The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Hamelman's Roasted Potato Bread, with some modifications.  I used a bit of my sourdough starter instead of yeast for the pate fermente, and also substituted about 12% rye flour for some of the white.

Note the chunks of potato sticking out the side of the proofed dough - have to cut the potato a bit finer next time.

The finished loaf. 


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I'm nothing if not a slave to fashion, so with a three-day weekend in hand I thought I'd give dmsynder's version of the SFBI miche a try. 

I followed the recipe pretty closely as printed.  The flour was King Arthur Bread mixed with 15% King Arthur Whole Wheat.  I did use the wheat germ, and also about 20 g of rye flour.  I probably ended up with a little more water (20-30 g) due to not reading quite far enough ahead in the ingredients list.

I used a large stainless collendar to do the proofing.  This wasn't entirely successful as the very top (bottom during proofing) of the loaf stuck as I was transferring it to the peel.  This despite a thick layer of flour, but after sitting in a plastic bag in the fridge overnight that layer had probably absorbed a lot of moisture.  I really need to order some large bannetons from SFBI.

I followed dm's recommendation for the bake:  15 minutes at 525 deg.F; 45 minutes at 420 deg.F with convection.  Here's the baked loaf:

and the sliced loaf.  We could only wait 2.5 hours instead of the recommended 4, but the result was one of the best breads I have ever made.  And not really much work!


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Well, not really - I can only claim one of them as being anything close to my own recipe.

My younger son and I went out for dinner Saturday and stopped by a used book store on the way home. Whenever we are in a used book store, antique store, garage sale, etc I annoy my wife by saying "why is there never an _Artisan Baking Across America_ or something at a reasonable price?". Saturday there was; I found Glezer's ABAA hardcover in like-new condition for $25. List price new was $40 and ones in average condition go for $40 today on Bibliofind so I snapped it up.

Since I had to feed my King Arthur Vermont sourdough anyway I thought I would try Glezer's Thom Leonard Country French Sourdough. Since I had two other breads to make today (Sunday) I decided to try the Hobart KitchenAid K5-A I picked up on eBay for a fairly reasonable price. This was the first time I had used a stand mixer for bread dough.

I didn't have either high-extraction wheat or a fine-screen sifter, so I just used whole wheat. The overall process went well. The K5-A got very hot on top and the dough kept climbing the hook; I have a lot to learn about using a mixer. But the dough did come out very smooth and silky. After I took it out of the mixer is was a bit sticky so I kneaded it by hand for another minute or so, and for the first time I am fairly sure I made a dough that would "pass the windowpane test".

I folded every 3x 30 minutes per instructions, 90 minutes more. My banneton is not large enough for this much dough so I used our large metal colander which I sprayed with bakers joy and floured (based on previous experience with trying to rise crumbbums' miche in it which did not go well). Proofing was about 4 hours because I had pizza in the oven at the 3-hour mark.

I got the dough out of the colander and onto the peel. It puddled quite a bit but kept it large boule shape at about 14 inches in diameter and looked pretty cool. I even managed to slash it in a diagonal pattern.

Then - what looked like disaster hit: the dough stuck to the peel. Once it was out of shape I figured I had nothing to lose and kept shoveling it forward with my super-sized spatula (gift from younger son). The dough kept folding under itself until what was on the stone was more like a 16" super-batard with a spiral pattern of cuts around it. A cup of boiling water in the cast iron pan. 15 minutes at 500 deg.F, remove the pan, not looking too bad. Then 30 minutes at 450 and 30 at 400. The result:


OK, that is the coolest looking loaf I have ever made. Purely by accident, but I will count it. The slashes that rolled under the loaf ended up making a neat pattern around the full circumfrance of the baked loaf. Oven spring was excellent. Not pictured is the crumb which was reasonably open with a mild sourdough flavor. In the background is my weekly sourdough rye, this one with added sunflower, flax, and poppy seeds.

Two more from previous weeks while I am at it. First a Hamelman Vermont Country Sourdough:


I think Hamelman calibrates his recipes for dramatic oven spring. And a Hamelman Sunflower Seed Bread with Sourdough Rye which I made as two french loaves in my Chicago Metallic french pans for a dinner party:


Even though it was a wet dough lengthwise baguette-style slashing worked nicely.



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==== "Remember always that a wise man walks with his head bowed; humble like the dust." -Master Kan==



Labor Day Bread MedleyLabor Day Bread Medley

I got a bit out of control during the Thursday evening through Monday period of the Labor Day weekend here in the States.

Front row:

  • Healey Modified Beranbaum-Hammelman Sourdough Rye (this is my weekly sandwich loaf)

Middle row (left to right):

  • Bread machine soft sandwich loaf based on Bob's Red Mill Potato Bread Mix with 75 g whole wheat and 75 g chopped sunflower seeds added; kneaded and baked in bread machine overnight using timer (nice way to wake up).
  • Hamburger buns (first 7 of 14) based on Bob's Red Mill Potato Bread Mix. Mixed, kneaded, and first rise in bread machine; turned and 2nd rise, scaled, shaped, proofed, and baked by hand.
  • Remnents of Somerset Cider Bread from _Dough: Simple Comtemporary Bread_ by Richard Bertinet. Ran out of rye flour and had to use some whole wheat. Very good toasted.

Back row (left to right):

  • Classic White Sourdough; recipe from King Arthur with their Vermont Sourdough starter package. No added yeast
  • Floydm Daily Bread. A little problem with the hydration factor here - the proofed loaf stuck to the peel like paste and was basically shoveled onto the stone. But the end result was tasty.

If you are seeking some quick positive feedback try the hamburger buns. They are very easy to make (by hand or with the machine) yet they never fail to generate oooohs of apprecation from barbeque guests. I use olive oil for a richer looking crust.

Table cloths from my wife's gigantic collection. My appreciation for the photographers who shoot bread cookbooks grows every time I try to capture images of my bread; getting the angles and perspective right is very difficult.


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Whilst cleaning out the coin container on my dresser in preparation for taking the coins to the supermarket to be counted, I found an unused gift card from Barnes & Noble.  Had it been there 8 months?  20 months?  Who can say; the question was - what to do with it?

What type of book to buy was not in question, but exactly which book was.  I still don't have any of the first four Reinhart books (and would very much like American Pie), Leader has just released a new one, and there are other classics I don't have.  Based on reviews and comments here I decided to get Reinhart's new Whole Grain Breads.

This is without question an excellent book.  I have read some of the chapters and skimmed through the rest, and I would say it will take 4-5 thorough readings until I have absorbed everything Reinhart has to say.  Which is bad, because I am still re-reading The Bread Builders and trying to absorb that.   Reinhart has put together a lot of thoughts that I have been stumbling towards over the last year as I have tried to increase the fraction of whole grains in my bread (and other baked stuff), and it was interesting to see that the bibliography included many books (such as Bread Science) that  have read in the last year, as well as a nod to this web site and its participants.

I decided to start out with the Transitional Country Hearth Loaf, as my family's preferences lean toward white(er) loaves.

Given that I had not yet read the Theory and Process of Delayed Fermentation chapters when I jumped ahead to the recipe, the steps were fairly straightforward for anyone who had made a RLB or Hammelman recipe.   I tried to follow the recipe exactly to see if I would get the results from the book.  One point that bothered me was where the sequence said "combine the soaker and biga pieces with all other ingredients".  The "other ingredients" were 5g salt and 7g yeast; I was expecting some more water, flour, or something.  But when I mixed it up the texture seemed right.  One thing I did is carefully interweave the 12 pieces of biga and 12 pieces of soaker into a neat 3-layer pattern with the salt and yeast in between the layers.  I have zero artistic ability but the weave looked neat (unfortunately I did not hae the camera at that point) and I was gratified the next day to find a similar picture in the opening chapters of the book.

Here is the proofed loaf on the peel, waiting to be slashed and go in the oven:

sPh - Reinhart Transition Country Proofed LoafsPh - Reinhart Transition Country Proofed Loaf

Here is the baked loaf about to come out of the oven.  Since I proofed it in the banneton I was not able to put semolina on the peel.  I should have put some between the loaf and the end of the peel before sliding but did not, so the result was some ovalization of the loaf:

sPh - Reinhart Transition Country Baked LoafsPh - Reinhart Transition Country Baked Loaf

This picture on the counter gives some indication of the size of the loaf with the thermapen in the background.  Quite a bit of distortion from the wide angle lens though since the standard Corelle bowl in the backgorund looks small:

sph - Reinhart Transition Country Baked Loaf on Countersph - Reinhart Transition Country Baked Loaf on Counter

Here is the "crust and crumb".  I took this outside to get some strong light, which allowed a good handheld closeup.  The crust was good; thick and chewy but not too tough or crunchy.  The crumb was open and had a good taste but was a bit dry:

sph - Reinhart Transition Country Crust and Crumbsph - Reinhart Transition Country Crust and Crumb

And here is an end-on shot of the sliced loaf.  Note that despite my careful layering of the soaker (darker) and biga (lighter), mixing, and a total of 7 minutes of kneading there are still clear areas of light and dark crumb:

 sph - Reinhart Transition Country End View Crumbsph - Reinhart Transition Country End View Crumb

Conclusions?  Overall this was a good bread, well-received by family and neighbors.  As mentioned my family and I found it a bit dry.  The published hydration is 65%; when I make it again I will try 70% or even 75.  The taste was good with no bitterness and just a hint of "whole wheat" flavour; the crust was very good.  Toasted with a little butter it was excellent.   A good recipe and actually very easy to make.


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Partly due to a desire to answer some long-held questions, partly in reponse to a recent topic, I undertook an investigation of breadmaking while camping this weekend past.

The occasion was my son's Scout Troop's annual caving outing, this year a 3-day trip to Meramec State Park in Missouri. My wife leads the caving tours (actually my son handled two of the four tours himself this year which was neat). I have had enough caves to last the rest of my life, so I volunteered to stay behind, mind the camp, and cook for the adults on the trip.

I wanted to investigate several questions. First of all, could I make bread dough under camp conditions? Second, could I bake the dough in a dutch oven over charcoal or fire? Third, could I use a small wood fire instead of charcoal to heat a dutch oven? And finally, just how hot does a dutch oven get in camping conditions?

The answer to the first question is a definite yes. I decided to try a no-knead recipe using one bowl, spoon, and plastic wrap. I had no problem making or fermenting the dough. Temperatures were ideal at about 60 deg.F overnight and 75 deg.F in the shade on Saturday. I used the NYT recipe scaled up 1.3x, with the addition of 50 g rye flour to help with fermentation. One of the camping tables made an excellent turning surface once dusted with flour; I used the same large mixing bowl as the rising container for the shaped loaf. The bread rose nicely even in the solid bowl, and by cutting flour in on the sides I was able to get it out of the bowl with little problem (though see more on this in a bit).

Jumping ahead to questions 3 and 4, about 3 PM I started a small log-cabin style fire with 4 small logs about 4 inches (10 cm) square[1]. By 4 PM it had burned down quite a bit and was nice and hot. I put the dutch oven on the logs and tossed a handful of charcoal into the well formed by the cross-hatch of the logs for good measure.

Around 20 minutes later I tried to measure the temperature of the inside of the dutch oven. How you might ask? With the handy Thermapen in my waist pack, right next to the compass and Swiss Army knife. Doesn't everyone carry one of those on camping trips? I received much ridicule from my wife when she saw it later on.

Unfortunately, I could not hold the Thermapen on the dutch oven long enough to get a reading before my hand started to roast. This should have been a clue, but I was not quick enough to catch it. It was also lucky as later events will show. When I pulled my hand back the highest temperature was about 450 deg.F.

I then tried to transfer the dough into the dutch oven. Extraction from the bowl and flipping went well, but I hadn't tucked the hoop handle down far enough and the dough hit it. The result was a very off-center blob rather than a nice loaf. I was very annoyed but this turned out to be another fortunate accident.

My usual cooking time for NYT in the oven at home is 30 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered at 475 deg.F. So I figured I might as well take a peak after 20 minutes in the fire.

Wowsa. The loaf was fully risen and the top was turning from golden brown to black. I pulled the dutch oven off the fire, let it cool for a while, and took out the bread. The bottom of the loaf was not just black but carbonized: it looked like a flake pastry, except the layers were layers of carbon! The solid carbon crust was 4-5 mm thick. Internal temperature was 220 deg.F per the Thermapen.

I had to get back to cooking the rest of dinner (another dutch oven recipe). Once the loaf had cooled my wife sliced off the carbonized bottom and the fully burned areas of the top, then cut the remaining loaf into sections the way you do with a boule. The crumb was very moist, which I attribute to the short total cooking time and the solidified crust preventing moisture escape, but the texture was just on the edible side of gummy and the flavour was excellent. The entire loaf was eaten with several people taking seconds!

I estimate the temperature of the dutch oven had to be around 800 deg.F. If I had been able to hold my Thermapen in it any longer I would have destroyed it, as it is only good to 575 deg.F. Similarly, had I manged to get the dough into the oven in a nice even ball it probably would have carbonized all the way through; since it was a giant lump the shape of a US football the center was still edible bread.

My conclusions?

  • Can a dutch oven be operated with a wood fire? Of course, since this is how they were used historically, but I found that I can achieve the same results
  • How hot does a dutch oven get? Pretty darn hot! - in fact you have to watch that it isn't getting too hot in a hot fire
  • Can bread be made on a camping trip? Yes. Contrary to what I initially thought the problem will be regulating the baking temperature at the high end, not the low end.

Unfortunately my son had the digital camera at the cave during this process so I have no pictures ;-(. Three black-and-white film shots were taken of the loaf, and once those are developed if they scan well I will add them to this entry.


[1] Note: the State of Missouri in the US is rapidly re-foresting as marginal farmland goes back to forest; there is plenty of firewood and no restrictions on campfires as long as there is no forest fire warrning. Burning locally-grown firewood is essentially carbon-net-neutral.

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