The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I finally got a day to bake last week and commitments led me to bake a variation of Peter Reinharts Struan and Hamelman's Black Rye.

I didn't have the proper grains so I used rye flakes, wheat flakes, barley flakes, oat flakes, sunflower seeds, and a bit of flax. The results came out pretty much as expected and was pretty popular with friends.

The Black Rye was made by following Hamelman's recipe in Bread exactly. This is a good example of a learning loaf. I expected it to be "blacker" and ended up overbaking it a bit as I expected it to darken more. My time was at Hamelman's shorter times - my oven thermostat is pretty dependable so I can usually follow baking times - and I generally prefer my breads baked more than less. In this case his time was too much. I also felt the dough was a bit dry as I mixed it and the crumb supports that conclusion as well, I think. Next time I will add a couple of percent hydration and shorten the bake. Really good, complex, earthy flavor!

As you can see in the bottom image the crust is pretty thick - and the loaf is a bit dryer than most ryes I have made and learn!

Bake On!


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Today was the final day of Artisan I. We made four baguette doughs: a hand mix, and three doughs with preferments - poolish, sponge, and prefermented dough. The week of dough handling clearly showed. Our shaping and scoring were much improved as the photos will illustrate. The hand mix was very similar to the short mix done in the spiral mixer on day 2. Our prefermented doughs were a little less acid than usual and this was attributed to the fact that the temperature overnight was 5 to 6 degrees cooler than normal. 

The liquid nature of poolish is favorable to protease activity and doughs based on poolish tend to be more extensible due to the degratation of protein. The sponge tends to promote acidity which tends to strengthen the dough. We were able to feel that in the doughs. The dough based on prefermented dough was the most elastic and the least interesting in flavor. Then the short. Today we preferred the sponge but Mac said that was varible from day to day. Both were superior I think to the autlyse...but when in a hurry the autolyse is a good idea. Ignoring the prep for the preferment and the overnight fermentation, the time from mixing final dough to baking was significantly shorter with the preferments.

We mainly made baguettes. With the hand mix we made epis and played. I included those photos. I was particularly pleased with my split epi. Photos  are followed by some overall comments about the experience.

The dual epi!

This is a typical crumb shot. All the doughs were quite similar in crumb.

This was a great week. Lots of good hands on experience with a very knowledgeable instructor. And a chance to get first hand experience with serious baking equipment like spiral mixers and deck ovens. The whole experience was very educational and rewarding and I am confident that the skills I honed will translate well to my normal world of sourdough.

One of my big surprises was how uneven the heating of deck ovens is. The back of the oven was definitely hot and the front was definitely cold and aobut five feet in the middle was pretty wonderful. So where you baked made a quite a bit of difference. The loaders were fun and the spiral mixers were addictive. They make such lovely dough! So superior to conventional home mixers.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found nuggets of information you can use.

Bake on!



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Wow! Five breads in one day. Anyone thinking about doing this class needs to be prepared for long, busy days! We were on our feet almost all day!

One of the real lessons from this class is prepping and planning. When you are baking four of five (or more) breads it is important to be time efficient.  All dry ingredients wer measured the afternoon before and our seed soaker for the multigrain was prepared the day before. This morning we began with the autolyse of the whole wheat flour, then mixed our egg dough, then back to the whole wheat...and so on, weaving back and forth as we mixed and divided and preformed and shaped and preformed and shaped and baked and shaped and so on.

Our mixer schedule was optimized to also avoid cleaninhg - until the final dough which was pan bread (homestyle white bread) which required a careful cleaning of the mixer to make sure all the seeds and rye and wholewheat doughs were removed.

Especially beneficial today was that we used many of the same skills we have been developing for baguettes in new ways - forming the "ropes" of egg dough for braiding, forming the multigrain batards, and learned a few new skills for boules. To be candid, after ten years of making boules I thought I had it down, and I pretty well did, but working with wet doughs all week has really helped me learn to use flour much more sparingly and wisely and my boule forming today was really nice. Also learnes some new techniques for pan breads which I NEVER do but probably will now! 

Here is a photo of yesterday's baguettes all bagged up and ready to give to the hotel staff!

Here is today's egg bread braid (the pan loaves are in the image also)

The rye!

The whole wheat...

And the multigrain...

I wish I had a shot of the multigrain crumb, but all the breads had crumb about like you would expect - fairly dense for the whole wheat and rye and a bit more open for the multigrain. 

Tomorrow we return to baguettes with preferments.

I am tired!




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Today was similar to yesterday in that we mixed dough for three types of baguettes. It was very similar to David's Day 3 except I interpret we did different doughs but I am not certain. Once again the scoring fairy visited and our loaves were better. Not what I want yet, but...getting there.

As in David's class we discussed flour - types, milling, characteristics, additives, oxidants, agers, etc. But the hands on experience was the highlight. And we began much more actively participating in mixing, baking, etc.

Our three doughs today were improved mix (our standard reference), an improved mix with a short autolyse, and a high gluten dough made by the improved mix formula (70 % hydration). Each person made five baguettes using each dough. The improved mix is becoming familiar as this is the third time we have made it. Shape and slashes are improving but the flavor and open crumb are now what we expect as is the dough handling.

The improved mix with autolyse combined all of the flour and almost all the water for 30 minutes autolyse before mixing in the yeast and salt (remaining water added to the salt at the start of the autlyze to aid in mixing. The autolyse jump starts the enzymes which means there is more sugar when the yeast is mixed in. The mixing and processing were similar to the improved mix baguette dough but with a shorter second mix since the autolyse allowed for good gluten development. The window test after the autolyse and short mix was "amazing". The best I think we have gotten. And the dough is a bit softer and more extensible. 

The high gluten baguette dough was exactly the improved mix but with higher protein dough. So it was arguably underhydrated relative to the improved mix. And more elastic. Most of the loaves took two shaping passes to get them long enough.

There is little reason to show photos. They aren't remarkable and take me a good bit of time to upload so I will concentrate on flavor.

The high gluten dough yielded a baguette somewhat similar to the intense mix from yesterday. No bad tastes, but insipid, and familiar as the loaf you pick up from the local Mega Mart. It did have better (more open) crumb and the cell walls were much prettier but...not a loaf to lust after. But easy to handle, easy to shape and score (except for the elasticity), and good for large production schedules.

The improved mix reference was very good. A bit more challenging to handle but repetition pays and my handling of dough was clearly improved today. Wonderful, open structure, good flavor. Nice!

The star of the show, however was the improved mix with autolyse. A bit more challenging to handle and a bit gassy (like the short mix). A bit harder to get a good, taut loaf but it was the last of the day and I thought I did pretty well. Wonderful crumb, darker crust due to the additional sugar in the dough and crust. Flavor was slightly sweeter, with more acid both acetic (just a touch of bite) and lactic (slight buttery flavor). This was a real star and is to be repeated. The technique of beginnn a straight dough with a short autolyse is straightforward and is guaranteed to give your straight yeasted breads more flavor.

Like David's class we will make five different breads tomorrow - none baguettes. It will be a busy, hectic day!  But a pleasant change of pace. Then, Friday we will make four different baguette doughs, a hand mix dough and three using preferments (poolish sponge, and dough).

Now for dinner and sleep!


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David's photos from Day 2 tell the story well. Except it was really busy and crazy. Having four teams of bakers making 15 baguettes each (5 each of short mix, improved mix, and intensive mix) was almost crazy! By the third bake we pretty much had our act together and it went pretty well, felt really busy!

What SFBI calls the "short mix" is a minimally mixed dough that has a shaggy window and requires a long ferment to develop gluten and about three folds to develop the dough. It is effectively the "hand mixed dough" of olden times. The intensive mix is the "high energy" mixer approach that is so typical of commercial, large scale bakeries and the "grocery store baguette". It is intensely mixed, a bit oxidized, and bland by comparison. The improved mix is a dough mixed to an intermediate level with a nice but not clear windowpane and needs an intermediate level of fermentation and one fold. It yields a loaf that is quite similar in crumb to the short mix but with less labor and is therefore appealing to commercial operations. 

Mac didn't cut any of my loaves so I didn't get a comparative crumb shot but the short and intermediate loaves had very similar crumb and similar to the crumb photo from day one. The intense mix dough yielded the familiar fine crumb of "conventional" baguettes. 

The photos below are the improved mix, intense, and short mix loaves. More comments on the loaves will follow the photos.

Good news was the scoring fairy showed up today and all of us seemed to score better! 

The smell of the intense baguette was a bit strange. Not much aroma and a bit of a chemical smell - not sure where that came from. Decent crumb and texture but relatively bland due to the high yeast, and fast fermentation.  A long proof is necessary to compensate for the high development and relax the bread...but the lack of flavor tends to support the logic that flavor doesn't develop in small loaves (or it leaks out??).

The improved mix at the top and the short mix were surprisingly similar. Some preferred the short, others the improved. The short seemed a bit sweeter (less oxidation from mixing?) and a bit fresher to me. The improved seemed to have a bit more acidity (which it arguably should not but...). In any event they were remarkably similar and good.

Handling wise the intense dough was easy. We were using 11.8% protein flour and those loaves were 65% hydration. Our improved mix dough was 70% and our short mix was 71%. They were both a bit sticky but the short was clearly more of a handling challenge. I described it as reminiscent of Peter Reinhart's Pain l'Ancienne but better behaved - to the point that it could be formed and scored. 

I am really tired! 

Tomorrow we will make another 15 baguettes. Our reference improved, improved with autolyse, and high gluten with autolyse.

Time to have a beer! More tomorrow!


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One year ago David Snyder began his Day 1 blog entry with "Wow! There is no possible way to descirbe today in full..." and I agree! Reading David's blogs and looking at David's photos of his own breads convinced me that I would benefit from this one year later I am taking my turn at the SFBI experience. David wrote a great summary last year and I will refer you to his blog for what is almost certainly a more thorough coverage of the class than I will provide. But I will stive to explore what I find most insightful and different from David.

Our day began with the students gathering to meet each other and enjoy a light breakfast of poppy seed scones, dried fig and almond scones, and an apple tart with coffee. The breakfast clearly demonstrated that the staff and students are talented bakers!

Our instructor for this class is Mac McClelland. Mac brings an interesting background to baking - having worked as a mechanical engineer for Caterpillar before his love of baking led him to take classes and then the full SFBI curriculum and become a baker. As in David's class Michel Suas warmly welcomed us to the school. As in David's class about half of the day was spent in lecture format and about half in the lab with Mac demonstrating and us copying him in dividing and shaping dough and loaves.

For me the "commercial" equipment was an interesting experience. Fifty pound spiral mixers, automatic loaders and five deck ovens were unknown territory and thus exciting. The real highlight though was handling dough at the "short mix" stage (five minutes at speed 1 on the two speed spiral) and "improved mix" stage (an additional five minutes at speed 2). A window pane of the short mix dough was ragged with thin and thick spots. And the dougth was still somewhat sticky. The improved mix gave a window pane that was about half thin and half thicker and was quite a bit tougher and less vulnerable to tearing. The improved mix dough was also less sticky - with the water more incorporated into the flour.  It was these hands on, tactile experiences that were my motivation for coming to SFBI. 

There were no surprises for me in the fermenting/proofing/shaping/scoring discussions. The techniques taught are quite familiar. I did, somehow, manage to bring more technique to my baguettes than I routinely achieve and the results were, to me quite pleasing. Photos of my baguettes are below. I feel obligated to point out that I shaped all the loaves but the rear one was inadvertently slashed by one of my classmates!

Like David, I found it wonderful to be able to make full length baguettes!

Tomorrow we will make 15 baguettes from three doughs - short mix, improved mix, and intense mix.

This will be a good week!



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I finally got time to bake and wanted to revisit the miche. After all of the multiple miches I was really looking forward to popping a spectacular loaf. And...the process had some flaws and the results are not up to my aspirations, but unlike a skydiver whose chute doesn't open, I will live to try again!

I followed David Snyder's guidelines for the full loaf using my new War Eagle Mills AP flour. My doughs using this flour remain a bit wetter than I expect and as a result the dough was a tad sticky but I thought it would be okay. Not quite, for it stuck to my linen basket liner in a ring around the base (sides and top were not stuck!) so getting from the banneton to the peel left me with a loose, wrinkled around the top sharpei-like loaf! It would up a bit overproofed but baked up nicely - though a bit flat. It sang and crackled nicely on removal from the oven. And the aroma was amazing. Taste is quite good and will no doubt get better. Crumb is pretty nice! Here are some photos!

The next image shows the wrinkles from the sticking!

And the crumb

I fully agree with David that this is a loaf you really want to push the bake on! The crust is amazing!

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A friend experienced what appeared to be a protease attack earlier this week while making a Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Fig sourdough using the Tartine approach. The loaves began normally - up to forming and then sat with little change. Rather interestingly this was done in parallel with a batch a Tartine aux Cereales using the same sourdough starter and dough recipe. The loaves without blue cheese performed admirably. My friend told described the problem to me and wondered what about the blue cheese might have led to the problem.

Suspecting protease failure, I Googled blue cheese and found that much if not most blue cheese has protease added during its manufacture. As a result the Blue Cheese loaves would have a higher level of protease than the regular dough. Cool winter kitchen temperatures mean longer fermentation and proofing times but as I understand it enzyme activity is much less temperature sensitive than the yeast. This apparently allowed the protease to destroy the gluten before the yeast could finish and the bread be bakes. 

I wanted to document this because the TFL site has recorded many successful efforts to use blue cheese in sourdough. In looking at other recipes using blue cheese it is interesting that most that I can find that use blue cheese IN the bread use ADY or IDY rather than sourdough. Others form the bread. slash it, and insert the blue cheese in the slash. Others put it on top. Peter Reinhart is one of the few who suggest putting the blue cheese IN the loaf and he says to do it in the last two minutes of kneading. Apparently that minimizes the spread of the cheese protease in the dough.

It appears that mixing the blue cheese in early or having a long proofing time (low temps or low yeast activity) with blue cheese breads is a potential source of problems.


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Bread authors have slowly nudged me toward buying some organic and stone ground flours to experiment with. Exploring the web and other sources led me to hone in on War Eagle Mill (WEM) in Rogers Arkansas for my source for they have a good reputation and are closer than most. When they ran a 20% off sale with free shipping for orders over $100 I had to give it a try so I ordered 25 pounds each of organic AP and BF (roller milled), and 10 pounds each of stone ground organic WW and White WW. The flour came Wednesday so I cranked up the oven to make Tartine yesterday. Photo below.

I only used the BF and WW and the dough is mostly BF. The BF has more aroma of wheat then the KA AP and BF I normally use. The BF is about 11.5% protein according to War Eagle. The WW had a wonderful texture and aroma also. The dough seemed a bit touch dryer than KA for the same hydration - but softer. During the bulk ferment the "wheaty" aroma of the flours really grew evident. Tasting the dough revealed it to be sweeter and "grassier" than KA. The dough responded very well to S&Fs but, despite its drier feel, remained a tad stickier than the KA AP and stuck to the bannetons - and also flowed rather dramatically on removal from the bannetons, giving a rather flat disk in my cloche. Oven spring was very good and the expansion almost hid the folds from the banneton sticking. Flavor was wheatier than KA.

Preliminary conclusions: The WEM BF is similar in behaviour to KA AP but with more nose and more color. The aroma gives the bread a "lighter" taste profile. The crumb has a bit less bite than the same bread make with KA AP and WW. The WEM WW appears lovely and worked very well in the role of supporting flour. I think I will next try it or the white WW in a miche - or maybe one of each.  Given the WEM AP is supposed to be about  a percent lower in protein I am guessing I won't use it much but I will try it in Banh Mi for I have been struggling to get the crumb as delicate as I want. Overall I was pleased with this initial foray into organic and stone ground flours.

The loaves were made following the Tartine recipe with one exception. My starter is less sour so I use 50 grams of starter to make the 400 grams of levain in the first step. Then I used 200 grams of the levain and followed the recipe. Key difference was that my kitchen was around 67F so the bulk fermentation ran about 7 hours. The Hamelman videos at KA on loaf forming reinforced the need for the dough to be airy and I gutted it out. After shaping I moved to a warming drawer to accelerate the proof. The loaf I cut had a small peak at the top and I guessed it indicated larger holes and that was verified. The other loaf will be more uniform. I tried moving the preheat down to 475 with the bake at 440 and the loaves came out a bit light for my taste (internal temp 210). The surface has a duller finish than I like because I used rice flour in the flour mix to coat the banneton since the dough was pretty sticky. More photos follow.

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Today's bake involved my interpretation of the Tartine Semolina loaf along with baking the boules simultaneously in a Cloche and in a Combo Cooker. The finished loaves follow! The black crumb is primarily a combination of poppy seeds and black sesame seeds. The Combo Cooker loaf is on the left and the Cloche loaf is on the right.

Tartine Semolina Loaves

Last fall I bought some durum flour and I have been intending to try it in bread. Since I have been working on the Tartine Country loaf I decided to try the Tartine Semolina recipe. I pretty much followed the recipe except that I use a higher dose of starter in my levain for my starter is rather mild. This recipe is very similar to the Country loaf in my opinion except that it uses 70% semolina/30% AP in the building the final dough AND it uses seeds (fennel, sesame, poppy) both in the dough and as a finish to the crust. I normally do a double batch of bread (around 5 pounds) and usually make four loaves. Time constraints today led me to divide the bulk ferment at 2 1/2 hours and retard half to finish tomorrow. As a result this posting will have a follow-up report tomorrow on the retarded dough.

My key comments involving the recipe would be that the recipe is not fully written. It has you roast fennel and sesame seeds in a skillet and grind them. Then add poppy seeds to the roasted seeds (and poppy seeds are not listed in the ingredients). This seed meal is added after the second S&F. The recipe needs to be read carefully for it is confusing.

I used very fine durum flour and it was lovely, and the resulting dough was strong and easy to work with. I will be using durum flour more often, I think.  I also found the roasted fennel and sesame seeds very appealing for the aroma they gave the loaves. (The poppy seeds were not roasted and didn't smell.) 

As usual, even though today was cold, my yeast was faster than allowed for in Chad's book. When I applied the poke test it indicated the dough was ready (even though I felt it was still a bit early). The results seem to suggest I should have given the bulk ferment another 20 minutes or so. The Cloche and Combo Cooker were heated for 1 hour at 475. The oven was turned down to 450 for baking. The loaf in the cloche was naked on the ceramic, the loaf in the Combo Cooker was on a layer of parchment. The bottoms of the loaves are shown below.

The Combo Cooker loaf on the left is a bit darker. I personally prefer the cloche loaf on the right, but as in the case of the oven spring and loaf baking the results are close enough that either is acceptable or can be with minor tweaking.

The crumb on these loaves was not as open as I am used to from the country loaf. I suspect that results from the introduction of the seed and seed flour but underproofing is also a suspect. It is worth noting that the Eric Kayser Pain aux Cereales has seeds and huge uneven holes so that tends to point the finger at timing or handling or even water absorption from the dough by the seeds. I would welcome comments by others regarding the influence of semolina on loaf volume. Flavor is delightful. I really like the subtle anise flavor from the fennel. 


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