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Pablo's blog

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Cell phones rock for casual photography!


Well, time flies.  It's interesting to read "where I was at" 10 years ago with bread and it reminds me of where I was at with life.  I was living in Canada and approaching bread baking as a hobby.  Things were very different.  Now I live in México and I regularly bake my house bread with no variations except that I occasionally bake a loaf of rye that lasts quite a while in the freezer.  Today I'm passing on my load of bread books (sans 3) to the local cooking club.  I am very comfortable with my starter, I always bake with it, I now know what "crumb" is, and I critically review every bake.  My main problem these days is shaping.  I often get loaves that are constricted in places and blown-out in other places.  My most recent bake went pretty well, shaping-wise.  We like a small, tall loaf, good for toasting.  My other difficulty is that no matter how I try it, when I slash the tops of loaves prior to baking the skin wrinkles.  It usually straightens-out when the loaves are baked and they bloom properly in the oven.  Proofing remains something of a mystery.  How does one judge when loaves have doubled or are at 90% or whatever?  Judging the dough in a container is easy as there are marks on the container, but once the loaves have gone through all their processes and are proofing in the couch... well it's a mystery to me.  In retrospect I'm so grateful that I found this website.  It's full of friendly, knowledgeable people.  Maybe some day I'll get back to breadsloration (bread exploration), but for now I'm sticking to the tried and true house bread.


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A friend asked me about my bread baking technique and so I made a Youtube video.  It's pretty homey and casual.  Maybe someone will get something out of it.

Errors: "baguette" should be "batard", baking time 525 10 minutes, 470 20 minutes.


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I've been away from The Loaf for awhile and I thought I'd post an update to my bread-state.

I got away from baking baguettes over the summer/fall.  I became comfortable with the 40% caraway rye bread recipe that I was toying with when last I was here regularly.  But I forgot how to do a basic white bread.  I've remembered/reinventing now.  The last two batches of baguettes have been stellar, for me, after a run of really bad boules and batards.  My old notes were all double and triple fermentations.  I needed something simpler.  In Colorado with a bread machine I used to keep a pate in the 'fridge and I got some really wonderful sour flavours, such as I have never achieved while working at it this past year.  Now I have a substatial pate in the 'fridge, 1,000g right now, that I use to make about 3,000g of dough.  That gives me 6 300g baguettes, prebaked weight.  I can only bake them 3 at a time, so when I preshape the first 3 baguettes I degass the remaining 900g of dough and leave it in a cooler place while the baguettes proof for a little over an hour at about 80 degrees in a heated proofing box.  When they go in the oven I can then preshape the remaining dough for another bake in 2 hours or so.  I'm doing that and keeping track of how long I feel will be optimal for the pate to have been in the 'fridge.

Current baguette routine:  Combine 1000g pate with 790g 105F water, 60g mature starter, and 1212g flour (10% ww or rye).  Couple of stretch and folds at 45 minutes each, ferment until nearly double, divide, preshape etc. steam/bake 550 5min 500 5 min and 470 12 min.  I think the stone is too close to the top of the oven, so I'll lower it one.  The ends of the baguettes are getting a bit burnt, although they're nowhere near as wide as the stone.  I remember this fix from before the summer.

The strangest thing happened while slashing the baguettes last night.  I did one and had my usual drag-the-razor, ripple-cut slash, and then suddenly the slashes were working, smooth, deep, angled, perfect.  That never happened before.  I hope that on the next baguettes that I can do that again.

I've gone through 100 lbs. of Giusto's white flour.  I'm picking up 50 lbs. of Bob's organic white flour in the next couple of weeks.  I'm familiar now with Giusto's so I should be able to tell the difference if I handle the new flour the same as I've been handling the old flour.  I made some bread at my brother's house in Crescent City awhile back using Bob's organic white flour from a local store and it had a wonderful taste.  But then it was an unfamilar kitchen and I didn't really know what I was doing at the time.  So, we'll see.

A little while ago I made my first Danish, since then we've been pursuing the perfect Danish for us.  I liked to make pockets so that I could load plenty of filling inside and not have it run out onto the baking sheet.  The problem was that the pastry didn't puff up under the filling, just the flaps that covered the filling.  Currently we're trying a roll, but that's having problems as well.  I'm going to post that problem to a forum once they come out of the oven today.

I'm so happy to have my baguettes back.  I don't know where the bread journey will lead from here.  I just saw someone's posting of a high percentage rye that looked wonderful.  I may try something like that.

Hi everybody!  I'm happy to be back.


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I've been messing with Hamelman's 40% rye with caraway.  I like to stick to wild yeast and the bread calls for a bit of commercial yeast.  He does suggest that you can just leave it out and ferment it longer, but I wanted to experiment with a long bulk fermentation of the wheat along with the 15 hour preparation of the rye sour.  I wanted to bring out more flavour in the wheat as a background against the caraway.  It worked out well with my starter refreshment schedule; I have 30g of 100% rye starter discard, I used 17g with the 363g of rye flour and 300g of water.  And 13g with the 544g of wheat flour and 318g of water.  I didn't want the wheat to get into a proteolytic state, but I did want lots of time for flavour to develop.  I mixed both sourdoughs and put them in a 70F water bath for 15 hours.

I put them in the bath at 6pm last night so they'd be ready at 9am today to turn into dough.

Actually I'm still working on my ideal temperature for the wheat sour fermentation.  I've tried keeping it next to the bed so that I can see it every time I get up to pee and once there's definite movement I put it in the 'fridge.  With only the 10g of starter in there it does take awhile to get going.  I don't really like the wheat being cold and the rye not, so I'm not too keen on that method.  Tonight is cooler so I'm going to put it outside on the deck and then in the morning I'll put it in the water bath with the rye.  I'm making a couple of loaves to send to my brother.  Starting around 11 tonight means I'll be mixing the dough around 2pm tomorrow.  I should put the wheat in the water bath with the rye around 9am.

That's a little more rise than I wanted with the wheat.  I have been shooting for a little less than double.  Interestingly the rye sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies when I opened it.  Very noisy.

I've played with a few ways to combine the two sours and this is what's working best for me.  I spread the wheat out on the counter and smear the rye around on top of it.  I sprinkle in some salt and caraway along the way.  (17g of each total)

Then enfold the rye with the wheat.  I sprinkle more salt and caraway seeds in along the way.

It's pretty messy at first, but it quickly comes together into a nice dough.  I knead it 5 minutes maximum to be sure to not overdo the rye but still get everything homogenous.  The gluten is already nicely developed in the wheat.  A few slap and folds at the end and it's really looking good:

It's a beautiful dough very quickly.  I let it bulk ferment a bit more.  It's already pretty developed from the last 15 hours.  Today it just moved a little after 45 minutes.  Sometimes it's more active than that.  I want to get some gas structure, I have been waiting for it to about half again in bulk, but today it just wasn't moving too quickly and I just moved on to shaping and proofing.  The dough does feel a bit putty-like compared to all wheat dough.

I think dough in a couche is beautiful.  Two loaves, each about 780g of dough.

I let them proof an hour, seam side up.  I rolled the tops in caraway seeds prior to proofing.  I misted before scoring.  I baked at 460 10 minutes with steam and baked another 20 minutes at 430F.

voila!  I like the oven spring.

et voila!  Kinda weird lighting, sorry about that.  The crumb is plenty open, it's moist but not the least bit gummy and I think the taste is more tangy and complex.  I've made this a few times now and it's seeming to be something that I can count on.  Hopefully those aren't famous last words.  It has been very satisfying to apply some of the things that I've learned here to managing the long wheat sour ferment especially (low inoculation, cool temp, low hydration, long ferment).

By the way, this rye starter is about 3 - 4 weeks old.  His name might be Sparky.



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Using Hamelman's 40% rye formula.  I watched several videos on youtube about bread braiding.  Very helpful.  I chose a 5-strand braid for my first one because it looks great and it's pretty straight-forward seeming, compared to a 6-strand braid.  It was easy to do and the result is very satisfying.  I guess it's going to end up more of a pull-apart loaf than something that you would make sandwiches out of.  Since I was poking at challah sites to see braiding, I tried an egg wash while I was at it.  It think it's fine on the braided loaf, but it made the other loaf crust dull.  I won't do that again.

I made a couple of technique changes to Hamelman's instructions:
1.  I read that the rye pentosans and the wheat gluten are competing for water, so I mixed the wheat and water together and allowed it to sit a bit before incorporating it with the overnight rye sour.
2.  I prefer to stick to wild yeasts.  Instead of adding commerical yeast I added a bit more ripe starter to the wheat/water mixture.  I feed my starter at 1:5:5, which translates to 3g starter to 15g water and 15g flour.  I used the ~30g discard in the wheat/water mixture and let it ferment 90 minutes until I saw a little movement before incorporating it with the rye sour, salt and caraway seeds.  It was kind of  a sticky mess at first, but it came together nicely after a bit of kneading, although I kept an eye on the clock and didn't knead more than 5 minutes to avoid overmixing the rye.

Oh yeah, I don't think that all caraway seeds are equal.  I had some from the natural foods store for my first attempts at this rye and it was great.  Then I got some from the bulk bins at the super market and they were dull.  I'm back to the non-irradiated pack from the natural foods store and they are more full flavoured.  I don't know but what that might have to do with packaging - that is, being packaged as opposed to sitting in a bin for who knows how long.  Anyway, it did make a noticeable difference.

I tried the 80% Sourdough Rye with a Rye-Flour Soaker recently and it came out 100% ugly, I think mostly due to overproofing.  It collapsed when I moved it from the couche and never recovered, so I was gun-shy this time and I think that I underproofed a little and that's why there's big oven spring on the slashed loaf.  I only proofed for 45 minutes.  Maybe the braid wouldn't pull apart quite so much with longer proofing, too.


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I wondered how much abuse this method could take.  I had ~200g 50% hydration starter in the 'fridge from a few days ago.  I used no yeast.  76g of the flour was rye.  The dough temp was 96F.  I did 3 fold sessions per schedule then put it in the 'fridge overnight.  Today I did the remaining 2 fold sessions, proofed for an hour at 85F room temp and baked 65 minutes per instructions (450/350).

Looks reasonable above, but camera angles can hide things.

Kind of a split personality.

Open, moist crumb.  Taste-wise what struck me was that it was sweeter than I generally get.  No idea why.  I think the folding technique coupled with the long, relatively low bake temps are worth exploring.  This bake used the last of my non-rye starter.  I dried them and put them in the freezer and I'm devoting myself to rye for the foreseeable future.


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Hamelman's 40% Caraway Rye without commercial yeast:

I haven't cut into this yet, but I'm so pleased!  I modified the recipe and only used the rye levain.  It looks great.  This bodes well for paying attention to fermentation temperatures.

I cut the recipe down to make a single loaf:

Rye Sourdough:
dissolve together
8.5g ripe starter
150g water
mix in
181g Giusto's whole dark rye flour
It makes a putty-like starter.  Let ferment 17 hours at 70F.  I floated the container in the bathroom basin with 70F water.

Next day:
Dissolve rye starter in 151g 105F water
Mix together:
265g 12% protein bread flour
7g Giusto's Vital Wheat Gluten (to approximate 14% protein flour)
8.5g salt
8.5g caraway seeds
Combine dry and wet and knead vigourously for 10 minutes.  Dough was initially sticky but soon came together and was easy to knead without any flour on the counter.
Ferment at room temp 90 minutes with two stretch and folds
Life intervened with a Dr. apt., so dough to 'fridge for 2 1/2 hours.  Upon return dough is domed but not doubled
Ferment an additional hour at room temp, altogether doubled from the beginning now
Lightly degas and form into a batard.  Proof on parchment at room temp for 2 hours
Sprinkle with caraway seeds, mist, and slash
Bake 460 with steam 15 minutes, peek in the oven and jump up and down, bake an additional 20 minutes without steam

I'll post a crumb shot once I've cut into it.


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This poor bread had a tough time of it with me.  It's Pumpernickel Bread from the BBA.  I made the levain version without instant yeast.


7 oz. starter - 100% hydration

7oz. Giusto's pumpernickel flour

6oz. water


9 oz. high-gluten flour (I figured it was important to use high gluten flour since there is a 25% rye component and rye has gluten issues.  I mixed a high [14%] gluten flour at the ratio of 97g 12% protein white flour to 3g 75% protein Giusto's VWG)

1 oz. brown sugar

.5 oz. powdered cocoa

1 1/2 t salt

1 cup old bread bits (a previous SD baguette)

1 oz. vegetable oil

2 oz. water


Make rye starter: mix starter, rye and water, ferment at room temp 4-5 hours until bubbly and foamy.  "Immediately put in the 'fridge overnight"  Here's where the trouble started.  My starter bubbled and tripled, woo hoo, I put it in the 'fridge.  When I took it out the next day, it had fallen back to essentially it's original size.  That made me worry about that word "immediately".  Hummm...  maybe my starter was right on the edge of over ripe, maybe I should have refrigerated it more immediately.  I soldiered on.

Next day: remove rye starter from 'fridge an hour before using.  Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt, add starter, bread crumbs (if only I'd noticed it said "crumbs" and not "cubes") and oil.  Scrape it out onto the counter and knead.  Supposedly the dough should pass the window pane test.  Ha!  I was worried about not overmixing a rye dough and making it gummy, I did knead for a full 6 minutes, rather vigourously, but then i stopped, although it didn't approach the window pane test, in fact it broke apart the moment I attempted to stretch it.  And the bread cubes.  oops!  Not even moistened.  Those are the white chunks here and there in the crumb.  Live and learn.

Ferment to double.  Preshape into two loaves, shape into boules, proof.  I over proofed.  The dough was fermenting faster than I thought and it got away from me.  I didn't attempt to slash as I was afraid it would just collapse.  Luckily I proofed it on parchment paper so I just slid it in the oven.  It rose not at all in the oven, but it had risen quite a bit while proofing and it didn't collapse in the oven, so it could have been worse.

Given all that, it came out OK.  I was very leery of using brown sugar and cocoa in a "real" bread.  The flavour is actually pretty nice.  I'm favourably impressed.  My next rye will be a light rye with caraway seeds though.  And that will be soon.


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A Tale of Two Boules

I wanted to find out if I could bake a decent loaf without adding any flour to a starter.  I keep my starters on the counter and feed them twice a day at 1:5:6.  My routine has had me taking 5 grams out and mixing that with 25 grams of water and 30 grams of flour.  The leftover I then mix with flour down to ~50% and stash in the 'fridge.  I'm currently running two starters, my own that I started around the time that I started here at the Fresh Loaf last August that has been with me through thick and thin, which is fed 85% white, 10% rye and 5% ww, and Carl's Oregon Trail starter that I rehydrated a week or two ago and have been feeding 100% white.

The starter balls on the left are Carl's, accumulated for a few days, those on the right are my regular starter.  I'll get to the bread cubes in a minute.  For the Carl's loaf I had 375g of starter at 50% hydration and I kneaded in 45g water mixed with 6g salt.  The dough handled nicely, I proofed it for 2.5 hours at room temp and baked under a bowl. 

The loaf looks nice, but the crumb is very close.

I haven't played with the Carl's starter yet at all.  This was my first usage.  I imagine that treated differently I'll get a more open crumb.  It's certainly edible bread. 

For the other starter I was inspired by reading David and Mini's recent comments about including old bread in your loaf.  As long as I was experimenting anyway...  Something I learned is that I probably want to cut the crust off tough old SD (leftover from the proofing experiment) before using it.  Luckily I picked up from David the idea of soaking the bread before adding it.  I did not do that with the BBA Pumpernickle loaf that is now proofing and I think what I'll have is "Chunky Pumpernickle".  Since the soaked bread crumbs were a complete hydration unknown I just winged it adding water and I added a little too much, the dough was pretty tacky, but I could handle it, barely.  I was determined to not add any flour and to just use 100% starter.  It was doing fine until it stuck to the couche when trying to get it onto the parchment paper to bake.  I panicked and just abandoned it to the Oven Gods.  What I think I should have done was treat the inadvertant degassing as simply a degassing and reformed the loaf and let it rise again.  Lesson learned.  So the poor flat thing went in the oven and came out as above.  But, look at the crumb!

Not spectacular but much more open than the first one.  How 'bout that.

So, I answered my own question about whether I could bake a serviceable 100% starter loaf.  Yes. 


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Sourdough is going great right now.  Things have changed a lot.  I had been doing Xtreme low maintenance with my seed culture but ultimately I was disappointed.  Sure it bakes bread and sure it's very low maintenance, but I've been getting more and more suspicious that the oven spring has not be spectacular due to my culture maintenance technique. 

What I was doing:  Mix 200 grams or so of 60% hydration starter, let it sit at room temperature until there is definite movement within the container; the starter starts to grow, visibly.  Then chuck it into the 'fridge.  When I was going to bake I would take 10 grams of that starter, mix it with 20 grams of water and 20 grams of flour and let it double, then mix that with 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour and let that double and I would have 250 grams of ripe starter to work with in my recipe.  The seed culture would stay, unrefreshed in the 'fridge for 6 - 10 weeks before I got to the bottom and refreshed the initial 200g.

Now: 5g starter, 20g water, 30g flour and leave it at room temperature.  Once it's peaked (3xs, 4xs...) then extract 5g and do it again. It FINALLY penetrated my conciousness that the flour ratio can be manipulated to help control the rate of fermentation.  I had been using temperature (in and out of the 'fridge) and water ratio (drier doesn't ferment as quickly as wetter).  But I can also manipulate the ratio of flour - I had been slavishly following a rule I read: double the weight of the starter as flour, i.e. the paragraph above this one.  But people do all sorts of wild ratios.  I decided on 1:4:6 and I'm happy with that now.  That's 66% hydration.  I may adjust the flour ratio even higher in the future.  I want to get comfortable with this technique for now.

The leftover from the refreshment procedure I dump on the counter and work in a bit of flour so the yeast has food, and the whole lump is then pretty dry, like 50% or so and put it in the 'fridge.  The next refreshment do the same thing.  When I baked today I had 8 or 10 refreshments worth of 50% leftovers that I treated as pate fermentee and mixed into the dough.  Seemed to work great.  The starter also seemed to create a much more active dough.  I haven't cut into them yet, so I don't know about the crumb.  I made boules today, but there's 900g of dough in the 'fridge to make 3 baguettes tomorrow.

The weather has been hot.  My baguette skins were drying out and being hard to slash nicely.  Also proofing has changed.  This new dough, plus the hot weather, has them proofing much quicker even without heating the proofing box.  I've been slashing the proofing time in half, from 90 minutes to 45 minutes.  Still playing with that.  Putting a dampened cloth over the dough while preshaping and while proofing seems to be a good thing.  Maybe I'll keep that up even when it's not so hot.  The dough skin was perfect for slashing.  I did pay attention to getting some good tension during shaping as well.  I'm really curious as to how the baguettes will come out tomorrow.



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