The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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louie brown

From the last bake, all dressed up and ready to be consumed:

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louie brown

My wife returned from Israel with some beautiful zatar. The word describes both an herb as well as an herb blend. She brought both, from a spice dealer in her home town, where her family has been living for about two hundred years. The spice dealer has been there about as long. The blend varies from place to place and typically, people argue over their preferences. Most of the blends have the zatar, thyme, sesame. This one has lemon salt as well. It's just a great herbal condiment.

Zatar calls for flatbread, although it's great on grilled meat, for example, especially chicken, and with Lebanese yoghurt.

So, some pitot, barely visible on the left, and the much more challenging carta di musica, also known as Pane Carasau in Sardinia. In this case, the instructions using volume directions that I located were way off for my conditions, so I mixed it up to approximate a dough in the low to mid 60's hydration. I used a combination of ap and semolina flour and some olive oil. I used a little commercial yeast, although I'm sure this isn't necessary. I hydtated a portion of the flour and water and a little yeast overnight before making up the dough, a sort of biga for flavor, as the dough goes very fast the next day with the commercial yeast.

These are rolled out very thin. An intensive mix helps with dough strength. Once on the stones in the oven, they should puff like pita, but much, much thinner. They are taken out at this point, separated into the two halves, and thrown back on the stones to crisp up and brown.

Fun to make and eat, if a little tricky. 

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louie brown

It seems as if there is no end to the riches of this website. I'm learning things about German breads that will keep me busy for years. Who knew?

Still looking to use up the buckwheat flour I've had around for a while, Karin's loaf looked and sounded awfully good. I made a couple of changes to suit my taste and method, but this is Karin's bread and it is one of the tastiest I've ever baked. The buckwheat and rye, balanced with a little sweetness and spice, is just unbeatable. Recipients gobbled it up right in front of me, not even waiting to take it home.

I eliminated the yeast, only because I am stubborn. To compensate, I increased fermentation and proofing times a little. I used dark rye flour because that's what I had. I used barley malt syrup instead of honey because I'm not crazy for honey in my bread. I cut the anise down to a smidgen, added some ground fennel along with the cardamom. This spice mixture stays nicely in the background, where it is a real contributor without being distinguishable on its own.

I baked it as one loaf about a kilo pre baked weight, with every kind of steam I could think of. It took 35 minutes to finish after 15 minutes of steam.

Not just a keeper, but one to work into the more regular rotation. Thanks, Karin, for the beautiful example, the inspiration, and the lesson.


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louie brown

...minus the yeast, with a hand chopped 100% skirt steak burger and her friend onion rings.

This is essentially a savory brioche dough. I didn't see the need for the yeast. There's a 24 hour preferment (I did most of it in the fridge,) another one for the dough, which is very highly developed by mixer. The long fermentations contribute a lot of flavor that would be missing due to the intensive mix, which is the thing that strengthens the dough and gives it its beautiful even crumb.

This is a great bun or roll for a special filling of commensurate richness. The skirt steak filled that bill. If I wanted a bun for pulled pork or brisket, it would be a different one.

Sourdough makes a fantastic batter for frying. Add club soda, salt, that's it. The results are super crisp. I'm planning to use this batter again in a couple of days for whole clams.

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louie brown

I haven't been able to find much in the way of suggestions for baking bread with buckwheat, which is a shame because it is so delicious. I can't say much about Kayser or Leader, but I am grateful to Occidental for his post on this bread. It was delicious.

The large holes are the result of incomplete degassing before shaping, a defect, as Hamelman would say. Otherwise, the crumb was very nice:

Hiding under the batard is my first attempt at the tordu shape. Not bad, but not ready for prime time:

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louie brown

This dough behaved more like 65% than 75% in my bone-dry winter city kitchen. I do like the long autolyse and long bulk fermentation, and I understand why txfarmer has this as her regular baguette. There is plenty of opportunity to vary the formula, as she has demonstrated, and there is also plenty of opportunity to observe and try to understand fermentation. The refrigerator is a pretty safe place for this dough, but it does need watching once it's out. I gave this one two hours on the bench and it had almost two more hours with preshaping, resting, shaping and final proof, which was a bit too much, I think. The round loaf, although it looks fine, was on the verge of a starch attack.

I will admit to being skeptical about this dough at first for use as a baguette. It seemed almost like a parlor trick, taking something so wet and forcing it to be a baguette. But i am partial to a sourdough baguette and this one really is both challenging and fun to make. It is also delicious, thanks especially to those long cold intervals. I threw the last of a jar of wheat germ, toasted, into the dough, which is alwys good.

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louie brown

Thanks are due at the top to Farine-MC for her charming blog and its marvelous, useful content, and also to breadsong, scoring master and exemplary baker.

In brief, I neglected to take account of the very low humidity in New York City right now. My maple oatmeal was both too stiff and underproofed. Yes, I made the same mistake two weeks ago with another loaf. Now I have two striked against me, so I hope that atleast it will be something different that I overlook next time. The effects of the underproofing are clear on the batard.

I didn't dare try to duplicate breadsong's perfect scoring on her loaf, so I opted to try chevron scoring for the first time. Not bad, although I think there should be a clearer "spine" down the center of the loaf, the scores beginning closer to the center line, in other words.

The bread itself is rich, fairly light in texture, all things considered, and, as breadsong has said, with a sweet background that isn't specifically identifiable as maple. It went very well with blue cheeses and goat cheeses.

I'm glad I made this bread for the lessons it provided.

Following that, baguettes based on Pat's 65% formula. This time, I did adjust for the humidity with some extra water. However, it seems that at some point in the bake, I brushed the touch panel of the oven and turned it off without hearing the little beep because the opera was on. So when I returned to the oven, it showed 227F, and a couple of very pale baguettes. With no choice but to carry on, I cranked up the oven and finished the bake. Again, no beauty contest winners, but quite serviceable and tasty.

I include another side by side shot of the two loaves sliced, as well as a repeat of last week's side by side, so you can see the very wet baguette from txfarmer again. These baguettes are more than 15 points apart in hydration.

and last week again:

Apologies for the ongoing green cast photos. My little cybershot can't decide if it wants to white balance for fluorescent or incandescent light.


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louie brown

A return to Andy's formula yielded good results and considerable lessons about dough development, strength, and fermentation. At the same time, I'm more convinced than ever that all home baking is local. Andy, if you are reading, thanks again for your guidance.

Now, an interesting new question arises. Andy mentioned that the center of these breads does not bake up as does the perimeter. My own loaf, and my own experience in general, agrees with this. I have made and seen loaves with very even distribution of the cell structure, but more often, I make and see loaves that have a perimeter with larger, varying cell size, and a center with a more uniform structure. As a nontechnical person, I am only guessing that this is a result of a combination of all the factors that go into a finished loaf; handling, fermentation, baking. 

I would be very interested in comments directed at the goal of producing loaves with more evenly distributed cell structure throughout the loaf, even if the holes themselves are irregular in size, if that's clear.

Anyway, photos (I've included one with flash to better illustrate the translucency of the cell walls,) followed by some shots of txfarmer's crazy baguette, which I undertook just as a challenge. The long cold autolyse and bulk fermentation make for a really delicious bread. However, do take txfarmer's admonition to heart: this isn't an easy dough to handle, especially as a baguette. Myself, I'd be inclined to form it maybe as a batard, or more accurately, a log of some kind. I'm still trying to figure out how I got a 21 inch baguette on my 17 inch stones. Still, delicious and a fun project.

And a side by side shot, which is actually pretty interesting:



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louie brown

I realize that there is a certain urge here on TFL to publish only the best loaves and the best photos of them. We all want to show each other the best we can do. But in this case, I am publishing what I consider to be a failed attempt at a beautiful bread in the hope that I will learn to improve it from the comments I may receive.

I followed Andy's procedure as closely as I possibly could, except that I halved the formula. To my knowledge, I was faithful to his prescription. I used KA all purpose flour and Bob's Red Mill dark rye. Given that there is low humidity here in New York City right now, the dough seemed just a touch stiff, but it did look like Andy's pictures at each stage.

The rye was allowed to sour for 30 hours, the wheat for 15. The dough came together and was bulk fermented as called for. The dough and room temperature were 78 degrees, 26 celsius. After mechanical mixing with a stand mixer, the dough showed a good window pane. Not a very strong one, but exemplary. One fold, preshape, shape and proof also as called for, one hour in the fridge, two out. The dough seemed absolutely ready to bake.

I used my usual steaming method and oven spring was as expected, quite strong, as the profile photo shows.

The loaf sang and cracked, but it did not feel light enough. Sure enough, when I cut into it, I could tell before seeing it that the crumb wasn't going to be what I was hoping for.

What went wrong with the crumb? I mean, it's perfectly nice, and the taste is delicious, but it isn't what was wanted. nor even close to what Andy showed. Troubleshooting and constructive criticism invited.

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louie brown

There was no KA flour in the house, so I used supermarket ap for this. Along with a fair amount of olive oil, the result was a finer, softer crumb than I am accustomed to. Nevertheless, topped with salt, oil, parmigiano, marjoram and thyme, it made a delicious accompaniment for cheese.

I am partial to the round freeform shape for my foccaccia. 


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