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Shiao-Ping

It was Dan DiMuzio who first brought to my attention that people who came from a pastry background are more sensitive to ideas about design and fashion when they become bread bakers.  I regularly visit a Brisbane specialty chef and bakers store to see what's new.  I was there last week looking for a gigantic stainless steel bowl for long batard or gigantic miche baking one day.  Just about I was leaving, I glanced over the New Arrival books section.  I was almost sure I had already had all the books in the world that I ever wanted to purchase, but no harm browsing.  Bourke Street Bakery?  Hmmm, what's that?  Um, the sourdough on the cover page looks gooooood, deep score with very rustic exterior. 


                                          


                                                Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam & David McGuinness 


What? A bakery in Surry Hills, Sydney!  That's near where we used to live (well, across the Sydney Harbour Bridge).   I read, on page 10, "Baking is part science, part stoneground milling and part river-running romance.  But it's not the romance that will keep your baking consistently good, it's the science....  If you take our electric deck oven and mixer from the production process, you are not far away from how bakeries would have operated in the 16th century."  Just those few words would get in into their bakery! 


Courtesy of Paul Allam, following are a couple of photos from the book: 


                          


                                                Page 110                                                                                     Page 104 


This is the exact book that I've been waiting for from a bakery - full of bread pictures and unpretentious, rustic, and mouth-watering pastries for a home cook.  Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt's Tartine Bakery cookbook is very good but it is only cakes and pastries.  I have been waiting for their bread book.  Now I won't have to.  


For this post, I have made the humble beef pie, page 194.  As Paul and David said in the book, "If you ask most people, 'What is Australian cuisine?' they will often answer, 'The meat pie.'  ... A bad pie is just un-Australian."  They gave their pie to Paul's father, the chief "pie eater," to try; his father claimed that it had "too much flavour!" (page 197).  Well, just how I like it.  The following are my pies based on their recipe with minor variations: 


 


          


                                                                                                               


 


I told my husband about these pies; he asked for one to be reserved for him.  I quickly shuffled two into the freezer before my children gobble them up.  Yozza, if there were same-day freezer courier service for home cooks (as in Taiwan), I would have loved to send one (no, I would send two) for you to try.   For these pies, I used the best available puff pastry: Carême all butter puff pastry, handmade, from Barossa, South Australia.   I had not wanted to make my own puff pastry.


 


                             


 


Also in this post, I have included pictures of a bread that I made last week to try to finish up some old flour that I had.  This levain bread is 1/3 golden semolina flour, 1/3 WW, and 1/3 bread flour (72% overall hydration):  


 


       


                                                                                                                  


                         


 


I find semolina gives a tough texture to the bread, not to my liking.  I should have added olive oil (3% will do) to soften the crumb.  Honey would also have benefited the crumb as semolina has sort of a bland taste. 


As I was slicing the bread, Polly was waiting ever so patiently for her share: 


 


                                            


 


It has been very wet for the last few days where we are.  Our dam is finally back up to 80% capacity, last seen eight years ago.  Some remote towns are flooded and the radio reporter couldn't even pronounce their names.  Our lawn is now moss green.  The bamboos outside my tea room are alive to have been bathed in rain.  I felt like in Japan over the last few days where some parts of the country rain for two-thirds of the year.  Outside my windows I saw squirrels coming out to stretch and leap.  And, a baby goanna came to visit my lawn!  He was not scared of me.  As I moved closer to take the shot, he stood still, turned his head and smiled.  What a fine showing.  Is he a dinkum Aussie animal


 


                                         


 


How often do you hear people say that the best view from their house is from the worst spot of the house?  Maybe not in Australia, but certainly in Taiwan where apartment buildings are so congested.  I never forget one day, one of the high school teachers, with whom I still keep in contact, led me to the side of her meditation room to sneak a view of the mountain against which her apartment is situated.  The containment and satisfaction on her face!  Well, it was a clear night some months ago, one of those drought weather nights, which seems so far away now that the rain has come back to us in Queensland, Australia.  I was getting ready for bed; for some reason I stuck my head out of my bathroom window, facing south-west.  And, WO!, there were a cluster of stars as bright as glistering tinsels from my childhood Christmas card, which I had never seen before.  What was going on in the night sky?


I ran out to my front balcony.  As I saw more and more stars, I went closer and closer down the steps to my front lawn, and in the end, standing in the wide open, with my jaws dropped, looking at the ... Milky Way.  


I had never looked at that side of the night sky before.  I had always looked at the other side for... the Southern Cross.  That night the Southern Cross wasn't there. 


When I came back up my balcony again, what I saw 10 - 15 minutes ago had largely disappeared - how fast had the Earth spun just in that time.  But that night I went to sleep with Milky Way in me.


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

I went to my neighbourhood bookstore, Mary Ryan, after dropping my son to school the other day.  The timber flour and the Bach playing in the background made me want to stay longer.  I paid for a cookbook, Bécasse, and quickly left.  I wanted to have breakfast and coffee at Chouquette Boulangerie & Patisserie.  This was my first time back there since my last post about them five months ago.  Their business is going really well.  Quite obviously, there are unfilled demands for good quality breads and pastries around Brisbane.  I peeped into their production area right next to the shop front, only two people remaining there, decorating pastries.  I asked for butter for my Baguette Traditionnel to go with my coffee.  Lovely coffee, lovely baguette, and a lovely morning. 


While the baguette I had was made early that morning, the crust was not all that crunchy any more, without being heated up again.  The labour is so expensive here in Australia that it is not possible to have several hot bread times intra day.  In Japan and Taiwan, the population density is such that it is economical to provide that kind of quality throughout the day.  Many bakeries over there have a white board standing at the door with hot bread times written on the board as you walk in.


The breads in this post were my "warm-ups" for a Lionel Poilâne style of miche.  I have ordered my T80 flour from a French on-line grocer.  It is wicked to think we are able to order anything from anywhere in the world on-line.  I have almost all of Lionel Poilâne's books and have been studying them.  Many people have tried to bake a Poilâne style of miche.  While I do not believe there is such a thing called the best bread in the world, the intriguing thing, to me as a home baker, about Miche Poilâne is its process; i.e., you set aside a portion of the dough to be the levain de pâte for the next batch of dough and, again, a portion of the next dough is sectioned off to be the levain for yet another dough, thus, making dough and levain a seamless continuous process.  To be exact, 1/3 of the dough is set aside and proved for a couple of hours before being used as a levain and added to the next dough.


Courtesy of Eric at Breadtopia.com, the following two pictures were the famous Miche Poilâne, air-flown from Paris to Iowa, the USA, in March 2007, for his bread-day (birthday) party:


 


                         


                                                    Miche Poilâne, air-flown from Paris to Iowa


 


We cannot call a miche that we made a true Poilâne style of miche without using the flour that they use.  The flour combination that I used for the breads in this post is no where near T80 but is fun for me because it is a change from my usual white flour.  This post for me is about Poilâne's process.


My Continuous Dough and Levain Process


Basically I wanted to make a miche of about 1 kg each.  I also wanted to set aside about 1/3 of my dough as levain for my next dough, so for my first dough I needed to have about 1.35 - 1.4 kg.


Next, I needed to decide on a hydration.  I chose 75%.  Miche Poilâne is about 65% hydration.  Their hydration is because of the flour they use is a softer kind of flour; but my flour combination (see below) can take more hydration and would love more hydration.  A 75% hydration has another advantage - it makes calculation really easy.  This hydration is for the main dough as it is for the levain as they are the same process.


Next, flour combination.  I chose to have 50% bread flour, 30% whole wheat flour, 10% spelt, and 10% rye.  I used this combination for all my seven miches in this post, except the last two.   The seven miches were made, one after another, in a space of 5 days.   For the 6th miche, I used 50% bread flour and 50% sifted whole wheat flour and for my very last miche, see below.


For my first miche, I pre-scaled 800 grams of flours (in the above combination), 600 grams of water, and 16 grams of salt, for use in the levain as well as the main dough.  


First, the levain for the first miche.  I took 20 grams of my usual white starter from the refrigerator as my chef and built it to 350 grams in three stages, using 200 grams in total of the 800 grams of flours and 150 grams in total of the 600 grams of water.  When the levain was ready, I then mixed my main dough using the rest of the ingredients, including salt. 


After an autolyse of 30 minutes and 20 stretch-and-folds in the mixing bowl, I set aside 350 grams of the dough to be the levain de pâte for my 2nd dough.  Instead of two-hour ferment as per Poilâne, my levain de pâte was fermented on average for 5 - 6 hours as I like my levain to almost triple.  My room temperature averaged around 26 - 27 ºC.   The salt in the levain meant that it developed more slowly, allowing more flavours and aromas in the end result.  


The first dough had 2 1/2 hour bulk ferment and about 2 1/2 hour proofing. 


 


            



  • 1st miche:  Crumb tasted a little bit gummy and very sour.  (I guess this was because my chef was straight out of the fridge.  If I had refreshed my starter culture at least a couple of times before the 3-stage levain build, the miche would not have been so sour).


 


Just before the first miche was baked, my first levain de pâte was ready to mix my second dough.  For my second dough (and all of the rest of the doughs except my 7th miche), I pre-scaled 600 grams of flours (in the combination detailed above), 450 grams of water, and 12 grams of salt.  I mixed the second dough.  Again, autolyse, stretch and folds ... the same procedure, and set aside 350 grams as levain de pâte for the third dough.


My second dough was proof-retarded overnight.   While the second dough was being retarded in the refrigerator, the levain de pâte for the third dough became ready late that night.  It was getting late, but instead of placing the levain in the refrigerator for use the following morning, I decided to mix my third dough there and then.  Again, the same procedure, including taking 350 grams off the dough as levain for my fourth dough.  Just before mid-night, I place my third dough to bulk retard in the refrigerator.


 


            



  • 2nd miche:  The gumminess has disappeared but the taste is still very sour.


 


The next morning when the above 2nd miche was baking in the oven, the third dough was warming up to the room temperature.  And, in the mean time, the levain de pâte for the fourth dough was ripe to use.  The continuous dough and levain process was such that there were three things going at one point.


 


           


                                   


           



  • 4th & 5th miche:  These were my favourite of the lot (except my 7th miche in this post).  They were light and spongy and toasted beautifully.  Because of the whole grain flours, the two miches above were still sour, not in an unpleasant way, but I am not one who loves pickles.  They tasted a lot better the next day and the next day again - the sourness had mellowed and the flavour was more rounded. 


 


For the whole time up to that point, my levain de pâte smelled sour.  And then, all of a sudden, my levain de pâte for my 6th dough smelled milky, very milky.   The multiple feedings (and perhaps the relatively short refreshment time as well) had finally done the trick.  I was so happy that I decided I would do something different for my 6th miche.   Instead of 600 grams in the flour combination above, I used 600 grams of sifted WW flour.  I had to use 700 grams WW flour to get 600 grams finely sifted WW flour.  I was amazed at the amount of brans in my usual WW flour.  


 


           


                                        



  • 6th miche: Unfortunately, I was running out of gas, getting impatient, and did not allow enough time for my 6th dough to ferment (at bulk and proof).  It had the promise to be one of the best miches of the lot, but the promise did not come to fruition.  While large and irregular holes are visible in the crumb shot above, where there are no holes, the crumb actually felt dense.  And the flavour, oh, what a disappointment!  I would have thought that, with all the brans taken off, the crumb would taste sweet. But, No... I am not being critical... the taste was kind of bland and the mouth feel was heavy.  I didn't even like it toasted the next day.  This just goes to show that it is no good hurrying.  For crumb flavour to develop, time is of essence.


 


I rested for half a day, so did the levain de pâte (part of the 6th dough), resting in the refrigerator.   I just had to pull it out again from the fridge to make one more try.  And this time, for my 7th miche, I decided to make a 4 pounds loaf (the size of Miche Poilâne) with 5% WW, 5% Spelt, 5% rye, and the rest white.  I gave the dough a slow, long bulk ferment of 6 - 7 hours overnight at room temperature of around 24.5 - 25 ºC.  As the dough became bigger, my levain de pâte as a percentage of the final dough had become smaller.   The next morning, before I shaped, I turned on my oven full blast to pre-heat.  The shaped dough proved for only an hour and 15 minutes (because of the long bulk).  And the result is ....Bellissimo!  


 


        


                                                                                               


        


                                                                



  • 7th miche:  The flavour is well rounded, not too much acidity, just enough, and very "creamy."  The texture is supple.


 


The cells of this miche were very well fermented.  In the centre, there might not be large and irregular holes, but the texture was light, very different from my 6th miche.  I cut the 4 pounds miche in half below:


 


                                                                            


         


                        


                                                                       crumb of the 7th miche


 


If you look closely and compare the crumb shot above with the crumb shot of th 6th miche, you will see that there is much more lightness and suppleness in the 7th miche.


Overall, this had been a fun exercise.  It would have been better in winter when everything can be left on the kitchen counter without having to worry if the levain or the dough gets over fermented.  With a continuous dough and levain process like this one, you bound to have good bread sometimes along the way.   Enjoy!


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

Since my Pure Rye, 1939 post, I had wanted to do light rye.  In the past, I have done a few (this, this and this most recent one).  The challenge of rye for me is the stickiness, hard to handle, and hard to score.  In this post is a pain au levain with 50% rye.  I solved the problems with very minimal handling of the dough and always with a light dusting of flour, and most importantly, I made sure the surface was very dry before I scored.   Also, to solve the browning issue that I sometimes encounter with the crust, I turned on my oven full blast for the whole time of baking (ie, 250 ºC).  I had to rotate the dough several times during baking, so not one spot got too much heat for too long in one go... what we do for our dough....


This was a 1 kg dough.  Main points of my formula were:



  1. Stiff starter was 15% of final dough flour, which was 50% stoneground organic rye flour and 50% organic plain flour. 

  2. My starter was fed the same flour combination as the final dough.

  3. Overall hydration was 80% (without counting molasses, which was another 8%).

  4. In addition to one teaspoon each of caraways, fennels and coriander powders, I had zest of one large navel orange. 

  5. (The orange juice was part of the 80% hydration.)


         


               


                                                     


               


 


I think I finally found the light rye formula that I like.


 


                                                    


                


 


The crumb would have been more open if I had given my dough longer bulk ferment time.  Rather than the usual 3 hours bulk at my room temperature of 26 ºC, this dough should have had much longer bulk time, say 5 - 6 hours or even overnight at room temperature, as the starter was quite low in terms of the final dough flour.   


 


                                


 


You could see the orange zest peeping out in the crumb shot above (almost in the centre).  Like the herbs, orange can be a dominating flavour.  Any more than one orange zest would have been too much.   I am very happy and excited with the way this bread has turned out.  The excitement I have got from this bread reminds me of the very first sourdough I posted here at The Fresh Loaf last June.


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

It was raining outside my tea room.  Polly my dog was happy in her house.  I was in heaven painstakingly (not contradictory in terms) typing the French letters (the annoying à and é and ç) into my on-line translator.  The music was vibrating the thin rice-paper calligraphies on my mahogany-colored wall.


I consulted a couple of translations for Lionel Poilâne's Pain Rustique recipe in his Le Pain par Poilâne, page 143.  The 390-page book contains a dozen recipes.  I studied the translations.  I read the recipe very carefully.  And in the end, I said to myself, disbelieving, "Is that it, so simple?"  "Is this the recipe that makes the famous Miche Poilâne?"  (No.)


One of my sisters told me there is a single product hawker's stand in Taipei which sells red bean pancakes.  Any time of the day you go there, there is a long queue waiting to buy the man's red bean pancakes.  He has a dedicated pot to cook his red bean paste at home; the pot is never used for anything else.  He has several other dedicated utensils for the job.  My sister gave me his recipe.  It sounded so simple, I said, "Is that all? You are not leaving any steps out?"  She said, "No."  She gave me the man's list of ingredients: red beans, sugar, flour, and water.  I said, "You are not leaving any secret ingredients out?"  She said, "No."


Still disbelieving from reading the Poilâne formula, I got up from my chair and walked past a neglected pile of books left there since I came back from Taipei last October.  At the rate I buy books there is no way I can finish reading all my books in my lifetime, but I keep on buying.  The postman, the DHL man, and the Fedex man, as well as the occasional sub-contractor for Australia Post, all know there is somebody whose name sounds like (to pronounce slowly) "shopping" that lives behind that gate (and what an annoyance having to ring the bell for the gate to open!).


Anyway, I retrieved from that pile a book which is, on the surface, dedicated to baguettes, a Mandarin translation of the best Japanese baguette formulas.  And, boy, can you get any more perfectly shaped baguettes than those any where else in the world?  My oh my, the formulas are so detailed!  And, interesting!


 


                                                                    


                                  Baguette no Gijutsu (Baguette Techniques), published by Asahiya Shuppan, Japan    


          


   right: Totszen Baker's Kitchen, Yokohama (page 28)    


   middle: Fournier Bakery, Osaka (page 8)


   left:  Lobros Bakery, Tokyo (page 124)


The way I see it, this book is about methods of pure fermentation of flour.  Baguette is only the form in which the result is show-cased; the bread could be in any shape or form.  There are 35 very detailed baguette formulas by today's top Japanese bakers in a very easy to follow format.  The bakers play with fermentation possibilities in a wide ranging ways and dough hydrations of between 57 and 83%.  The book reads to me like 35 flour fermentation love stories.  The baguettes are solid works of fine craft and done in tightly controlled environment (the Japanese way!).  Using the simplest ingredients, their objectives are all the same: to bring out the best flavour in flour through their individual fermentation methods.  Only a third of recipes use levains, and not even at high baker's percentages, for a more clean taste of flour.  Some use other pre-ferments; but pre-ferments are nothing new.  What I find interesting is pre-fermenting the main dough flour. 


Have you ever heard of autolysing flour and water for 12 hours?  Maybe you have, but I haven't.  With this post, I am making baguettes using Fournier Bakery's formula on which the gorgeous looking crumb pictured in the middle above is based.  The book says Fournier won the 2006 French Baguette Competition organized by Torigoe, the oldest Japanese miller of French style of flours. 


Fournier Bakery's baguette formula


Ingredients in baker's percentages



  • 100% bread flour (I used 650 grams of Australia's Kialla Organic unbleached plain flour)

  • 70% water (I had 455 grams)

  • 15% liquid starter (I had 98 grams. See note * below)

  • 0.1% instant dry yeast (I used two-thirds of a 1/3 tsp)

  • 1.9% salt (I had 12 grams)


Overall dough hydration is 72.1%.  My dough weighed about 1200 grams.  I did three times the formula in three days, totaling 18 baby baguettes of 200 grams each (see below).


Note *: As most of us are weekend bakers, it is best that our starter undergo at least two refreshes (ie, refreshment build and levain build) before being incorporated into the final dough.  I did three builds for my levain, each time discarding all but 20 grams for the next build.  I timed the last build to coincide with the 12 hour autolyse of flour and water (see step 2 below). 



  1. Place only flour and water in the mixer, turn on first speed for two minutes.

  2. Autolyse for 12 hours at 16 ºC.  (I did about 9 hours.  As it is summer here in Australia, my temperature averages around 25 - 27 ºC.) 

  3. Add liquid starter and instant dry yeast and mix in first speed for one minute.  (The book says the levain is ready for use when its pH is 3.7.  I had no way of knowing the exact pH of my levain but because it had just gone through 3 builds, I would guess that the pH value might be a lot higher than 3.7.)

  4. Add salt and mix in first speed for 2 more minutes, and second speed for 1 minute and 30 seconds.  When kneading is complete, the dough temperature should be 22 ºC.  (Note: I did all my mixing and kneading by hand.  It was very messy, especially trying to get the liquid starter mixed into the dough.  I did not use ice water to try to get my dough temperature exactly as per the formula.  I figured that I would just watch the fermentation carefully.)

  5. Bulk fermentation is 3 hours in total at 22 ºC as follows: three times 2 letter-folds in a plastic container at 20 minutes intervals, then twice more 2 letter-folds at 60 minutes interval, totaling 5 times.  (As my room temperature and dough temperature was about 25 - 27 ºC, I did only 2 hours bulk.)

  6. Divide the dough into 350 grams pieces and pre-shape them (I divided my dough into 6 pieces of 200 grams each because my baking stone is small, 34 cm x 34 cm.)

  7. Shape into baguette, 60 cm long. (I shaped mine into 32 - 34 cm long).

  8. (Note that it should only be 30 minutes from Divide to Shape, including the rest in between, during which time the dough pieces should be placed in temperature controlled room at 22 ºC.)

  9. Proofing is 60 minutes at 22 ºC and 70 degree humidity.  (The book says when the dough completes its fermentation, its pH should be 5.2.)  (For the last 30 minutes of proofing, I moved my dough into the refrigerator as I was afraid that it might over-prove.)

  10. Pre-heat oven to 250 ºC.  Score the dough with 7 slashes.  Steam the oven before loading the dough.  Once the dough is in the oven, turn the oven down to 240 ºC.  After 3 minutes of baking, steam the oven again.  Bake for a total of 30 - 32 minutes.  (My dough only needed 23 minutes of baking at the highest temperature my oven could go.  I could only manage 4 slashes on my dough.)


 


                 


 


To recap: Fournier's fermentation is 4 1/2 hours all-up at 22 ºC.  I did 3 1/2 hours at 25 - 27 ºC, including 30 minutes in the refrigerator, which had an added advantage of chilling the surface of the dough for easier slashing.


 


    


                                              


                                                                   


The challenge of baguettes to me is how to shape them uniformly.  There is no better way than repetitive practice.  It was only towards my last 3 baguettes (those pictured above) that I worked out how to do them with same length and thickness.  The key for me is, after pre-shaping and rest, pat the dough out to very flat (not to worry, I was not squeezing the gas out by patting).  Then, use minimal movements possible to shape the dough.  I find that excessive handling serves no purpose.   Out of the 18 baguettes that I made, the three next best ones are below:


 


        


 


I find slightly under-proof works better than slightly over-proof.  As my dough pieces were small, just 15 minutes more than necessary could make it over-proved.   Once the dough is done fermenting and ready to go, no amount of chilling in the refrigerator can arrest it because of the internal dough temperature.  The flavour will still be good but oven spring would suffer.


 


         


                                                            


 


It would be interesting to try out more formulas in the book to learn more ways of pure fermentation.  There is nothing wrong of using other type of flours (for instance, various whole grains flours) on these baguette formulas, paying attention to temperature and time issues etc., and see how they affect fermentation outcomes.  I learn in this book that there are infinite possibilities.


Just as I was cleaning up from today's mess, it's almost time to go and pick up my son from his tennis.  I tied up two baby baguettes to give to Andrew's coach.  Don't people just envy us because we possess these presents to give away?


                                                      


I was late collecting my son.  When he saw me, he said, "Soft effort, Mum, soft effort."   Gee.


It has stopped raining now.  It is lush and green outside the window.  Polly would not be allowed to go out for a while yet, not until the grass is dry.


 


                                      


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

I love buying bread books in all languages, the most inexpensive way of virtual travels and experience for me.  I came across a book by Swedish baker and owner of Brunkebergs Bageri (Brunkebergs Bakery) in Stockholm, Heléne Johansson's Bröd, Från Brunkebergs Bageri (Bread, from Brunkebergs Bakery).   Her love and passion for bread exudes from the book.  For the first 15 pages of the book on the web, please click here (sorry, her serious breads are not on these first 15 pages).  The book says she has used each recipe thousands of times.  Her range of breads depends on "how her own spirit falling on," she says.


What attracts me is her gutsy bold style of baking.  Every one of her bakes in the book looks to me a rustic beauty, not dainty, but extraordinary.  I find her spirit exhilarating. 


The purpose of this post is twofold:


(1) to see if I can do the same with my oven; and


(2) to experiment with the Australian "plain flour."


Like many home bakers who have come from a pastry background before taking on bread, I had steered clear of pastry flour and had developed a blind faith in bread flour.  I was scare to touch lower gluten flour.  In Australia, there are two types of pastry flour - plain flour and self-raising flour.  I am told that plain flour is equivalent to the American all-purpose flour.  However, the typical protein level of plain flour is 9.1 - 10.1% whereas the American all-purpose flour, using King Arthur's as an example, has a much higher protein of 11.7% (but I do not know if I am comparing protein at equal basis).  I guess the important difference to me is that KA's all-purpose flour is made from hard winter wheat, but the Australian plain flour, being essentially used for pastry baking, comes from soft wheat.   On protein alone, the plain flour is closer to the French T55 flour than all-purpose flour.  When I was deciding whether or not to go ahead with my experiment, I saw rossnroller's gorgeous Pain de Campagne on Sourdough.com, which used plain flour in place of all-purpose flour.  That was about a month ago.  I decided then that no theory or technical knowledge is better than hands-on experience. 


Now, scroll forward a month later.  I am happy to report that (A) the plain flour can do the job; but (B) I suspect that the plain flour is designed to accompany a lot of enrichments (butter, sugar, and many other add-in's) because on its own it does not have a fermentable quality like proper bread flour.  The analogy is rice.  The Japanese rice and the Taiwanese rice (see, I am biased) can be eaten on its own, but other rice, especially the Thai and all other long-grain rice, is dry in its intrinsic quality and is to be eaten with a lot of gravy, eg. curry sauce, because it cannot stand on its own.


So, that's it for me with the plain flour.  Go back to my bread flour.


And, as far as bold and gutsy baking goes, the following is as much as I could get with my oven:


 


                    


 


Because of the way my fan oven sends out heat, it did no good if I just turned up the heat - I got burned pointy toes and not nearly as brown on the top as on the sides of the bread as below:   


 


                              


                                                 


                                                                               


I tried to position my baking stone in a different spot in the middle of my oven but it didn't seem to make any difference.  When I was at the beach duing our Christmas holiday, the oven in the unit came with top heat as well as bottom heat.  It browned the top of the dough beautifully and easily.


 


                        


 


I enjoyed my bread just the same.   This batch of bread had 3% rye and 7% WW in both levain and final dough.  The stiff levain was built in two stages.   The overall dough hydration was 69% (including 3% olive oil). 


 


      


                                                                


 


If I ever get a new oven, I would like one with separate heating elements for the top and the bottom, and I would like an in-built digital temperature reader.  (I am not greedy.)  But I know, the day I get the gadget perfected is the day I drop the incentive to baking to perfection.  (So, it's best that I don't get it.)    


 


                                         


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

I dedicate my Gérard Rubaud Miche to MC.


(I wish that it could be transported across the Pacific Ocean to reach the other shore.)


 


It was one of those soulful Van Morrison nights.  The music in my tea room could not be any louder; any louder, the gods of silent teapots would have protested.  John Donne was in the air.  Van Morrison, my muse, dreamt of this miche for me.... 


 


               


 


                                                                                                   


 


I have neglected my teapots for the longest time now.  They have not been polished for ... dare I reveal ... a year?  Sounds criminal.  Just as well, with all that flour coming out of the surface of the miche, do I need to bother dusting my teapot stands?


 


Gérard Rubaud starter (re-sized to 2% of his formula as recounted HERE in MC's blog; my figures are for a final dough yield of 1.9 kg, you are welcome to half my quantity again)


First build



  • 6 g ripe stiff starter (at this quantity, any starter you've got going is fine, preferably not liquid starter)

  • 8 g water

  • 14 g flour (2 g WW, 1 g spelt, 1 g rye, and 10 g plain flour)


Note: Gérard Rubaud's starter hydration averages 55.5%.  The main thrust of his starter is three refreshes and built with the same flour compositions as for his final dough; ie. 30% whole grains flours (60% wheat, 30% spelt, and 10% rye) and 70% all-purpose flour.


At 30 degree C, this build took 10 1/2 hours for me (overnight temperature might have dropped to 24 - 25 degree C in my kitchen).


Second build



  • 28 g starter (from the first build above)

  • 16 g water

  • 30 g flour (5 g WW, 3 g spelt, 1 g rye, and 21 g plain flour)


At 30 degree C, this build took 6 hours for me..


Third build



  • 74 g starter (from the second build above)

  • 56 g water

  • 100 g flour (18 g WW, 9 g spelt, 3 g rye, and 70 g plain)


Note:  Watch your starter fermentation carefully, depending on your room temperatures.  As flour (fresh food) is not even 1.5 times the starter, it is very easy to over-ferment at this stage.  It was not an issue for the previous two builds as the yeast adjusted to the new flour compositions and began its activity slowly.  


At 30 degree C, this build took 4 hours for me (and it was already too long because when I touched my starter, it shrank back very quickly; 3 1/2 hours would have been better).  It rose 2 1/2 times.


Gérard Rubaud Final Dough


Main points about the final dough construction are (1) final dough flour is 30% whole grain flours and 70% all-purpose flour as for starter; (2) starter is 25% of final dough flour (ie, 25% baker's percentage); and (3) overall dough hydration is 80%.



  • 230 g starter (all from the third build above)

  • 920 g flour (165 g WW, 83 g spelt, 28 g rye, and 644 g plain flour)

  • 772 g water (every 10 -11 g of water is 1% dough hydration; feel free to reduce water if you wish)

  • 20 g salt


Total dough weight was 1,920 grams (minus 150 g as pâte fermentée = 1,770 g, see below) and overall dough hydration was 80%. 


Note:


(1) I did double my own formula here (both starter and final dough) because I wanted to do a stencil with Gérard Rubaud initials and I wasn't sure if it would be successful. 


(2) I reserved 150 grams from each dough and I had 300 grams as pâte fermentée (old dough) in total from the two doughs. I wanted to try a Poilâne style of miche.  Giovanni has done extensive research on Poilâne Miche.  Without going into the specifics, all that I wanted to do at this stage was to use Gérard Rubaud's stiff starter and dough with the addition of a reserved old dough to make a miche and see what happens, which I did.  


(3) So, in total I made three x my own formula here at two separate occasions, the last being a Gérard Rubaud Miche with pâte fermentée.  


Procedure - without pâte fermentée


Gérard Rubaud autolyse flour and water, then he cuts up his stiff levain into small pieces and adds them to the autolysed flour and water mixture.  However, the way I did the bread in this post was that I first diluted my starter with water, then I added flour and salt into the diluted starter, then I followed the procedure below.



  1. Autolyse 20 minutes.

  2. Five sets of S&F's of 30 strokes each at 30 minutes intervals.  

  3. At the end of the last S&F's, section off a piece of dough weighing 150 grams (and placed it in the fridge) to be used as pâte fermentée (more below).

  4. Pre-shape and shape, then place the dough in the fridge for overnight retarding.  (My room temperature was 30 degree C.  It was exactly three hours from the time the ingredients were mixed to the time the shaped dough was placed in the fridge.  You may need longer depending on your dough temperature and room temperature.  Gérard Rubaud does not like to retard dough, but I did 9 hour retarding for convenience).

  5. The next morning, stencil, then score the dough.  Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it can go.  Bake with steam at 230 C for 50 minutes.


 


       


       Gérard Rubaud Miche (without pâte fermentée) 


                                                                                                      


 


Only one of the two miches that I made is shown here, as the stencil of the other one was completely smeared.  The proved dough of that one was quite high (its profile was like a tall hill); when I placed the stencil on its surface and dusted flour on it, the flour did not sit well on the surface.  I knew there might be problem but went ahead any way.  I should have tried to press the stencil closer to the surface of the dough before I dusted flour.


Notwithstanding the above, the aroma was most amazing when the miche was being baked.  When the oven door opened, the whole house was filled with the wonderful whole grains roasting fragrance.


The loaves cooled down to have the cracks all over their surface - the top and all around the sides.  Part of the reason for that is because these are very high hydration doughs, but more because I tend NOT to leave my dough in the oven with the oven turned off for the last 5 - 10 minutes of baking as many of TFL home bakers do.  I tend to give my dough full but shorter bake.  The extreme difference in temperatures inside and outside the oven results in the crackling effect on the crusts.


 


       


 


                                                     


 


With this Gérard Rubaud formula, I am witnessing the most amazing crumb that I have never seen before.  It has a translucent quality about it.  It is almost as if each and every particle of the flour had been fermented and each and every cell of the dough has been aerated.  I have never seen anything quite like it.  It is light and yet a slice of it on you palm feels a weight, a substance.  While the crumb looks translucent, it has a sheen as if it is oily (but it is not).  You can clearly see the specks of the whole grain flours in the crumb.  Had I not made this bread myself, I would not have believed that 30% whole grain flours would give me a crumb like this. 


So that is the texture.  What about the flavor?  I cannot tell you any single flavor.  No one taste stands out.   I cannot say that it is sour because sourness does not stand out.  The taste is very "creamy" if I may use that word.  The creaminess and the sourness are beautifully balanced. 


MC said of her Rustic Batard that it tastes more whole grains than Gérard's and she wondered if temperature had made a difference as Gérard's bakery is a good 15 degree F warmer than her place.  Now, my miche does NOT taste whole grains or wheaty at all.  I cannot single out a wheaty taste, but it is there, blended in with all the other flavors.  I wonder if my high temperature indeed had made a difference in this.  Or, put another way, had MC bulk fermented and proved her Rustic Batard in a proofing box to control temperatures, would she have gotten a closer taste in her Rustic Batard to Gérard's.


 


Procedure - with pâte fermentée


(Note: the formula is exactly the same as above except with the inclusion of 300 grams of pâte fermentée)


Follow the procedure as for miche without pâte fermentée except for the following:



  1. One hour after the dough was mixed (ie, at the end of the second set of S&F's, section off a piece of dough weighing 300 g ( reserve it as future pâte fermentée);

  2. Total fermentation time is shorter by 1/2 hour because fermentation happens faster with this dough.  (From the very first set of S&F's, you can already see some strength in the dough because of the acidity from the pâte fermentée.  To me, this is quite something, considering the way I mix my dough is that there is no kneading whatsoever, merely stirring to hydrate the flours.) 

  3. As this is a slightly bigger dough (1,920 grams as opposed to 1,770 grams), bake it for one hour. 


 


        


        Gérard Rubaud Miche (with pâte fermentée)


                                                                                                             


 


I learned something in this bake:  that sourdough pâte fermentée will give you extra dough strength because of the acidity in the old dough (provided it is not over-fermented to start with).  I am amazed at the volume that I get in this miche.  (Let's recap: this dough went through 2 1/2 hours of fermentation at room temperature of 30 degree C, then went into the refrigerator for 9 hour retardation, then baked at 230 C for 1 hour. That's all.) 


The taste of this miche is a lot sourer than the previous miche.  


 


       


 


                                                   


 


This has been a very fulfilling exercise for me.   Thank you, MC, for the wonderful experience.


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

It has been so hot that I am taking a break from baking.  I went out the other day for a walk and when I spotted these birds (below), I turned back to get my camera.  As I moved closer to the birds to take my shots, I noticed the color of the green became whiter and whiter because of the scorching sun. 


              


                                                                                           


We've had so much rain that everything is luscious looking, especially the grass.  I have never known my street has so many fruit trees (mango mostly).  My husband called me to the yard where he was doing the hedges.  He wanted to show me that a branch of our neighbour's fully-loaded fruit tree was on our side of the fence.  We never knew that their fruit tree existed. 


                                            


It is very strange.  This fruit is popular in Taiwan and is one of my favourite fruits over there, but I had never seen it before over here in Brisbane.  I don't know why my neighbour has this fruit tree... unless ... I have a Taiwanese countryman right next door??


We never knew our hedges would flower either; if not for the rain....


                                               


Have you ever had the experience of searching for something high and low when it's right before your eyes? 


Well, there is a new French-style village bakery right in my neighbourhood now.  Open just two weeks ago, it is only a stone-throw away from my house.  A lovely big tree provides a shady area for their car park, enough for 6 to 7 cars.  A couple of deck chairs are outside their shop door.  What a lovely spot.   The owner-baker is a young chap from the French Riviera.  He is a cyclist.  Fifteen minutes from my house is a popular mountainous area for cyclists, so he moved to my neighbourhood.  (Every other weekend, we hear the ambulance siren going on loud because some motorcyclists had been riding too fast and had accidents.)


                            


                                                                bread display at Banneton Bakery


I brought my own bread board, bread knife and butter this morning and went with my son to Banneton Bakery to have breakfast.  He had hot cocoa and chocolate croissant while I had my flat white coffee with a slice of this pain au levain:   


                            


                                                               Plain Sourdough, Banneton Bakery


The bread tastes wonderfully "creamy," if that is possible.  The sourness is almost undistinguishable, or should I say, almost all lactic acidity.   I have never had a bought-one that is so much to my taste.  What a lovely bread that is. 


Recently, MC's Gérard Rubaud story is stirring up a lot of interest in the man and baker's specially prepared levain in search for a delicately balanced and yet full-flavored French-style pain au levain.  Good bread cannot be made in a hurry.  When you bite into a bread, if the aroma and flavor continue to unfold and linger about you as you chew, this is got to be a special bread.  But good bread cannot exist in a vacuum.   Good bread exists because of bread connoisseurs.  Gourmet food exists because of gourmets.  One cannot exist without the other.  Two thousand and five hundred years ago, Chinese poet-musician, Bo-Yia, played qin for his friend Chong Tse-Chi because Chong understood his music.  When Chong Tse-Chi died, Bo-Yia destroyed his qin and never played again.


Back home I enjoyed a pot of Oolong tea with my husband.  A couple of birds came to visit outside my tea room.  The mid-morning sun cast beautiful shadows over our backyard.


                        


                                                                                  Where is Waldo?


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

With this basket of assorted pure rye breads I wish to tantalize your taste buds and tease you with these pure sourdough rye: 


 


           


                                                                      Assorted pure rye breads


Centre bottom: Sour Rye, year 1939 (recipe from Mariana-aga's most informative and beautiful post on Russian rye here)


Right: Jan Hedh's Sour 100% Rye Bread (recipe from Dan Lepard's The handmade loaf, page 31) 


Top: Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye (recipe from Hamelman's Bread, page 201)


 


Like most Asians, I have not grown up with rye, an acquired taste, many would admit.  I am from an area of the Chinese world where "fish and rice, and other luscious colors of food exist," as the saying goes.  My parents would think very little of rye.  You may have already been a convert but it took me a lot of efforts.  As Dan Lepard says of rye bread, "What was once the bread of the poor has become the staple of the rich man's table" (The handmande loaf, page 66), I am excited that finally I have had a glimpse into what some bakers are passionate about.  I hope that, with the following photos taken from my kitchen table, you will share my enthusiasm.


 


             


                             A close-up shot of Sour Rye, year 1939, a lot of soul....  I must be imagining.


 


(1) Sour Rye, year 1939, from Mariana-aga's blog post here.



  • 350 g ripe 100%-hydration rye levain

  • 420 g medium rye flour

  • 308 warm water

  • 14 g salt



  1. Rye starter: 83% baker's percentage

  2. Prefermented flour: 29% of total flour

  3. Overall hydration: 81%

  4. Fermentation: 2 hours bulk + 35 - 50 minutes proof

  5. Total dough weight: 1,090 grams


Refer to Mariana-aga's link above for method.   I used Google to translate Russian to English.  The translation does not always make sense, but does the job alright.  Where you find gaps, you can fill them in with your own imaginations. 


         


The instruction says you smooth out the surface of the dough with wet fingers "frequently."  Whenever I saw "cracks" developing on the crust, I smoothed them out with wet fingers and/or my plastic scraper dipped in water.  I ended up doing this every 20 minutes or so throughout the fermentation.  I covered the dough with a big roasting pan.


 


        


                                                                                                           


The style of this bread is unlike anything I've made before.  I asked my son how he liked the bread in the picture.  Instead of saying he finds it unattractive, he politely asked where I got this strange looking basket.  I said from a garden and plants nursery.  I used to do a lot of flower arrangements and I have my fair share of strange looking vessels. 


 


                    


 


       


A mate of my husbands, who comes regularly for morning coffee, was here the day before yesterday when I was slicing this bread after it had rested for 24 hours.  The first thing he said after having a piece was, "This sourdough rye is sour and tangy!"  AND, he liked it very much.   I had a couple of thin slices myself with butter.  Very tasty and moist.  I surprised myself.  It is medium strength sourness, very pleasant.   I think that the flavourfulness comes through in the crumb shots above and below quite well.   


                   


 


I like this bread the most out of the three pure rye breads pictured in the basket above.  The reason why this is so is because this bread was the last one out of more than half a dozen pure rye breads that I made over the last two weeks - my rye starter up to that point was full of vigour and had developed a lot of flavors when I used it to make the bread.


 


(2) Jan Hedh's Sour 100% Rye Bread, from Dan Lepard's The handmade loaf, page 31. 



  1. Rye starter: 67% baker's percentage

  2. Prefermented flour: 35% of total flour

  3. Overall hydration: 85%

  4. Fermentation: no bulk + 5 hours proof

  5. Total dough weight: 850 grams


According to Dan Lepard, Jan Hedh has inspired the new generation of artisan bakers in Sweden.  Dan's book has lots of wonderful formulas and stories, but the book's unassuming appearance and colorful pictures are perhaps too easy going for the serious home bakers.  I don't seem to see a lot of his recipes being used here.  I find his book a seriously good book. 


 


     


 


This formula is interesting in that it uses a gelatinized rye mix (4 parts boiling water to 1 part rye flour).  Not just it gives elasticity to the crumb, it also makes the bread very moist and as a result, the bread has even a better keeping quality than the other two breads.  Chinese use a similar gelatinized flour mix called "65 degree C dough" with similar flour to hot water ratio and for similar purposes.


 


    


                                     


(Note: the above two shots were taken at night time.  The reddish tone is due to the yellow spot light in my kitchen and is not reflective of the real color.) 


 


(3) Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye, from Hamelman's Bread, page 201.



  1. Rye starter: 119% baker's percentage

  2. Prefermented flour: 38% of total flour

  3. Overall hydration: 79%

  4. Fermentation: 20 minutes bulk + 1 hour proof

  5. Total dough weight: 1,640 grams


 


                    


 


                       


              


This was my second try on the Detmolder formula. 


 


         


 


                                           


 


My Detmolder sour rye was made before the first two breads in this post above and is not as tasty as those two breads.  One possible explanation is that my rye starter used in this bread was not as robust to start with. 


Two days after I made this Detmolder bread, I made it again - my third try in five days.  Talk about a keen baker!  I did it again not because I wanted to see how I could improve on this bread, but more because I wanted to keep feeding my rye levain and I didn't want to throw the excess out.  You wouldn't believe what happened - as I tried to turn the proved dough onto my peel, half of the dough fell out while the other half stuck to the banneton.  A disaster!  I told myself, Calm Down.  I gathered the dough fragments together, reshaped it, and put it back to the banneton.  An hour later, when I tried to turn it out again, the exact same thing happened!  At that point I was in two minds about whether I chuck it or bake it.  In the end I decided that either way it is a goner, and so why not do an experiment with it and watch the show.  I recalculated my ratios and added some more water to change the dough to a 100%-hydration dough.  I put it into a loaf tin this time.  I wanted to see what would happen to the dough with this much hydration and supported by a loaf tin.  Well, I had the most spectacular oven spring ever with pure rye dough (well, 90%, almost pure)!    


 


       


      Detmolder 90% Rye @100% hydration and 6 hr fermentation (not pictured in the bread basket above)  


                                                                                           


By the time the dough was in the oven, what was supposed to be fermented for only one hour and 20 minutes had gone through a six-hour fermentation.  I was amazed at the amount of oven spring.  I am sure this has to do with the 100% hydration.  It had risen about 30% before it went into the oven, then in the oven it rose another 70 - 80%.  The crumb was quite open - you cannot not have an open cell structure with this much oven spring.  The gumminess on the top and bottom edges of the slice pictured below is the "starch attack" due to excessive amylase activity that caused the break down of the dough structure during the bake, I guess.


 


                    


The dark, almost chocolate, color in the crumb is natural.  It is achieved through the long fermentation.  I haven't seen a natural dark rye color like this before!    


And the taste?  Well, unpleasant, to say the least!  It has a pungent pickled sour taste, almost like when the pickle is off.  Neverthelss, this experiment has got me excited about an idea for my next pure rye bread experiment along these lines: 



  1. 30% prefermented flour

  2. Rye starter 80% bakers percentage

  3. 100% overall dough hydration

  4. 3 hours (or shorter) fermentation, assisted with, say, 05% IDY


 


To recap: the 1939 Sour Rye is the most flavorful because the rye starter was at its best condition when the dough was mixed and also because I took more care with the dough.   Jan Hedh's Sour Rye is the most moist because of the gelatinized rye mix that is incorporated in the dough.  Overall, I like all three breads pictured in the basket above.  


I have but one complaint:  that their crusts are too tough to cut; you need a chain sword to slice the bread.  The tough crusts are a result of the long bake which I am told that you need for this particular type of flour.  The average baking time for a 1 kg dough according to both Mariana-aga and Hamelman is one hour at initial high heat of 250 - 260 C for 10 - 15 minutes, then gradually lowering the heat to 200 - 210C.  My Thiezac pure rye bread, on the other hand, was 1.8 kg and I baked it for only one hour and it was perfectly cooked.  So I don't know.  The Thiezac bread was far easier to slice. 


I am ending this post with another bread basket but this time with the breads all wrapped up in thick tea towels:


 


                                     


 


I am going to enjoy these three breads over the next week or two and observe the changes in tastes and flavors.  Rye enthusiasts would be familiar with Hamelman's story where, as a young man in the 1970s, hiking the Long Trail through Vermont, he picked up the last of his food provision from a post office, a five-week old Detmolder Three-Stage 90% Sourdough Rye where the bread still "had a crisp tang, a moist crumb, delicious flavor, and not a hint of mold."  How extraordinary is that!  I am not sure mine would stay like that after one week, or, rather, are like that to begin with, let alone after five weeks! 


 


Shiao-Ping

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Shiao-Ping

To continue on my last post, I experimented the gentle S&F technique on this classic recipe from Hamelman's Bread, page 164.  


                             


                                                                      © Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread


There is nothing new about this technique - the slow and gentle (and at the same time, firm and assertive) stretch and folds on the dough over the entire length of time of the bulk fermentation to try to build up its strength, slowly but steadily.  Whether or not we have consciously applied this technique is another issue. 


My purpose was to develop dough strength slowly along side dough fermentation, so as to see how much volume I could get for my loaf and how open the crumb structure could be on this classic recipe.   Here is my Miche, Pointe-à-Callière:


 


                     


 


I followed Hamelman's list of ingredients but I did not use his procedure.   My ingredients were:



  • 289 g just ripe 60%-hydration levain (40% baker's percentage)

  • 725 g high-extraction whole-wheat flour (as suggested by Hamelman, 86% whole wheat flour and 14% plain flour were substituted for the high-extraction flour, which is not available in my area)

  • 634 g water

  • 17 g salt


Total dough weight was 1,665 g and overall dough hydration was 84%.


 


       


 


                                                    


 


My procedure:


Mix only the flour and water.  Autolyse for an hour.  Then, mix in the levain and the salt.  Up to this point, the procedure was as instructed by Hamelman; thereafter I broke away from Hamelman's instruction and started my experiment as follows: 



  1. 0:00  When all the ingredients are combined, do the first set of stretch and folds of 35 strokes.  Dab some oil on the edge and bottom of the dough all round where the dough meets the bowl (so that the dough doesn't stick to the bowl when you do the next set of S&F's).

  2. 0:30  2nd set of S&F of 25 strokes.  Again, dab some oil on the edge and bottom of the dough as above.

  3. 1:00  3rd set of S&F of 25 strokes.  (My dough already felt silky and smooth.)  Again, dab some oil on the edge and bottom of the dough as above).

  4. 1:30  4th set of S&F of 25 strokes.  (My dough felt very bouncy and left the side of the mixing bowl in a cohesive whole.  With each stroke, the dough felt stronger.)  Dab some oil on the edge and bottom of the dough as above.

  5. 2:00  5th set of S&F of 25 strokes.  (The gluten had developed very nicely.)  Dab some oil on the edge and bottom of the dough as above.  Sprinkle ample flour on the work bench.

  6. 2:30  6th set of S&F of 25 strokes and, at the end of the last stroke, grab the whole dough and lift it out of the bowl in one swift movement and drop the dough on the floured surface (what was at the bottom of the mixing bowl is now against the floured surface and it is the right side).  Cover the dough with the mixing bowl.

  7. 3:00  1st pre-shaping.  Gather the edges to the centre, turn it over (so the right side is now up), and tighten it.  Cover.

  8. 3:10  2nd pre-shaping.  (As my dough was a bit wobbly and extended out a lot as it rested, I decided to do a 2nd pre-shaping.  You don't have to if your dough doesn't need it ).  Turn the dough over so the right side is now down, gather the edges to the centre, turn it over to tighten it.  Cover.

  9. 3:20  shape it into a boule.  I placed the boule on a dusted kitchen towel.  Cover and place it in a plastic bag.

  10. 3:30  place the dough in the fridge for retarding.  (Total fermentation time was 3 1/2 hours for me at room temperature of 26 - 27C.  Adjust your fermentation time if your room temperature differs.)

  11. Retarding in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

  12. Bake as normal.


 


                


 


Verdict:  There appears to be more volume in my bread compared to Hamelman's bread (first picture above).  With a dough hydration of 84% (even allowing for the type of flour used for this formula), you would expect the bread profile to be somewhat flat, as seen in Hamelman's bread above.  However, the stretch and fold regime as outlined above in my procedure seems to have developed the gluten structure very nicely and, as a result, my bread seems to have more volume than Hamelman's bread.   


What this tells me is that for a high hydration dough, a slow and steady gluten development is better than a one-shot 2 1/2 minutes or 4 minutes (or whatever it is) kneading in the machine with just one or two sets of S&F's.  For a low hydration dough, you don't need to worry about the dough strength; it develops easily anyway.   Next time if I am doing a high hydration dough again, I will definitely give this method another try.


 


Shiao-Ping 

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Shiao-Ping

This post is to document a technique (or the realization of the lack of it, rather) that became apparent to me while I was making the bread below (the first one).  I subsequently applied it in making the second bread below with good result and would like to share my experience.


It started because I wanted to re-do my last try at Chad Robertson's French-style Country Sourdough back in September.  This was one of my New Year bread Resolutions.  My Imitation of Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough had a serious flaw:  sourdough without whole wheat flour and/or rye flour can hardly be called Country Sourdough (Pain de Campagne).  Very soon after I did that post, it was clear to me that the ratios that I used in my formula with regards to ingredients were nowhere near those used by Chad Robertson; for instance, starter as a percentage of final dough flour, starter hydration and overall dough hydration ratios, etc.  My timeline may be quite accurate as it was pieced together from "A Day in the Life at the Bay Village Bakery" in The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott who interviewed Chad.      


I reconstructed my formula as follows:



  • 450 g ripe 75%-hydration starter (after a special 2-hour levain expansion), 100% baker's percentage

  • 70 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (10% of total flour)

  • 140 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (20% of total flour)

  • 240 g organic unbleached plain flour

  • 316 g water

  • 14 g salt


Total dough weight was 1,230 g and the overall hydration was 72%.


 


               


 


                      


                                                                     


The bread looked gorgeous from the outside.  That was only half of the story.  The crumb revealed the other half of the story:


 


         


          London cabs?                                             


                                                                                  


                                                                                    THAT hole was where my thumb was (see point (2) below)


 


While the crumb was lovely to taste, springy to bite, and not altogether dense, I did not develop the full potential of the crumb as would otherwise be manifested in the open cell structure.  I knew this because of what I was able to achieve in my last Chad Robertson bread, using similar formula.  I looked back at what I had done differently, and I think the following was what happened: 


(1) That my starter was over-ripe before I did the two-hour expansion and, despite the two-hour expansion, my starter was still "tired."  My starter was not at its most vigorous when I used it to mix the final dough.  And,


(2) That my stretch and folds could have been better executed.  (I used my left hand to hold and stabilize the dough while my right hand folded it.  As the dough was folded onto itself, my left thumb was in the way because I did the S&F's in a very quick motion as if I was in a hurry or racing to get the job done.  The big hole in the crumb shot above was the mark that my left thumb had left behind.)  The point here, however, is not about the hole so big that a mouse could sneak through.  The point here is that I was stretching and folding the dough too fast that the dough was not allowed an optimal chance for proper gluten development while the fermentation was happening concurrently


I came across the following remark in LeadDog's comment in a post, entitled "Exploring Bread" in Sourdough Companion that best exemplifies what I meant.   He said,


 



When I was reading "Local Bread" Leader attributed the following concept to Max Poilane:


"Max explained how slow, steady kneading gently conditions the gluten to create an extensible and elastic dough.  The modern practice of high-speed mixing while hurrying along the process, oxygenates the dough too much and bleaches it out, causing the bread to lose flavor and character."



 


In my formula above, there are at least two more elements that are not consistent with a French-style Country Sourdough.  And these are (a) that the levain is normally a stiff levain, and (b) that the levain normally falls within 25 to 35% of baker's percentage.


Based on the foregoing, I gave it one more try at reproducing Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough that I had when I visited his Tartine Bakery last August in San Francisco.


 


My formula for Bread Inspired by Chad Robertson's Country Sourdough



  • 150 g just ripe stiff levain @60% hydration (30% baker's percentage)

  • 41 g organic stone-ground medium rye flour (7% of total flour)

  • 82 g organic stone-ground whole wheat flour (14% of total flour)

  • 377 g organic unbleached plain flour

  • 384 g water

  • 11 g salt


Total dough weight was 1040 grams and overall hydration was 74%.


 


                    


 


Some main points of my procedure


My room temperature was 28C.  Over the three hours of bulk fermentation (from the time mixing was complete to the time I pre-shaped the dough), I did 4 sets of slow and gentle S&F's of 25 strokes each, every 45 minutes or so apart. 


At the end of each set of S&F's, instead of oiling a separate clean bowl to place the dough in, which I find really troublesome, I dab some oil at the edge of the dough where it meets the mixing bowl all round.  This works really well - the oil protects the dough from tearing through the successive S&F's.  I also oil my fingers so the dough doesn't stick to my fingers.  I have a standing plastic container on the side, in which I have oil, ready to be used.


I proved my shaped dough for about an hour and then placed it in the refrigerator for a 12 hours retarding.


 


                


 


                             


 


I am very happy with the result and will now close my book on Chad Robertson's country sourdough.  If you are interested to try this recipe, the two-hour levain expansion is not necessary, but just make sure that your starter is very vigorous; under ripe, I think, is better than over-ripe; I would use it as soon as it domes. 


The recipe looks simple.  Its success, however, is all in the understanding of and management of the fermentation and gluten development processes simultaneously.  They are independent of each other and yet co-dependent on each other.  


This is the first time that I felt that our dough should be treated with love.  "Slow and gentle S&F's" means love. 


In closing, may I be presumptuous and say that I would like to bring your attention to a most beautifully written "Meet the baker" story by MC.  So much love came out of her description of Gérard Rubaud, the man, the baker, and his way of making his Pain au Levain.  If you can feel the love, your Pain au Levain will have come to a new level.     


 


Shiao-Ping

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