The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

R.Acosta's blog

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My first baguettes ever, from the formula for French Bread in BBA. Saved the big one for our family and sent the other two off with a big steaming pot of chicken and sausage stew to a friend who'd just had a baby. I was very pleased, except I would have liked a more open crumb and a thinner, crispier crust. Plus, I don't have a lame and apparently a bread knife just dents and drags the dough, so they weren't as pretty as I'd hoped. Nevertheless, they were a treat sliced up, slathered with butter, and dipped in some stewy goodness. Yes.

Au Revoir!


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I have been pretty terrible at getting a regular dose of my TFL (as you can tell by the 8 month gap between entries), but this has been an incredible transition in my life. About 6 months ago, back in Georgia, life was not going our way, what with unemployment and money issues closing in on us with no relief in sight. So we called up a priest that my husband had the good fortune of meeting and staying on his ranch some time ago. Why? We're not sure how we came to that conclusion. Just that one day we felt called to, so much so that it already felt set in stone before we even picked up the phone. I guess that's what people mean when they say that God told them to do something. You just feel compelled. Anyways...all we were hoping for, was that he might need some help with maintenance and we would do what we could for little to no overhead besides room and board. He immediately took us up on the proposition as the ranch was in a bad state and no one had been there for quite some time. And just like that, one phone call had us on the road one month later to start a new life some 4 states away.

And where would we be without our daily bread? So naturally, I bubble-wrapped the hell out of my starter and took him on the road with us. It has and still is a big transition. We're settling into our roles as ranch managers slowly but surely, and getting done what we can, when we can. But if there's one thing I've learned about South Texas, it's this: focus on what you can do TODAY. Tomorrow any number of things may spring up and take priority over what you may have planned, so don't. Or do, just know that you gotta be flexible.

That said, my bread baking has taken somewhat of a backseat, which is tearing me to pieces. We are living in the middle of our current "project" so everything has been chaos this and last month, especially in the kitchen. We had to buy our first loaf of store-bought bread in over a year this month, I was ashamed. I hope to break out of the rut tomorrow, though, with a recipe from the birthday present my husband got me, The Bread Baker's Apprentice! So excited, hopefully pictures and a new entry will be soon to follow. Happy Baking!


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Yesterday was the infamous Mardi Gras, and since my drinking and partying days are (for the most part) over, I decided to celebrate by baking pretty much all day.  My husband's family is from Louisiana, and we both assumed that someone would be having some sort of dinner, so the night before I prepared a laminated brioche to be formed into a danish ring King Cake. I had tried this recipe on a smaller scale a couple weeks ago with good results, despite the fact that some of the recipe was somewhat "lost in translation". Anyways, I was pretty impressed with myself before we even popped the thing in the oven:

A sight to behold in one's home kitchen, I tell you :)

In hind sight I would have rolled the dough a bit thinner and put in more of that delicious cream cheese filling mmmm.  Unfortunately we learned that no one was planning any kind of shindig so now we have the whole thing to ourselves....darn ;)

Yesterday was also my starter's two week birthday (hooray!) and I just couldn't wait anymore, I had to bake with it!  It was quite an adventure what with bulking it out to the brim, right down to makeshift bannetones. I went with this formula: and I can't say how pleased I was with the results. We're already through one loaf and I baked these at 1:00am this morning.  I'd say not bad for my first attempt!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to continue to enjoy the spoils, peace!

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So after two loaves with tons of flavor, but not the rise that I was looking for, I decided to try to make up my own honey whole wheat recipe.  I know, 'tis a little ambitious for a novice whole wheat baker, but I did do a little research beforehand, and it was wildly successful!!  So here's the recipe!

Night Before:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups warm water
2t yeast

Combine all ingredients together and mix until well incorporated, then cover and let sit overnight. Mine was pretty wet:

Day of:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup honey
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
2t salt
1t yeast

First, stir in honey, butter, milk, salt, and yeast until they are pretty well incorporated.  Then add your flour by the 1/2 cup.

The dough is going to be a pretty sticky mess, but that's ok. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and work it the best you can. I tried kneading, which was quite impossible, so you could almost classify this as a no-knead bread.  When I do this again I might incorporate some stretch and folds into this stage of the breadmaking process.  Anyways, shape your dough into a ball and put into an oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and let rise for 45 minutes.

Do your first stretch and fold, put the dough back in the bowl, let it rise for another 45 minutes, and then do your second stretch and fold.*

Now let the dough rise until double its original size.  Approximately 75 minutes for me.  Mine looked like this:

Now, divide your dough evenly in half and preshape into two loaves, let rest for 10 minutes.**

Then, do the final shapingof your loaves and put in oiled bread pans.  Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and let rise til doubled.  Mine only took 45 minutes.

^Those obviously aren't risen, I just snapped a quick photo before covering them for the rise.  I was a little iffy about how these would turn out (especially lefty over there.) because the surface tension just didn't seem to be there like it had before.  Anyways, I think you'll see that I had little to worry about.

Once your loaves are risen, slash them down the middle, and throw in the oven at 375F until they are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Or until they look like this!

And now for the long-awaited crumb shot:

This bread is so super soft and fluffy, the crust is not as crunchy as the other recipe (which I do miss) but it does make for great sandwich bread in that respect.  This one's going into our family cookbook :)


**for the shaping of my loaves I used this video:

*for stretching and folding, this one:

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I gotta say, that even though I've only worked with whole wheat twice now, I haven't run into an ingredient that puts me on edge as much as this one. 

So I'm trying to make this bread again, only this time I tried to follow the exact measurements instead of my gut.  So putting in the exact amount of water it calls for I got what looked like the beginnings of crumbly whole wheat play dough, but I resisted the urge to keep adding water until it was soupy (because I'm pretty sure that's why my dough wouldn't get to the tacky stage last time).  Well I let that do its thing overnight and then mixed in the other ingredients, with the addition of bread flour being gradual.  In the end my dough was tacky, but not smooth and hardly elastic.  With a sigh I put it in the oiled bowl and hoped that that was just how whole wheat doughs operate.  Then I read and saw that basically, its not.  So in a fury I took the dough out 5 minutes later and tried to knead it into submission, but honestly, I'm pretty sure it just got much worse.

Let me just say how livid I am because I don't have enough bread flour to make anything after this and this bread is supposed to last us for the next week.  Damn you whole wheat...which I have plenty of.  Arghh!  Who knows, maybe I'll be surprised in the end, but for now I'm thinking trusting my gut isn't a terrible idea in the future.  Here's the dough:


I know it doesn't look as bad in the picture, but trust photos to come later in the day...


Well after about 5 hours of a first rise (with it seeming to plateau around the 3 hour mark) I broke down and formed the loaves. I warmed the oven then turned it off and put the loaves in there for a second rise, hoping things would move along a bit faster this time around.  Well 30 minutes later, I had a beautiful rise on both of them. About an inch and a half over the rims, yay!  I decided to go ahead and bake them, because I didn't want them to overproof and then deflate...we'll see what this day long venture produces soon..


Well, here is the crumb shot from this day long honey whole wheat:

After cutting into it I feel like I could have let it rise a little longer, however I feel like I made a little improvement between this loaf and the last one (being that it wasn't as flat).  The taste was completely different.  It was very yeasty with just a hint of sweetness, which I guess was a result of that 5 hour rise.  It's quite addicting I must say.  I guess the key with whole wheat, just like any bread, is patience. Here's the loaf:

So however frustrating, I was ultimately satisfied. Thank God!


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Up until now I've avoided doing anything whole wheat, just because I've gotten the feeling that whole wheat bread is a little more finnicky than its white bread cousin.  However, I don't want to be a one trick pony, so on our last grocery run I closed my eyes and tossed in a bag of King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour, praying that whatever resulted would exceed the $4.00 of the bag's worth (I'm still on the look out for flour in bulk so I don't have to re-up every two or thee weeks.) I'm soaking the flour now. The anticipation of the loaves to come is already killing me!!


So I've run into my first red flag.  I think I know the difference between sticky and tacky, and no matter how much bread flour I kept adding my dough remained stubbornly sticky.  After finally achieving a slightly less sticky feel I quit adding flour and kneaded the best I could for fear that more flour would only result in a whole wheat brick. I think by the end of it I had added at least 3 cups of bread flour (pretty much double what the recipe called for). And after reading the recipe again I realized I have only half the yeast it recommends.  The damage is done, now we wait...


The dough rose beautifully! I'd never realized what a perfect rising location my windowsill was until now :).  I noticed when I punched it down it didn't seem to release too much air, which I thought odd.  Anyways, wanting to follow the recipe to a T I went against my usual method of forming sandwich loaves, which is normally to roll them out and then roll them up and pinch the seam, etc., and decided to just divide the dough in half and gently form the loaf shape before placing in the pan.  My daughter decided I needed some help with this step....

And the resulting loaves after formed:


I took it out of the oven, and I must confess I was prepared for an absolute failure since the loaves were pretty flat :(...

However after a fifteen minute rest and a peek inside.......

I was sooo pleased! The crumb was soft and moist and airy, and the crust was crackly and sweet and delicious.  We had to quit sampling and take some pictures before the whole loaf was gone!  Yummy!  Well I'm off to enjoy the rest of this success! Thank you for a wonderful recipe, Floyd!


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