The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

proth5's blog

  • Pin It
proth5's picture
proth5

The couple of folks who actually read my posts may have noticed that I seem to be posting at crazy hours.


I've been working in the Ryukyu (or Okinawa) and although beginning to suffer from baking withdrawal have been absolutely blown away by the beautiful breads in the nearby department store.  Unfortunately, to a Western palate, many of these breads are tasteless - but they sure are beautiful.


I finally bribed a colleague who has both a camera and photography skills to take pictures.


 Here is a shot of a "simple" pain de mie that seems to have been laminated and twisted in some way to produce a wide open, fluffy crumb and a parquet style crust.  If anyone out  there knows precisely how this is done - I would love to know.


pain de mie


These pastries reminded me of my days at the Back Home Bakery (Was that even in this same lifetime?). That is if we had put our inner pastry chefs on steroids.


pastries


These sweet little pussy cat buns are almost too cute to eat.  You just want to pinch their little cheeks.pussy cat buns


These chocolate breads are an enriched bun only very lightly flavored with chocolate (again, beautiful, but not much flavor.)  The lighter flecks are sweet crispy peanutty things.


chocolate buns


That layer on top that looks like extra chocolately goodness is actually just an egg wash.


 There are many more, but we were becoming an embarrassment by acting like insane tourists.  I really wanted to ask if I could spend a week being free labor in the bakery, but my limited Japanese language skills stood in the way.  I tried my normal means of communication (pointing, smiling, and nodding...) to no avail.


I also had the chance to visit a store with a baking factory in the back.  Even on the street we could catch an unusually delicious buttery aroma.  The factory was dedicated to baking little boat shaped tarts filled with purple sweet potato filling.


This machine took a large chunk of pastry dough and measured it out into the tart molds, then tamped it down.


tamping machine


You can see the finished tart shells exiting the machine in the next picture.


tart shells


 


This one squirted in the sweet potato filling and it was a hoot to watch it make the little curlicues.


 squirter


 Then the pastries were baked and a machine delicately lifted them onto a conveyor where gossamer wheels straightened them on the belt in preparation for wrapping.  They are quite delicious and no baker required!




 


Of course, this isn't all I've done  - but I'm trying to stay "on topic."  I will just say that I haven't had a bad meal since I got here, and as I type I'm watching the tide go out on the East China Sea.


Happy Baking!

proth5's picture
proth5

 On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of "Good Eats" I've decide to get my "nerd on" and offer a detailed explanation for a small detail.


 From time to time I read discussions on couches and couche care on these pages and I encounter what I will call "folklore" about the fibers and  fabric care.


I will not wade too deeply into the various controversies, but I do have some small expertise on fibers and fabric care and would really like to share it for those who desire a more complete understanding of this fascinating topic.


 Let's start with linen.  Linen is a bast fiber (other common bast fibers are jute, hemp, and ramie) which means that it comes from the center stalk of a plant.  In the case of linen, it comes from the center stalk of the flax plant.  The fibers that are known as flax before they are spun and linen after they are spun are the long fibrous strands found between the outer "bark" and inner core of the flax plant.  Although the flax plant obligingly provides us with seeds for use in our baking as well as fiber, the culture is different between those plants destined mostly for fiber and those destined mostly for seed.  Plants to be grown for fiber are planted close together so that the plant will grow tall and straight with little branching and fewer flowers.  Plants grown for seed are planted further apart so that they will branch and produce more flowers.  Additionally, different varieties of flax are cultivated commercially for these purposes and to achieve these ends, so while it is a romantic notion to think that the very same plant gives us linen for our couche and seeds for our bread, it is a just a bit invalid here in the early days of the 21st century.


 Because it is a bast fiber, linen is extremely strong.  Also bast fibers do not have any crimp (like a lock of wool or a cotton fiber) and so will not shrink.


 Because of the expense of producing cotton (more later) and its limited growing range, linen was the most commonly used fiber in Europe until the end of the 18th century and continued to be widely used until the invention of the cotton gin.


Flax becomes linen in a multi step process.  After the plant has reached maturity, it is harvested - preferably by pulling it from the ground root and all to maximize the length of the fiber.  It is dried, the seed pods removed, and then retted.  Retting is a process where the flax is kept wet - either by submerging it in water or keeping it on a moist surface (like the dew on grass) until the outer layer partially decomposes exposing the fibers.  Once again it is dried.  The next step is breaking where the outer layer is further broken mechanically.  Scutching comes next - where a knife like device is used to further scrape the outer layer from the fibers.  At this point the fibers are mostly clean, but they are further cleaned and straightened by a process known as hackling.  A flax hackle looks something like a medieval torture device and is a board from which protrude number of sharp iron spikes.  The hackling process will produce long fibers that will be spun into fine linen and short yellow fibers called "tow."  When we look at a blonde child and call her a "tow head" we are comparing the color and texture of her hair to the color and texture of the tow produced by this process.  Tow can also be spun, but it will not be as smooth as fine linen.  After all this, the fibers are spun (after mounting them on a distaff) (oh, and they are usually spun wet to give the smoothest results) and become linen.  This can either be bleached (by the action of chemicals or the sun) or left natural.  Then it is woven and there is one more chance to bleach it. 


 After all it has gone through to become cloth; one really must ponder why we have come to think of this fiber as "delicate."  Yes, it can be finely spun to produce a very fine fabric, but this is a tough fiber indeed.


 I have planted and tended flax, processed it and spun it into linen.  This is one of the reasons why $9 per yard for couche linen does not cause me to flinch.  While I understand that people's economic situations and propensity to spend vary, I consider the number of steps to create that cloth and I can't begrudge anyone the money.


One characteristic of linen is that it absorbs and evaporates moisture quickly.  This makes it particularly suited for use as a couche, since in theory one of the functions of the couche is to pull moisture from the surface of the bread to prepare it for better scoring.  This also means that once a linen couche is used and has absorbed some moisture, it will dry more quickly and so prevent mold.


 New linen couche cloth needs to be washed to rid it of any chemicals used in finishing.  It will ravel somewhat, but well woven linen couche cloth will not ravel excessively.  It can be washed in hot water simply to get it as clean as possible.  There is no need to use hot water to shrink it (for, as mentioned before, it can not shrink).  Mild soap should be used for fine or antique linens, but for a couche as long as you feel good about it rinsing out of the cloth, the linen does just fine with any modern detergent (I routinely launder my linen aprons in regular detergent and they are holding up just fine...).  This being the one of the sturdiest fibers there is (consider that sails were made of linen) there is no need for a gentle cycle for couche cloth.  (Again, fine or antique linens are another diverting topic in and of themselves and are treated differently.)  Linen couche cloth can safely be dried in an automatic dryer.  (Actually, the dryer is the biggest enemy of linen (and cotton) - not because of the heat, but because the tumbling action will cause friction on the fabric and pull off parts of the fiber which we experience as dryer lint.  However, since the couche will not be washed often - have no fear.)  Fabric softeners (liquids or dryer sheets) should not be used as they impact the absorption qualities of the fiber (this also goes for cotton.)  (Won't get involved in the whole "toxic chemicals" debate.)  It might be slightly puckered after washing and drying (and again, this is wrinkling, not shrinkage) but since this is the one and only time you should be washing it, any raveled threads can be trimmed and the cloth is ready.  No need to hem or serge it.  If you wish to iron it, it should be ironed when quite damp.


 Linen contains a wax that when exposed to the heat of an iron will provide the fabric with a luster.  We hardly care about this in our couches, but when dealing with fine linen cloth it is best to iron it on both sides to maximize the luster.


 Cotton requires a warm climate and a long growing season to reach maturity.  When picked from the plant, the cotton contains about 2/3 seeds to 1/3 fiber.  Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, these seeds needed to be picked out by hand or by putting each cotton tuft through a couple of rollers to squeeze out the seeds (either one a labor intensive process.)  When the cotton is dried after harvest, the fiber dries into a flat ribbon shape that corkscrews.  This is the crimp that will cause cotton to shrink.  It also gives cotton more elasticity than linen, so it is less prone to wrinkles.


 Because cotton fibers are relatively short (different varieties of cotton have different fiber lengths, but they are all considered short in relation to wool - and of course linen where the fibers may be 2-3 feet in length), they require a great deal of twist when spinning.  Although cotton is easy to spin, putting in a lot of twist causes spinning to be relatively slow.  In an environment of hand spinning or limited mechanical spinning, cotton is a luxury fiber.  Most folks who live in the US are familiar with the role that the cotton gin played in the American South and how ensuing events lead to conflict.


 I have also planted, grown, harvested, cleaned, and spun my own cotton.  It seems like it should be less effort than processing flax, but harvesting is kind of grueling (yes, the cotton pods are sharp!), and picking out the seeds - although simple - is pretty time consuming.  Also, I could grow flax in Colorado and not cotton.  And I like it here...  In fact, it is this limited growing range that created an important cotton trade.  Flax, on the other hand, was readily grown in many climates and never reached this kind of economic importance.


 Cotton does not have the wicking power of linen so will take longer to dry and "in theory" will not perform as well as linen to pull moisture from dough.  I won't weigh in on the cotton vs. linen couche decision except to say that I like the feel of linen as opposed to cotton.  I like touching it and I try to use it when I can.  (A linen bath towel dries like nothing else, by the way.)  Obsessive perfectionists might want to blow the money to get the absolute perfect fabric for the application (and it is.)  If we look backwards to "the old ways" - especially old European ways - linen would be the fabric of choice as cotton would have been too rare and expensive.  But cotton is just fine.


 Once again, a well woven cotton couche will ravel when washed (and it should be washed to remove finishing chemicals), but not so much as to be a problem.  Since this should be the one and only time the couche is washed, these threads can be trimmed and will not be a problem again.  No need to hem, serge, etc. unless even the smallest amount of raveling (in the past) is something you simply cannot tolerate.  Similarly, since the couche will not be washed again, washing it in hot water will cause it to shrink a bit, but there is really no need to shrink it.  Most cotton that is commercially available has already gone through enough processing so that any major shrinkage has already occurred.


 No matter what fabric you use, the couche should be dry before storage, or stored in such a way that it will dry quickly in storage.  Those of us in dry climates can be a bit careless, while those in humid climates might wish to find a spot to hang couches until they are dry.  Folding any fabric will result - over time - in permanent creases and will eventually cause weak spots in the fabric along those crease lines.  "Over time" is sort of a relative thing.  For a couche which we might be using for ten or twenty years and will not be passed down to the children and grandchildren, this should not be a concern.  Creases will develop, but they will not substantially reduce the functionality of the couche.  For treasured quilts or tablecloths, many experts recommend that they be rolled, or if that is not practical that folds be padded with acid free tissue paper and that periodically they be re folded in a different way.  Personally I can roll my couche and so I do.


 Yes, it's a long winded post with no pictures and I realize that it will fade away as more blogs are created, but I've really done my homework on this and attempted to present facts as opposed to folklore.  Hope it is useful and dispels some myths.

proth5's picture
proth5

 Or: My Adventures at the Back Home Bakery.


 They all told me I was too old to start in any kind of professional baking.  "My teacher" said it.  Even the organizers of La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie tell me I am too old to be eligible to compete (Oh, and I don't bake that well...)


 They were right.


 And I say this not in the spirit of complaining that Mark is a maniacal slave driver (although I did hand many customers at the Tuesday farmer's market small pieces of paper on which I had printed "Help me!") but rather to drive home how physically demanding this baking business can be.  I knew it in my head.  Now I know it in every aching part of my body.


 For those of us who work in offices spending many hours hunched over a computer, the first shock is the standing.  In my home kitchen, I can pull up a chair and rest while stirring the jam (for example.) In the world of professional baking, one stands.  I am told by a friend who went from information systems work to working retail (a story for which the world is not yet prepared) that in a month or so, standing becomes easier.  But what a month it would be!  I was barely able to hobble up and down stairs at the end of a day and I was sure that my feet were some kind of malevolent entity determined to make me suffer as payback.


 The hours, of course, are grueling.  Getting to work at 3AM is cake, but continuing to work until 6PM kind of takes it out of a person - at least us old folks.  Mark essentially works the hours of two people.  He tells me that he soon will be able to slack off a bit. But he does this for months at a time.  He previously worked construction.  He is a fit, strong sort of guy used to hard physical work.  The transition from "paper" work to physical work is quite a large one.  As we lose our regenerative powers, this transition becomes more and more difficult.  I won't say it can't be done - but it would take considerable effort for a "more mature" individual,


 One thing in particular was striking for me.  I have some problems with my right hand that are the result of injuries long in the past.  In my typical life - which does include some heavy-duty home baking/cooking and gardening - this is a minor inconvenience.  As the days passed at the Back Home Bakery, this little problem became a big one.  Mark may or may not have noticed, but I did mixing, shaping, egg washing, and was his faithful prep monkey with a right hand in such pain that it hurt to lift a fork.  I am sure that he may have thought that I had some unnatural compulsion to wash dishes (without gloves) but the real reason I was so quick to head to the sink was that the jet of hot water on my right hand was the only thing that reduced the pain enough to enable me to go on to the next task.  If I were to bake at these volumes week after week, I would have to have the hand thing "taken care of" - with the expense and bother that would involve - if it were even possible.  Winners play with pain, but a few years of that could be quite wearing.  Anyone who is seriously considering running that small bakery at an age where little aches and pains are tolerated as "just getting old" needs to seriously consider what the strain of daily, repetitive, hard work would do.


 I also found out how humbling it is for those of us who work with complex systems in our current profession to realize we can make a mistake weighing out water.  "How hard can it be?"  It can be hard - and left unnoticed the consequences could be dire.


 Not to say that the time spent was unpleasant.  While Mark may come off as a relentless, pitiless, heartless, cyborg who never sleeps and has no consideration for the well being of his interns - he is only doing what needs to be done to make his business viable. He is willing to put in stupendous effort (and so is his capable helpmate...) to make the vision he has for his life a reality.  In a sense, many of us have been willing to do this, but for many of us it is in the past and not the future.  I've reinvented myself at least twice in this way.  I know I will have to reinvent myself one more time.  What remains is the question of my willingness and ability to put in this type of effort again and what form that reinvention will take.  Further, to wax even more abstract, the incredible demands we put on the people who provide the most basic necessities of life are really something to think about when we grouse about the cost of food.


 All in all, I got the kind of practice that I wanted and needed. I shaped and scored more bread in a week than I would have in many months and that matters.  I learned a technique to form boules that is so good, that I will defy "my teacher" and even use it in his/her presence.  I learned that obsessive perfectionism is for home bakers - not pros (unless they intend to go into competition.) I finally mastered two fisted roll making.  I spent quality time with the sheeter (I do love me some sheeter.) I realized that I have the heart of a pastry chef and the starker realities of turning out "daily bread" are less appealing to me.  I learned that I get a kind of enduring satisfaction out of things like looking at the proofer - full at 6:30AM and thinking - "we really knocked that out today - got it done faster than yesterday" - or from simple things like beating Mark to the bakery in the morning (not an easy thing.) The Montana night sky must be seen to be appreciated.  Sharon (Mark's wife) is a lovely person who has much patience for all and deserves to be elevated to sainthood.  I learned to wrangle plastic wrap (yeah, you think it's simple...)


 Mark and Sharon learned never to give me coffee.  It may seem like a good idea, but it is not.


 Would I recommend it?  To vigorous, healthy folk of any age who want to deal in the reality of a small artisan bakery - yes.  Folk like me - at your own peril.


 But, I got through the week and I think I could have at least gotten through another.  Yes, I could have pushed myself more on my final Sunday to do some laminating, but at that point it would have been practicing a skill that I will not use again soon and to be frank I just would have slowed Mark down.  I sit (oh, lovely sitting!) here now in my somewhat cushier surroundings knowing full well that I like them - but do not need them. Baking aside, it's good to know that I own the things and they do not own me.


 Has it changed my thinking about working professionally?  Well, not really.  I've been messing about with various food disciplines for a long time and have some small skill in some of them.  I was never thinking about doing anything more than a "hobby business" after saving sufficient funds for retirement.  You know - have a hobby that pays for itself and maybe earns a little pin money.  I have been and still am searching for the right way to model this business.  My realization that pastry holds more appeal than pure bread baking is important, but not earth shattering.  I knew I would be taking a hit physically (not quite as much as I did during my internship) as I made the transition.  I have to give serious thought to the question of my right hand and what medical science may or may not be able to do for it.  I knew the economics of the food business would be harsh.  Fortunately, I still have a while to mull this over.


 I do have the shining memory of someone buying a bear claw, biting into it - smiling - and then handing pieces to his family.  "That," I said to Mark, "That, is why all us tech types want to be bakers."


 Thanks, Mark! Ya know we only abuse those that we deeply appreciate!  If I ever take leave of my senses again - I'll be back!

proth5's picture
proth5

I don't know if it is my enduring love of the classic Star Trek Episode (remember - the tribbles ate all the quadrotriticale) or longing for the wee great mountains and lochs of Scotland (one of my past "homes away from home") but lately I've been obsessed with triticale - the wheat/rye hybrid developed in Scotland.


 Now 90% of the time, I am all about the research - reading, questioning, and studying before I make a move.  Of course, there's that 10% of the time where I just jump in - and the triticale was definitely in the 10%.  And as our story unfolds, we can all see why I usually do research.


 I tempered the triticale and achieved a 13% moisture reading.  I then milled it as I would wheat to about 85% extraction.  It milled mostly like wheat - although to get good bran separation, I needed to mill finer than usual.  But I would have been able to easily mill a "near white" flour as I can with wheat.


 I then proceeded to mix up my usual high extraction formula (levain based, 12% of the flour pre-fermented, lean dough, 72% hydration) with the aim to "go by the numbers" and see how triticale would be different.


 First bump in the road - when I brought the dough together, I realized that I had a dough with the characteristics of high percentage rye dough.


 As I passed the time between my 20 "folds in the bowl" - I did what I should have done and looked up triticale.  It was first bred in the laboratory in 1875 by a Scottish biologist and now is mostly available as a second generation hybrid (2 types of triticale are crossed.)  It is an interesting grain in that it has the high yield of wheat with the range tolerance of rye.  This in itself is interesting as it has the potential to produce a useable grain outside the range of wheat.  It is supposed to combine the taste of wheat with the taste of rye, which might make it interesting for those bakers who like a little rye in most of their baked products.  There are some claims that it is incredibly "good for you" although I take those lightly.


 Of course, the downside is that the gluten content is low and it is considered less desirable for bread baking than wheat - but more so than rye.


 So with the dough in the bowl, I decided to treat it somewhat like a rye dough.  Fortunately the base was already a levain.  I continued to mix it 6 times with the "fold in the bowl" method (as I would for a whole wheat - but it never did get any significant gluten development) then shaped it and put it in a banneton moderately dusted with a rice flour/wheat flour blend.  I allowed it to proof for 1 hour 15 minutes and it did rise fairly nicely.  It did not seem particularly over proofed, but seemed fragile enough that I wanted to get it into the oven.  For the first time ever, I "cheated" (by my definition) by using parchment on the peel as I just felt that it would not survive the slightest roughness while loading.  After a feather soft landing on the peel - the dough flattened considerably.  No need to score, but I did lightly dock it.  I baked it in a receding oven starting at 500F with copious steam.


 The result?


 Well, I wouldn't call it good (I gotta be me...), but I wouldn't call it bad.  It had a wonderful wheaty aroma while baking and did have a small amount of oven spring, but I was expecting a rock.


 See below - It was really, really flat.  I put an egg cup in the shot to give an idea of how flat it was.


Triticale Loaf


 


The crumb, however, although very fine was fairly light.  It was not really heavy. (See below.)


Triticale Crumb


 


The taste was actually quite nice - like red whole wheat with just a hint of rye.  Just enough to add complexity, but not to overwhelm the wheat. I probably should have let it settle for a day - but given that this was not destined to be a truly fine bread - I felt it didn't matter.


 Now this isn't a question of "what went wrong with my bread?"  I know what went wrong.  I went off the deep end and used a grain that wasn't going to give me the best results.  But it didn't give me horrible results and the taste was quite nice.


 The question is really - how do we take this somewhat marginal grain and make a much better bread?


 My thoughts are as follows:



  • Add wheat flour - this is the obvious one and one that I'd like to avoid for now.

  • Bake it as enriched pan bread - I should not have so much trouble with collapse and spreading.

  • Use commercial yeast to supplement the levain.  The oven spring with a levain is always somewhat less than with commercial yeast.  Oven spring may have made up a bit for the collapse.

  • Any suggestions?


 So I call upon the collective wisdom of the TFLer's to come up with suggestions...  I'll certainly be willing to try them if they seem reasonable. This seems like a grain that just hasn't had the right marketing campaign...


 Happy Baking!

proth5's picture
proth5

 Inspired by dmsnyder, I have been inching along on the challenge of making straight dough baguettes.


 I'm still getting over the fast action of commercial yeast, so I will try not to enthuse too much.


 This time I used my standard baguette formula (65% hydration) with 10% of my home milled high extraction flour and 90% King Arthur All Purpose.  Instant yeast was used at .5%.  I changed nothing else in the process - just the mix of flours


 I tried the trick of turning off the oven, but chickened out at two minutes.  The crust immediately out of the oven was very crackly, but did get softer as the baguettes cooled, but not nearly as much as the last batch.


 This time I was able to concentrate on my scoring.  The cooling baguettes are shown below.  I don't want to k'vel, but I think they look pretty nice. I love this oven spring with commercial yeast!  If anything they were a touch under proofed (gotta be me) but not by much.  Oh, OK, a little uneven on a couple of slashes and some tearing.


 Cooling Loaves


And here are the money shots.  The crumb.


 Crumb End


Crumb Tartine


Not bad.  So much depends on where the slice hits, but not bad.


 The taste? Again, lacking my little levain tang but pretty good.  I would say a tad better than all white.  The texture was fluffy.  I'm sure that toasted tomorrow they will be very nice.  Again, I would think this bread would be better in combination with "something else."  I feel that it has a sweetness to it that David didn't taste.


 Here are my observations on technique:



  • I add the salt at the beginning of the process.  I just don't think it makes a big difference and the voice in my head doesn't mock me about my irrational fear of salt.

  • Leaving the loaves in the oven for even two minutes had a significant effect on the "crackliness" of the crust.  Five minutes would be better.

  • I'd like to try these with even less yeast.  After 1 hour of bulk ferment these guys were definitely doubled.  If I pulled down the yeast a bit, the bulk ferment would take longer and I might get a better flavor (remembering that we want to get our loaves in the oven in 4-6 hours.)  My formula has about 1% less yeast than David's and this may have made a difference.  From past experience, I think it did.

  • I might (and I emphasize "might") up the hydration a bit.  The dough did feel a little stiff.  However I am standing firm that it is getting the fermentation correct, not just upping the hydration that creates the proper baguette crumb.  I only feel that the hydration should be increased ever so slightly to compensate for the whole wheat.

  • Folks who have watched me pre shape and shape dough remark on the quality of "the iron hand in the velvet glove" that I bring to my shaping (after years of practice).  I could be gentler I guess, but the voice in my head tells me that this is not the major factor (once you get to the "iron hand in velvet glove" phase - I mean if you are treating your baguettes like a stress relief ball, you need to back off) and I agree.  I think "gentle shaping" can be taken too far and this results in an unattractive end product.

  • I would make sure I concentrate on my scoring as this does have an impact.

  • I would steam normally.  The extra steam will probably just mess up the scoring.


Well, that's quite a binge of baguette baking.  I'm not prepared to give up my levains and pre ferments, but it's nice to know I can start a bread at noon and have it by dinner if I am pressed.


 David, I hope these observations are useful.

proth5's picture
proth5

 What is this?  Loaves made with commercial yeast, no pre-ferment, and all commercially ground flour?  I'm flashing back. 


 Must...use...only...iceberg...lettuce...in...the...salad.


 Can...not...find...love beads.


But I promised I would try this as part of the baguette surprise and challenge.  It was like riding a bike.  How fast those commercial yeasts do their little thing! (6 hours from scaling to bread and 2 of that was my slow mixing!)  How easy!


I made my standard baguette formula (65% hydration) adapted to commercial yeast.  I feel that my % of yeast - which was .5% - was a bit high, but looking at dmsynder's formula it seemed ok.


I did not use any whole wheat flour because I wanted to go "single factor" on this try - my sourdough baguettes vs. commercial yeast.


I've written up the technique and formula before and I followed it as only I can (like a maniac) - although I did have to adjust the timings for the bulk ferments (1 hour, fold, 1 hour) and proofing (40 minutes).  Shaping went "as usual" - I did not try to be especially light in my shaping although I have been told that I have a "light but firm" hand "naturally" (yeah, after years of practice...). I got a little distracted during the scoring, but steamed and baked as usual.


Oh my goodness!  The oven spring!  I remember when bread sprang quite like that!  This commercial yeast is the bee's knees! No wonder so many people use it!  Wow!


 Here' a picture of the cooling loaves where my haste in scoring is clearly evident.  But even so, the slashes opened well and have some nice grigne.  Alas, it seems that no yeast wild or commercial will improve my photography skills, though.


Cooling Loaves


 


I did NOT leave them in the turned off oven for 5 minutes, as again, I wanted to go all single factor on this.  When the loaves came out of the oven the crust was crackly and fragile.  I kept poking my fingers through it as I squeezed the loaves to test doneness and it came off in flakes.  As the loaves cooled, however, they lost the crackly quality somewhat.  I really think the slower cooling has some virtues and some role to play in that "crackly crust." (I also now think that excess steam is the culprit on cuts not opening...)


Here are a couple of crumb shots.  The crumb is not as open as my normal baguette, but it is not horrific.  The slashing flaws have a role to play there.


 Crumb End


Crumb


The bread had a "fluffy" feeling when I bit into it.  Very soft  and springy as compared to my normal levain baguette.


And the taste?  Well, bland.  Nice, sweet, wheaty, no hint of yeast, but bland.  This would make a lovely "carrier bread" as far as I am concerned - some really good butter and jam would go nicely and is almost required.  I'd gladly toast it up for a breakfast tartine.  Remember that I haven't eaten any breads not produced with wild yeast in at least three years now, so my perspective is somewhat skewed.  But so easy! This commercial yeast is the best things since - well, since sliced bread!


 (Seriously, you can see why bakers, pressed to get bread on the shelves for morning customers, embraced this marvelous yeast when it first appeared.  Taste?  Close enough.  People will eat it if that's all we sell and if we sell it warm, who will know?  For my personal baking I would never forgo the preferment - even using commercial yeast - because it is just so easy to do and can be done during non working hours.  But for speed from mixing to baked loaf after long centuries of baking with wild yeast, this must have been viewed with tremendous enthusiasm.)


At some point I will try the 10% whole wheat.  I mean, why not? The whole process is so fast...


David, I hope my experiences are helpful to you in some small way.


 Happy Baking!

proth5's picture
proth5

For the few and the brave...


 The time has arrived to bake the second batch of hand milled white flour.  This flour was the "pure white" flour that was milled on 27 Feb.  This has been aging in an uncovered container since then.


 Once again, I used my standard baguette recipe.  However after using the last of my last batch of white flour to make a pizza on Friday, I had some thoughts.  The last batch of flour performed very poorly for pizza.  Not that the crust wasn't crispy and tasty (because it was) but the rise had no oomph.  I considered that white flour is usually malted and that this lackadaisical rise bore all of the signs of a lack of alpha amylase action.


 So this batch of flour was malted.  I used a scant 1/8 teaspoon of diastatic malt to 15 oz of flour and blended it thoroughly.  I then proceeded to do my levain build for my baguettes.


 This time the levain was very comparable to that prepared with commercial flour.  If I was forced to find a difference, it would be that it was ever so slightly darker in color.


 The mixing of the dough went as I would have experienced with commercial flour.


 The bulk fermentation was also very much like what I have experienced with commercial flour, and, truth be told, it was a bit more lively than my last week's batch.


 During shaping, I felt no real difference this time; it felt like what I bake every week.


 After an hour for the final ferment, the loaves felt properly "proofed" which is what I would expect from commercial flour.  They were loaded, the oven steamed "as usual" and baked.


 The final result is pictured below.  Alas, the passing week has not improved my photography skills.


Hand Milled Crust


Hand Milled Crumb


 


Compared to last week's loaves these are much better balanced.  The sacrifice in grigne comes from a more thorough final ferment.  The more thorough fermentation process has produced that good old open crumb that I have come to expect from commercial flour.  It had the proper translucent quality and was not a bit gummy (as it would be if I over malted.)


 The taste?  Like I baked with commercial flour.  I like it, but it really isn't much different than what I bake every week.


 Would I mill this flour again?  Perhaps.  With a yield of 15 oz of flour from 2 pounds of wheat berries, one must regard this as a luxury flour.  The increment in taste - except for that sweet, sweet taste that comes from knowing that I can hand mill a flour that is every bit as good as a high quality commercial flour - is not really worth the effort.  The dramatic change in fermentation behavior must be attributed to the malting of the flour.  Remember it is less than .05 oz per 15 oz of flour - as we see; a little goes a long way.  What I may work at is developing a semi-white flour and make sure that I malt it properly.


 When I pick up a sack of all purpose flour, I handle it gently.  I have a deep appreciation for what this really means.


 Happy Milling!

proth5's picture
proth5

 For the few of you following this adventure in milling, I thought I would post the baked results.  I used my standard baguette formula which is posted elsewhere on this site, but briefly is all levain, 65% hydration with 15% of the flour pre-fermented with an inoculation rate of 25%.  This is a formula that I have been baking every week for years with fairly consistent results.  My standard baguettes are pictured elsewhere in my blog.


 The flour used for this bake was the first batch, milled on 25 February and has been aging in an uncovered plastic container since then.  It was about 70% extraction and contained very fine flecks of bran.  Since I could not get a Falling Number measurement on this flour, I did not attempt to correct the Falling Number by malting the flour.  Details on the milling process are posted in earlier blog entries.


 My first observation is that the levain build was somewhat different than that made at the same time with commercial flour.  I would have to say that it was more fluid than the commercial flour, and matured with larger bubbles.


 Although I was attempting to go strictly "by the numbers," after the autolyse phase the dough was very stiff and I added additional water.  The dough developed "pretty much like" my normal dough after that, and bulk fermented "about like you'd expect."  The color of the dough was distinctly more grey than normal, probably reflecting a higher ash content in the flour (since it did contain some bran.)


 After dividing, I shaped the dough as normal.  It was at this phase that it felt "different."  I would describe it as being just slightly less elastic than my normal dough.


The final ferment had a duration of one hour - which is the standard length for this formula's final ferment.  I felt that the dough was somewhat under "proofed" but wanted to try to keep the process as close to "by the numbers" as possible, so I went ahead to scoring and baking.


 The crumb was a bit tight - probably reflecting my skimping on the final ferment or the lack of malt - but not horribly so.  The taste is quite nice.  I'm not good at the "notes of grass" sort of language, but it tasted "more" than my normal loaf.  A bit more there there, as it were.  Again, it may not show well in the pictures, but the crumb color was a bit deeper than my normal loaf.


 The results are pictured below.  Despite all the good advice on these pages - photography continues to elude me, but I gave it my best shot (as it were.)


Hand Milled Baguette Crust


Hand Milled Baguette Crumb


 


 


Would I hand mill this flour again?  I might. It does not have nearly the taste impact of fresh milling a whole wheat or a near whole wheat flour, but it is a nice flour with nice baking results.  Next time I might add just a pinchlette of diastatic malt.


I will say that I normally dust my peel lightly with flour and this particular flour - being a bit more "sandy" than commercial flour makes a great flour for dusting the peel.


I ate a half baguette as I typed this up.  I usually have pretty good self control around my normal baguettes.  I'm guessing this one WAS pretty darn tasty.


Hope this is of some interest to those of you contemplating advanced home milling.  I still have my second batch of "pure white" flour to bake - hopefully next week.


Happy Milling!

proth5's picture
proth5

For those of you following baguette quests, a new "Best Baguette in Paris" has been named:  M. Frank Tombarel at his boulangerie Le Grenier de Felix, 64 Avenue Felix Faure (XVeme).


We have high hopes that Janedo can quickly make a trip there to learn his secrets.... :>)


Happy Baking!

proth5's picture
proth5

For the few and the brave following this march to insanity, I did a second milling of white flour today.


This time, I followed the same process as in the first milling run, but after removing about 20% of the bran weight, cranked the mill down to its finest setting and milled what remained.


I then sifted through my #100 sieve (0.06" openings) and got a tiny bit of pure white flour.  I returned what remained in the sieve to the mill and remilled it (at the same setting).  After six passes this way, small flecks of bran began to sift through and I stopped the process.


What did I get for this? Pure white flour.  Looking at it and feeling it, I am unable to tell it from my King Arthur All Purpose - which may be good, or not.


For this I paid a price.  I was only able to get 15 oz of flour from 2 pounds of wheat berries.  What was left behind was not all bran, but it was milled to a silky texture.  I believe the French term for this is remoullage.  And that's certainly what I did - I remilled it.


Again, we wait.  Despite folklore on "within 72 hours or then it must be aged" the explanation that I accept about flour aging seems not to support this practice.  If we are trying to get oxygen to bond with certain molecules in the flour, I don't know why they would get an exemption from this for 72 hours.  Be back in 4 weeks...


Anyone with suggestions on how I might change my process to get a higher yield is most welcome to comment.  After all - I'm just making this up as I go along.


Now I really must get to milling the high extraction flour for my bake this week.


Happy Milling!

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - proth5's blog