The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I've been making pizza for years with very good results. A few years ago I got a wood fired oven, anticipating to up my pizza game to a point where my pizzas would be better than anything I could get outside of Naples, Italy. Until I followed a tip from Ken Forkish's book THE ELEMENTS OF PIZZA, great WFO pizza proved to be elusive. 

The tip?  The hydration of dough destined for a WFO needs to be lower than that for a home oven. Since the pizza spends far less time in a WFO than a home oven (60-90 seconds vs. ~8 minutes), using high hydration prevents the crust from baking to the right doneness before the toppings burn. 

Being an avid home bread baker and knowing higher hydration generally yields better loaves I had always assumed the same was true for pizza. Forkish educated me. Making pizza dough with 60% hydration (rather than to 70%+ I use for bread) yielded the WFO pizza of my dreams. Here is a pie I made last night, topped with puréed San Marzanos, fresh ricotta, sautéed spinach, nutmeg, and capicola. 

 

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Ready for The New Year.  L'Shana Tova!

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Sjadad

It's been quite some time since I baked a pure levain from FWSY so yesterday I decided to make the Overnight Country Brown.  Right off the bat I had a couple of problems.  First, I use equal weights of white and whole wheat flours in my starter and keep it at 100% hydration while Forkish uses an 80% hydration starter.  This was not a huge obstacle since I'm pretty good at math so I could do a conversion.  My second problem was that I didn't have enough whole wheat flour to make the levain per Forkish's formula and still have enough to make the final dough, and I didn't feel motivated enough to go to the store.

Since the final dough requires only 216g of levain, I scaled down the formula while simultaneously adjusting so the final levain hydration was 80%:

Active Levain @ 100% hydration     22g

White Flour                                       82g

Whole Wheat Flour                           27g

Water                                                85g

Otherwise I followed the directions without deviation.  As an experient I used two different sizes of dutch ovens.  One was a standard Lodge cast iron dutch oven and the other was a smaller 4-quart Emile Henry.  My experience was exactly what Forkish said it would be (p. 47), which is the loaf in the smaller D.O. baked up higher with a more pronounced split.  You can see the two loaves side-by-side in a photo below.

This is a delicious bread with a very moist, creamy crumb and a wonderful substantial crust.  I won't wait so long before making it again. 

 

The loaf baked in the 4-quart D.O. is on the right. 

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Sjadad

I based this loaf on Ken Forkish's 50% whole wheat bread with biga. Instead of 50% whole wheat I made this 40% whole wheat and 10% rye. The hydration is 80%. 

I am very pleased with the result. A nice open crumb and light texture considering the high percentage of whole grain flours. I also love the deep color of the crust, which is shatteringly crisp. 

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I just returned from a week in Rome. I'll limit myself to commenting only on the bread and pizza or this entry would go on way too long!

I was gratified that some of the standard breads served at most evey trattoria and restaurant looked, smelled, and tasted almost identical to Tartine's country loaf or Vermont Sourdough. We didn't have one crumb of bad bread the whole week.

One of the more famous bread bakeries in Rome is in the Campo de' Fiori.  It is Forno Campo de' Fiori and it's known for having the best Pizza Bianca in the city. If you don't know this product, Pizza Bianca is sort of a cross between thin crust pizza and focaccia, topped only with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. They bake it as six-foot long rectangular pizzas and sell it by weight. You indicate how big a piece you want and the baker cuts you the appropriate sized rectangle, folds it in half so the bottom crust is on the outside, wraps it in a piece of wax paper and hands it to you.  You eat it as you walk. This pizza deserves all of its fame and praise. 

Deaniel Leader has a recipe for this very Pizza Bianca in his book Local Breads. I made it today. The flavor is very similar to what I ate in Rome, and the crunch when you cut and bite into it is spot on. However my version, while not thick like focaccia still came out twice as thick as the genuine article. In addition, after a couple of minutes in the oven huge bubbles baked up, which I pierced with the point of a sharp knife to deflate them. I'm certain they don't do this at Forno Campo de' Fiori. 

Have any of you baked Leaders' version?  If so, what was your experience?  If anyone has advice or ideas for how to avoid these bubbles, please share. As for the thickness, I know the common advice would be to stretch the dough thinner on the peel, but I strectched it as thin as I could without tearing. 

Thanks!

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Failure to plan. That was my situation this morning. I wanted to bake bread but failed to plan for it yesterday so I had no refreshed starter to elaborate, no poolish, no biga, no preferment of any kind. So I decided it was about time that I tried Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta. I made the semolina version. 

I followed the formula exactly, using the greater amount of water. I baked with steam for the first 10 minutes and left the oven temperature at 500 F the entire time. The loaves were done in 15 minutes. 

I'm very pleased with the color and texture of the crust, the openness of the crumb, and the flavor. I'll be making this one again. 

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I'm embarassed to say that this is the first bread I've baked since the summer. What can I say, I've been busy. At least I've been dutifully feeding my starter!

Today I baked Pane Lariano from the formula in Daniel Leader's book Local Breads. It's 50% whole wheat. I've made the all-white flour version many times and everyone loves it. I'm happy to report that this version came out just as good and I'm sure everyone will love it as much as the other. 

I followed Leader's formula and directions with one exception - I increased the oven temperatures by 50 degrees. Specifically, I started the bake at 500 F and lowered it to 450 F after the first 20 minutes. Even though Leader says to bake the loaves until the crust is practically charred, I did get a bit concerned that I burned my loaves. The finished loaves do look almost black, but the flavor is anything but burnt. And the crumb is very light and open considering this bread is 50% whole wheat.  One of these loaves will accompany Peposo tonight - a peppery beef stew from Tuscany. 

 

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Sjadad

To celebrate the Jewish New Year, 5774, I baked ITJB's Honey Whole Wheat Challah in a round braid, as is traditional for Rosh Hashana.  Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, sweet, peaceful, and prosperous New Year! 

In the first photo you can see the indentations from my "poke" test to be sure it was ready for the oven.  I didn't use any seeds because my kids prefer their Challah plain.

Sjadad

Honey Whole Wheat Challah Honey Whole Wheat Challah Honey Whole Wheat Challah

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Sjadad

We had a crowd over on Firday night for a pizza party.  Of the dozen balls of dough I prepared, we made 10 pizzas in my wfo with various toppings.  I was the pizziaolo and with all of the activity there were no photos taken of any of the final products :(

The weather today is not great - rain showers througout the day.  So I cranked up my kitchen oven with a baking steel and used the last two balls of dough.  The first was lunch, with leftover toppings from Friday night, namely San Marzanos, fiore di latte and shredded mozzarella, crumbled sausage, sauteed wild mushrooms, basil, and a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil.

Dessert Pizza+ Dessert Pizza+

I made a Berry Cheesecake pizza with the other ball of dough.  We're going to a freind's for dinner and this will be my contribution for dessert.  I've never made this before and I know I probably shouldn't bring an experiment, but they're my oldest, closest friends so I can't do much damage.  I would have preferred a darker bake but I didn't want to incinerate the berries.

Dessert Pizza+

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