The Fresh Loaf

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I promised Varda that I would practice brioche a tète (just doing my bit to make sure the terrorists lose…) and my word is my bond. Sometimes it takes years to get your money but that’s how bonds are.

Anyway, my last batch was pretty enough to do a write up and take some pictures (still not my thing).

Since I can’t both shape and take a picture, you should refer to Varda’s blog (someday I'll figure out how to paste a link..) on the topic of brioche to see photos of me shaping. The basics don’t change, but there are things the pictures don’t show. And so, a list:

  1. First, it takes a lot of tin for just a small amount of dough. My tins are 4” wide at the top, 2.25” at the bottom, and 1.5” high with 10 flutes. This will accommodate 3 oz. of dough – or slightly less – not slightly more. After bad experiences with non-stick tins, I prefer the classic metal ones. We live in the golden age of pan release. Since I have gone with real tin tins, I’ve had no sticking, even when the egg wash drips.

  2. Pre shape round and allow a good amount of time for the pre shapes to chill.

  3. For the final shaping, first shape round. You want this to be as perfect as possible, so use a good amount of pressure as you shape the round. And heed the good advice to “flour your hands, not the bench” for this stage. You want the round to stick just a little to the bench to make it good and tight, but not to your hands which will create flaws in the surface. You can remove any stickage with a bench scraper as you move the ball to its next position. I will reiterate, you want that little ball to be as perfect as possible. Any flaws in it will be flaws in your brioche. I keep an area of the bench flour free for this this step, because things will change in the next.

  4. A lot of us don’t like to (or need to) use a lot of flour on the bench. This changes a bit with brioche. Once it has been rolled into a tight ball, you will want to work on a floured surface as you dip the side of your hand into a puddle of flour and use it to roll the top third of the ball into a “bowling pin” or as I prefer to call it, a “Schmoo” (from Li’l Abner – just how old am I?). Do not be afraid to flour the bench under the dough while you are doing this. You can easily brush off any excess and a little flour on the “neck” will not do harm.

  5. Now, the going gets harder. You want to flour both of your index fingers and set the Schmoo into the tin with its head centered and as straight as possible. Use your index fingers to lightly pull the body dough away from the head so that the head is centered as perfectly as possible. This is a preliminary step. You will be finishing up the head in the next step, so do this lightly, but firmly.

  6. Last comes “the move.” Using your non dominant hand’s thumb, pull the head back and away from the body (and don’t decapitate the thing, but really pull it back.) Using you dominant hand’s well-floured index finger, thrust your finger between the body and the pulled back head firmly – and all the way to the bottom of the tin. You want to make a very clean division between the two parts of the brioche. Give the tin a small turn and repeat. Do not fear the flour! Continue this operation until you see this clear separation all the way around. This is what will give you the nice heads on the brioche, so spend a little time on this.

  7. Egg wash is two eggs, plus one yolk, a dash of salt, and a little bit of water. Beat thoroughly and then strain (if you are fussy.) I have learned how to treat the yolk so that the membrane that can make mixing hard is left in my hand - but the process is a secret...

  8. Proof thoroughly. I can’t overestimate the importance of this. We all love our oven spring on lean loaves (and some enriched loaves) but it is not our friend here. Fully proof the brioche. This last batch was something over three hours in proof. Then egg wash. Twice. Bake.

That’s it. Here are the pictures…


I’d like to say bad things about these, but I really can’t – they are pretty nice.

Have fun!


proth5's picture

It has been my great good fortune to have interacted with a number of extraordinary individuals – some of whom have become my teachers (some in the area of baking). It has also been my great good fortune to have been able to bake in various kitchens and bakeries throughout my baking life to date.

(I feel compelled to say here that one of these extraordinary teachers – in an area far removed from baking – would remind me that it was not so much good fortune, but that I sought out these opportunities, managed priorities in my life, and was willing to work hard so that I should be able to pursue them. However, I do feel fortunate and am grateful that both chance and will have allowed me the experiences I have had.)

So last week I headed to the great northeast – where driving seems to be some kind of competitive sport – to bake.

Of course, as the blog title suggests, everything was different: the work surface, the doughs, the mixers, and the shaping methods. No friendly wooden surface with its unique combination of being non-stick yet slightly “grippy”, rather stone with its qualities of cold and absolute smoothness. Every shape (and pre shape for that matter) was made in a way that I had never done it and although the mixers were familiar to me, most of the work would have been faster and easier in my beloved spiral. Although I will often say my oven has no “soul”, the wind tunnel of an oven we baked in was never meant for hearth breads and each batch pulled from that heartless thing is a triumph of skill and persistence over the machine.

In short, everything I knew was wrong, but for me this was far from the first time this has happened (and while I will not tell the story, it recently happened in a particularly spectacular way) and I have learned in such situations that it is best to be humble, empty oneself, and learn as though for the first time. 

What I have found is that when the vessel is emptied, not only does it make room for the new, but actually grows in capacity. Certainty is replaced with curiosity and for the curious, the days fill with wonder.

This may be applicable to many things, but when making breads to another person’s specifications (for I was there to learn more than to teach and we all should control the bread that comes from our own kitchen), it is essential. And although Varda did some amount of fussing at many of my loaves, I did my best to use her methods and most loaves came out looking pretty much like hers.


My braiding (and I’ll contend that the braid she was using is supposed to come out like that – but it was her bread, not mine) was naturally much more linear than hers, I contented myself with dividing and pre shaping. I could have learned her twist on the method, but there was no sense in my slowing down the process.

Varda puts a special finish on the ends of her baguettes which I could do, but, as it turns out, in my own specific style. It wasn’t enough of a difference to make the baguettes not acceptable, but it was a difference caused by my hands and how I approach rolling dough on the bench and was enough to identify my loaves.

It was the baguette shaping that caused me to think of the nature of this craft (for it is a craft) of bread baking.

Once I heard one of my extraordinary teachers discuss why he had chosen the equipment he had for his well-equipped (and well-funded) bakery. He had purchased a large, state of the art hydraulic divider (much better than the old mechanical dividers) but had declined to purchase machines to do shaping and pre shaping even though these fast and effective machines might produce more consistent loaves. His rationale was that dividing was a solitary and mechanical process (although skill comes into play in cutting the dough into nearly the correct weight before putting it on the scale) no matter how it is done. But he looked at the bakers who were pre shaping and shaping and they were clustered around the bench talking and laughing. Shaping equipment would reduce this group to solitary individuals feeding machines. His first consideration was to create a good life for the bakers in his employ. Most hobby bakers bake alone (and I am certainly one of them most of the time), but as Varda and I stood in the same kitchen chatting about various things we were doing, I began to regain a better sense of the community of bakers, and not in that somewhat over sharing and yet impersonal realm of the on-line community, but in the world where a hand can reach over and feel the dough, correct the mistake right away, or laugh together when, once again, one of the bakers (well, me..) talks to the bread.

The second consideration was that in his bakery, although consistency was important, retaining the subtle differences in loaves made with hands and skill was just as important. Baking is a hand craft, and consistency is not uniformity. While the risk is always that with hands there can be bad days, with machines there can never be exceptional ones. Bread is being made, but it is the baker, the baker, who is always central.

There are those who contend that our understanding of symbols (for what are words but symbols - pale representations of vibrant realities) may never change but I am not in their number. So as my understanding of the word “artisan” develops, I will say that while I washed what seemed to be an endless stream of the bowls and containers created by the baking process I found myself thinking about being both central and humble.

I did teach Varda a way more efficient pre shape, but will I be changing my methods? Not in my kitchen, not for my breads. No. I am very fast with my shaping, my breads carry my signature, and I am content with that. But I have been changed, and we can all hope for the better, by the experience of doing things someone else’s way yet again.  I am even more convinced (after closer reading of the Colorado Cottage Laws has informed me that I can sell  - with many restrictions – foods made at home) that baking hearth breads in a greater volume is more work (and investment) than I want to take on, although other baked goods and confections seem distinctly possible. I will be happy to return to a wooden work surface, but will miss the good company.

And I have adopted a new motto: “Bake wonderful brioche or the terrorists win!”

proth5's picture

…triticale croissants.

Who didn’t see this coming? Hands? Ah, well.

Triticale is my baking nemesis, my bête noir, and unfortunately my favorite grain. A cross between wheat and rye, it is very high in protein, but its gluten is of low quality. If you have ever heard a discussion about milling, you will hear that the protein content of wheat is higher as you get to the outside of the endosperm, but higher in ash and lower in quality. What does this really mean?

Well, if you’ve worked with triticale as much as I have, you know. In a 100% triticale mix, you will get some gluten formation (not like what you’d get in wheat) but it will not endure prolonged mixing (it will break down shortly after you think “It’s still pretty weak, I should mix a bit more.”) and certainly will not support lengthy fermentations and proofing. That is lower quality gluten.

But what I have found that if you use triticale at no more than 30 or 40% of the total flour in combination with a higher protein wheat flour, you can essentially treat the dough like a wheat dough. Anything more than that and you are working with something even more fragile than soft wheat.

The thing is triticale is delicious. And it was mentioned in Star Trek (the original series and DS9). So I keep baking with it.

Since I’m having fun with whole grain vienoisseries, I went for triticale croissants. I used the formula for hand mixed, hand laminated croissants from Advanced Bread and Pastry, and used freshly ground triticale for 30% of the total flour and a liquid levain of the wheat flour rather than the poolish.

The first time I tried this (well there’s a sure and certain indicator that perhaps success was not the result) I used my standard practice of putting the shaped croissants in the refrigerator for six hours or so, and then proofing and baking them. This proved too much for the delicate gluten, which puffed up nicely in the oven but gave out before the thing was fully baked. Delicious, but somewhat flat.

This time, I proofed and baked immediately after shaping. Got some nice shoulders and the lamination isn’t all bad, either. Here you go:

Triticale Croissants

They really are extra delicious and, of course have all the crispy qualities of their wheaty cousins. I know they are extra delicious because I can’t resist the smell and must eat them – with most white flour croissants, I can send them off to my fans without even a taste. Triticale is used primarily for animal feed. Yeah, those cows get all the good stuff…

Until the next cold front - Happy Laminating!

proth5's picture

I find that spring cold fronts are very inspirational for my baking projects. One just blew in to the Front Range causing a rare full rainy day and another day of almost cold weather. So, since I was stuck at home waiting for various repair people, I thought of my long ago vow to try to make whole wheat croissants.

I decided to use the formula from “Advanced Bread and Pastry” (AB&P) for hand mixed croissants with poolish with the following modifications:

  1. All of the final dough flour would be freshly ground white wheat flour,

  2. I would make a liquid levain instead of a poolish,

  3. I would add one egg yolk – and in a fit of laziness, I just put the yolk into the water container after zeroing the scale and added water to the original formula weight

  4. I did the mix in the spiral, 0:03 on first and 0:09 on second, and

  5. I would use 12 ounces of roll in butter.

Easy. So, not technically 100% whole wheat, but my thought process was that I didn’t want to risk any over ripening and subsequent gluten degradation in the pre ferment.

The inspiration for the egg yolk came from the AB&P formula for whole wheat croissants which contains a very much lower percentage of whole wheat than my version.

Inserted into this adventure was an altercation with my camera – its battery fully charged – when my computer failed to “load the driver.” Cosmic payback for me not taking it on vacation? Ever. Probably. But I muscled my way past the problem. And here are the pictures.

Here’s the cream of the crop:

Here are some nice shoulders and the little faux Danish thing I make with the scraps. For those of you who don’t make croissants, there can be a lot of scrap. I take this and patch it into strips, egg wash, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and twist and curl the things up into something like snail Danish. If I could sell stuff, I couldn’t sell these, but they make nice samples.

The whole wheat version did not generate as much oven spring as the white flour versions, but that’s pretty fair lamination if I do say so myself. They were fully proofed (5 hours at room temperature.)

The whole wheat does affect the taste but they are very delicate and did have the “when I bite into it little shards of crust fly everywhere” quality of their white flour cousins.

The dough handled well, and if anything was a little easier on the final roll out than the white flour version, but it did have a good amount of resistance. If I do this again, I would mix the dough just a tad longer and see if that made a difference.

On the formula formatting side of my life – this stuff is harder than it looks. Not so much on the mathematics side, but what do you do when you get a formula when the baker has omitted, well, just about all the information you need?  You do your best and then you ask, that’s what. But as a training exercise one needs to document every little assumption. This takes me back to my “fixed bid project statement of work” days. Bad, BAD flashback!

Well, this little marmot has popped up for too long…

Happy Baking!

proth5's picture

This is a somewhat off topic blog post, but I promised Janetcook that I'd send some pictures of the vast, bustling proth5 estate which has undergone the usual spring transition since she last saw it.

My retirement is going well. I have traveled more than I really wanted to but have managed to spend considerable time at the location that is the most exotic to me in all the world - my own crumbled abode.

We all know that photography is not my thing, so I hauled out my trusty camera only to have it complain that the battery needed charging. Who knew that the thing had a battery or that one needed to charge it? I had heard that phones had cameras in them, so I looked at mine and to my amazement, my phone is also a camera!

So, here are some shots of the yards. It seems like I have spent May being a full time groundskeeper and I think it is paying off.

Front yard 1

(I am particularly proud of that arbor - which I assembled all by myself. Teak. Very heavy.)

This view proves I live in the city...

And the back yard from my lounge chair (fish not visible)

Yep - that tall green stuff in the upper right is bamboo. It is winter hardy, but will die back to the roots. It has just begun to regenerate. About a week ago. That is about a week's growth. It gets really lush by July.

On the baking front (and yes, I am baking/milling, but not blogging...), I have volunteered to be on the BBGA formula formatting team. I hope I can get through the training materials, although four years in engineering school and a decade or so of testing complex software might just give me the required skills. This will be a good outlet for my sometimes(hah! "sometimes"!) perfectionistic nature.

Have a good summer and

Happy Baking!


proth5's picture

Now there’s a string of words that usually don’t go together.

For old timers who thought I might have gone the way of Bill Wraith – no, I didn’t just disappear. At the end of December 2013, I officially hung up (sort of) the consultant/road warrior gloves and went into my long planned retirement.

I have been deliberately avoiding spending time on the internet to make sure that I am not mistaking posting on the internet for accomplishing anything in the real world and in spite of all of my friends skepticism, I really did take three months to rest. I am told my definition of “resting” is different than most people, but I do feel rested.

A visit from a fellow baker who works in all whole grains got me to thinking about whole wheat brioche. So I milled up some whole wheat flour and made up some brioche. I wanted to pinch their little cheeks they were so cute, so I thought I would share.

Leisure time has not caused me to become more interested in either food styling or photography. Maybe in time.

The mill used was a Fidibus as I did some paid work the last two weeks of March and the cosmos still owes me some “rest” time. I did a single milling pass on the finest setting.

The formula (and if you are contemplating these, you are an experienced enough baker to use Baker’s Percent so that’s what you are getting) (Oh, and if you are a new baker, I will stop to emphasize that nothing will enhance your understanding of the process more than properly learning Baker’s Math, so I encourage  you to learn the method.):

White Wheat Flour (freshly ground)        50%

Red Wheat Flour (freshly ground)            50%

Salt                                                                          2%

Sugar                                                                     18%

Yeast                                                                     1.5%

Water                                                                   10%

Eggs                                                                       60%

Butter (cold, pliable)                                       50%


Method               (now here’s the tricky part)

All ingredients should be scaled and chilled for at least eight hours. The butter will be removed from the refrigerator immediately before it is mixed and made pliable by “tapping” (whacking?) it with a rolling pin (or a steel pipe or other non breakable piece of equipment).

Mix all the ingredients except the butter on 1st speed in a 2 speed spiral mixer for 6 minutes, and on second speed for 25 minutes (yes) to a strong window pane.

Break the cold, pliable butter into pieces and mix it in using second speed (about 5 minutes) until the dough is soft and the butter is well incorporated.

Refrigerate overnight.

Divide, pre shape round, rest (in the refrigerator), and shape.  I made two sizes – the larger being 3.5 oz which I think is about 100 gms. Always use the weight appropriate for your tins.

Proof for 2 hours at 78F.

How do they taste? Well, they will never taste like the white flour version, but they are buttery, nutty, and pretty tasty.

I will say that I think that the Fidibus leaves the flour a bit too gritty for me and I need to get the Diamant back in production and re mill the bran a bit finer.

For those of you who do not experience nearly daily the joy of mixing with a two speed spiral, this formula will be tricky. The very, very long mix at second speed will generate a lot of heat in most mixers and you may want to chill dough a bit before adding the butter. I may try this formula in an Assistent (or whatever they are currently calling the thing – geez, it’s like a witness protection program for mixers)  and will amend this blog if I do.

Have fun!       


proth5's picture

when I was happy with my croissants.  It really hasn't happened ("Give it to Mikey, he hates everything") but this week they were nice enough that I wanted to pinch their chubby little cheeks.

I'm still sheeterless, so these are hand lamination.  Not bad.  Not happy making, but not bad.

The pictures:


Well, if you all don't see the flaws - I do.  Must. Do. Better. (But they are pretty cute - and I'm learning how to hold a camera)

Formula from "Advanced Bread and Pastry", Suas - the hand mixed and laminated croissants.  I use 12 oz of roll in butter and a liquid levain instead of the poolish.

Oh, and LindyD - the brioche molds I use have 10 flutes and measure 4in across the widest part.  Hope this helps.

Gotta catch a plane (I'm getting out my really big net for that...)


proth5's picture

Well just because I haven’t been blogging doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking.

There’s just been a lot of “stuff” happening in my life and I haven’t had the energy (or time) to pretend I care about photography at all – and I know that’s what everyone wants – the pictures.  But with winter fast approaching, I’ve got a little relief from the yard work – and a little more time.

I’ve been working hard on my croissants and if I’m ever happy with them, I’ll let you all know.

I’ve also been working on pretzels and there are times when I can actually hear “My Teacher’s” voice telling me that I am fired.

So today I gave myself a break from croissants and decided to make some brioche treats.  And also pretzels. I’m going to make those danged things until I get them right.

At one point I looked over at my cooling racks and thought to myself, “Gee, they are kind of pretty all bunched up together like that.”  And I decided they were worth a couple of pictures.

Once I located my camera and had a few tough moments remembering how to use it, the pictures were taken.

Although I could give a blow by blow account of the many, many flaws in these products - I'll chill on that for today.  But I know and I know where I need to improve.

Below is the assortment: a brioche sticky bun, a brioche a tete, a couple of pretzels, and two laminated brioche – uh – things.


And below the crumb shot for the laminated brioche.


I will not describe the taste of the laminated brioche, becasue that's just being mean.

The details:

Use your favorite brioche dough.

Sticky Buns

49 oz of dough for about a half sheet pans worth of sticky buns

Bottom of pan coated with cinnamon bun glaze from “Advanced Bread and Pastry” (Suas) (accept no substitutes – this is the best sticky bun mixture I have ever tasted…)

Cinnamon mixture fro above source.

385F oven with convection

Brioche a tete

3.5 ounces per piece – shape, etc…

Laminated Brioche

24 oz brioche dough

4 oz butter

Lock in then 3 single folds

Roll out to about ¼ in thick

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture

Roll up and cut into 12 pieces – put in large size muffin/cupcake tin

Proof – egg wash – sliced almonds on top

385F with convection



Base recipe is from “Advanced Bread and Pastry”

Leaf lard instead of butter

10% rye and 90% KA AP instead of bread flour

3.5 oz pieces.

Roll into long shapes with small “bellies” – making sure that the ends remain as bulbs. Do not taper the ends.  The ends must be bulbs.  Civilization itself depends on this.

Twist (yeah, I can twist them by twirling them in the air)

Place on parchment that has been sprayed with pan release.

Refrigerate covered overnight.

In the morning dip in 4% lye solution for 10 seconds or so.

Sprinkle salt on the lower part.


Bake at 450F

The lye dip is essential to the taste and appearance of the pretzel.  Takes me back to the land of my birth – which is in the Philadelphia area.  Frankly, it’s a bit nerve wracking at first, but the key is good mise en place and seriously, always wear chemical proof gloves and eye protection.  It gets easier the more you do it.


Well, that’s about all for me.  Gotta run!

proth5's picture

Well, just to prove that my mind can get a bit fuzzy after long hours and stressful situations, for the life of me, i thought the title of this was simply "Farmer's Bread" - but it wasn't.

Some people expressed interest in some formulas, I am posting here.  These do come from a German baker's manual (I had to fire up the German translation skills...and get some help...) and I did bake at least one of them (no pictures - I'm back to my old habit of no pictures.)

First the method:

Final Mix desired dough temperature - 82-84F (yep. no typo)

Bulk Ferment - 5-10 mins (Again, no typo)

Loaf size - 1150g (oh, the horror! I'm now using at least some metric!) Shape round proof in floured brotforms. Dock prior to baking which is not poking holes in it with a fork - it is using a dough docker or other blunt instrument to make dents in the surface of the dough.)


Mix time:

Spiral Mixer 1-2mins

Planetary mixer - 6 mins

Diving arm mixer - 10 mins (if you have such a thing, I'm looking at you, Phil!)

(First speeds all)

Final proof

Temp 86-95F

Humidity - 70-75%

Time - 50 - 60 minutes


Bake with normal steam (Pre steam, load, steam, vent after 2 mins)

Temperature - start at 536 F (might have to just be 500F for most home ovens) let fall slowly to 410F

Time 60 mins.


I will give the formula for a 3 build and a 2 build formula

3 Build (Called Detmolder 3 phase)

Freshening Build

0.040 kg rye starter

0.080 kg Whole rye flour

0.120 l water

Ripening temperature: 77-79F

Ripening Time 5-6 hours

After ripening, remove 0.040kg to perpetuate the rye starter


2nd build

All of the freshening sour

1.000 kg whole rye flour

0.600 l water

Ripening Temperature - 75-80F

Ripening Time 15-25 hours

3rd build

All of the second build

2.700 kg Whole Rye

2.700 l water

Ripening temperature - 86F

Ripening time 3 hours

Final Dough

All of the sour

5.2200 kg Whole Rye flour

1.000 kg white flour (The German manual calls out T1050 - but use any white flout that is suitable for bread)

0.080 kg fresh yeast (optional)

0.180 kg Salt

3.589 l water



Two stage rye (called Detmolder two stage)

First Sour

0.100 kg rye starter

1.600 kg Whole Rye

0.800 l water

Ripening Temperature - 75-80F

Ripening time - 15-24 hours (remove 0.100 of the sour to perpertuate the starter)


Second sour

All of the first sour

2.400 kg Whole rye

2.400 l water

Ripening temperature 84-87F

Ripening time 3 hours


Final Dough

All of the sour

5.000 kg whole rye flour

1.000 kg white flour (again T1050 is called out, but use any white (wheat flour) good for bread making)

0.130 kg fresh yeast (and you probably should add the yeast on this bread)

0.180 kg salt

3.800 l water


So, the quantities are pretty large - use your calculator or your spreadsheets to reduse sizes to something more suitable.

And there you are. I'm posting this with a sincere belief that I have violated no copyrights, but if I have done, I'll be told soon enough.  I'm not a big rye bread baker or eater, although this formula is begining to change my mind. Turns out, the carroway so many people are fond of in rye causes me shooting headaches - so this may be why I avoided rye.  This particular bread is lovely and quite tasty - although not exactly a fluffy sandwich loaf! It still is a bit like putty to handle, but wasn't as bad as I remembered the stuff to be (maybe the shooting headaches from the carroway...)

As for the video that the OP references that inspired this posting, I've got to say that I will never understand the urge that people have to make videos of themselves as a "how to" - without any assurance that they should be doing it. I always have a certain hesitance to put myself in front of folks as a teacher, becasue I think that I should at least be an expert - but the individual in the video - he didn't have those qualms.


proth5's picture

To quote my university hymn “Time like an ever rolling stream” (well, and it originally went on to say “bears all her sons away” which made the whole thing problematic once those of us with the double X were finally allowed to roam the Dear Old Place’s hallowed halls – but that is another story…) and it has been quite a while since I posted part one of this saga. (The rocks and bumps over which the stream has rolled is yet another story – suffice it to say, a long one.)

Whole wheat bread in a bread machine seems to be a popular topic and I have been working on a formula, so it seems like a good time do to a full write-up.

Consulting the leaflet that came with the bread machine, it seemed that every whole wheat variation came with the ingredient of “vital wheat gluten.” Of course, upon reading that I could hear The Voice in My Head scornfully saying, “Well, Pat, if you want to use vital wheat gluten…”

To which I could only hang my head and reply, “No, I don’t, Sensei. I’ll aspire to better.”

(Oh, no – now I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve said negative things about the ingredient vital wheat gluten. Well, let me assure my small reading public that “The Voice in My Head” comes from actual conversations with a very real, and, as I like to put it “well qualified” baker. I will not intone “You do what you want” as I have no power to compel or prevent anyone from doing anything.  But as for me, I will deal with qualities of the grain as I find it and use technique to overcome any hardships.)

Of course, the tools were at hand.  A good intensive mix would make a fluffy whole wheat loaf, but no setting on the machine would mix long enough to deliver this – and I have been coming to the point where I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of the bread machine (at least for the sandwich bread to feed “the house” – I’m still hand crafting a lot of other stuff to satisfy my public…)

The other obvious tool in my arsenal was – you guessed it – a pre ferment. But not just any pre ferment, a firm levain.

“Why?” you ask.  Well, a firm pre ferment will tend to add strength (due to the acids that develop in a pre ferment and the lesser amount of protease action because the pre ferment is relatively dry) and a sourdough based pre ferment will add more acids because of the nature of the leavening.

As we wind on in this saga of me inexplicably becoming intrigued with this appliance, I make an observation: discussions on these pages pushed me to try the same formula with a firm commercially yeasted pre ferment.  Although the bread was certainly edible, it did not have the same texture nor did it rise as high as the sourdough version. If I were baking by hand, I would have to wonder if I had unconsciously done something differently – but with the machine, the cycle marches on.  So even though I “kinda” knew that sourdough would result in a stronger dough, I’m a lot more convinced of it now.

Other than that, the only thing I needed to do was up the hydration a bit and jigger the sweeteners and butter.  No long, drawn out story.

I did, however, avail myself of the “Sourdough starter” cycle on my machine (a Zojirushi Virtuoso) to mix the pre ferment.  This could just as easily have been done by hand in a bowl, but for those who don’t want that inconvenience; it turns out to be a good option.  I didn’t want the fast rise that would be engendered by the “rise” cycle – nor did I want to stay up way past my bedtime to wait for the thing.  So, I cancelled the cycle after the mix and then (had it fit into my proofer – or if my night time kitchen temperatures were warm enough) I could just cover the pan and let it proof overnight.

So, without further ado, here we go with a formula and some pictures.

Since this is a bread machine post, I will present the formula two ways, in the Bread Baker’s Guild of America format and in “recipe list” format.  For those of you just beginning to practice your baker’s math this is a good opportunity to see how the “list” format easily translates into what can be a perplexing little grid.

Bread Machine 100% Whole wheat

Firm Levain Pre Ferment (40% of the total flour pre fermented)

Whole Wheat Flour                                         228 g

Water                                                                   173 g

Seed (taken from storage starter)             5g

Mix the above ingredient (by hand or using a bread machine mix only cycle). Cover and allow to rise overnight until mature (doubled) – 8-12 hours at 76F.

The next day (or when the Pre Ferment is mature) Load the pan of the bread machine in this order:

Water (40F)                                        277 g

Agave Nectar                                     40 g

Molasses                                             24 g

Firm Levain                                         all of it, broken up into roughly 2 T chunks distributed over the bottom of the pan

Dry Milk                                               9 g

Salt                                                         11 g

Butter (room temperature)        46 g

Whole Wheat flour                         342 g

Instant Yeast

 (in small well on top of flour)     3 g

Use “Whole Wheat” cycle on the bread machine and bake per instructions.

Is it a work of food art? Well, no.  But as I looked at it I thought “This is a nice, solid, bread.  Nothing wrong with it.” Not too shabby. No vital wheat gluten. Tastes good, too…


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