The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Sometimes the hardest part of baking bread is being there.   Yesterday I meant to get to making a semolina bread (p. 135 of Hamelman's Bread) but I didn't quite get to it until later in the afternoon.   Then when it was finishing up the first rise, my son wanted me to take him out, so I delayed him until I could get the bread shaped, and then we went out to eat.   By the time we got back (only an hour later) the bread was ready to go into the oven,  but the oven wasn't preheated.   I didn't want to let the bread get overproofed, nor did I want to put it into a cold oven, so I did a little of both.   I preheated the oven for 10 minutes, and in it went.   The result - a little bit of oven spring, and an underdone bottom crust.   What would you have done under the circumstances?  And this is not a rhetorical question.

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One of my goals in learning how to make bread was to be able to recreate a bread I ate as a child called tzitzel.   As I understand it, tzitzel mean caraway in Yiddish, and tzitzel is a rye bread with caraway and covered with cornmeal.   So far, despite many attempts and many different formulas, I have not come very close to recreating this memory bread.   Perhaps one can never recreate memory bread.    In any cases, my searches on this site, with its many rye bakers, led me to Greenstein's Secret of a Jewish Baker.   I have tried making his Jewish Rye (p. 136) a couple of times, and not very successfully given beginner's errors.   I have also made Jewish Corn Bread (p. 155) actually a rye bread with caraway wrapped in cornmeal, several times,  and despite many  beginner's errors, this bread is delicious enough to make me (almost) forget about some elusive memory of tzitzel.   The problem with Jewish Corn Bread, at least as I make it, is that while I can get it to taste good, I can't for the life of me get it to look good.   The instructions call for the following:  "[after kneading] Transfer the dough to a prepared clean wet bowl...pat the dough down and cover with a film of water....Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes."   This is the only rise for this bread.   And within minutes after it's done rising it goes straight into the oven.   I suspect that this treatment is what causes it to taste so great, and what makes it so addictive (to me anyhow).   However, it's a bloody mess when it comes out of the water, practically unshapeable, soggy in parts and so on.   And to make matters worse, I'm not 100% sure that his instructions mean to immerse it in water - although that's how I've read it.    Does he mean immerse the dough, or does he just mean spill water over it until it's thoroughly wet.    Also Greenstein gives all his measurements by volume, some approximately, and I just cook it that way, but my results have been pretty consistent, and pretty consistently ugly. 

I'll wait until tomorrow to post crumb photos.   I've learned on this site, that one must wait, wait, wait to cut into rye!

And the crumb...

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I wasn't planning to make baguettes in my seven day bread making challenge to myself, but this morning I realized that my refrigerator was being taken over by bread byproducts.   In addition to my whole wheat sour dough starter and rye sour, I had the leftover levain from the pain de compagne I made the other day, as well as the bread equivalent of a chain letter - a white flour starter for Amish Friendship Bread that a friend dropped off the other day.   I had no intention of making the friendship bread.   It has most likely never been cooked in an Amish kitchen, since it calls for a box of instant vanilla pudding in the batter.    But the starter looked fine and healthy and I've been feeding it for a couple of days.   So I decided to mix the levain and the "Amish" starter together, add some salt and make a couple of baguettes.   The thing that has been holding me back from making baguettes is I don't have a couche or a baguette pan, and I am hesitant to run out and buy them until I get a better sense of what type of bread I want to make on a regular basis.   So I just set these baguettes out on a board, and let them flatten out as they would while rising.    So these don't look like much, and I'm sure whole wheat baguettes would be considered an abomination by some, but they are actually quite flavorful, and I'm hoping that I will be able to figure out how to make these (or something like them) again.


Now I'd better take a break for a day or two to give my family a chance to catch up on all the bread!

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Until I found this site, I had never heard of spelt much less cooked with it.   Today's entry in my seven breads in seven days self-teaching event is a multigrain batard with spelt.   I made this using (slightly modified) no-knead methods.   This loaf lost its shape a bit while baking and looks like a boule from one side and a batard from the other.  

Here is the formula:

225 g bread flour

30 g spelt

20 g whole wheat

25 g rye

210 g water

3/4 tsp salt

<1/4 tsp yeast (less than 1 gram so hard to measure)

Night before mix all ingredients and leave in bowl on counter.   In the morning stretch and fold in the bowl.   When the dough has risen again and looks like it's about to collapse but hasn't, scrape out of bowl onto lightly floured counter.   (Times respectively for these steps 12 hours and 3.5 hours.)   Pat into ball and let rest for 10 minutes.  Shape into a batard.   Place on board sprinkled with cornmeal.  Let rise until double and/or fingertip impression remains.   (Note - I let this go until it was well past double and dough was still springing back.   Finally after 2.5 hours I decided not to risk letting it overproof and popped it into the oven.)   At least a half hour prior to baking preheat oven and stone to 475.  Score.  Place loaf on stone and cover with a lid (I used the bottom of a metal roasting pan.)   Bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove the cover for the last 15 minutes.  

Any tips on how to do this better for this or the other breads I posted yesterday and the day before are humbly requested!

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Today's bread is a pain de compagne.   I used and modified Bernard Clayton's instructions for Madame Doz's bread.   Compared to the milk bread I made yesterday, this is long and involved, with many steps that make the scheduling difficult, especially for a beginning bread baker, who generally can't hang around the kitchen all day.   So I allowed myself more flexibility on the times than what Clayton specified, and looked more at the condition of the dough than the clock to decide if I could get away with going late or early on several of the steps.   I have made this bread a few times already and this came out the best yet.   It starts with a "starter" with flour, water, vinegar, buttermilk, and yeast (belts and suspenders?) that goes overnight.   Then add whole wheat, water and wheat germ to that to make the levain, which hangs around on the counter for most of the day.   Then mix up bread flour and water into a dough.   Then merge the levain and the dough - balls of around equal size - into one big blended dough.   The step that I really don't understand and haven't seen elsewhere, is that when the two pieces of dough are merged, only then do you add a solution of salt in water and work that in.   Can't argue with the result though - even though this uses a fair amount of whole wheat flour, it still comes out very mild and light.   Although Clayton's total kneading time is around 20 minutes, I tried to do as little as I could and still get the dough mixed up, so as to have more of an open crumb.   I baked this in a dutch oven instead of on a stone with steam, removing the top for the last 15 minutes.  

I saved half of the levain in the refrigerator, but don't really know how to use it other than to just make another big boule soon.    It is not a starter, so I don't know if I can just add to it later without the "starter" component" when I'm ready to bake another Madame Doz.

Tomorrow - Multigrain batard using no-knead techniques.

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I have been baking bread like crazy over the last three months.   I've tried a lot of things, I've received a lot of great advice in the forums, many breads haven't worked very well since I am so inexperienced, but now I have a list of breads that either came out pretty well or I hope that with more practice will eventually turn out pretty well.   In order to consolidate what I've learned so far, I will try to bake a bread a day (or so) with seven breads that I would like to get right.   I'll start with the easiest, and since it is also quite delicious, I'll call it the best per amount of effort:   Greenstein's Milk Bread.   In Secrets of a Jewish Baker, Greenstein gives two recipes for this - one with a sponge, one without.   The one I made today was with a straight dough method.   This means you just mix everything up, let rise, shape, rise, and bake.   No pre-ferment, no cold ferment, no sourdough no nothing.   And for bread, a fairly short time from start to finish.  

Mix 2 cups warm warm water with 1.5 Tbsp instant yeast.   Add 5 cups unbleached bread flour (I used a measurement of 133 g per cup).  Add 2 Tbsp soft butter, 4 tsp sugar, 2/3 cup dry milk, 2 tsp salt.   Mix it up until smooth.   Let double.  Cut in half.   Let rest for 15 minutes.   Shape and put in bread pans.  Let rise to over top of pan.   Score and brush with melted butter.  Bake with steam for 40 minutes at 375.   Remove from pan for last 5 minutes of baking and put directly on stone.

Tomorrow Madame Doz Pain de Compagne from Bernard Clayton.


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