The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Back in March, Stan (elagins) posted about a Lithuanian black rye bread that he had made.  It looked absolutely lovely and worthy of a bake.  However, my baking over the past three months has gone in other directions.  Worse, I've taken about as much bread out of my freezer as I have out of my oven.  It's a wonderful tool, the freezer, but baking is much more satisfying than thawing.

Originally, I intended to follow Stan's schedule for the bread but two things conspired against that plan.  First, I didn't think to refresh my starter Friday morning.  Second, temperatures in my kitchen were 77-78F, several degrees higher than the room temperature in Stan's write-up.

Plan B, then, was to set up the sponge and the scald on Saturday mornining, make up the opara Saturday evening and refrigerate it overnight, then allow it to warm up Sunday morning before making up the final dough.  That all sounded good until I realized that the warmer temperatures in my kitchen were effectively halving the fermentation times that Stan had noted. That led to Plan C.

Plan C was "Maybe this will move so fast that I can bake Saturday evening."  Plan C1 was "Man, I'm going to be up really late by the time this comes out of the oven. Maybe I should go back to Plan B."  Plan C2 was "I'm going to cheat a little and add a gram of ADY to the final dough."  As it happened, Plan C2 carried the day.

Another difference that I encountered with the final dough was that it behaved slightly differently than Stan's did.  Mine never did clear the sides of the mixer bowl.  It just formed a layer around the interior of the bowl as thick as the gap between the dough hook and the bowl wall.  The inner surface of that layer received a good massage from the dough hook but there was very little kneading going on unless I used the spatula to nudge the dough back towards the center of the bowl.  Why mine behaved differently than Stan's will be a matter of conjecture.  My guess is that the flour I used (Hodgson MIlls Whole Rye) behaved differently at that hydration level than the flour Stan used.  Two other potential differences are that I made enough dough for two loaves, rather than one, and my mixer has a 7-quart bowl.  A different size dough mass in a different (?) size bowl could have behaved differently, too.  In the end, it really didn't matter.  The dough, paste really, got enough mixing/kneading.   

Following directions, I dumped the dough onto a dry countertop, portioned and shaped it into two roughly equal-size loaves.  [Stan, we need to talk about the definition of "slightly sticky".  This is almost pure rye.  By just about any baker's experience, that translates to "really, really sticky".  'Nuff said.]  I chose to put the shaped loaves on a Silpat in a half-sheet baking pan instead of playing with parchment and peel and stone.  Because the evening was drawing on, I took the covered loaves to an upstairs bedroom that was even warmer than the kitchen.  At about the one-hour mark, they started showing some pinholes in the top surface even though there were no cracks yet evident.  I took that as the cue to preheat the oven.  While I think that was the right decision, I may have been able to get away with another 15 minutes of fermentation.  Maybe.  I just wasn't brave enough to find out.

This bread smells sublime while baking!  If someone could figure out how to bottle and sell that fragrance, they would be very, very rich.  The only thing better is the flavor of the bread.

As you can see, Stan's shaping beats mine:

The cracks occurred during baking, which is why I think the final fermentation might have safely gone a bit longer than I allowed.  The coloring isn't quite as dark as I expected, although some of that may be due to the pictures being taken in sunlight.

One picture of the crumb:

And another:

Before you get all excited about the big holes, the largest are less than 1/4 inch or 6mm across.  This is a dense bread with a tight crumb, which is perfectly fine for a 90% rye bread.

I mentioned the flavor.  It is extremely complex.  Due to the shortened fermentation times, this batch is undoubtedly less sour than if it had fermented longer in the temperature range mentioned by Stan.  That said, there is an underlying hint of sourness that provides structure for the rest of the flavors.  The sweetness of the malt and the honey really shine.  The natural spiciness of the rye takes a back seat but is still very much there; Stan mentioned licorice while I perceive allspice.  There are also hints of coffee and toasted almonds and a lot more that beggars my vocabulary for flavors.  This is seriously good bread.  There's an enormous range of foods that could be paired with it, from salty ham or sausage, to tangy marmalades, to mellow or sharp cheeses.  I think it would play nicely with witbier/weissbier, or a shandy, or a maibock, too.

This is definitely on the "to bake again" list, although I may wait for cooler temperatures to see how they change the flavor profile.

Thank you, Stan!


pmccool's picture

Hey, it's a baking site; enough with the sniggering already.

So I had this post about half-written and managed to blow it away with an ill-placed click of the mouse.  Since I don't feel like recreating it, this will be the condensed version.

It's warm enough for grilling and smoking to begin in earnest.  That means buns are coming to the fore again.

Sunday's bake featured Kaiser rolls, built from the Medium Vienna dough from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  One small lapse of attention resulted in using too much diastatic wheat malt but the rolls came out wonderfully in spite of that.  If anything, the aroma and flavor benefitted from the malt and I dodged a bullet in that it did not cause gumminess in the crumb.  Shaping is a whole 'nother story.  Despite the illustrations and instructions in the book, not to mention a video on TFL of Norm klopping out some Kaiser rolls, mine look messy.  Ah, well, it was the first attempt.  The next one will be better.  The remarkable thing was how fast the dough fermented at every stage; during kneading, the bulk ferment, and the final ferment.  The malt is apparently a turbo booster for the yeast because my kitchen temperature was only 72F.

The brioche rolls were a derivative of a post on Flour Arrangements, which is itself an adaptation from The Joy of Cooking.  I opted to reduce the eggs in the dough from three to two and to reduce the butter from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, as well as using all bread flour.  Since I chose to make this by hand instead of using the mixer, the butter additions (I did four at 2 tablespoons each, rather than eight at 1 tablespoon each in the instructions) made for some interesting times as the dough came apart and then started absorbing the butter.  With each addition, the dough got more and more jiggly.  The gluten was developed well enough that it held its shape but the texture felt increasingly pillowy.

Here's a picture of the finished rolls:

The brioche buns benefit cosmetically from an egg wash and a steadier hand with such a basic shape.  The Kaiser rolls, well, did I mention that they taste really good?

I'm sure that there will be more of each as the summer rolls along.


pmccool's picture

Although it was supposed to have been...

We've had some remodeling done in our basement recently and Valentine's day weekend was when we plunged headlong into the painting of the remodeled space.  (I know how to show a girl a good time, yes I do!)  The ceiling, which had had the popcorn texture scraped down, required a coat of primer and a coat of ceiling paint.  Because it is a basement space, there are a lot of boxed out areas in the ceiling for heat ducts, plumbing runs, etc.  So, lots and lots of cutting in to do before the actual production painting could begin.  The walls got a new color which, fortunately, only required a single coat to cover.  All of the trim got a new coat of enamel.  Oh, yeah, there was much spackling and caulking to do before any paint cans were opened.

So, in and around all of this activity, I decided to make some rye bread.  What could be easier than a sourdough that is essentially set it and forget it, right?  That leaves plenty of uninterrupted time for painting, with just a few breaks to tend to the bread.

Friday evening, I put together the sponge and the soaker.  As I was putting the flour away before heading back to the painting, I noticed the label on the canister said "Whole Wheat".  Uh-oh.  It hadn't even registered that I didn't have the rye flour while making the sponge and soaker.  That's no small oversight, since the color, texture, and aroma are all different than the whole wheat flour.  Maybe it was the paint fumes.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was just too distracted to have paid the requisite attention.  No matter, the flour was the wrong type and, after much muttering, I decided to forge ahead by making the bread with the rye and whole wheat flours reversed.

Saturday morning came and I made up the final dough.  It rose more or less as predicted in my proofer (house temperature was about 68F, which would have slowed it considerably) for both the bulk and final fermentations.  Into the oven for the allotted time at the recommended temperature and then out when the internal temperature reached 205F.  And this is what I had:

The scoring's nothing to write home about but the color and aroma were very attractive.

Another view:

And a closer view of the crumb:

Oddly enough, the first thing I thought when I had a taste was "Rye!"  Even though the rye flour is a small component, it has an outsize effect on the flavor.  The soaker/scald also produced a heavier texture and moisture content that is very much in keeping with high-rye breads, even to the point of being just slightly gummy when sliced.  It might have benefitted from a slightly longer bake but it has been thoroughly enjoyable to eat as is.

If all blunders came out this well, no one would ever be afraid of making a mistake.  


pmccool's picture

While in South Africa this past December, we had the chance to spend a few days in the Stellenbosch area; not far from Cape Town and in the middle of South Africa's winelands.  Stellenbosch is a picturesque town in its own right, replete with many examples of the Cape Dutch arhictectural style.  It is surrounded by vineyards and mountains and olive groves and lavender fields and is so beautiful as to make the flatlander tourist gape in wonder.  You could, for instance, have lunch or dinner at a vineyard's restaurant and enjoy scenery like this:

Or you might, as we did, happen upon a delightful place for lunch while strolling about town:

The Oude Bank, or Old Bank, building houses Schoon de Companje, a group of artisans who make products ranging from breads/pastries to coffees to ice cream to meat and produce and a few others.  It all began when Fritz Schoon started the Oude Bank Bakkerij in the Oude Bank building.  Mr. Schoon learned the baking craft at the Ile de Pain bakery in Knysna, South Africa.  Fritz runs the bread side of the bakery and his wife runs the pastry side.  Over time, the Schoons determined that they wanted to foster a community of artisans and found friends who wanted to be part of that community.  

My guess is that Schoon de Companje will probably continue to nurture additional artisans.  Mr. Schoon is already encouraging local farmers to produce the grains that he mills on site for his flour, including rye which is not commonly grown in South Africa.  He had previously purchased his flours from Eureka Mills, which I had blogged about here.

We, of course, were more interested in lunch than in history or provenance, so we made our way past the display of breads

to the cafe seating area which is housed between the retail area in front and the bakery in back:

The cafe features equal measures of rusticity and whimsy, finding expression in everything from the floor pattern to the tree reaching toward the skylight.

While waiting for our order to be filled, I looked around the bakery in the back:


The massive wood-fired oven, built from local stone, is visible in the first and last of these four photos of the bakery. Mr. Schoon, in the blue t-shirt and apron, is visible at the left in the second photo if this sequence.  Sadly, I did not get an opportunity to speak with him.

When lunch arrived in the form of two sandwiches, we were ready to enjoy it.  And enjoy we did!  The breads are hearty and full of grainy flavor.  The sour was present but not assertive.  The crust and crumb were each firm but not tough.  Mine, on the left, was made with the sourdough.  My wife's, on the right, featured the pain rustique.

We did manage to find room for an ice cream cone before we left.  Much of the "ice cream" one encounters in South Africa is the dairy (or not so dairy) equivalent of Wonder Bread.  Fanny Chanel's ice cream is the real thing and an absolute delight.  I'll have to admit that our pace back to the guest house was even more leisurely than our pre-lunch pace.  

If you find yourself in South Africa, visit Stellenbosch.  And if you find yourself in Stellenbosch, visit Schoon de Companje.  You'll be happy with both.


pmccool's picture

Weekends, the times that I do most of my baking, have been rather full of late.  There have been seminars to attend, a class to teach, a grandson's out-of-state (for us, not him) cross country meet to attend and all of the other "normal" stuff that makes up life.  Still, I've found ways to weave in some baking with the other things going on.  Posting here on TFL has taken a bit of a back seat to the other activities, though.

The class three weeks ago was titled Harvest Breads.  In assembling the day's curriculum, I wanted something that would speak to the bounty of the season.  After some thinking and experimenting, the breads presented that day included a multigrain pain au levain and a golden wheat bread.  These choices also gave the opportunity for the students to work with a sourdough bread and a yeasted bread.  Each student also received some starter to take home with them.  Because these recipes were developed specifically for the class at the Culinary Center, I won't post them in full but will provide a general outline for those of you who want to put your own twist on the concept.

The multigrain pain au levain is primarily bread flour with small percentages of whole wheat and whole rye flours, very much like a pain de compagne.  The bread also includes a hot soaker.  For ease of preparation, and to make things as accessible as possible for the students, I used Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain hot cereal mix for the soaker.  One could obviously make their own custom blend of grains or seeds to fit their particular tastes.  The bread was baked as batards, simply because I find the shape more conducive to fitting in toasters or sandwiches.  If you like boules, there's no reason not to shape the loaves that way.  Baked at 460F for 30 minutes, with initial steam, the bread looks like this:

The flavor has lots of grainy notes and some of hazelnuts and caramel.  The crumb is quite moist but still firm, flecked with bits of the grains from the soaker.  I barely got to taste the bread in class and the loaf that I made at home (above) went to a friend (which netted a dozen cookies from her shop) so I have no crumb photo.

The golden part of the Golden Wheat bread is due to the inclusion of half a can of solid-pack pumpkin.  The bread itself is approximately 75% whole wheat, with the remainder being bread flour.  The bread also includes toasted pepitas for some additional crunch. There are beaucoup sweet pumpkin breads but I wanted to steer this in a savory direction.  Remembering that sage makes a good counterpoint to squash, I played around with various combinations until I hit on using rosemary and thyme as supporting players for the sage note.  The bread was baked in a pan as a sandwich loaf:

No crumb shot of this loaf, either.  The crumb was very even and rather close, instead of open.  It makes a great base for a turkey sandwich and my wife already has a request in for some of this for use in her Thanksgiving dressing, since the seasoning is tilted in that direction.  The pumpkin provides a subtle background flavor that balances the herbal notes, rather than announcing its presence with a megaphone.

I managed a mid-week bake of some bagels, using the New York Water Bagel recipe from ITJB, for a fundraiser at work.  Oddly enough, people preferred the fluffier doughnut-shaped rolls purchased from a local bagel shop, so I wound up bringing about half of them home, much to my wife's delight:

Since I hadn't gotten any of the multigrain pain au levain from the previous weekend for my own use, that was the choice for the next weekend's bake.  The only thing I did differently was to extend the baking time to 35 minutes, since the crust wasn't quite as dark as it could have been.  Here's how it looked with that extra 5 minutes bake time:

Oh, yeah, there was also the small matter of not turning the temperature down from the 500F preheat to the 460F bake temperature.  It looked a lot darker to the eye than it does in this photograph.  My wife's first comment was "That looks burnt."  I demurred, saying that it was merely boldly baked.  She wasn't entirely convinced.  After having eaten some, the next iteration might accidentally-on-purpose get that baked that way again.  The flavor from the darker crust was much richer than the "blonder" sibling of the week before.  And the crumb was still moist and cool, despite the longer, hotter bake.  This time there is a crumb shot:

There was a pleasingly random distribution of larger and smaller bubbles; none so big that my clothes were at risk of becoming a condiment landing zone.

A friend recently opened a coffee shop.  While she is presently serving muffins and scones, she'd like to be able have some lunch offerings, too.  The young fellow who is baking for her on site is dong a very good job with those products but does not have any experience with yeasted breads.  They have limited work space and a small convection oven, so there are some challenges to deal with.  Consequently, as we were batting ideas around for things like paninis and other sandwiches, I volunteered to work up some breads for their consideration this weekend.  

One idea was for focaccia.  It will require some additional tweaking to make it sandwich-ready but the current version could accompany a soup:

Another idea was for ciabattini.  Dee and her crew will play around with filling ideas and we can work out a preferred size/shape, depending on what they think will work best.  These are from a Ciril Hitz formula, scaled at 90g per roll:

A memory from our days in Birmingham, Alabama surfaced while working through possible breads for the shop.  The Club (yes, that's its name; emphasis on THE) in Birmingham is famous for its orange luncheon rolls.  No one, to my knowledge, serves anything like them in the KC area.  If Tee has something on her menu that is unique, that will give her a competitive advantage.  So, while making up the focaccia and the ciabattini yesterday, I also prepped a batch of orange rolls through the shaping stage, then retarded them overnight in the refrigerator so that they could be baked off fresh this morning.  Even though just slightly overbaked (there isn't supposed to be any browning) they were an immediate hit with the volunteer tasters at the shop today.  The orange glaze, no doubt, was a factor:

Now I need to get the recipes sent off to Tee and her crew so that they can do some experimenting of their own.


pmccool's picture

We recently enjoyed a marvelous cruise from Vancouver (didn't get the opportunity to say hi to Floyd) up through the Inside Passage of Alaska.  We had port calls at Ketchikan, Juneau (emphasis on the 'eau', with 320 days of rain a year), and Skagway.  From there we sailed to Glacier Bay and spent a day marveling at the immensity and beauty of several glaciers.  Then it was on to our debarkation at Seward.  From Seward, we opted for the train excursion to Anchorage, then another train excursion to Denali, then a coach excursion to Fairbanks, and our flight home.  I will exercise massive self control and limit myself to one photo (of the more than 500 taken) that shows Denali on a clear day:

Since getting home, I've been futzing about with a couple of bread recipes, working the kinks out of them so that I can teach a class in September.  Trips and classes are nice events but work, and lunches, continue on.  In my case, that means bread for sandwiches.  

It's been a while since I've made a pain au levain, which remains one of my favorite breads.  This time I wanted something a bit grainier, so I went searching through the TFL archives, certain that someone would have posted something that fit the bill.  Sure enough, there was a post from Franko with just the type of bread I was looking for.  Even better, Franko included a link to the spreadsheet he had created for the bread which allowed me to scale it down for a single 750g loaf, just perfect for a chunky batard.

Having refreshed my lonesome starter, I set up the levain and the soaker on Friday night.  Knowing that I had some substantial yard work to do on Saturday, I was up early to mix the dough and let it autolyse while I fixed breakfast.  This marked my first departure from Franko's formula: I included the soaker as part of the autolyse rather than waiting to knead it in after the salt.  The Bob's Red Mill multigrain mix that I had was the texture of a coarse meal, so I wasn't concerned about larger flakes or other bits disappearing into the dough, rather than remaining identifiable.

After breakfast, I gave the dough a short knead to incorporate the salt, shaped it into a ball, placed it in the bowl, and covered it.  Then I headed out to deal with the crabgrass and dandelions and other weeds that seemed to have invaded while we were away.  After about 45 minutes, I came back in, washed thoroughly, then gave the dough its first stretch and fold.  Then it was back outdoors to continue the fray.  Forty-five minutes later, give or take a few minutes, back in again to wash up, then another stretch and fold.  Roughly 45 minutes later, I was back in to check on the dough.  Because of the warmth of my kitchen at this time of year, about 78F, the dough was moving along nicely and I judged it ready to shape.

At this point, Franko put the shaped dough in the refrigerator for a cold retard.  I elected to leave it out at room temperature so that I could bake it the same day.  And that was a good call because it made a delicious, if unorthodox, base for patty melt sandwiches just now.

The bake was exactly per Franko's timetable and temperatures.  I suppose it could have stayed in a little longer to put on some darker color but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it as is.  For once I caught the fermentation at just the right time, giving plenty of oven-spring while baking, a lovely ear, and a moderately open crumb.  

The loaf:

And the crumb:

The flavor, because of the shorter room-temperature final fermentation, is full bodied grain with only a hint of sourness.  The crust, which initially was quite hard, has softened to a very chewy texture.  The crumb is firm, moist, and cool, with a pleasing resistance when chewed.

Thank you, Franko, for sharing such a delightful bread.

The yard?  Well, the weeding is about half done.  I'll finish that next weekend when my quadriceps have stopped screaming at me.


pmccool's picture

I received a note recently from Amy Goldman, who had attended one of my sourdough classes.  She and her partner, Sean Galloway, are in the process of planning a business combining a brewery and bakery in the KC area.  Right now they plan to call it The Brewkery.  Amy is already baking, using starter that I provided to each of the students.  It's a treat to think that my starter might be the base for a bakery's sourdough breads someday.


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I've been interested for some time in playing around with durum flour.  Between finding only the coarser semolina grind locally and being put off by the costs of mail ordering, I hadn't taken the plunge before now.  However, totally by serendipity, I happened to be in an IndoPak grocery store recently and they had a whole shelf section of various atta flours, most milled from durum wheat.  A 20-pound bag (only $12.99) followed me home and has been silently taunting me these past two weeks as other things kept me from baking.  Nothing outlandish, mind you, but when a niece gets married she wants her doting aunt and uncle there even if they do live 5 states away.

The flour I purchased is Swarna Fresh Durum Atta, milled by a UAE company from wheat of an undisclosed country of origin:

The label says that it consists of 100% durum wheat.  The nutritional information panel on the back of the bag lists the fiber content as 7g of a 100g sample, or 7%.  I infer that to mean that this is a whole or nearly whole wheat flour.  The items listed on the panel only total 92g, instead of 100g, so I'm not sure what else is there that didn't fit into the list of nutrients.  Non-dietary fiber, perhaps?:

The flour's color, a pale tan with golden tones, would seem to support that supposition:

The durum atta is on the left, contrasted with an unbleached AP flour on the right.  The atta flour has a slightly grittier feel when rubbed between thumb and forefinger.  While the naked eye isn't always a reliable measuring tool, the particle size of the atta seems to be just slightly larger than the particle size of the AP flour.

So, what to do with this new-to-me flour?  After much reading, Varda's Durum Atta Hearth Loaf formula from her post in 2011 looked like a good place to start.  While handling the dough, I decided to make a small increase in hydration, from Varda's 60% up to 62%.  Now that I've made it once, I'll probably experiment with nudging it up to 65% for a future bake.  While I've read of durum's trait of absorbing more and more water right up to the point of releasing water from the dough, the fiber content in this is high enough that I think the dough will be alright.  It may want a slightly longer autolyse but that will be a different experiment.

This dough, following Varda's instructions, handled nicely even though it was moderately stiff.  Per instructions, I used no bench flour.  There was only the slightest filming of dough residue on the countertop when kneading was finished.

I wound up having to extend the fermentation times slightly, while being mindful of the repeated mentions of durum's fermentation speed.  It may have been that the starter was slightly sluggish last Saturday; it may have been the dough's stiffness.  Whatever the cause(s), the dough was rather slow to inflate and I did not want to set myself up for an exploding loaf caused by under proofing.  As it turned out, I could have let it go another 30 minutes or so, since there was some cracking of the crust.  While I suspect that additional proofing would have helped, there is also the possibility that the durum's weaker gluten just would not tolerate much expansion.  

The finished loaf has a lovely golden russet color:

The crumb is very tight, with a multitude of tiny bubbles, while exhibiting the golden tones that durum is known for:

The crumb is moister than the dough's handling characteristics would have suggested.  A small amount of additional water still seems advisable.  While it might look like pound cake, the crumb does require chewing.  It isn't stiff but it is substantive.  Considering the proportion of flour in each slice, relative to the air and water content, I guess that isn't a surprise.  The flavor is very good.  There's a richness that might make one suspect the addition of some oil or butter but it is a lean bread (which is not to say that some butter or oil wouldn't be a good addition).  The sour notes are very mild.  They meld with, rather than overpowering, the other flavors.

All in all, I am very pleased with this first attempt at a 100% durum loaf and very grateful to Varda for her trail-blazing efforts.  It is definitely worthy of a repeat and I have plenty of flour left to play with.


pmccool's picture

This past weekend was double fun, actually.  First, I had Friday off.  Second, I had been asked to provide some bread for a fundraiser bake sale, so I spent Friday and Saturday baking.  It was a very welcome break from a long baking hiatus while working down the backlog of breads in the freezer.  I don't believe I have had the opportunity to produce this quantity or variety of breads at home previously.  

First up was a pair of gluten-free loaves from a recipe of my own.  This particular iteration featured buckwheat flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, quinoa flour, potato starch and tapioca starch.  Psyllium husk was used as the binder, rather than gums.  It seems to have offer better keeping qualities than gums since the bread stays flexible and moist for upwards of a week instead of going all crumbly and dry in a day or two.  Here it is, crummy lighting and all:

The next bread on Friday's bake schedule was Sweet Vanilla Challah from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible.  As written, the recipe says it yields two loaves.  Knowing how large those loaves are, I decided to divide the dough into three loaves instead.  And I made a double batch so that I could shape three as turbans and three as 4-strand braids.  As expected, the loaves were eye-catching for both the shaping and the coloring.  The headline photo for this post shows all six bagged and ready to go.  Here are some close-ups:

Later in the day, after running some errands, I also baked the Whole Wheat Multigrain from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread.  I doubled this recipe and divided it into 6 loaves, instead of the stated 4 loaves.  This bread includes a hot soaker with the baker's choice of grains; I used Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain Cereal and millet seeds.  It also utilizes a liquid levain and bakers yeast for leavening.  I managed to get a good oven spring and a bold bake.  The photo looks lighter than the bread did to the naked eye.

Before going to bed Friday evening, I built the biga for Portugese Sweet Bread, working from Mark Sinclair's (mcs) recipe.

Saturday morning I mixed the ripe biga with the rest of the final dough ingredients.  For the PSB, I chose to shape it as rolls, instead of as loaves.  I scaled them at about 65g each, which yielded 4 dozen rolls.  Once baked and cooled, I packaged them in half-dozen blocks per bag.  A friend who bought a package told me that the taste was what he remembered from his childhood growing up in Connecticut.

The last bread was a focaccia, which is another recipe of mine.  I scaled it up to fill two half-sheet pans.  This bread features herb-infused olive oil.  In this case, I used garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper in the oil.  One pan was also studded with some kalamata olives, just for variety.  Each focaccia was quartered and the quarters were individually bagged for the sale.

All told, I loaded two medium-size boxes with the bread to take to the sale.  Since I didn't know how familiar people might be with some of the breads, I also typed up labels with the names and ingredients for each bread, thinking that might help answer some questions.  Later in the morning, I happened past the tables where the baked goods were displayed and noticed that pale and sweet was moving a lot faster than dark and hearty.  The people running the sale were pleased to have the bread and, as far as I've heard, so were the buyers.

I suspect, though, that I was happier than any of them since I was the one who got to make it all.


pmccool's picture

First, a shout-out to JoeCox2 for alerting TFLers to KitchenAid having made their NSF-rated KSM7990 mixer (refurbished) available for less than $400, with free shipping at that.  I had been on the fence for some time about a replacement for my KitchenAid K5SS mixer, which makes all kinds of unpleasant noises even when running with no load.  While lusting for something like a Haussler spiral mixer, I was put off by the notion of shelling out more than $2000 for a single-purpose machine even though it performs that single purpose superbly.  Then there was the Ankarsrum Verona which is a multi-purpose mixer with a starting price tag of $800.  Elegant, yes.  Built like a tank, yes.  I was almost ready to pull the trigger on that but Joe came along with another option at half the price.  After some consideration, I took the plunge and ordered the KSM7990 or, in my case, the RKSM7990WH.  R for refurbished and WH for white.  

Some of you are probably thinking "Sheesh!  What a cheapskate!"  On the other hand, my Scots ancestors would probably chide me for not trying to negotiate something even more favorable.  When you consider that my parents were themselves youngsters during the Great Depression, it's a wonder I bought it at all but, hey, a deal's a deal.  And I think that this has the potential for being my last mixer purchase.

So, what did I get for all of my calculating and comparing?  Well, it looks like this:

It's definitely larger than the K5SS, with a 7-quart bowl instead of a 5-quart bowl.  The whisk, the paddle beater, and the spiral dough hook are all stainless steel and very stout.  The motor is advertised as producing 1.3hp and able to wrangle up to 8 pounds of dough.  That all looks good and sounds good but how does it actually perform?  To answer that question, I put it through two tests yesterday.

The first test was a simple one and more to acquaint myself with the machine's operation than to put it through its paces.  Since I planned to make bagels using the recipe from ITJB later and I realized that I had not yet explored the sweeter side of the book, I chose to make Aunt Lillian's Apple Cake.  (Note to self: be sure to make that again!)  The mixer hummed quietly through the various steps and never bogged down at any stage.  I appreciate the Soft Start feature that cuts way down on liquids splashing or flour flying.  This is still a KitchenAid, so getting things into the bowl and scraping the sides of the bowl are still the same as with the smaller models.  All things considered, no big surprises, good or bad.  

The one thing that I found that I would like to change, and it may be unique to my machine instead of to the model, is to get the beaters about 1/4-inch closer to the bottom of the bowl.  With 4 eggs in the bowl, the whisk was only contacting the upper 1/3 of the egg mass.  When I tried making the adjustment, I found that it was already as far in that direction as it would go, so I may need to jury-rig another type of adjustment.

The second stage of testing occurred last evening.  I decided that a double batch of New York water bagels, which was considerably less than the advertised 8 pound capacity, would give me a good indication of how it handled a stiff (pun intended) challenge.  The dough is only 52% hydration.  I picked up some King Arthur bread flour, which is about as close as I can get to a high-gluten flour in nearby supermarkets.  The procedure calls for blending the flour and salt with the paddle attachment; no difficulty here.  Then one adds the water/malt/yeast blend (since I was using ADY) and mixes to combine, still using the paddle beater.  Here is where things began to unravel.  First, the mixer stalled when a mass of dough was trapped between the beater and the bowl wall with about 20% of the flour still loose in the bottom of the bowl.  I switched it off, extracted the beater from the dough, and manually worked the remaining flour into the dough.  That was a difficult task with a dough that stiff.  I returned the dough mass to the bowl, attached the spiral dough hook, and switched it back on to speed 2 for what was supposed to be 10 minutes of kneading.  After a minute or two of more stalling or nearly stalling, I switched it off and pulled about half of the dough out.  When I turned it back on with the remaining dough, it ran but very unevenly.  Every second or third rotation brought a thick mass of dough between the hook and the bowl wall, nearly inducing another stall.  There was enough power that the hook sheared through the dough eventually but it was not a pretty process.  The spiral hook performed fairly well.  There were only one or two instances of the dough getting balled up on it enough that no kneading was being performed.  Meanwhile, I was kneading the other half of the dough, sort of, manually.  This was an extremely stiff dough!  When the first half was done, I removed it and dropped the second half back in for another 3 minutes or so of machine kneading.  The first half was warm when I removed it from the mixer.  Although I did not measure the temperature, I would estimate it at perhaps 95F-100F.  At the end of the process, the hook and the transmission were quite warm to the touch, perhaps 110F to 115F.  The motor area was just barely warm.  

Some may say that the above experience counts as an indictment against the mixer.  I'm not so sure.  True, I won't use it for making bagels in the future.  That doesn't necessarily equate as a failure, though.  To repeat myself, this was an extremely stiff dough.  I can't say how an Ankarsrum or Bosch or Haussler would have handled things, since I don't possess any of those machines.  You can take that at face value, or as a hint/challenge.  I do know that the dough was very difficult to handle with manual kneading, so it does not surprise me that the machine struggled with it.  I was pleasantly surprised that it did not try to walk away from its initial position; instead, it stayed put in spite of the eccentric mixing loads.

What this has made clear to me is that the machine is ruggedly built and quite powerful.  There's nothing else that I bake on a regular basis which would give it any problems.  The grain mill attachment will have to be trotted out and used in the not too distant future but I do not expect any difficulties with it.  Given it's versatility for handling other things besides bread, it appears to me that the KSM7990 is everything that I need (and about 98% of what I want) in a mixer for household use.  And I acknowledge that, like many TFLers, I'm something of an outlier when talking about "household use".  So, thank you Joe, for bringing this particular mixer deal to my attention.

Since bagel dough has been very much in the middle of this discussion, some of you probably want to know how the bagels turned out.  After their overnight slumber in the refrigerator, followed by this morning's boiling and baking, they looked like this:

Six were left plain, six were topped with poppy seeds, six were topped with sesame seeds, and six were topped with wheat germ.  Fortunately, the less than stellar shaping did not damage their taste in any way.  The malt syrup in the boiling water gave them a nice sheen when baked.  The crust was thin and crisp, the interior was moist and firm, with just the right amount of chewiness.  Slathered with cream cheese, or honey butter, or white chocolate cinnamon peanut butter (I received a sample in a Hatchery tasting box), they were a delight.  My neighbors were pretty tickled to receive some still-warm bagels for their Saturday breakfasts, too.

Back around the first of March, I had a batch of a sourdough light wheat dough that languished in the refrigerator for a week after it was made during a class.  Not wanting to throw it away (there's that thriftiness thing, again) but not fully trusting that it was in the best condition, I opted to add more flour equal to the weight of the old dough plus enough water and salt to maintain the original formula's proportions.  So, pate fermentee used as the leavening agent, if you will.  Or one whopping big levain, if you won't.  Despite the large proportion of prefermented flour, the bulk and final fermentations were, um, leisurely.  The kitchen temperature was only in the 67F-69F range, so that was part of it.  I think the rest is that the yeast counts in the old dough were, as feared, rather low after the long wait in the refrigerator.  In any event, the finished bread had a lovely, mild sourdough tang and fragrance.  As is visible below, the final fermentation ought to have been allowed more time but I misjudged the readiness:

The crumb, which never did get photographed, had a fairly even distribution of small and medium-size alveoli.  That's fine by me, since most of it has been used for sandwiches.  It's moistness balanced nicely with the initially crisp, later chewy, crust.

Other than that, I haven't baked much since I'm working through a backlog of breads in the freezer.  Now I'll have to be patient and use up some more of the bread in the freezer before using my new toy again.



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