The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

louie brown's blog

  • Pin It
louie brown's picture
louie brown

Much as "Slow Food" is a contemporary rubric for "what was once normal," so too was all bread once made without commercial yeast, where nowadays, making something "sourdough" is presented as a kind of achievement. Ciabatta is a bread originally made by poor people, likely first in Liguria. I learned about it just south of there in northern Tuscany, where they pronounce it "shabbatta." It means slipper.

The Tuscans have a well earned reputation for being cheap. Their nickname is "mangia fagioli," bean eaters. Before the "discovery" of Tuscany by the British and then everyone else, the undisturbed culture was austere and magnificent at the same time. To save money and resources, Tuscans baked bread without salt (you get used to it) and used more water in order to use less flour. They needed something cheap they could fill up on, like beans. The concept of artisanal sourdough ciabatta with competition quality voids separated by filaments of gluten would be unrecognizable to an old school Tuscan, and preposterous if explained. Among many things, they would want to know how it would hold the oil. 

I don't bake to live, the way the Tuscans did. Baking for me is a leisure activity allowed to me by a wealthy society, a fun "project." When I do this, I try to remember people I've known who were connected to the old way. Somehow, this gives the outcome more meaning than just saying, "Hey, look at these holes." If there is a purpose to my baking beyond fun and food, it is this learning experience.

Being a right brain guy, all I can tell you is that this was about 85% hydration, with long cold hydration for the flour and fermentation for the bulk dough. No question, in all the time I've been reading this site, Pat's comment, "Get the fermentation right." is the most useful and important thing I've learned. Oh, and if you're using that new baking steel idea, try lowering the rack and putting the steam above, otherwise you'll have a pretty tough bottom crust.

[/url]

 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I read about and saw pictures of gorgeous flaxseed ryes coming out of members' ovens last week and I thought I'd give it a try, but I don't like to bring new flours or specialty ingredients into the house until I use up much of what I already have. Such is life in a small New York City kitchen. Finding no rye and no flaxseeds, flaxseed rye was pretty much out of the question. There was some flaxseed meal, though, and a nice bag of Central Milling whole wheat, so I went that way.

I fed my 100% hydration white storage culture with the whole wheat a few times and mixed up a stiff levain from it to ferment overnight. I made a hot soaker with the flaxseed meal and hydrated all the white bread flour overnight. Bulk fermentation was two hours, with s&f's at 30, 60, and 105 minutes. Shaped loaves proofed another two hours on the bench. I put a total of about 2 ounces each of flaxssed meal (via the soaker) and buckwheat flour in the mix.

The large loaf was baked covered in cast iron, from which I'm getting good results recently. The smaller loaves were baked with my usual steam setup, but not covered. They did not exhibit the same cell structure as the larger loaf. The crumb on these is very light. There is no bitterness or excessive tang from the whole wheat. I tried to be conservative with the fermentation and proofing times. Delicious with good butter, cheese or maybe smoked fish. Will make these again.

[/url]

louie brown's picture
louie brown

A number of years now reading and posting here and the sentence that rings in my ears as the best advice I've ever had in home baking is Pat's "Get the fermentation right," which I guess could also be said as "Watch the dough, not the clock." Now that the rest of you have moved on to the nicely controlled environment of proofing boxes , I am left to my analog temperature probe and the vagaries of kitchen temperatures. So I've practiced on some basics, watching the dough. Here are three recent examples: A basic boule, Tartine-ish for the relatively young starter and for the covered cast iron bake; Silverton-ish for practicing the half moon score. I'm liking the cast iron right now. Proofed overnight in the fridge and baked from cold.

 

A combination of Hamelman's five grain and his seeded levain. This one has whole wheat, steel cut oats, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds. Need to bear in mind that when fewer cereals go in the soaker (and more seeds not needing to be soaked are used,) the water for it should be cut back. As it is, the dough took some more flour and turned out fine. It's not for nothing that Hamelman says this is one of the most delectable of breads. Despite all the inclusions, the crumb is light and properly aerated. Again proofed overnight in the fridge, but not baked from cold because they hadn't come up enough. I like the zigzag scoring on the large one. Next week I think I'll add a couple of tablespoons of dark rye and/or buckwheat to this formula, just to see what they do to the taste and the form.

 

Wet baguettes. For a long time, I had mixed feelings about these. I couldn't put my finger on it. But now I think I know what's bothering me: this isn't a baguette. A dough this wet, one that can't be properly shaped or scored, doesn't really fulfill the complete idea of the baguette, with its beautiful pointed ends and caramelized ears. This is more likely to be a baton, a long narrow loaf that doesn't need to be scored. Its natural form is ciabatta. Next week, I may try these as batons. If you picture these loaves below, a little wider and a little shorter and unscored, that's the idea. I hydrated the non pre fermented flour and water for 24 hours in the fridge. I also fermented the bulk dough for 24 hours in the fridge. I proofed the formed loaves for too long on the bench, about six hours. So, the appearance is a work in progress, but the taste from the long cold fermentations is fantastic. The crumb speaks for itself.

edited to add: Maybe the nicest baguette-type crust I've produced in an all sourdough version. Pretty thin and very crispy.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

This bread combines Larry's idea for kneading the cheese into the flour with my own practice of showering the top with parmigiano and then topping it with caramelized onion, which in turn came out of Silverton.

I mixed a dough of about 75% hydration using Central Milling flour. 100% starter made up about 20% of the formula by baker's percentage. I wanted a soft, white crumb, so I added some olive oil and some milk. I kneaded about a cup of finely grated cheddar into about 18 ounces of flour. This gave a very mild cheese flavor to the crumb. Twice as much cheese, or a more strongly flavored one would give more flavor.

Given the schedule this week, I fermented the dough in bulk overnight after folding it pretty aggressively in the first hour. This yielded a dough in the morning that was both wet and taught. 

I flattened out the dough and gave it two hours on the bench, which was about an hour less than it needed. This, with the milk and olive oil and cheese kneaded in, did no favors for the cell structure. I docked it all over with wet fingertips before loading. It baked at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. I gave it another five minutes at 475 to darken it.

So, not a pizza, not a foccaccia, and not really a loaf of bread; sort of a bastard, but very well received by tasters. After all, everyone loves cheese and onions baked to brown and black.

 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

This is really Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, with buckwheat instead of rye. 

Working with buckwheat flour seems like the kitchen equivalent of very wet cement. I'd be inclined to be even more aggressive about folding, especially earlier in the bulk ferment, and I'd bake straight from cold, rather than leave the overnight-proofed boule out for an hour before baking, but all told, I'm pleased with the result. The buckwheat provides a very delicate texture that adds a certain elegance to the bread, and the taste is delectable.

 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Greetings. The crazy heat in my kitchen broke for long enough to allow me a few loaves for the holiday, although the heat was so great at times that my dough just died. After a long-awaited vacation coming up next week, I am looking forward to more reasonable conditions for baking when i return.

 

Anyway, Silverton's olive bread, which never disappoints. I've shown this before, but this time, instead of a single two kilo miche, I made half kilo loaves as gifts (and one, the batard, for toasts for the holiday dinner.) I'm showing them this time because I proofed the one in the front right in a floured towel in a fairly straight-sided mixing bowl. This yielded a much rounder loaf than the proofing baskets. The cell structure is exactly as desired and expected. I used twice as many olives as called for, a mixture of oil cured, kalamata and Sicilian green.

Glezer's sourdough challah. A bit tart, due to overproofing. You can see that the lobes of the four strand round braid have "melted" together some. breadsong's recent application of this form for Larry's cheese bread was much nicer. Nevertheless, a delicious, rich bread with an interior that is both soft and has some tooth. Needless to say, it made great french toast.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Looking to clear up the number of packages containing small amounts of flour, seeds, grains, etc., I noticed that Hamelman mentions in his description of one of his five grain loaves that it looks nice as a large boule. Having neither the time, the patience, nor, most important, the space in the fridge (I like these retarded overnight) I took him at his word and made up the loaf below. It contains at least three different kinds of seeds, all toasted, cracked rye, bulghur, steel cut oats, dark whole wheat, flax, flaxseed meal, who knows what else. It is really more like cereal baked with some flour and water into a loaf. 

Notwithstanding the mountain of ingredients I packed into this dough, it fermented and proofed nicely and baked up into a five pound (2 kilo+) loaf with fantastic taste. It's four inches high. Needless to say, wildly open crumb is not the goal here. 

In the oven, the loaf took a full hour to reach 200 degrees internal temperature, and about six or seven hours to be dry enough to cut. It was even then still a little ragged, as you can see.

This loaf is a meal in itself. A goodly slice, toasted and topped with butter is all you need. Except maybe another one. Delicious, if a little overwrought. Sorry, Jeff.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Forgive me. I have strayed from the unending pursuit of the platonic ideal in bread baking, and have had some fun. 

Silverton's formula for this bread includes some marjoram, which gives a nice perfume. I added some - a lot - of toasted wheat germ as well, which gives a nutty flavor and an added textural element. I've been adding toasted wheat germ to many of my loaves for years. It's a great ingredient. I also made the dough somewhat wetter than is specified. This, with the extra olive oil, made the dough a little tricky to handle, so out came the parchment and the rice flour.

This bread is especially striking in a large format. It is fun to tear apart.

 

Bonus pic: pita points with zatar and olive oil, which went with drinks for a dinner for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot:

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I was inspired by a loaf made by breadmakingbassplayer that sounded very good. I began by calculating a 75% hydration dough. With the water content from the scallions, and the addition of some sesame oil, I'm not sure how much higher than that it wound up. Parchment paper and rice flour are your friends in a case like this.

The levain was about 12% of the total weight of the dough. I bulk fermented the dough for three hours, probably too long at almost 80F, with a set of about 20 strokes in the bowl every hour. I proofed the loaf for about 45 minutes, as the kitchen was heating up from the oven. 

Unmolded onto a piece of parchment covered with sifted rice flour. To form, lifted from the bottom four times, turning the loaf a quarter turn each time, sort of like a kaiser roll. I like the shape.

Baked covered for the first ten minutes. 

The sesame oil adds even more richness to the sourdough. The scallions make the whole thing very onion-y. The crumb is soft but resilient. The crust is somewhat crumbly. Very full flavored and delicious. I had some as a tuna fish sandwich last night.

The crumb looked like this throughout. However, as the result of the forming motion on the rice flour-covered parchment, a small seam of uncooked flour turned up here and there, which is not attractive for photos.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I don't know what I am doing hanging around a culinary activity that largely demands, and attracts, precision-oriented individuals and the sort of methodical, careful procedures that lend themselves to notekeeping. I am a right side person. I don't keep records of my bakes. I do measure my ingredients by weight but I often make arithmetic mistakes. I fail to take account of variations in temperature and humidity in my apartment. I share the drive for self improvement in baking, but I don't crave the utter perfection of some, unless it comes through my hands and experiential learning, rather than through scientific or quasi scientific trial.

I envy those with stable environmental conditions. I'm amazed by professional bakeries, which have their procedures right down to the number of revolutions of the mixer. But being a right side type, variation more than consistency inhabits my home bakery. I've learned to accept it.

Take Nancy Silverton's walnut bread, the best walnut bread I've ever had anywhere, by a mile. I've been baking it since the book was published and it usually turns out more or less the same. Yesterday, though, the dough wanted a good deal more water, and the dark rye flour seemed, somehow, to make up more of the dough than usual. For scheduling reasons, fermentation and proofing went on longer than they should have. Not by much, but by enough to make a difference. By the same token, Silverton calls for a fairly intensive mix, so taken all together, this is a loaf with a relatively close crumb, albeit one in which the cell structure should be evident throughout.

This is one the best specialty breads I've come across. The taste is very rich and complex, creamy and deep. The crust shatters all over the place. It's great out of hand, but it is spectacular with cheese. Highly recommended, even if you are a right sider, like me.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - louie brown's blog