The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Maine18

In between World Cup games, I thought I’d catch up on a couple of recent bread experiments and bakery visits.  I’ve been traveling for work quite a bit this Spring/early Summer, and two recent trips afforded me the chance to stop by the bakeries of two favorite bread book authors, Chad Robertson (Bar Tartine) and Ken Forkish (Ken’s Artisan Bakery).

Tartine was, as always, pretty phenomenal.  His style bread was, 8 or 9 years ago, what initially got me hooked on levain bread baking.  We had brunch at Bar Tartine, and took that opportunity to order a couple of their loaves to go – the classic Country Loaf, as well as an Oat Porridge boule.

I was amazed by the size of the Country Loaf – at least twice the size of the batards I produce at home.  Rather than cut into it at the restaurant, we ended up hauling this one back on the plane to Seattle and immediately froze it, to enjoy later.  Later ended up being about 2 weeks, when we had steamed clams with a large group of friends that cried out for crusty loaf of sourdough.  Brushed with some EVOO, grilled, it was amazing.

 

The Oat Porridge bread was a first for me at Tartine, and we cracked into almost immediately, eating as we walked around the city.  It has a really lovely, custardy crumb and dense, dark crust.  My wife, in particular, love it and asked me to try it soon at home.

 

Flash forward to just last night and I gave the Oat Porridge a go at home.  I’m pretty happy with the results.  Nice oven spring and soft crumb – borderline gummy, which I assume if from the porridge portion (I ended up using Bob’s Red Mill 5 grain cereal). I didn’t get the crust to be quite as dark as I had hoped, despite leaving the loaf in for an extra 8 minutes – would love any tips/thoughts on how I might do this next time around?

 

Also, I monkeyed with the final proofing time, as to adjust to our weekend schedule.  After a 1 hour autolyse and then 3.5 hr bulk fermentation, the dough looked read to retard, so I put it in the fridge for what ended up being 6.5 hours (instead of a full “overnight”), pulling it out just before bed for an additional hour at room temp while the oven pre-heated.  Everything seems to have come through OK, and I will definitely be playing with this recipe some more, as I’m lately fascinated with flavor and texture of porridge breads

 

In between levain breads,  I made a quick pizza dough (instant yeast + Cuisinart recipe), retarded in the fridge for 3 days, baked on a baking steel for just over 5 minutes.  The quality of home pizza on the steel continues to amaze me, almost regardless of the dough recipe I try.  I really can’t imagine ever going back to a regular stone at this point, as the quick bake and char from the steel is pretty darn close to an authentic New York-style pie.

 

And finally, for giggles, I am making a batch of banana-infused Irish Whiskey a friend at work raves about.  Easy to make -- simply cut up 3 bananas and combine with a bottle of Jameson in a sealable jar.  Let it sit for 3 or 4 days, and then drain out the bananas through a fine mesh sieve, and pour the whiskey back into the bottle.  Drink on the rocks with a large ice cube.

 

Cheers,

Drew

 

 

 

Maine18's picture
Maine18

A bit of catch up today on some Spring baking, starting with Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's day.  The recipe couldn't be easier (especially when compared to all the levain breads I play around with these days), and is a family favorite every St. Patrick's, and this recipe is one I picked up from Elise Bauer's great blog some years ago.  (I like the added raisins).

 

 

Then in April I got the chance to take a "Pizza Making at Home" class as one of my favorite cooking workshops in Seattle, the Pantry at Delancey.  The classroom space lovely – fits about 14 students – and is in the same building as Delancey, one of the best (if not the best?) pizza restaurants in Seattle.  I’ve been trying to take this class for a long while now, but it tends to sell out in minutes (literally).  It was worth the wait, as we got to learn a slew of  tips and tricks that Delancey uses to make a really delicious NY-style pie on their wood fired oven.   I came home with some great improvements to my pizza shaping (ball stage and stretch techniques needed some practice!), as well as a new recipe (really high salt content, 18 hr proof) to try out back home on my pizza steel.  Results below, really delicious -- similar in taste/build to Jim Lahey’s pizza recipe.

 

 

Next I tried out Song Of the Baker’s Multigrain Levain formula, after seeing his beautiful results on this site.  It was a fun experiment – my first porridge-type bread.  I ended with a few substitutions in the soaker (didn’t have all the various grains needed on hand).  The results were delicious and pretty different than my typical country loaf – I had one friend say it was his favorite of my breads so far.  I definitely think I will get better at this one with practice, as I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for at each step.  The overall flavor was really moist and full, and really makes we want to experiment with even more porridge breaks (Tartine 3?).  Thanks again to Song of the Baker for sharing his recipe!

 

 

Finally, this past weekend I baked a version of Ken Forkish’s Overnight Country Brown, which his quickly becoming an all-purpose go-to for me.  I am enjoying the flavor of whole wheat flour more and more in my breads, and this one strikes a great balance for me.  I did modify the schedule of the recipe this time around, as life intervened and I didn’t have the time to do a 10-hr bulk proof and then 4 hour rise in the same day, so I ended up retarding the shaped loaves in the fridge overnight after the bulk fermentation.  I was worried about over-proofing and/or a heightened sour flavor, but neither ended up being a big issue.  The loaves did have an extra tang to them, but it was still balanced by the whole wheat flavor in my mind.

 

All for now, cheers!

 

Maine18's picture
Maine18

 I experimented with some levain bread variations this past weekend, inspired by Maurizio's beautiful blog (Food,Travel, Thought -- so well done).  I made a double batch of Tartine-esque dough, adding walnuts and various dried berries to one half, and mixed olives and lemon zest to the other. 

The results were delicious.  From a flavor perspective, the Walnut Berry loaf is top 3 of levain experiments to date (not that I really have a forced rank list...though I should).  Both had a soft, relatively open crumb, subtle sour flavor, and great complement of the added nuts, berries and olives. 

Though the flavor was great, they did not produce the oven spring or total volume/height I expected, however, which I speculate may be due in part to any/all of the following three things:1) inevitable flattening from the high hydration % (with the liquid levain I use, the dough was nearly 90% hydration), 2) insufficient tension created when I shaped the loaves prior to retarding the dough in the fridge (it was pretty loose/sticky), and/or 3) letting the dough bulk ferment too long before shaping.   To that last point, I didn't measure the volume increase during bulk as I should have, but it seems like it very likely exceeded the 20 to 30% guidance given in Tartine, albeit in only 3.5 hrs in my 70 degree kitchen.

Also, got a new non-bread toy this weekend, a refurbished Vitamix, which I've been using nonstop.  While the loaves were proofing, I made a couple different versions of habanero hot sauce, which is now mellowing/melding in my basement for 3 days before we dare try it/bottle it up.

Cheers,

DSS

 

Maine18's picture
Maine18

I have been reading a bit about the various ways in which home bakers use a cast iron combo cooker to produce some spectacular loaves, and was struck by the posts by people who skip the "pre heat" step (either for safety or fuel efficiency purposes), and seem to see no issue in the final bake.  Given it would seem much easier to work with a room temperature combo cooker vs a 500 degree version, I wanted to do a side by side comparison to see if there was much of a difference in the finished product.

 

On Saturday morning, I mixed a levain from my usual starter for a larger batch of bread – enough for 4 loaves – with the intention of baking them Sunday evening.  The formula is very close to the Tartine country loaf, though it has a relatively high hydration (81%).  I shaped two boules and two batards (the later I still find tricky with such a wet dough).

 

I pre-heated the oven to 500 degrees and loaded it with the baking steel and one of the combo cookers for 45 minutes.   I then loaded both boules into the combo cookers straight from the fridge -- one hot, one room temp – slashed, and put in the oven, lowering the temperature to 475. 

After 20 minutes, I removed both lids and baked for about 20 more minutes.  The difference was interesting and noticeable.  The loaf in the pre-heated combo cooker had more desirable oven spring and gringes, with a shape/form I have come to expect from this recipe.  The loaf from the room temperature combo cooker seemed to have expanded more slowly in the cooker (as expected?), with no gringe, though it did have about the same expansion and height as the loaf pre-heated cooker. 

 

I haven’t cut open the loaves just yet so can’t compare the crumb, but all in all, I prefer the loaf from the pre-heated cooker, so will likely stick with this method.

With the remaining dough (still in the fridge), I baked the final two batards on the baking steel at 460 degrees, steamed for the first 15 minutes, and then 30 more minutes until it hit the color and internal temp I was shooting for.  Despite the shaky shaping, both batards seemed to pop more than the boules.  I’ll report back on any differences in the crumb when I crack them open later this week.

 

Maine18's picture
Maine18

So I figured after 6+ years of dedicated TFL reading & researching, I'd finally start providing a bit of content to the discussion.  Below is a grab bag of recent bread experiments to get caught up, with precious little commentary, for which I apologize in advance.  Happy to answer any questions, of course, and in the future, I'll try to post one or two such experiments at a time, with a bit of explanation of what I was attempting.

Cheers, Drew 

 

Pain au levain (FWSY recipe)

 

Tartine Country Loaf Experiments

 

Levain Pizza on a Baking Steel (FWSY recipe); Pizza Bianco (Lahey)

 

TXFarmer's 36(ish) Hour Baguettes, and 3-hour Van Over Baguettes,

 

Sandwich breads (sourdough, pretzel, Anadama from BBA, and Oatmeal Honey from Macrina Bakery recipe,)

 

Grilled flatbreads, Soft Pretzels, Overnight Waffles, Lion House Rolls, Madeleines, and some Maine Jam

 

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