was due to the salt content at the start, or some problem with the yeast.

2. I noticed that there was a lot of inconsistency in the crumb after making a few more cuts.

Most of the loaf appears to have baked normally, but there are sections like this that appear underbaked. I'm thinking about baking at a higher temperature next time to see if that fixes the issue. It may be that the boule shape made it so that the temperature wasn't high enough to properly bake the inside.

So, overall, not the outcome I was hoping for, but not terrible either. I'm going to try a bit less salt next time, more careful handling/scoring at the end of the process before baking, and baking at a higher temperature to see how that impacts the results.

If anyone has any insights or recommendations, I would be grateful for some guidance. 

Until next time, Bake On!

Jeff P's picture
Jeff P

Or something like that...

To be honest, I'm just starting out as a baker. I've made a few loaves of bread, some cookies, and some dinner rolls.

I originally tried out baking as a way to relax on my days off. Something about the mindfulness associated with the whole process - mixing, kneading, waiting, working, baking, enjoying - really appeals to me. I don't have a lot of time or money, and so my baking is done "by appointment". I block out time, find some recipes or plan my day in advance, and do most everything by hand. No mixers, no scales. 

Recently, though, I've started paying more attention to baking. My wife, the ever-supportive taster, has encouraged me to make baking a more regular thing, and even found some books to inspire me. At this point, once a week is about all I can manage, but I try to squeeze several recipes in at a time to get the most out of my day.

I'm most interested in mastering a unique, natural breads. I also really want to try my hand at pastry, though I'm not sure I have the temperament for it. Being from Vermont, I have ample access to the great King Arthur Flour and their many great products. There is also a thriving Locavore movement here, and a huge emphasis on natural and organic alternatives. These are all things I'm interested in!

Lastly, I want to be healthy. I've always been overweight, and have had trouble with highly processed foods and sugars. I feel that baking may be the key to a healthier lifestyle, one where I can appreciate and enjoy smaller portions of rich food. 

So, healthier lifestyle, lower stress, and a deeper understanding and appreciation for baking. These are what I'm going for!

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