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JMonkey



Sourdough chocolate cherry bread has become a Valentine's Day tradition around our house. This time around, I reduced the chocolate a bit to make it a bit more manageable to toast (molten chocolate all over the toaster oven is a real pain in the neck) and used some of Carl's 1847 Oregon Trail Starter that Leemid was nice enough to pass along at the Oregon Fresh Loafers' Meet-up back in September.



Awfully tasty stuff.

For the President's Day weekend, I did a bit of baking, but was most satisfied with the whole grain sourdough hearth bread that I set up Monday night and baked this morning, which went very well with some chicken soup and a salad this evening. This time around, however, I forgot about folding the dough and so, just before I went to sleep, I remembered that I'd not done a thing with the bread, beyond hydrating it. Out of necessity, I jumped out of the sheets and did the "French Fold." It turned out very well indeed, flavor-wise, at least.



OFF TOPIC NON-BREAD PHOTOS AND CONTENT FOLLOW

Not that anyone cares about that, of course, but this is a bread forum, after all. Anyway, on Monday, I had the day off while my poor academic wife had to teach class. My daughter was taken care of at her school, so I had ... gasp ... a day to myself!

From my house ... well, actually, from down the street, you can see Dimple Hill towering over the valley, a bald hill that stands just five feet shy of 1,500 feet tall. It's probably not a mile from my house as the crow files, but if you have to hoof it like most mortals, it's nearly a 4 mile hike. And it's lovely. Until today, we had 5 or 6 straight days of clear skies and brilliant sun, which soaked all the way down to my bones. On Monday, I was itching to hit the trail.

I walked through the Timberhill Open Space, into Chip Ross Park, and then took Dan's Trail to the top. It's a lovely walk through meadows, old orchards and managed forest. It's not old growth by any stretch as it's smack in the middle of the Oregon State McDonald Research Forest, but it does pass by at least one old growth stand.

The scenery is nice.


But the view from the top is a real treat. Here's a view to the east of the snow-capped Cascades and the Three Sisters. Snow pack in the Cascades is about 190% of normal, so the sisters are all decked out in wedding attire.



To the West a view of Marys Peak, which, at 4,097 feet, is the tallest mountain in the Oregon Coast Range.



And right before me, Corvallis' little corner of the southern Willamette Valley.



The rain does get to me a bit when it goes on, uninterrupted, for weeks on end. But it sure is fun discovering what a beautiful part of the country I now live in.

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JMonkey

Yesterday, I had two unpleasant surprises.

First, when I opened up what I thought was a second full canister of hard red spring wheat, I saw just a few scattered grains on white plastic. Argh! Out of wheat.

Second, by the time I realized that my extended family had devoured the loaf I'd planned to use for sandwiches in the morning, I had no time to do a soaker, a pre-ferment or build up enough sourdough for even a relatively quick (i.e. 7-8 hours start to finish) loaf.

So, I headed down to the store, ordered another 50 lb bag and picked up a couple of pounds of hard red winter wheat to tide me over. It's lower in protein than I'm used to, so I figured I'd just live with less lofty loaves.

As for the bread, I thought, what the heck, picked up The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and turned to her Oatmeal Bread recipe. These days, I've taken to doing an overnight retarding when I make oatmeal bread, but I had no time for that. So I just followed her recipe.



Wow. Not only did the bread rise like a champ, it tasted fantastic. In fact, I daresay it's the best tasting oatmeal bread I've ever made -- warm, sweet, nutty, mmmm. So, as much as I like the effect of pre-ferments and overnight retarding, I think I may have gone too far in rejecting straight doughs. Anyway, here's how I made it:

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat flour: 375 grams or 2.5 cups
  • Dry milk: 2 Tbs
  • Salt: 9 grams or 1.5 tsp
  • Instant yeast: 1 tsp or 3 grams
  • Cooked oatmeal porridge, from steel cut oats, at room temp (no sweetener, no salt): 1 cup
  • Water: 1/4 cup
  • Vegetable oil: 2 Tbs
  • Honey: 1.5 Tbs
Mix the flour, dry milk, salt and yeast in one bowl. In another, mix the oatmeal, water, oil and honey. Dump the dry into the wet, and stir until everything is hydrated.

It'll take a while for the water from oatmeal to migrate to the flour, but if you knead it well for about 10 minutes, the dough will eventually come together. If you think it needs extra water, don't add any until about halfway through the kneading, otherwise you risk making the dough too wet.

Form the dough into a ball, and let it rise in a warm place (if you've got one) for 1.5 to 2.5 hours. When it's ready, a good poke won't readily spring back. Give it a good stretch and fold and shape once again into a ball. Let it rise a second time for about an hour. Finally, shape the dough into a loaf, roll it in rolled oats soaked in milk, put it a greased bread pan and let it rise until the loaf has crested about an inch above the pan in the center.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes. Let it cool for one hour before serving.
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JMonkey

I've been baking a lot, I've just had no time with work and home life to post. Here's a quick update of what I've been making over the past few weeks.

The sticky buns have been a big hit, but I only make them when we've got company staying over -- otherwise, I eat far too many. Photos and the recipe are here.

Oatmeal bread has made a come-back. I've tried a bunch of recipes, but pre-ferments never work for me because, since I prefer to use cooked steel-cut oats, the water in the oatmeal and the pre-ferment together make the dough too wet. I've finally settled on the recipe from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book which relies on the oatmeal alone for liquid, but I took a cue from Hammelman and added an overnight retarding in the fridge. I love the warm, sweet flavor of the oats -- this might be my favorite sandwich bread.


I've also been making sourdough whole-wheat pizzas (60%). Here's the recipe I use for the dough, though lately I've been scaling back the water to 75% so that I can be sure I won't have any trouble with the dough sticking to the peel.



Here's that Ponsford Ciabatta that was giving me such fits a few weeks ago. It turned out OK, but, surprisingly, the flavor was not as yummy as the Poolish Ciabatta from Hammelman's Bread. It also started to go stale just a few hours after I made it. All I can figure is that I overproofed the thing.



Here's a funny one. Just a simple loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread, made with yogurt, from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. I have no idea why the oven spring was so lopsided. Odd.



Last, I've been playing around a lot with rye, since I revived my rye starter from a massive attack of stinky black mold. I've tried breads with 40% rye and 60% whole wheat, but unless they're panned, I've never gotten the kind of volume I like. So I've been going with a 40-30-30 mix of whole rye - whole wheat - strong white flour that I've been very pleased with. I also add caraway. Yum.

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JMonkey

I wish now that I'd taken a picture, but I didn't think of it. I was too consumed with the thought that I'd lost Rhonda Rye, my rye starter. I'd been about a month since I'd used or refreshed her and, while she'd gotten pretty hoochy in the past, I'd never had any trouble with an invasion.

Wow. I opened her up yesterday to see a very, very healthy colony of bulbous looking gray mold all over the surface. For a moment, I thought my only recourse would be to throw her out and convert some of my whole wheat starter over to rye. But when I dug around a bit with a knife, there was a tiny patch underneath that seemed untouched.

Carefully, I took about a gram of that little patch, and refreshed it. At first, the stuff smelled like vomit, but overnight, it rose and started smelling like it ought to again. I won't fully believe I'm out of the woods until I make some rye this weekend, but it looks like I've succeeded.

Starter is amazing stuff.

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JMonkey

Though I'm sure I'll be lured away once again by the delights of a good poolish, I'm back to baking whole grains. In fact, last week, I think I may have pulled the prettiest loaf of whole grain sourdough hearth bread I've ever made out of the oven.



Here's the loaf just before it went into the oven.



And the innards.


This bread has quickly become my "daily bread," the loaf I make most often, whether for dinner or sandwiches.

I also took a shot at my own variant of the Dragon's Breath Bread that Eric Hanner posted several weeks back. I tried to make a 50% whole wheat ciabatta with sauteed garlic cloves and cheddar cheese chunks. It was an interesting experiment and made a killer sandwich, but next time, I think I'll chop the cloves up a bit and not bother with trying for ciabatta. As you can see, it didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped, especially since part of the loaf stuck to the peel:



And the crumb ...


Thanks, Eric, for posting that recipe. Was fun!

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JMonkey

I realize that I seriously risk tanking my whole grain cred, here, but lately ... I've been taking a shine to poolish. It'd been a long time since I'd worked with yeasted pre-ferments, and aside from an occasional baguette here and there, I'd not make a serious white bread in quite some time.

But after the New Year, in the course of just a couple of days, I made three poolish baguettes and one poolish ciabatta.

I used Jeffrey Hamelman's masterpiece Bread as a guide. I was so pleased with the baguettes, that for the ciabatta, I modified my sourdough spreadsheet to accommodate commercial yeast breads with pre-ferments, and inserted his formulas.. Aside from scaling each recipe down (I made a half-batch of poolish baguettes, which made three demi-baguetts, and a single 1.5 pound ciabatta), the only other change I made was to add a tiny speck of yeast to each poolish. With the baguettes, since they required about 1/10 gram of yeast, I added one gram of yeast to 19 grams of water and then added two grams of the solution to the poolish.

This was a pain.

So, next time, I just eyeballed about 1/4 of 1/8 tsp of yeast. Both ways turned out fine.

The biggest takeaway for me from making both of these breads is that, so long as the bread is handled firmly but gently and the loaf is well-shaped, the crumb can still be very open without a super gloppy dough. The baguettes, for instance, are just 66 percent hydration and the ciabatta is 73 percent. Of course, the poolish probably helps, since it denatures the protein and makes it more extensible. All the same, the lesson for me stands - good handling goes a long way towards getting an open crumb.

Sourdough is still my preference, but, wow, I'd forgotten how tasty a good, simple loaf of French bread is: nutty, buttery with a strong wheaty flavor that lasts, and lasts, and lasts.

Here's the photographic results. Recipes are below.

Poolish Baguettes

I'm finally starting to the hang of shaping these buggers.


I cut these in half the next day to make garlic bread and cheese bread to go with pasta.


Ciabatta with Poolish

This is, without doubt, the prettiest ciabatta I've ever made. I didn't score it - it just opened up on its own.


And an interior shot. Not as open as some ciabattas I've seen, but open enough for me. Next time, I'll bump the hydration up to 75 or maybe 78 percent.


Recipes

Poolish Baguettes (Makes 3 demi-baguettes of about 8 oz. each):
Overall formula:

  • White flour: 100%
  • Water: 66%
  • Salt: 2%
  • Instant yeast: 0.36%
  • 33% of the flour is pre-fermented as a poolish at 100% hydration with .07% yeast


Poolish:
  • White flour: 5.3 oz
  • Water: 5.3 oz
  • Instant yeast: Just a speck (about 1/32 of a tsp)

Final dough:
  • All of the poolish
  • White flour: 10.7 oz
  • Water: 5.3 oz
  • Salt: 1.5 tsp
  • Instant yeast: 1/2 + 1/8 tsp

The night before, dissolve the yeast into the water for the poolish, and then mix in the flour. Cover and let it ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours. Once the poolish has bubbles breaking on top and has started to wrinkle, it's ready. It'll also smell ... really nice - sweet and nutty. Mmmm.

For the final dough, measure out the water and pour it into the poolish to loosen it up. Then pour the entire mixture into a bowl. Mix together the salt, yeast and flour, and then add it to the bowl as well. Mix it all up with a spoon and, once everything is hydrated, knead it for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it passes the windowpane test. Cover and let it ferment for two hours, giving it a stretch-and-fold at the one hour mark.

Divide the dough into three pieces, and preshape into rounds. Cover and let them rest about 20 minutes. Then shape into baguettes and cover, letting them rise for about 1 hour to 90 minutes. Score and bake on a preheated stone in a 460 degree oven with steam for about 25 minutes.

Ciabatta with Poolish (Makes one 1.5 lb loaf):
Overall formula:
  • White flour: 100%
  • Water: 73%
  • Salt: 2%
  • Instant yeast: 0.36%
  • 30% of the flour is pre-fermented as a poolish at 100% hydration with .07% yeast


This is all in grams, because I used my spreadsheet - Hamelman uses ounces.

Poolish:
  • White flour: 136 grams
  • Water: 136 grams
  • Instant yeast: Just a speck (about 1/32 of a tsp or 1/10 of a gram)

Final dough:
  • All of the poolish
  • White flour: 318 grams
  • Water: 195 grams
  • Salt: 9 grams
  • Instant yeast: A heaping 1/8 tsp or .5 grams

The night before, dissolve the yeast into the water for the poolish, and then mix in the flour. Cover and let it ferment at room temperature for 12-16 hours. Once the poolish has bubbles breaking on top and has started to wrinkle, it's ready. It'll also smell ... really nice - sweet and nutty.

For the final dough, measure out the water and pour it into the poolish to loosen it up. Then pour the entire mixture into a bowl. Mix together the salt, yeast and flour, and then add it to the bowl as well. Mix it all up with a spoon and let it sit for one hour. At one hour, give it a stretch and fold, followed by two more every 30 minutes. Then let it ferment for one more hour, for a total of 3 hours bulk fermentation.

Remove the dough onto a well floured surface, and pat it out into a rectangle, carefully degassing any truly gigantic bubbles that you noticee. Let it rest for about 90 minutes.

Tranfer to the oven, dimpling it with your fingers if you desire, onto a hot stone at 460 degrees with steam for about 35 minutes or so. Let it rest one hour before slicing.
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JMonkey

I've only had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco twice, and both times it was on business. But I made sure to stop by the ACME Bread Co. store at the Ferry Building to pick up a small boule of that famous local sourdough, or perhaps a walnut or olive levain.

I'd never tried their baguettes, however, and, since I've recently been very much in the mood for a baguette, and since I'd not made a single recipe from Maggie Glezer's well respected Artisan Baking, this seemed like a natural for the weekend.

I was mightily impressed. The flavor was excellent, just as good if not better than the single step baguettes I made last week. If only I'd gotten ears all over the bread like the one at the top of the bottom loaf!

The recipe makes 2 lbs of dough, which gets split into two 8 oz. baguettes and a 1 lb boule. But I just divided it into three and make three 10+ oz baguettes. Because I shaped my last baguettes a bit tool long for the stone and had them drooping off the ends, I erred on the other side, and made these a bit too short, so they ended up looking a bit more like sub rolls than baguettes ... but heck, I called them baguettes, so baguettes they are!



I was particularly impressed by the crumb, which I got a good shot of the next day, as I made sandwiches. The internal structure was remarkably open given that the overall hydration is just a notch above 66%, a hydration at which the dough is very easy to handle.


It's an unusual dough in that it uses two different pre-ferments: a poolish and a pate fermente (also known as old dough). It's worth the trouble though.

Old dough

  • Instant yeast: 1/4 tsp
  • Water at 110 to 115 F: 1/2 cup
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour (I used Giusto's Baker's Choice):3/4 cup or 115 grams
  • Salt: 1/4 + 1/8 tsp or 1 gram

Sprinkle the yeast in the warm water and let it dissolve, which takes about 5-10 minutes. Mix the flour and salt, then add 1/3 cup of the yeasted water (reserve the rest -- you'll need some for the poolish). Mix it and knead it for about 5 minutes. Let it rise for about 3 hours, and then pop it in the fridge.

Poolish
  • Instant yeast: 1 Tbs of the yeasted water
  • Flour: 1 cup or 150 grams
  • Lukewarm water: 2/3 cup or 135 grams
Mix it all together until everything is hydrated, cover, and let it sit for about 12 hours. Bubbles will be popping at the top and it'll look a little wrinkly when it's ready. My house is cold (around 55-60 at night), so I let it go for about 16 hours.

The Final Dough
  • Flour: 2.25 cups or 340 grams
  • Instant yeast: 1/4 tsp
  • Lukewarm water: 3/4 cup + 2 Tbs or 180 grams
  • All the poolish
  • All the old dough
  • Salt: 1.75 tsp or 9 grams


Step One: Autolyse
Mix the flour and the yeast together. Then, add the water to the poolish so it will come out easily from the bowl, and pour it into the flour. Stir it up until everything is hydrated, then knead it a few times to ensure everything is well combined. Cover and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Step Two: Mixing
Break up the old dough, then add it along with the salt. Knead until you get a smooth dough that can pass the windowpane test, which is about 10 minutes or so. Cover and let it rise for about 3 hours, until it has at least doubled and you can see large bubbles. Give the dough a good stretch and fold at 20 minutes, 40 minutes and 60 minutes. Then let the dough rise for the remaining 2 hours.

Step three: Pre-shaping
Before you begin, pre-heat the oven to 450 F. If you've got a stone, make sure it's inside and also place a steam pan on the bottom rack. Glezer recommends you form it into a stubby batard. I just formed a boule. Either works, I'm sure. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This seemed like a long rest to me, but it made a big difference in my being able to easily shape the dough.

Step four: Shaping
This is where she asks you to shape the baguette. I wish I could describe how to do it, but really, you need to see photographs. Essentially, you pat it gently into a rectangular shape and then fold the top long side into the middle, and seal it, gently, but firmly. Do the same for the bottom. Then pull the top completely over the bottom and seal. Finally, with a rocking motition of your hands, start in the center, and gently, but rapidly, move outwards, stretching the dough to its proper length.

Let it rise for about 30 to 60 minutes. When it's ready, the dough will slowly spring back from a gentle nudge with your finger.

Step five: Scoring and baking
Score the baguettes with a blade at a 45 degree angle, with slashes that run primarily down the length of the loaf. Bake with steam at 450 F for about 25 minutes, until the inside of the loaf reaches at least 205 F. Let cool 30-60 minutes before devouring.
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JMonkey

Well, I made those baguettes I'd been craving. Simple really -- I just did the NYT / Sullivan Street bread scaled down to make three 8-ounce baguettes. Well, I also substituted 10% of the white flour for whole spelt, because I had some on hand, brought the hydration down to 75% and folded it twice before going to bed.

They were very tasty, almost buttery, and the crust was perfect. Crunchy and full of flavor. Crumb was nice too, with the irregularly shaped , though not cavernous, holes I was hoping for.

Man, though, were they butt-ugly.

Thin, bulbous, crooked, ugh. And I did my first attempt at a wheat sheaf all wrong -- I should have cut from the top, not the side, so they turned out looking twisted.



When you all make baguettes, how much do you weigh each out at? I've got just enough room for a 12 inch baguette but it seemed to me that 8 ounces was a little on the small size. Also, any hints you can give on shaping, and I'm all ears ....

But, even if they were ugly, they went very, very well with Zolablue's divine sweet potato sausage soup. I pretty much stuck to the recipe, though I added more sweet potatoes since I had to thaw out 8 cups of stock (smallest container I had) and didn't want it to be thin.



I'd once thought that soups weren't photogenic, but now, having seen Floyd's photo, I'm beginning to think that it's just that my soups aren't photogenic.

Anyway, that's a perfect winter meal, as far as I'm concerned (though, the bread really should be whole-grain ... but heck, even I get a Jones for white bread every once and a while ....

THANK YOU, Zolablue. This soup was a huge hit.

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JMonkey

I was concerned that my success with the whole grain hearth bread that I posted about early last month was just a one-hit wonder. Thankfully, it seems I can repeat it. Here's a few loaves that have come out of the oven in the past weeks:







I've also used the same technique for a 60-40 whole wheat to whole rye batard, and it, too, turned out well, though the crumb was, naturally, much tighter than in the loaves pictured here. I'd have taken pictures, but the camera was full and, by the time I got around to downloading them off of the camera's video card, the loaf was just a little nubbin.

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JMonkey

For Thanksgiving weekend, we've got guests for the first time in years. When we lived in Boston, Aurora and I decided after a couple of years traveling to Atlanta for Thanksgiving that it's just too much to hop on a plane. Flying on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving sucks rocks, and both of us always have to work that day, so we had to rush to the airport in the evening holiday traffic. Then we spend just a few short days before rushing back home on Sunday, hoping our flights don't get canceled or delayed, leaving us marooned in some strange city and missing a day of work.

But now that we're in Oregon, family is (relatively) close by, and so her father, his wife and Aurora's grandmother all came up from Southern Oregon to spend the weekend.

Aurora's grandmother grew up in Oregon, but shortly after she graduated high school (in the 30s), she headed east to NYC to pursue a career as an actor. There, she fell in love with what her local bakery called "Sour Corn Rye." It was dense, had caraway, and clearly contained a high percentage of sourdough rye.

I've played around with rye, but didn't feel entirely comfortable making a rye with more than 50% rye flour for the meal. So, instead, I made a 40% caraway rye that mostly followed the recipe in Hammelman's Bread, which has got to be the most useful and comprehensive bread baking book I've ever seen. And that's coming from a guy who bakes 90% of his breads from 100% whole grains. Hammelman never exceeds more than 50% whole grains unless it's a rye (and the rye section is especially good -- Hammelman has a particular passion for German ryes), but the techniques are applicable to just about any bread.

Anyway, about the rye. The first loaf I made a couple of days ago was at 68% hydration, and, though it was delicious, it wasn't as open a crumb as I'd have liked. So for the holiday bread, I increased the water to 75%. I also keep my rye sourdough at 100% hydration, rather than the eighty-something that Hammelman uses, simply because it's easier for me. I did follow Hammelman and add instant yeast, however, since the oven would otherwise be occupied with a massive turkey in the afternoon -- I needed to bake in the morning. Recipe and percentages are below:



Formula

  • Strong white flour: 60%
  • Whole rye flour: 40%
  • Water: 75%
  • Salt: 1.8%
  • Caraway seed: 1.8%
  • Instant yeast: No idea -- I used 1/2 tsp per loaf. Maybe 0.33%?
  • All of the rye flour is pre-fermented as a sourdough at 100% hydration



Ingredients for one loaf

  • Strong white flour (I used KAF Bread flour, which is 12.5% protein): 300 grams
  • Rye sourdough at 100% hydration: 400 grams
  • Water: 175 grams
  • Salt: 9 grams
  • Caraway seed: 9 grams
  • Instant yeast: 1/2 tsp or 1 gram (about)


Again, I was in a bit of a hurry, so after mixing all the ingredients together, I kneaded it for 5-10 minutes until it would windowpane. This was a pretty sticky business, and it wasn't the most pleasant kneading, but with a dough scraper nearby and damp hands, it was tolerable. I then shaped it into a ball and put the dough bucket in my picnic cooler on an upturned bowl. After throwing a cup of boiling water in the bottom, I closed it and didn't open it back up for about 90 minutes. It generally stays about 80-85 degrees in the cooler. I then preshaped the dough, let it rest 15 minutes and shaped it into a batard.

After shaping, I wrapped it in baker's linen that I'd dusted with rice flour (the best stuff in the world for dusting surfaces that will hold sticky doughs) and put it back into my makeshift proof box for anotherr 90 minutes. Then, 45 minutes on a hot stone with steam at 450 degrees F and an hour's cooling.

Great with leftover roast turkey, strong mustard and whatever other fixings you can dig up.

I've just put another loaf in the oven, this time a long-fermentation 60-40 whole wheat-white wheat batard, and it's a cold oven bake. I'll post it later tonight or tomorrow. Hope it goes well with tonight's turkey soup ....

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