The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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PMcCool

For those who are keeping score, I moved from the USA to South Africa in late October to work on a project being managed by my employer.  After spending a week in a hotel and a month in a temporary apartment, my wife and I moved into a leased house on December 1.  We're feeling fairly settled now and can find our way to several different supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants and the like.  It's a different landscape, and I'm not just talking topography.  Still, we're learning to navigate our way around without creating unnecessary hazard to ourselves or others.


Part of the learning process involves getting acquainted with new players in familiar roles.  In the case of bread, this includes different flours, a new starter, a different oven, and a different elevation (approximately 4200 feet above sea level, give or take a kopje).  None of these are especially difficult to cope with, but the collective effect has me slightly off kilter.


Prior to this weekend, I had baked bread three times, with results ranging from dismal to passable.  


This weekend saw some improvement, with plenty of room for additional improvement.  I baked a pain de campagne from Clayton's Complete Book of Breads, a honey oat sandwich loaf and scones from KAF's Whole Grain Baking book, and Mark Sinclair's version of Portugese Sweet Bread (in hamburger bun form).


The pain de campagne calls for a yeasted "starter"; I used my own sourdough starter to build the levain.  I'm beginning to wonder if there is something about the whole wheat flour that I'm using (Snowflake brand Brown Bread Flour at 12.5% protein, if memory serves).  My impression is that it tends to absorb less water than other whole wheat flours that I have used, which produces a stickier dough.  By sticky, I mean almost rye-like stickiness.  The grind is a bit coarser than I have seen in other flours, so it may be that I need to go with extended autolysis to give it enough time to absorb moisture.  And I may need to dial back on water content, too.  The closest thing to AP flour that I've located so far is something labeled cake flour, at 10% protein content.  The initial dough was quite sticky after mixing (did I mention stickiness earlier?), so I gave it a series of stretch and folds during the bulk ferment that lasted about 5 hours.  Temperatures in the house ranged from the low 70'sF in the morning up to about 80F yesterday afternoon.  I shaped the dough into two batards, achieving a good gluten cloak, and set them to rise in a parchment "couche".  When they had expanded about 60-70% in size, I preheated the oven and baking stone, along with the steam pan, then poured in about a cup of boiling water.  I slashed each loaf and jockeyed it as gently as possible onto the stone, using a baking sheet for a peel.  Oven spring was modest, with the slashes opening partially.  The loaves colored up nicely, indicating that the yeast hadn't run through all available food.  I haven't cut into either loaf yet to know how the crumb turned out.


Things went quite well with the honey oat sandwich loaves, but for two glitches.  One was that I had intended to make each with a cinnamon swirl but failed to remember that until I was pulling them out of the oven.  The other is that both loaves were over proofed and partially collapsed during baking, even though they did not come close to reaching the volume ("one and a half inches above the pan rim") recommended in the directions.  Eish!  At least they taste good.


This morning's scones also tasted wonderful, but failed to rise as much as they should have.  Maybe the oven runs a bit cooler than the controls would suggest.  Then again, its geared for Celsius and I'm not.  I think I'll pick up an oven thermometer or two while we are back in the States over the holidays.  Then we can find out if it is a calibration issue, or operator error. 


The Portugese Sweet Bread was everything that I wanted it to be, though.  Texture, color, flavor, rise, everything worked just right.  If only I could figure out why!  My track record so far would suggest that it is more of a fluke than an exercise in skill.  Right now, I'm just happy to have had a bake go the way I wanted.


The experimenting and learning will continue.  I will keep trying various flours and methods until I get to where I can produce consistently good results. 


Oh, and if anyone can tell me where to look for rye flour, I'll be grateful.


Paul

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PMcCool

The past couple of months have been something of a whirlwind.  Just before leaving for an internship at Mark Sinclair's The Back Home Bakery, my boss asked if I would accept a 2-year assignment on a project my employer is managing in South Africa.  Without subjecting you to the lengthy discussions between my wife and myself as we considered one factor after another, suffice it to say that we agreed to the assignment.  Since then, we've sold cars, furniture and household goods; located a tenant/housesitter; packed; made lists; checked off lists; etc., etc., etc.  And so, here I sit in the Delta Sky Lounge in the Atlanta airport, waiting to board the 15-hour flight to Johannesburg.


For being a new adventure, its beginning is remarkably mundane.  Sitting in an airport just isn't particularly, I don't know, romantic?  Exciting?  Heady?  Whatever, this isn't the stuff of high drama; although I will admit that the lounge is much better-appointed than the gate area.


With any luck, I'll locate a place to stay in the next few days and be moved in by the time my wife arrives in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I'll be checking in at TFL from time to time to share vicariously in your baking.  Once I'm settled, I'll get a new starter up and running (can't see the hotel staff playing along with an attempted head start) and start baking again; something that hasn't happened at all since leaving The Back Home Bakery.  The new assignment is going to chew up a lot of my time and energy, so baking opportunities may be limited and cherished.  We'll see how it plays out.


So, if I'm quieter than usual, you'll know why.  See you in Jo'burg.


Paul

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PMcCool

On our way back from The Back Home Bakery, we made a quick stop at the Wheat Montana bakery/deli pictured here:



It is located in Three Forks, Montana and is just off I-90.  The place is big; I only captured part of it in this photo.  And yes, those are grain silos at the back corner of the facility.  I believe that they grind all of the flour on-site that is then bagged and sold, or used in their baked goods.  There is also a gas station out of the frame, about 100 feet to the right of my position as I took this photo.


The first thing that meets your eyes as you step through the door are stacks of 50-pound bags of flour: Bronze Chief (red whole wheat), Prairie Gold (white whole wheat) and their Naturally White AP.  There are also bags of wheat berries.  Prices are surprisingly low, compared to what I see in local supermarkets.  The berries were priced from $19-21 per 50-pound bag and the flours were priced $20-22 per bag.  If I hadn't been told just before leaving for vacation that I'm going to be spending the next couple of years in South Africa, I'd have purchased a couple of bags and worried later about where to store them.  As it is, I need to burn through my existing flour stocks in the next few weeks.


Further in, there are shelves with Wheat Montana logoed goods; caps, cups and such.  There are also flours in 5- and 10-pound bags, cook books and preserves.  Still other shelves hold various breads.  There is a deli counter where one can purchase various pastries and sandwiches, along with hot and cold beverages.  There are a number of tables to sit at while enjoying your food and drink.  I must confess to having been a bit of a bread snob after a week of seeing what Mark produces.  Any other day I might have thought their stuff looked pretty good, but it just didn't measure up to what we had been making at The Back Home Bakery.  So we stopped long enough to buy a drink and take this picture, then headed back to the road.


Paul

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PMcCool

I had the pleasure of spending a week working as a baking intern for Mark Sinclair at his The Back Home Bakery in Kalispell, Montana.  Other than the sleep deprivation, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week of measuring ingredients, washing dishes, mixing bigas and doughs, washing dishes, stretching and folding dough, washing dishes, pre-shaping and shaping loaves, washing dishes, making pastries and fillings, washing dishes, scraping the workbench, washing dishes, packaging the finished breads/pastries, building friendships with Mark and Sharon (his wife), and washing dishes.


A typical day would start at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.  We'd begin by pulling bigas from the refrigerator (they had been mixed the previous afternoon or evening) and measuring the ingredients for each bread.  Most of the breads were mixed in a 20-quart mixer, except for the baguettes, which were a larger batch that was mixed in the 60-quart mixer.  The other exception was on Saturday morning, when about half of the breads were mixed in the 60-quart mixer because of the larger batches being prepared for the Kalispell farmers' market later that morning.  Mark also pulled 2 or 3 frozen pastry doughs from the freezer at about the same time so that they could be thawed and ready for sheeting and shaping during a lull in the bread production.


After mixing, the bread doughs were placed in a proofer.  Most were given 3 stretch and folds at 45-minute intervals.  After proofing, the doughs were shaped and placed on sheet pans, then put back in the proofer for their final proof prior to slashing and baking.  The baguettes, again, were an exception to this general practice; they received a pre-shape, then a ferment at room temperature, followed by a final shaping and final room-temperature ferment before slashing and loading into the oven.  Mark uses two convection ovens; one is electric and the other is gas fired.  All of the baking is done on sheet pans, rather than on a deck or stone.  Neither oven is steam-injected, so Mark throws a can of water on a cast-iron griddle sitting in the bottom of the oven when a bread requires steaming.  


What I haven't conveyed well is the overall planning that Mark does in deciding which doughs are mixed first and which are mixed last.  Based on experienced he has gained and on the particular day's product roster (it varies from day to day), Mark sequences the production steps so that he can maintain a steady flow of bread or pastries in and out of the ovens without creating bottlenecks or gaps.  And it's all subject to change, depending on the activity of the doughs.  There are anywhere from 1 to 4 timers in use at any given point and each step of the process for each bread or pastry is noted on a sheet of paper.  If it didn't get written down, it would get lost in the ever-changing flow of the work.  A couple of examples may help to illustrate just how important time management is in a bakery.  One: "If you have time to stand around, you've probably missed something."  Two: Mark muttering "That timer rules my life" as he leaves the dinner table to put the rye starter in the refrigerator for the night.


I encountered several surprises during my week at The Back Home Bakery:


- Mark produces a variety of pastries, using both croissant dough and puff pastry dough.  I had preconceived that he was primarily making breads, but that was a misconception on my part.


- Mark uses Wheat Montana's AP flour, which most other milling companies would label as a high-protein bread flour.  Still, he produces incredibly tender and flaky pastries and robust breads using that same flour.  The man knows what he's doing.


- Aforesaid pastries, still warm from the oven, make a spectacular breakfast.  My wife ran out of adjectives by Thursday.


- Mark is something of a Renaissance man: teacher, coach, log home builder and baker.  And very patient with a well-meaning but sometimes-addled assistant.  I'm sticking with the sleep deprivation defense as long as I can.  


Saturday was the biggest production day of the week because of the Kalispell farmers market, so we were up at 1:00 a.m.  Sharon also pitched in, so there were three of us banging around in the bakery, trying not to trip over each other.  That morning we produced and packaged:


- palmiers


- bear claws


- croissants


- cherry croissants


- blueberry croissants


- cheese danish


- pain au chocolat


- apple strudel


- ham and cheese croissants


- sticky buns


- sour rye bread (based on Eric's Fav Rye)


- rustic white bread


- buckwheat-flax bread


- baguettes


- Sal's rolls (torpedo shaped, made from baguette dough)


- Portuguese sweet bread (shaped as rolls)


- Kalamata jack bread


All of the above was loaded in the van, along with the booth and display fixtures, and ready to roll by 7:30.


Here are a couple of pictures from that morning:



Sharon, wisely, bundled up for the chilly morning.  Mark's concession to the cold was to change from shorts to jeans and put on a cap.



Sharon waiting on early customers.


Mark's commitment to putting out a high-quality product is paying off.  He has loyal customers who come looking for their favorites and who are very disappointed if they arrive too late and find that item has sold out.


I'm very grateful to have had a week working with Mark and getting to know both he and Sharon.  Should you have the opportunity to pursue a future internship, I can highly recommend it.


Paul

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PMcCool

This past weekend, I was looking for a sourdough formula that sounded interesting and just couldn't find one that tickled my fancy.  So, I decided to free-lance a formula of my own.  I had about 320 grams of well-fed levain that I pulled out of the refrigerator before leaving for church on Sunday.  On returning home, I found it to be warmed up and at peak expansion.  


Since I wanted to be able to use the bread for sandwiches, I determined to make a pair of batards and guesstimated that a pre-bake dough weight of about 750 grams each should work nicely.  Having had a run of whole grain breads recently, I was ready for a change of pace but still wanted something flavorful.  After consideration, I built a 70% hydration dough with 5% rye, 10% whole wheat and 85% bread flour.  At the last minute, I chucked in 30 grams of flaxseed meal because, well, because it was there and it seemed like a good idea.  


The water, levain, flours, and meal were treated to a 30 minute autolyse.  Then I did a double round of stretch and fold, after which the dough went back into the bowl to ferment.  I did 3 more stretch and folds at 40 minute intervals, only remembering after the second one that I hadn't added any salt.  (That should have been a clue.)  I slurried a tablespoon each of water and sea salt and worked that into the dough.  After the dough was nearly doubled, I turned it out on the counter, divided it in two approximately equal pieces, pre-shaped it and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  After the rest, I finished shaping the loaves into fat batards and set them to rise in a parchment paper couche.


When the batards were still a little short of doubling, I preheated the oven to 450 dF with a baking stone and a steam pan in place.  When the oven reached temperature, I poured boiling water in the steam pan, slashed the loaves (still need more practice with that) and loaded them onto the stone.  After turning the oven temperature down to 400 dF, I set the timer for 25 minutes.  A few minutes later, I came back to see how the oven spring was working (very nicely, thank you) and it hit me that I was seeing all of my levain/starter baking.  I had not remembered to reserve a piece for storage!  I've avoided making that bone-head move for almost 4 years, but it finally caught up with me.  At that point, there was nothing to do but swallow hard and let the bread finish baking.  When the timer sounded, I checked the internal temperature of the bread and the thermometer went to 210 dF very quickly, indicating that the bread was fully baked.


The bread, thankfully, turned out very well.  No single flavor stands out, but the levain, the rye, the wheat, and the flaxseed meal all meld for a very satisfying taste.  Here's how it looks:



On this particular loaf, the slash at each end of the loaf opened beautifully, allowing the crumb to expand fully.  The center slash, however, must not have been deep enough, because it didn't open very much.  As a result, the loaf has sort of a Bactrian camel appearance with humps at either end and a dip in the middle.  


All I have to do to duplicate this is get a new starter going and try again in 4 years ...


Paul


 

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PMcCool

Daniel Leader's book, Local Breads, is simultaneously one of the most intriguing and most frustrating bread books.  His breads are rooted in the baking traditions of several European countries, but rendered in ingredients and techniques that are generally accessible to home bakers in the United States.  Many are utterly delicious and lovely to behold.  But ... one has to recognize going in that a number of the formulae are riddled with errors, often in the quantity or proportion of the dough ingredients.


Such is the case with his Classic Auvergne Dark Rye, which begins on page 158 of the book.


My descent from home baker to mad scientist began innocently enough.  When asked "What kind of bread would you like?", my wife responded "How about something with oatmeal?  Or rye?"  Since I was at that moment looking at the Auvergne Dark Rye, it seemed auspicious.  So much for superstition.


The levain is built with 45 grams of stiff levain (50% hydration), 50 grams of water, and 50 grams of fine or medium whole rye flour.  So far, so good.  This was my first week home from a 3-week trip to South Africa and I had refreshed my starter, which I keep at 50% hydration, early in the week.  Having mixed the levain, and put it in a covered container, I retired for the night.


This morning, I mixed the first stage of the dough, which called for all of the levain, plus 350 grams of hot tap water, plus 500 grams of medium to fine whole rye flour.  The rye flour I have on hand is a medium-to-coarse stone-ground flour, so no big change.  (I had mis-read the formula the first time through and thought it called for medium to light rye, which is another thing entirely.)  The resulting dough was a thick paste, nearly, but not quite, as stiff as modeling clay.  In looking at the notes, I read that Leader describes the dough at this stage as a "thick, smooth batter."  


Uh oh.


I did a quick search of TFL, found a few questions about the bread, but no answers.  I searched the Web; same result.  I posted here with questions and received mostly condolences (which were appreciated).


Deciding that I was already past the point of no return, I decided to forge ahead.  So I added water and stirred.  And added more water and stirred.  And added yet more water, until I had a thick, smooth batter.  It only took an additional 325 grams of water.  Keep in mind that my "thick, smooth batter" may have an entirely different consistency than Mr. Leader's "thick, smooth batter".  Chasing a description is not unlike chasing the wind - even if you do catch it, how do you know for sure?


For those of you keeping tally, the dough currently stands at 45 grams of levain, 50+500 grams of flour, and 350+325 grams of water.  That's really, really high hydration!  And it isn't soupy, which is another adjective that Mr. Leader uses to describe the dough!


I let it rest for the prescribed time, then mixed in the salt (20 grams) and bread flour (200 grams).  The dough formed a big ball on the KitchenAid's paddle attachment and allowed itself to be pushed around by the dough hook.  I eventually did a few stretch and folds in the bowl and called it good, then set it aside for its second fermentation.


Mr. Leader recommends that, at the end of the second ferment, the dough be scraped out onto a "lightly floured" counter, where it can be gently shaped into a "loose boule, without overhandling it."  I eye the dough, then flour the countertop heavily.  Not surprisingly, the dough sticks to everything that contacts it; hands, scraper, counter top.  After a few brief tussles, it is in an almost round shape which lasts until I try to move it onto the waiting parchment paper and peel.  Eventually, the less-than-round dough is on the peel, where it is patted into a somewhat misshapen, um, miche.  In the French sense of the word.  I allow it to ferment at the prescribed temperature for the prescribed time.  The surface doesn't appear to have the promised cracks, but then, is it realistic to expect that it could with that much water in it?  Into the preheated 500 dF (!) oven it goes, with steam.  Baking time is estimated at 35-45 minutes, so at 35 minutes the thermometer is inserted and easily reaches 205 dF.  I declare it done.


The surface still isn't fissured, although there may be a network of smaller cracks lurking beneath the flour on the surface.  The color is a deep mahogany.  As it cools, the crust softens and the bread feels slightly spongy.  It will be tomorrow evening, at the earliest, before I cut into this bread.  The thermometer's stem had gummy bits clinging to it when I pulled it out of the loaf, so it will require some time for all that moisture to distribute itself evenly throughout the loaf.  I really don't know what to expect.  It could be so moist as to be almost cake-like.  It could be a gummy mess.  Time will tell.


Here's a picture of the exterior:


Auvergne Dark Rye


I would estimate that the loaf increased 50-75% in height, due to ovenspring, from its unbaked height.  It didn't appear to spread any further while in the oven.  It looks pretty (albeit rough) on the outside.  I'll post again after cutting into it tomorrow.


Paul


Postscript - the crumb:



I have to say that I am very pleasantly surprised by this bread; especially considering the amount of improvising that went into it.  It has a straight-up, hearty rye flavor; no seeds or spices are included.  For me, that's a good thing.  There's no particular sourness as of this first tasting.  The crumb, while close-textured, is not heavy or stiff.  Instead, it is very moist, with a pleasing yielding firmness.  The crust is fairly soft and relatively thin; not so surprising when you consider how much water is in this dough, even given the high baking temperature.  I'm looking forward to some great sandwiches this week.


For anyone who is thinking of giving this a first, or second, try, you may want to note that I took the bread out of the oven at shortly before noon and left it on a cooling rack, covered with a tea towel, until about 9:30 p.m.  Then I wrapped it in plastic film (it's bigger than any of the plastic bags I have on hand) and left it until nearly 7:00 p.m. today before slicing it.  The purists among you may prefer to leave the bread completely unwrapped.  My concern was that the air conditioning might pull moisture out of the bread faster than I wanted.  There was no gumminess, probably thanks to the long cooldown with plenty of time for some of the moisture to evaporate while the rest of the moisture redistributed itself.


The other tip that I would suggest is to do the shaping directly on the parchment paper.  Why wrestle something this sticky into shape, only to have it be distorted during the transfer onto the paper?


Now that I've lived through the experience, I think I could make this again and have it turn out reasonably well.  But probably not in the next few weeks.  Someday.  Maybe.


Paul


 

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PMcCool

I finally remembered to take a camera with me while grocery shopping this afternoon.  For almost two years now I've been thinking "Gotta remember to  take a picture to show the other Loafers."  So, finally, here goes.


The Hy-Vee supermarket located at the intersection of 135th St. and Antioch Rd. in Overland Park, KS has an in-store unit from Wheat Montana that contains two micronizer-style mills.  One is fed from a hopper with Bronze Chief wheat kernels (a hard red wheat) and the other is fed from a hopper with Prairie Gold wheat kernels (a hard white wheat).  A customer places a bag from the center of the display on the stand beneath the wheat variety of their choice, and then pushes a button to grind the wheat into flour, which falls into the customer's bag.  See photo below:


Wheat Montana In-store Mill


This particular installation is in the middle of the "health foods" section of the store, in case any of you are close enough / curious enough to go take a look at it.


If you want fresh-ground flour without having to splurge on a mill for yourself, you might want to see if you can cajole your local grocer into getting this kind of set-up for a store near you.  Probably wouldn't hurt to check with the folks at Wheat Montana first to see if they are still making these units; no point in wheedling your grocer into getting something that isn't available.


Gotta run.  The hamburger rolls are ready for shaping.


Paul

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PMcCool

While it would be self-deception in the first degree to think that I have a lock on wheaten breads, I've been wanting to expand my repertoire to include breads with a high percentage of rye flour.  I enjoy the flavor and have been very impressed by the breads produced by other TFL posters.  So, I thought I'd try my hand with the Soulful German Farmhouse Rye from Daniel Leader's Local Breads.  This bread has been profiled in other posts on TFL, so feel free to search out those entries, too.


I maintain a single sourdough starter that is usually fed AP or bread flour.  Every now and then it gets goosed with a bit of whole rye or whole wheat, based on the needs of a particular recipe.  For this bread, I did two refreshments entirely with whole rye flour to build the rye sour it calls for.  About the only rye flour carried in supermarkets locally is Hodgson Mills whole rye, so it's not like there's a lot of choice in the matter.  Whole Foods and Wild Oats stores have some other possibilities, but the labeling doesn't always make it clear just what they are selling.


The formula calls for a quarter teaspoon each of coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, toasted and ground.  That turned out to be my first point of departure from the formula.  Recalling some earlier discussions on TFL, I substituted caraway for the cumin.  My first attempt at toasting the seeds in a skillet on the stovetop was, well, overdone.  As I was grinding the seeds, the predominant odor was that of something scorched, not something spicy.  After pitching those, I started over.  This time I dialed back the heat and shook the skillet every few seconds so that nothing had a chance to park on a hot spot and scorch.  I also kept a close eye on the fennel seeds.  They started out with a greenish cast, while the coriander and caraway already had a toasty color.  When the fennel seeds' color shifted from green to golden, I pulled the skillet off the flame and dumped the seeds into the mortar.  A few strokes with the pestle released a toasty/spicy fragrance that was much different and far better than the that of the first attempt.  


Despite Leader's recommendations, I opted for hand mixing and kneading the dough, primarily to understand how it looked and felt as it developed.  Now I know why the phrase "wet cement" figures prominently in writings about making rye breads.  Despite what you read in recipes, a high-percentage rye dough will not be silky; nor will it be elastic or responsive.  I'll probably use the mixer for future forays, but I know now what to look for.  The other departure from the formula was to use wet hands and a wet countertop for kneading.  Leader recommends floured hands, but I think that working wet has to be the better choice.  First, you can't work in too much additional flour.  Second, the same components in rye flour that make it so sticky also make it slippery when wet.  That means your hands don't get nearly as gummed up with dough as they would if you worked with floured surfaces.  Keeping a plastic bowl scraper in one hand while manipulating the dough with the other is also a good tactic.  


The dough came together rather easily.  Yes, it was sticky.  Yes, it was sludgy.  And no, it didn't seem the least bit soulful; at least, not compared to a dough made with wheat flour.  The second point at which I departed from the script was to add only half the amount of yeast.  A significant quantity of the rye flour is in the final dough, so I wanted it to have the opportunity to acidify before the yeast took over.  That stretched the fermentation times out beyond the times noted in the formula but I wasn't in any rush.


Leader recommends "dusting" the bannetons with rye flakes before depositing the boules for their final fermentation.  First, things the size of rye flakes can't be "dusted" onto anything, much less the sidewalls of a banneton.  Second, he recommends slashing the loaves with a tic-tac-toe pattern immediately before loading them in the oven.  Every try slashing a dough that is armored, sorry, "dusted" with rye flakes?  It ain't gonna happen, no matter what your slashing weapon of choice is.  (See picture, below.)  And that for a bread that, he says truthfully, isn't going to rise much in the oven.  I'll grant you that the rye flakes have a certain rustic appeal for the eye, but next time I'd rather use them as a soaker or leave them off entirely.


Here's how the finished breads look:


Soulful German Farmhouse Rye


These are compact breads, maybe 1.5 inches high and 7 or 8 inches across.  The rye flakes and the knife handle give you a sense of their scale.  The crumb, not surprisingly, is dense and rather tight.  The soulful part, which isn't appreciable here, is in the flavor.  The rye is front and center in this bread.  The spices, while discernible, are very much in a supporting role.  It's quite a bit different than Levy's NY jewish rye, which has 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds.  The crust is chewy, as is the crumb.  Then again, it's been in a plastic bag overnight.  Left out in the air, it would probably be rather hard-shelled.  It doesn't feel quite as moist as I had anticipated (probably a factor of the whole rye's absorbency) but it isn't crumbly, either.  I think it is probably a very good thing that I used water, rather than flour, to manage the stickiness while kneading the dough.  There's no noticeable gumminess in the crumb, so it appears that I waited long enough before cutting into it. 


All in all, an enjoyable bread and one that should go very well with the ham I purchased this weekend.

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PMcCool

Today's bake was Daniel Leader's Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread, from his Local Breads book.  This bread combines a biga naturale for flavor with yeast for shorter, more predictable fermentation times.


The formula is straight-forward: the biga, water, equal parts whole wheat and bread flours, salt and yeast.  Final hydration works out to about 77%.  Based on Leader's description of the dough, I was expecting something almost in the ciabatta realm.  It turned out to be less gloppy than a ciabatta dough, perhaps because of the extra absorbency of the whole wheat flour.  Still, it was definitely better handled by the mixer than by hand.  I'm a little leery of his mixing directions, though.  First, he recommends an 10-minute run at speed 8 on a Kitchen Aid, followed by an 8-10 minute run at speed 10.  I didn't run it quite that long, or quite that fast, since I was seeing good gluten development.  Plus, the dough was clearing the sides of the bowl, even though it was very sticky.  The directions indicated that it probably cause the mixer to walk.  Hah!  I had to hold it down, what with the ball of dough slapping and releasing from the sides of the bowl.


After the mixing/kneading stage, the dough is dumped into an oiled container for 1-1.5 hours until it doubles.  It is then treated to a series of stretch and folds in the container (I used a plastic bowl scraper for this exercise), then allowed to double again.  Having finished bulk fermentation, the dough is scraped out onto a floured counter, divided in two, and (very gently) shaped into rough, rectangular loaves that are placed on bran-strewn pieces of parchment paper for their final rise.  The risen loaves go onto stone in a preheated oven, with steam.  The initial temperature is 450 F, which is dropped to 400 F for the second part of the bake.  Oven-spring was good.  The crust color is a deep brown, but not the near-black color promised in the formula.


The finished bread looks like this:


Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread


The crust is thin and crackly, although I expect it will soften because of the internal moisture.  The flavor is very good; closer to that of a yeasted bread than to a sourdough but with some complexity that isn't usually present in a straight dough.  There doesn't seem to be the bitterness that sometimes shows up in whole wheat breads.  The crumb is moderately open, though nothing like the big holes of a ciabatta.  That's not bad, since this will be used primarily for sandwiches.  The breads are relatively light in weight for their size, another indicator of an open crumb.  I'll have to get a crumb shot, later.


I will definitely make this again, although I may experiment with leaving out the yeast.  That should swing the flavor profile in a whole 'nother direction.  Before getting to that, though, I have my eye on a couple of different rye recipes from Local Breads.


Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

My wife has been an instructor in some women's groups recently that have had, as one component, some instruction in cooking.  She was a bit surprised to find just how much interest there was among the women who attended these sessions in learning more about cooking.  For some, it was an opportunity to expand their repertoire with new recipes or techniques.  For others, it was a chance to learn basic skills that they had not been taught previously.  


Based on those experiences, she has begun a series of classes in our home that will cover a range of topics; including meal planning, cooking and baking.  The first class met yesterday and I found myself instructing three students on the finer points of how to make a honey whole-wheat bread.  (My work schedule gives me every other Friday off.)  It's an old pattern; she has an idea and I have work.  ;-)  


We kept everything low key.  I had baked a loaf yesterday morning prior to class so that they could see and taste the finished product.  They got to see the differences in measuring by volume and measuring by weight, and were more than a little surprised to see that their normal measuring methods produced some significantly different quantities of flour, on a weight basis.  We allowed the whole wheat flour a short soak (not a true autolyse) and explained how that would affect the texture of the dough and the finished bread, as well as the amount of kneading that would be required.  We also covered the basic differences between enriched, straight doughs (yesterday's subject) and lean and delayed-fermentation doughs.  Although we weren't focusing on sourdough yesterday, I showed them my starter and explained some of the differences between naturally-yeasted and commercially-yeasted breads.  While their dough was rising, we sampled the finished bread that I had baked.  My wife also demonstrated some spreads and toppings that they could easily make, and provided those recipes.  By the time we were done, each student had mixed, kneaded and shaped their own loaf of bread, which they took  home to bake.  Although I stressed the importance of allowing the bread to cool to room temperature, one already e-mailed back to say that her loaf disappeared that same afternoon.  However, she is planning to make more!  


There's already talk about future classes for cinnamon rolls, pretzels, bagels, and sourdough.  We'll have to see how all of that plays out.  The good thing is that there are now more converts to baking their own bread at home.  And, yes, I pointed them to The Fresh Loaf as an excellent resource for additional information and help.


Paul

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