The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

pmccool's blog

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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.


pmccool's picture

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.


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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.


pmccool's picture

One of my Christmas presents last year was Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.  While I've wanted to get beyond just reading the book and starting to bake from it, life has kept me well supplied with other things to do.  There was the completion of the rye bread test bakes for Stan Ginsberg's upcoming book, a vacation to San Diego, a freezer well-stocked with bread that needed to be eaten before more was baked, test bakes of hot cross buns and Easter bread and salt sticks for some upcoming classes, and, well, you get the picture.

This weekend, stuffed head and hacking cough notwithstanding, I determined to try one of the breads.  The Field Blend #2 sounded most appealing, given its complement of whole grain flours.  Because of the aforementioned cold, my preference was for something closer to a straight dough approach, leading to the decision to ferment one loaf at room temperature (about 69F) and the other in my B&T proofer at 75F.  The rationale was that the loaf in the proofer would ferment faster, allowing me to bake the first loaf (I have a single Dutch Oven) while the second loaf proofed more slowly at room temperature.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.  

As is often the case, real life did not conform well to my theory about real life.  For reasons beyond my ken, the room temperature loaf was ready to bake at the point the proofer loaf was about 3/4 ready.  So, it went into the oven first.  It sprang beautifully, as I saw when removing the the lid 30 minutes later.  And it colored up nicely after being exposed to the direct heat of the oven, too.

The crust was thin and shatteringly crisp.  After being in a plastic bag overnight, that has changed to a rather chewy texture.  The crumb is very moist and rather more even in texture than I anticipated.  That is in no way a complaint, since much of this bread will be consumed in the form of sandwiches.

The one major disappointment is that the bottom of the loaf charred rather badly.  That was a complete surprise, since the DO was at the same level in the oven as I typically use for the baking stone, which has never produced any charring effect.  There may be enough head space to move the rack up one position in the oven but then I would be concerned about having adequate air movement around the DO after removing the lid.

After taking out the first loaf and assessing the results, I chose to drop the temperature from the recommended 475F to 460F for the second loaf.  That produced better results for the bottom of the loaf.

The bad news is that the second loaf was past its optimal proof.  While it regained much of the volume lost in its initial sag after being removed from the banneton, it didn't show any additional spring.  It's still a reasonably good looking loaf but it could definitely be better.

Baking foibles aside, this is a very good bread.  I enjoy the graininess that the whole wheat and whole rye flour flours bring to the table, along with the mild acidity.  The crumb is very moist even though thoroughly baked and feels cool and creamy in the mouth.  The unscorched crust provides a range of flavor notes from the caramelization and Maillard reactions.  It is good stuff, all around.  And, mind you, without whatever additional flavors would have developed during a longer, cold, retarded fermentation.

That cold fermentation would also have given me a wider window for baking the two loaves in series, had I used it.

At this stage, I'd have to say that I'm not a devotee of of DO baking.  The additional risks and challenges that it imposes are, in my personal estimation, not worth the rather ephemeral benefits (primarily the thinness and crispness of the crust) it provides.  It may be that if I had a gas oven and struggled to keep steam in it, my assessment would be different.  As it is, I know that I can get equally good, if not identical, results by baking on a stone while keeping steam in the oven.

The whole scorching thing has me scratching my head.  That has never been a problem for me with my usual setup in the same oven, even when baking at temperatures above 500F.  My next bake from the book will utilize my normal stone and steam approach, rather than a DO.  



pmccool's picture

I'm back from a week's vacation in the San Diego area with my wife, her brother, and his wife.  We did a lot of the touristy things, including the zoo, the Midway aircraft carrier tour, watching sunsets from the beach, whale watching, Balboa Park, museums, eating some fabulous Mexican food and seafood, horseback rides, and a vineyard tour/tasting.  Each of us came away with our own set of highlights from the trip but one of the best for me was spending a good chunk of this past Wednesday visiting and baking with Stan Ginsberg at his home.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I had contacted Stan about the possibility of meeting while we in San Diego, thinking that it would be pretty cool just to stop by his warehouse to say hello and chat a bit.  Stan proposed a better option in his reply: how would you like to spend some time baking together? I was happy to accept and, after he addressed his wife Sylvia's concerns about letting someone they'd never met in person into their home (she is a sensible lady), we agreed that I would drop in at 10-ish Wednesday morning for some baking.  And so I did.

Stan and Sylvia are both outgoing people and we were soon at ease with each other.  Stan had a couple of sponges bubbling for some rye breads that hadn't been in the test bakes for the new book he is writing.  I need to digress at this point to mention that the slate of 90 recipes that went out to the test bakers is not an exhaustive sampling of the rye bread world.  Stan continues find more breads from a broad range of sources.  It doesn't hurt that he is fluent in German and able to translate some of what he finds.  He also has a network of friends and acquaintances who can help translate bread formulae from other languages.  So, the three breads we baked Wednesday were possibilities that Stan is considering for inclusion in the book.  One, a filled roll made from a laminated dough, absolutely deserves a place in the book.  And I'd say that the other two are also worthy.  As a matter of fact, I'm still savoring the flavor of the grilled turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich that I had for lunch today made with one of the breads.

As we measured and mixed and shaped and baked, we talked.  We talked a lot; about everything from craft beers (another of Stan's passions), to how a decline in basic kitchen competence has made a generation of American home cooks fearful of failure, to Chinese cuisine.  We talked about NY Bakers and the trends that Stan is seeing in that business.  We talked about Norm Berg and his influence on ITJB.  We talked about the new book and finding a thematic thread to connect such varied breads made from the same grain.  We talked about the influence of climate and soil on culture and the influence of culture on history.  We talked about how breads, some ancient and some quite recent, spring from the continuing swirl of people moving to different places on the globe.  Stan made sure that we didn't dehydrate during the working and the visiting, sharing some of his favorite liquid bread from local craft breweries.  (Hint: if you find some Lost Abbey brews in your area, give them a try.)  

Somewhere around 2:00 in the afternoon, with most of the work done and bread cooling or about to come out of the oven, we cleared away the bread-making paraphernalia and Stan set up a lunch consisting of various cheeses and breads and crackers.  It was just the thing to cap a delightful visit and bake session.  The rest of my group came back for me around 3:00 and I regretfully said my goodbyes, leaving with bread in my hand, happy memories in my head, and a smile on my face.

And who wouldn't smile, after such gracious treatment by such an affable host?  That's Stan on the left and some of each of the breads we baked on the tray:


Many thanks, Stan, for such a pleasant visit.  


pmccool's picture

I received a new My Weigh KD-8000 scale to replace the Oxo scale that developed some form of digital psychosis recently.  More capacity and an even easier to read display make it a pleasure to use.  It's already received quite a workout just since Christmas.

There are also two new books that are competing for my attention.  One is Ken Forkish's Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast which has been much discussed here.  The other is Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter.  It's sort of but not exactly a lighter version of Shirley Corriher's CookWise, aimed at a younger, techier crowd.  Perhaps I've been acting more engineer-ish than usual lately?  I've gotten about a third of the way into it and am enjoying the author's observations at least as much as the technical information.

The best gift of all is a houseful of kids and grandkids, which is why this post is a short one.  


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A couple of weekends ago, I was doing some test bakes to finalize recipes for a class that I will teach in December.

First up, Julekake, glossy with egg wash:

And the Julekake crumb:

And it tastes even better than it looks, what with the fruit and cardamom flavors.

And some Sweet Vanilla Challah, which I've posted about previously.  While not specifically a holiday bread, its turban shape and vanilla flavor make it a natural for any festive meal:



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My second bake from last weekend had more to do with some fresh figs that I had found than it did with bread.  Although I grew up on a farm and had plenty of first hand experience with many kinds of fruit, figs weren't part of the local scene.  I don't recall seeing a fig outside of a Fig Newton cookie any time prior to my high school graduation.  When I did eventually encounter figs in their whole form, they were dried instead of fresh.  The farm, by the way, is located in northern lower Michigan, which explains the dearth of figs.  At a guess, I must have been in my 40s before I ever laid eyes, or hand, on a fresh fig.

Imagine my surprise and delight on finding a tray of fresh figs at a store recently!  (They aren't that common here in NE Kansas, either.)  They followed me home and we considered all sorts of options before settling on this Fig and Rosemary Chicken from the Foodie Fresh blog.  How do I love it?  Let me count the ways.  1) Figs.  2) Fig and balsamic reduction (that's the 'sauce' for the pizza).  3) Fresh rosemary.  4) Goat cheese.  5) Grilled chicken.  6) Caramelized onions  7) All of that in one place at the same time!  8) Pizza!

Oh.  My.

All I did was throw together a simple dough, maybe 70% hydration plus a drizzle of olive oil.  My wife did the rest of the work.  And when she got done, boy, did it all work together!

Here's a ready-for-the-oven pic:

Isn't that a thing of beauty?

But wait, there's more:

That's right, fresh from the oven and ready to eat!  This, people, is some seriously good food.  There were no leftovers.

Energized by the fabulous pizza, I managed to put together some kolaches for the third bake of the weekend, using dough from the previous weekend's class.  Those turned out pretty well, too.  Sorry, no pictures of those.  Having sized them at 80g each, I think I'll try shrinking them to 50 or 60g each the next time that I make them.  That will allow for a higher ratio of filling to bread.

That's more baking than I tend to do most days but I'm happy with all three outcomes.  (The first was Hamelman's Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread, covered in an earlier post.)


pmccool's picture

Consistency has much to recommend it but a person needs some variety in life, too.  Hence the first bake from this past weekend - Hamelman's Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread.  Mostly.  It seems as though I've had more than my share of white breads in recent weeks.  It wasn't the result of any grand plan, just happenstance.  And they were good breads, too.  They just left me wanting something browner and grainier.  

In thumbing through Hamelman's Bread - 2nd Edition, I came across his Whole Rye and Whole Wheat bread.  It sounded like just the thing to break the white bread streak.  The formula is pretty straightforward:

Bread Flour  50%

Whole Rye Flour 25%

Whole Wheat Flour 25%

Water 68%

Mature sourdough culture  5%

Salt  1.8%

Yeast, fresh  1.25%  

In spite of the yeast in the formula, this is a sourdough bread.

I did take some liberties with both ingredients and process.  First, I left out the yeast.  That allowed for a fuller sourdough flavor and a slower rise, which fit better with the day's other activities.  The recipe calls for 6 minutes of mixing in a spiral mixer.  Wanting a close-textured crumb for sandwiches, I opted for approximately 18 minutes of hand kneading.  Finally, I mixed together the levain, the water for the final dough, and the whole wheat flour, allowing the mixture to sit for about an hour.  This gave the bran in the wheat flour an opportunity to absorb liquid and soften somewhat before I mixed in the bread flour and salt.

So, other than changing nearly half of the variables, it's exactly as Mr. Hamelman intended.

Since my starter had been refreshed the previous weekend and put back in cold storage, I simply used the called-for amount straight from storage to build the levain.  The mixed levain was covered and allowed to ferment overnight.  By the next morning, it had grown appreciably and was bubbly throughout.

As noted above, the final dough water and whole wheat flour were combined with the starter and the bowl covered.  After an hour or so, the salt and most of the bread flour were mixed in to make a rough dough.  The dough was then treated to an extended session of hand kneading.  Kneading was a bit of an effort.  Twenty-five percent rye flour, pre-fermented, equals sticky dough.  I had held back perhaps 20 or 30 grams of the bread flour in anticipation of needing it for bench flour.  That turned out to be a good call, as the dough wanted repeated flourings to stay manageable.  By not adding more flour or water than the formula called for, the dough was at the intended hydration level when kneading was complete.

Finally, it was covered and allowed to ferment for until approximately doubled, which only took slightly more than three hours.  The loaves were pre-shaped, rested, then shaped into batards, placed on parchment sheets, covered with plastic wrap and allowed to ferment without any side support.  Happily, there was a limited amount of spreading during the loaves fermentation.  With the warmer temperatures this time of year, the loaves were ready to bake in less than three hours.

The loaves were slashed, then baked with steam at 460F for 15 minutes.  After that, the temperature was turned down to 440F for another 20 minutes of baking.  At that point, the loaves had reached 208F internal temperature, so they were removed from the oven.

Oven spring was good, with slightly more than a doubling in height from the unbaked loaf.  The slashes opened up very cleanly, with no tearing.  As always, I need more practice to get uniform cuts.

I'm becoming a fan of Hamelman's penchant for bold bakes.  While I won't push as far as he does, getting a dark crust and browning of the grigne is as pleasing to my tongue as it is to my eyes.

The resulting crumb was very much what I wanted, well aerated but able to retain condiments:

This bread is more to my liking than the Vermont Sourdough and its variants from the same book.  It has a significantly higher wholegrain flour content, for one.  The blend of rye and wheat seems tastier than either one alone, too.  Even at 68% hydration and 50% wholegrain flour content, the crumb is pleasantly moist.  It's close to a week now since I baked the bread and it shows no sign of staling.  My wife sliced some today and made a bruschetta of sorts with a balsamic-fig reduction spread on the bread and scattered bits of goat cheese.  That was toasted in the the toaster oven and, oh, my, was it good!

The good news is that this is a bread worthy of being in the regular baking rotation.  The bad news is that there are so many other good breads in Bread that I don't know when I might get back to it.



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