The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

LydiaPage's blog

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Boule bread - August 11, 2017

Forming the loaves was not too bad.  I used the same ratio of ingredients in my dough as my previous bread and shaped them, enjoying the feeling of working the soft dough with my hands on the cool granite counters.  They came together beautifully, puffing up in their baskets and begging to be baked.  I used rice flour as direct - this miracle substance left even the puffy slightly sticky dough gliding across any surface it touched.  I butchered the top with my unpracticed slashing, and popped them in the pre-heated oven (I had unglazed quarry tiles in 500F heat for an hour).  The first came out, and I was happy - the temperature was perfect, it was rustic and still round, golden and lovely. 

So all in all I think I get a C+ in this one.  A for effort and taste, and a D minus for slashing and appearance.  Who knew baking and butchering could be divided with such a fine line!

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Two lovely mini loaves - August 4, 2017


I learned that fat and sugar make the dough rise significantly more, and faster, and even rise further upon baking.  They also add a hint of richness to the bread and improve the texture.  All in all it is a fantastic addition - but now that I have some experience I will be much more sensitive to the timing in the future!  Just a reminder that I am still a novice, and there is much to learn!

I did decide to go ahead and try to make a full-size loaf of this bread a few days later.  I wanted something big enough to make those sandwiches and toast with - it turned out well, and I am happy with it.  A bit dark on top, but that did lend to a deep nutty flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed - and it is wonderful toasted with a smear of bourbon molasses butter that I made this past weekend!  

Right now I am feeding a sourdough starter (with much instruction from The Bread Whisperer) and am very intimidated by the upcoming lesson with a totally different free-form boule, so wish me luck as I stumble (humbled) onward!

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A sad over-proofed loaf - July 18, 2017


It had risen beautifully, and then fallen in disgust when I did not put it in to the warm oven to toast it to perfection.   Cutting in to it I got a chalky, crumbly mess that even I wouldn't eat.  It was dry beyond the point of salvation, and I hung my head in shame as I disposed of something that I hope to not repeat.  

Now I know... do not forget a proofing dough, it will leave you very disappointed, and hungry!  Let's hope lesson six is more palatable.

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Country Bread - yeast activated at 72F, 100F, and 130F (left to right) - July 8, 2017

I put it in a bowl, set a timer, and took a measurement before I set it aside to proof under a cloth.  It was 1.5" high and ready to go. 

The timing of my break worked out pretty well since the first dough took so much longer to proof - two hours and it was doubled, puffy and pillowy.  I pressed a finger in the top and it didn't bounce back - time to get it in the loaf pan... but how?  I remember talking about using a tiny amount of Crisco to grease the pan, and giving it a few good kneads to get the gas out before letting it rise again, but do I just kind of cram it in the pan?  Well - I tried that, and send TBW a panicked photo and question, he replied with a King Arthur Flour video lesson on shaping (why didn't I think of that?!), it was a game changer.  I watched it a few times and had a much more pleasant looking loaf.  Back under the towel - the next one was ready - repeat with the third.  Fast forward (by the miracle of the internet) 45 mins later and they are ready to go - and looking hopeful!


The next morning (after resisting the urge to leave Addie and the dogs with my husband and run downstairs like a kid at Christmas) I sliced and taste tested with Tim.  You have to love bread for breakfast! 

The first one (72F) had me literally squeal with joy (freaking out the dogs, who went crazy and then startled the baby - good start to the day), it looked like REAL bread!  It tasted fantastic, the texture was nice and springy - soft, fluffy clouds of white bread with a crisp crust and a delightfully subtle tangy nutty flavor - two thumbs up from us both!

The third (130F) was even more dense, and the flavor for us was overwhelming.  It just had a bit too much of an after taste, and was a bit too heavy.  Toasted with butter and other deliciousness it will still not be wasted!

 Lesson five, I am ready for you!
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Foccacia di Recco - 62% hydration King Arthur Bread Flour, Pillsbury Bread Flour, King Arthur All Purpose Flour, Gold Medal All Purpose Flour, Bobs Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (left to right) - July 1, 2017

Easy to knead, easy to roll, easy to eat.  It was a little sticky at first, but after 3-4 minutes of kneading became very pleasant to work with, it was soft and springy and shiny - what I imagine a dough should be.  It was crisp and flaky and just the right amount of texture when eaten.

Pillsbury Bread Flour

I'm sure I will get in trouble for saying this was my favorite (blasphemy!), it was the easiest to form, knead and roll.  It never got as sticky as the bread flours, but was not as dense as the GM All Purpose or the whole wheat flour.  It was light and flaky when baked, and almost came to bed with me for a 2 a.m. snack.

Gold Medal All Purpose Flour

This was AWFUL.  I mean seriously, I nearly chucked the rest of the container of flour out in a fit of rage.  It was exhausting to knead, so stiff and dry, so unyielding - I nearly gave up.  My rolling pin became a bat in an attempt to flatten this beast, and at first taste the whole thing went in the bin - GROSS, dry, brittle, nothing redeeming.  A miserable end to the experiment, only made better by going back to eat more of the first three!

Sidenote:  The more cheese the better.  The more kosher salt sprinkled on top the better (pink himalayan and regular table salt did not do it justice at all).  Subbing chunks of homemade nutella instead of cheese - sinfully divine.

So now to see how I did, whether there is a lesson four, and whether it is something my arms will be able to tackle any time soon - wish me luck!

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Foccacia di Recco - 58%, 62% and 65% hydration (front to back) - June 26, 2017


The three doughs looked and felt very, very different - and the end results were also completely distinct in texture. 


58% hydration

When done it was slightly more pale than the others, had a more crumbly texture, and just tasted dry.  The dogs sniffed it and walked away - no, just kidding, they would have run away with it in a second given a chance!  The non-student me would have eaten the whole thing and said "yum" but never made it again.  The student me said "I can do better" and went on to...


62% hydration


It had a perfect tiny crunch to the top, while not falling apart in your hands, the filling was just right, and it made me want to knead a triple batch and eat myself into a Foccacia coma.  Buttery flaky crust, around gooey flavorful cheese - I'm in!


65% hydration


In my opinion it still looked the best, golden and bubbly, like a perfectly toasted marshmallow - but although good, it didn't beat the second one!  I was surprised!  It had a slightly denser tone to it which made the cheese almost hard to distinguish from the center dough, and gave it more of one texture than a crust with a filling (don't get me wrong, we still ate this one!), so it just got edged out.  Good, but not good enough. 

Hopefully that will not be my feedback from TBW as I march onward to Lesson Three!

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Where it all started - Lesson One


My attempt at Artisan Rosemary Bread June 18, 2017


Pre-mentor I bumbled through a typical Pinterest recipe, being promised the world and ending up with an unsightly but edible loaf.  A 30 minute hands-on-time promised, a three hour hands-on-time ended up being more accurate.  Why was it so difficult?  It proofed beautifully, but as soon as I went to form the loaves I realized I had a pile of sticky bubbling goo that did not resemble dough in the slightest.  After two hours of rising I was determined to bake it, so I added cup after cup of flour, until I almost had a round "loaf."  I placed poured it in to my trusty pre-heated cast iron pot and hoped for the best.  Well it worked.. sort of.  We munched on it happily, but for a whole day of work it certainly was no baguette from Pain d'Epis, and while I did not expect it to be award-winning, I would have settled for worthy of the mouth-watering that the smells emerging from the oven elicited. 

I started researching some books to get a better idea of the fundamentals, and Tim (my dear husband) sent the ones I showed him off to "the bread whisperer" to get an opinion.  Before I knew it I had my first homework assignment - figure out what went wrong by converting my recipe to grams and reading up on bakers math.  With my hate-hate relationship with math I knew this was going to be fabulous fun, so I dove in.  A couple of frustrating attempts later this is what I came up with:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water = 791g
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1-1/2 packets) = 13g
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt = 18g
  • 6-1/2 cups all-purpose white flour = 845g
  • 2 tablespoons sugar = 25g
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary = 25g

so based on what I read - the water probably should have been at about .70 of the flour?  If that's the case - the water should've been about 591g - which explains why I had a soggy mess on my hands and had to add a ton of flour when attempting to knead and shape?!  According to this I was at about 94% hydration?!

If my original recipe was in bakers math

  •     Flour: 100% 845g
  •     Water: 94% 791g
  •     Salt: 21% 17g
  •     Instant yeast: 15% 13g
  •     Total: 230%

A more useable recipe would be something like this?

  •     Flour: 100% 845g
  •     Water: 70% 591g
  •     Salt: 2% 2g
  •     Instant yeast: 2% 2g
  •     Total: 174% 

And I was close!  TBW (the bread whisperer) suggested 66% would probably make a better result, but ultimately yes - 94% hydration is why I had a sticky situation on my hands.  

Well lesson one - a flooded flour - I got a nod, I passed, so now for lesson two!

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…as the room fills with the acrid smell of smoke billowing from my oven.

Okay this may actually be a little dramatic, and perhaps not the entire truth... but the few attempts I've had to date at making bread have not produced anything I'm super excited to repeat.  

So here begins my journey: a bread guru, whisperer of dough, and wizard of the baking realm - has offered to take me under his wing and guide me through everything from how to prepare my oven, to finding the ideal hydration ratio to make a perfect loaf.  Everything will be documented here, the good, the bad, and (hopefully) the edible - wish me luck!

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