The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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varda

Some may remember that I put out a call for interns to visit my bakery Bread Obsession this summer.   I am sad to say that no interns applied.  First, we got a lovely visit from exceedingly accomplished baker, Pat Roth, which she wrote about so eloquently here.  Then a couple of weeks ago, Alfanso showed up on our doorstep and proceeded to work alongside us for several weeks, with such zest and verve and talent and experience that I could hardly call him an intern - the better term would be visiting baker.   

Here he is shaping one of our standbys - Flaxseed Rye

and Multigrain Sunflower loaves...

A few of the final product are pictured above.

Alan noted that our big mixer had a tendency to walk around the room when it got going.   We have been wracking our brains trying to figure out how to solve this, but none of our attempts worked.   Alan looked things over, and came up with a simple and ingenious solution:   he epoxied little brackets to the floor.   Lo and behold, no more mixer stalking out into the middle of the room.  

It was so great to have him visit.  We miss him already.

Varda

www.breadobsession.com

facebook.com/breadobsession

instagram.com/breadobsession

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varda

Are you interested in learning to bake high quality bread in a busy production environment?   Now is your chance. Bread Obsession is offering internships starting at the beginning of May and running through August for 2-4 weeks each.  We are a young and growing artisan bread company.   We sell to restaurants and stores, and will be participating in the biggest farmers market in Massachusetts at Copley Place in Boston.  You will work alongside us on all bakery tasks including mixing, shaping, loading the big oven, and keeping the bakery tidy and clean.   We need people who are passionate and experienced bakers who want to improve their skills, and try out working in a bakery.   We are in Waltham Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.   Please message me if you are interested and would like to find out more.  For more information about us check out my Fresh Loaf blog and this recent article.  http://www.edibleboston.com/edible-food-finds-bread-obsession/

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varda

Hi.   I thought that some might be interested in this profile of Bread Obsession in the Spring issue of Edible Boston.   

http://www.edibleboston.com/edible-food-finds-bread-obsession/

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varda

It has been such a long time since I've posted on Fresh Loaf.   As some of you may remember, I went very gradually from baking for fun to baking for fun and profit.    Over that time, the business has steadily grown, but was limited by the fact that it was based in my home kitchen.   Over a year ago, my business partner and I started looking for a place to rent.   It took longer than I could ever have imagined to find a place that we could afford in a reasonable location, but finally we found a place last summer.   Then it took longer than I could ever have imagined to fit up the place to make it suitable, safe, and sanitizable to make food for sale.   But now it has been done and we are approved for lift off. 

I would like to say that now I'm cranking out hundreds of beautiful loaves of bread daily but the reality is that I'm in test bake mode trying to figure out how to use the new oven.   I'm hoping that will be a lot shorter than the search for a place or the creation of a functional kitchen out of a former driving school, and before that ...a tile store.

We're looking for some baking help - part time at first, and then more as we grow.   Message me if you live near Waltham, MA, and are interested in finding out more.

www.facebook.com/breadobsession

www.instagram.com/breadobsession

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varda

What happens when your must have bread fails repeatedly?   Other than tears and recriminations, a lot of head scratching and experimentation.  This generally leads to upping your game at all levels as you optimize each step of the process, but unfortunately the main problem can remain hidden.  

This happened with my Lexington Sourdough which started out as an almost white, medium hydration sourdough and became....  This little devil had the most annoying habit of coming out absolutely beautifully for long periods of time, only to start failing alarmingly and in many ways, particularly when I made large batches of it for sale.   So what to do?   People must have their sourdough.   

First off - I finally had to break down and put a steam pan in my Cadco oven, even though I'd been avoiding this like the plague, as it already has a handy dandy piped in vapor setting, and that SHOULD BE enough.   Wasn't.   Denial was getting me nowhere.   So I took my cheap cast iron skillet and poured water in at the beginning of every bake, as well as turning off the oven for long enough for the bread to open.   This helped.   It stopped the scores hardening over and the sides splitting, and the bread giving birth to a baby bread.   So all done?   No way!   Many more successes but still alarming failures especially when getting ready for a market where "I love sourdough, what do you mean you don't have any!" 

So what did these next set of failures look like?    The dough would be absolutely beautiful, shape beautifully, and then mysteriously collapse into a puddle during the proof.   How could this be?   So time to fiddle with the formula - raise the hydration, lower the hydration, raise percentage of whole grains, eliminate whole grains altogether.   Some of these efforts created beautiful breads.   But come time to scale up for a market?   Same puddle bread, same failures, same walking away customers who didn't get their sourdough.  

Next up - must be the dough development right?   Yes right.    Add stretch and folds, bulk retard, mix like hell.... Did it help?   Most of the time but never for those crucial moments when you need a lot of loaves.   

Then luck struck.   One day, when I was making a few loaves of one of the instantiations of the elusive Lexington Sourdough, I had a bit of extra dough.   I formed these into 3 pretty rolls, and sent them off to the chef at a restaurant that serves our bread.   I didn't expect him to buy them as I had given him many samples of this or that, and he never added to his order.    Surprise, surprise, he ordered 300 of these babies a week.   Now suddenly I had to start producing these never before made rolls in quantity.    And strangely this went fine.   This went on for a few weeks before it occurred to me what had happened.   Same dough, same oven, same everything except for size and shape.   What the heck?

Thinking this over, I realized these rolls not only had the same dough development process as the bread, they also got cut up and rolled and twisted into shape.  Hmmmm.  

On to the bread at hand.   If you take a breadsworth of dough, cut it in two and shape each half separately then your dough gets twice the workout, yes?   Yes.   The bread pictured at top is exactly that - an olive bread using (one of the) Lexington Sourdough base (medium hydration, 20% whole wheat, 20% prefermented white flour)   No puddles either of dough or tears.   Just behaved itself from start to finish.  And this was at least a medium sized batch.

And for those of you who are still awake ---- Have I tried a big batch of straight up Lexington Sourdough?   Haven't dared yet, but by Jove, I think I've got it.

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varda

This week I've been honored by a visit from Pat Roth (aka proth5.)    I invited her here and happily enough she decided to come and share some of her baking wisdom with me.    One of the things I particularly wanted to master were those pesky brioches à tête.   How do you keep those heads up high?   How do you keep the neck from thickening until they look like body builders with no discernable distinction between body and head?   

These are urgent matters but first

--------------------------a shaggy dog story---------------------------------------

Years ago I worked in Boston.   On my way from the subway to the office I stopped in at the Pregnant Building at a little cafe in the lobby where I got my morning coffee and a spectacular brioche.   This being long before I started baking, I assumed that everyone could make such amazing brioche.   Little did I know.  

Then the tragedy of 9/11 struck.   All the big buildings in Boston started upgrading their security.    Since the pregnant building was the tallest in the area, their upgrades  were the most extreme.   Before I knew it I could no longer get into my little cafe as it was barricaded behind a security desk, and only those who had access to the building could get to it.   I searched half-heartedly for a new brioche source but nothing that I found was even close.   I tried to get an id for the building.   No dice.   I gave up.   

A couple of years later, remembering those brioche, I stopped by to see if the cafe was accessible and yes it was.  I was overjoyed but not for long.   Each time I stopped in there were no brioche on the shelves.   Finally I asked what had happened.   In the two years that I had been barred from the building, the baker had retired. 

Fast forward many years.   I have now made brioche many times, but the results have always lacked the artistry that I remember pre 9/11.   My brioche has to be better or the terrorists will have won.   Enter Pat Roth.

---------------------------End of shaggy dog story-----------------------------------------

A few important things about brioche:

Everything has to be very cold.   We weighed out and refrigerated all ingredients overnight.

Butter should be cold but plasticized by pounding (with a wine bottle in this case) before adding to the mixed dough.

The dough has to be mixed until it is very, very strong.

Here is Pat checking it out - is it strong enough?

With the cold weather all my doughs are drying out before I can even get them shaped.   But no need to worry.   Pat taught me to place the preshaped dough balls into a closed container so they stay moist before shaping.

She also taught me a new preshape method - stretch out, fold in half, turn so edge is on counter, fold in half and roll for a second.   Very fast, very tight.   Rest the dough and then shape into a ball.   The preshape gets you most of the way.

Then things start to get hard.   Make a pool of flour on the counter.   Flour the side of your hand, then start rolling a neck into the ball.    Not too much flour or it will just flatten out.  

Straighten up that bowling pin and place upright in a brioche tin.   

Now the really hard part and since I was working so hard no time for pictures.   With your left thumb press the head back while taking a floured right index finger and pressing it straight down from the base of the neck almost to the bottom of the tin.   Rotate all around until it looks like the picture at top.  

Proof well, egg wash and bake.

And now the really good part:

and even better...

Thank you Pat!

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varda

A year ago, I decided to close down my little bake to order business, and see what else I could cook up.   I got my wholesale license, and into a pretty decent market, and set out to make a lot of bread.   A lot of bread all depends where you are coming from.   I'm baking out of my kitchen with fairly small equipment and it sure seems like a lot to me.    I picked up several wholesale customers, and just when I think I have that under control, I bake for a big market, all semblance of control vanishes, and I just bake as much and as fast as I can.  

In the meantime, I added a business partner (aka life saver) and the two of us hunt for the mythological rental that will allow us to expand from micro to small, shop for the equipment we hope to be able to buy once we find the rental and so forth.  

But that's just business.   The main thing is the bread.

Flaxseed Rye, Multigrain Cranberry and Durum Levain

Multigrain Sunflower Seed

Borodinsky Rye

 

New York Rye

Cherry Boule

Challot

Challah Rolls and...

Cardamom Buns

Oh, and I forgot the baguettes - 

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Varda

 

 

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varda

Several years ago, when I first started haunting TFL for clues on how to make Jewish Rye, I came across references to George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker.   The breads I made from this book were god awful which had nothing to do with George Greenstein and everything to do with the (lack of) skill of the baker.   As time went on and I learned more about bread baking in general and Jewish Rye in particular, SOAJB got pushed to the back of the shelf and almost forgotten.  And yet people like David Snyder reminded me of it with his occasional Jewish Corn Rye bakes.    See for instance here.   Yum.  

The other day I came back to it   I decided to handle the volume measurements in Greenstein by pulling out the old measuring cups and then weighing what I did as I went along.   Then make adjustments from the weighed measurements going forward.   Since then this bread has become my new favorite.   I already make Tzitzel and Flaxseed Rye and Borodinsky and Schuster Loaf, so do I really need another rye on my plate?   Absolutely.   So good.   Must have more.

Formula:

         Final        Sour        Total  Bakers %
KAAP181 18145%
Whole Rye1338621955%
Water2146928371%
Caraway9 92.3%
Salt7 71.7%
Rye Sour (80%)156 15622%
Cornstarch glaze   
Caraway to sprinkle 700 

Method:

Ripen 80% rye sour until pungent

Mix all ingredients

Bulk ferment until somewhat puffy (this took two hours today in 70degF kitchen)

Shape into a jelly roll and mold the ends shut

Proof until it starts to soften (this took 1 hour today)

Glaze with cornstarch mix (boil two cups water - dissolve 2 tbsp cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water.   Whisk into boiling water until thickens and clear.)

Sprinkle with caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 500.  Load bread with steam for 1 minute.   Turn off oven for 6 minutes.   Bake at 430 for 20 minutes. 

Note that I did not use yeast in addition to the rye sour as Greenstein does.  Nor did I keep the fermenting dough wet as Greenstein says - just the regular old bulk ferment in a covered bowl.  

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varda

Lately I find myself making a lot of baguettes.   I definitely have an ideal for this simple, hard bread, which involves the pure taste of fermented refined wheat sheathed in crunchy goodness, but how often my efforts fall short.   Lately, maybe because of practice, practice and more practice I feel like the corner has been turned, and more often than not, what I get appears to deliver what I'm looking for.   I say appears, because usually I don't cut into, let alone taste the results of my labors.  Today I got a taste simply because knobbly ends are fragile and I broke a few before I could sell them. 

Speaking of knobbly ends --

recently a fellow fresh loafer (she can identify herself if she wants) taught me to make them.   I fell in love instantly.   All my baguettes must have knobbly ends.   The ones above are pretty restrained -- they can get a lot more knobbly than this.   But as I said, fragile.   As I was unloading this  morning (maybe my brain was fogged so early in the morning) one of my baguettes fell on its end, and bang - that was the end of the end.   Then a couple more tossed around too much, lost their knobs (is there a French word for this?)   Must treat more carefully - as if made of china. 

I switched to knobs from points a few weeks ago.   The store manager where I deliver many of these said her customers were asking why.   I said, just because they're cool, but then thought I should have had a more sophisticated and learned historical answer.   Any ideas? 

Method, Formula, Notes

 

Distribute yeast in water, then mix all until strong
S&F twice 20 minutes apart in mixer (10 seconds)
Bulk retard after 20 more minutes, 8-18 hours
Cut and preshape by scrolling into cigar shape
Rest around 20 minutes
Shape by gently pushing into long rope without folding or pressing seam - when long enough roll ends fiercely until knobbly
Proof in trays - seam down - around 20 minutes
Bake 500F 6 minutes with steam, 18 min 450F
KAAP17120526669 
Water1251500487573%
Salt3.542136.52.0%
Fresh yeast0.910.835.10.53%
 300360511716 

A few notes:

-Credit Mark Sinclair for the S&F in mixer approach.

- I started using fresh yeast a few months ago, and I definitely can see a difference - as you can see amount is tiny.

- I upped the salt to 2% because it seems to help survive the long night in the cold.

- I dropped hydration from around 80% a year ago to 73% now.   Much happier with the results.

- The high initial temperature is due to using baguette trays - you put all that metal in the oven and temperature drops pretty quickly.    It is actually a lot colder than that during the steam period but that's what I have the oven set to.

- a 300g baguette rolls out nicely to around 18 inches.   I also make a 24 inch baguette using 450g of dough.

 

 

 

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varda

One thing that happens when you bake for other people is they tell you what they want, and if you don't have it, sometimes they just walk away.   So it has gone for the past few months at farmer's markets, where a small but determined group must have their whole wheat bread, and won't even look at other offerings if it is not there.    I have been keeping a close eye on TFL for whole wheat baking.   True I have baked 100% whole wheat breads -- particularly Reinhardt's and also Pain de Mie following Janetcook's lead.   Neither of these satisfied me as a bread for sale - I was looking for an approach more in tune with my regular processes.  

Recently Last year Abel posted a bread (thanks to Bröterich for the link) made with rye sour and all whole wheat in the final dough.   (For some reason I can't find it - the post seems to have vanished.)   This inspired me, but my attempts to copy it resulted in a very bricklike substance.  So I played around a bit trying to find my own way.   Finally I stumbled on something that looked beautiful which used both my white and rye starters. The rush of the market being what it is, I sold a few loaves without having ever tasted it.   Last Saturday I brought even more to the market, and the loaves flew off the table, all the while with me wondering what in the heck I had just sold.   Fortunately though, I had a few repeat buyers, so I knew it couldn't be too bad.   This week with a bit of a slowdown since I'm not baking for the market this Saturday, I was finally able to taste my whole wheat bread.   I am really not much of a whole wheat fan - a little too healthy for my tastes, but this was really nice - particularly with the very dark crust whose sweetness contrasts nicely with the hearty crumb.   In fact I love this bread and it fits nicely into my routine, as it doesn't require any new preferments - just the ones I have on hand.

Some would call this 100% whole wheat, but of course it has some white flour and some rye flour from the starters, so I'll just call it whole wheat - seems ok.

Formula and Method:

Whole Wheat Boule   
     
Autolyze flour and water plus honey and oil 1:0010:30 AM
Mix all  0:1011:30 AM
Bulk Ferment  3:0011:40 AM
Shape in boule  0:302:40 PM
Proof  2:303:10 PM
Preheat 500, Load, Steam 1 min, off 6 min0:355:40 PM
Bake 25 minutes 425  6:15 PM
     
     
     
     
 FinalStartersTotalBakers %
     
KAAP0636312%
Whole Wheat445 44584%
Whole Rye024245%
Water2426130357%
Oil74 7414%
Honey30 306%
Salt10.4 102.0%
Starter104 104 
Rye Sour44 44 
     
Total950   
Total Flour532   
     
Starter is all white, 67% hydration  
Rye sour is all whole rye, 80% hydration - using Great 
River Whole Rye   
     

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