The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Vogel

I searched for different traditional Stollen recipes, combined several parts from all of them to match my personal taste and then baked my first Stollen yesterday and finished them today. I've never done them before, so I don't know if they will be good. The Stollen are quite heavy; 1 kilogram each. But traditional Stollen are supposed to be rather dense, without a lot of air inside them. Now they need to "sweat" for about a week in order to create the typically moist and soft structure and a good flavour. At least that's the plan and I hope it will work.


If they turn out to be good, I will of course post the recipe. Maybe next Sunday.


Stollen


Oh, and that's how it is looking outside today, so kind of fitting:


Winter

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Vogel

Yesterday I made another Vermont/Norwich Sourdough. I basically followed the recipe, but used medium dark rye flour instead of whole rye. When I was about to shape the 1 kilogram piece of dough into a boule (see this great tutorial) I noticed that there weren't any clean kitchen towels left. After a few moments of panicking I decided to do the final rising on a plastic wrap, which I lightly and evenly brushed with flour and put on a solid sheet (like this). Since this wasn't a rye bread and the shaping was tight enough for the dough to stand on its own, I didn't even need a banneton-like construction to support it. I was surprised that it worked really well and was much easier and less messy than with a towel. I could just turn the dough on my bread peel and then slowly remove the wrap from the top. A very convenient method, indeed. One visible difference was the lack of a structure that results from the pores of the towel.


The only question left is: Which does more harm to the environment? Having to wash an additional towel or throwing away an additional piece of plastic wrap? Well, next time I will try the following: I have a non-solid/flexible foodgrade plastic mat. It's basically a cutting board, but not in a solid form but more like a thick flexible plastic sheet (something like this). So it should be easy to release this from the dough, too.


Apart from the techniques it was also the first time I managed to successfully make two of the same kind of bread in a row, without any major mistakes resulting in the second attempt to be a total failure after the begginner's luck during the first try. It was also my best crumb in a sourdough bread so far. Very very soft, without any major dense spots or gigantic holes. Yay!


rising on a floured towel, showing the structure of it


Crust 1


rising on floured plastic wrap, showing a "cleaner" crust


Crust 2


crumb of the second loaf


Crumb

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Vogel

Since I've never really been satisfied with my Ciabatta, I tried to do it in a more conservative way. I only used a 75% hydration dough, so the lower end of the Ciabatta range. Instead of doing the stretch & fold directly in the bowl with wet hands, I did it on the floured work surface, which took a little more time. I carefully followed the principle of the dough having an axis with two poles (the smooth side and the sticky side). The result was a dough that was so strong that I couldn't even really stretch it in order to cut out the pieces. In the oven the loaves expanded so much that part of the crust opened.


I didn't watch the baking process well enough in the end phase, so the crust burnt a little and the bread dried out a little around the outer layers of the crumb. The crumb wasn't extremely open. Still I am really happy about how they came out and how strong the dough was.


Ciabatta crust


Ciabatta crumb

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Vogel

I've baked several things during the last weeks and I really wanted to post some pictures here, but first I had a foodborne infection from bad olives, then my camera went to die. I hope I will be able to post more regularly during the next weeks.


Work in progress: rolls


In German bakeries you can buy a wide array of different rolls. Unfortunately, since the wholefood movement became popular, a lot of those rolls, especially the darker ones with seeds, are made from whole wheat, often without long fermentation. For a lot, maybe the majority, of people whole wheat is pretty indigestible, because in contrast to rye the unwanted substances in the husk of the grain aren't fully decomposed by fermentation. I am one of those people and prefer white wheat flour.


Of course making rolls isn't much different from making bread, but I didn't really succeed in creating the thin and crispy crust of rolls from the bakery. Especially on the bottom side they were just too thick and bread-y. Now I used a perforated baking sheet for the first time and it really helped me to achieve this goal. The hot air and steam can circulate through the little holes in the baking sheet, giving a more uniform and thin crust at the bottom.


This time I made rolls with seeds and a little bit of rye sourdough. I didn't really follow any recipe and just threw some ingredients together, so don't take the following recipe as the final recommendation. Personally I liked them very much. The rolls are not shaped but just cut from the final dough, similarly to making Ciabatta. I chose this method because that's how seeded rolls are mostly sold here, too.


crust


crum 1


crumb 2


The recipe makes about 16 medium or 12 big rolls. The dough uses a total amount of 600 grams of flour and has 70% hydration (just relative to the flour, seeds not included) and is made with both rye sourdough and a wheat poolish. It is really cold here in the house (about 65°F/18°C or even less), so you fermentation times might be shorter.


rye sourdough



  • Produce 200 grams of ready 100% hydration rye sourdough (so from 100 grams of medium dark rye flour / Type 1150) in a way you feel comfortable with. I usually do a three-stage feeding over the course of about 20 hours.


poolish



  • 100g water

  • 50g all-purpose flour / Type 550

  • 50g wheat flour Type 1050 (I think it is similar to "white whole weat flour" - you can just use all-purpose flour here too, if you want to)

  • 0,3g fresh yeast (a tiny splinter about the size of a pine nut)


Disperse the yeast into the water until you can see the water becoming slightly coloured. Mix in the flour, cover and ferment for about 16 hours at room temperature.


dough



  • 200g rye sourdough

  • 200g poolish

  • 50g medium dark rye flour / Type 1150

  • 350g all-purpose flour / Type 550

  • 45g sunflower seeds, toasted and roughly chopped

  • 45g pumpkin seeds, toasted and roughly chopped

  • 220g water

  • 12g salt

  • 4g fresh yeast


processing



  1. Mix sourdough, poolish, flour and water (except for 10-20g of it) until combined to a dough. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes.

  2. Disperse the yeast in the rest of the water, pour this mixture onto the dough. Sprinkle the salt onto the dough. Knead until the windowpane test shows medium gluten development. The dough will be a little sticky at first, but become good to work with later in the process.

  3. Put the dough into a bowl, cover and ferment for 3 hours, with two stretch and folds after 1 and 2 hours, respectively.

  4. Lightly flour the work surface and put the dough onto it, smooth side down. Degas the dough with your flat hands (flour your hands if the dough sticks). Keep the dough in a roughly rectangular or square shape and stretch it more or less depending on whether you prefer thicker or flatter rolls. Now just cut out rectangular or square pieces by using a dough scraper or cutter. Try not to squeeze down the edges of the dough pieces from now on.

  5. Put the rolls smooth side down on a baker's linen or towel, slip into a plastic bag or cover in another way you like. You can also sprinkle the towel with untoasted seeds and put the rolls on them (brush off the flour from the smooth side or spray it with water so the seeds stick, or place the rolls smooth side up so the sticky side is in contact with the seeds).

  6. Let rest until fully risen. It took me about 3 hours, but will probably take less for you in a warmer kitchen.

  7. Pre-heat your oven to about 445°F (230°C) in the meantime and prepare for steaming your oven. Gently put the rolls smooth/seed-side up on a baking sheet, preferrably a perforated one. Bake with steam for about 10 minutes at this temperature, then reduce to 390°F (200°C) for another 10 minutes, depending on how fast the rolls are colouring. Bake without steam for the last 5 minutes or so.

  8. Let cool on a wire rack.


 


A side note: It could also work not to degas the dough in step 4, but just cut out the pieces, let rest for 20 minutes or so and bake directly, without a final proofing. I've heard of this method but haven't tried it out personally yet.

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Vogel

Tales of doing every mistake you can do


A few days ago I've finished reading "Bread Science" by Emily Buehler. This book is really enlightening. It offers a very visual idea of what is happening in the dough during the different stages of making bread. Instead of wondering why the dough is starting to get wet and loose during kneading you are thinking: "Okay, now I have broken all the remaining disulfid bonds and therefore overkneaded it".
Having strenghtened the faith in my own abilities by reading the book, I thought "Okay, great! Now I have all the knowledge to do gorgeous breads without ever needing recipes again!" Needless to say, subsequently I would have been punished by being overly confident :).


So what kind of bread did I try to do? After having focused on doing basic white breads for several weeks I starved for eating some more local-style enrichened rye breads with a lot of seeds and other ingredients. Okay, so without caring about finding a recipe, I prepared my rye sourdough by feeding it in three stages and created a soaker with oat flakes, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. When I was going to mix the dough the next day, I realized: "Oops, I already used more than half the water for the soaker, there won't be enough left to properly hydrate the dough for the autolyse!" Thus I ended up having a hydration of about 110% percent instead of the aimed 80%. It was quite a mess. When I added the soaker in the end phase of kneading, it was quite difficult to mix the two loose masses together. Consequently, I ended up kneading for a much longer time than I planned to. You might guess it: I checked for the gluten development by doing a windowpane test and and it wasn't only smooth and translucent but actually really glassy, without any space for further development. The dough already began to release water. "Oops, overkneaded". Although already totally discouraged, I put the paste-like mass into a bowl for the bulk rise. I was aware of the gluten being more than fully developed and thus additional folding having a destructive impact on dough stability, but decided to to a stretch & fold anyway. Indeed, it helped to get the mass to a little more dough-like structure. However, soon I had to pay the price for it when I wanted to shape the boule. There wasn't any elastic gluten structure left. The moment I tried to create some surface tension, it tore apart, giving a moon-crater-like look. I put it into the provisionally made banneton (a plastic bowl with a floured towel in it) anyway and let it rise, followed by a retardation in the fridge. Turning it on pizza peel the next day, it unexpectedly still had a little bit of strength left. Of course I destroyed the remaining bones and muscles buy trying to score it, which I definitely shouldn't have done, resulting in the dough flooding all over the peel. Again: "Oops!"


Well, I've learnt a lot of things. Firstly, When being in baking euphoria, don't forget to actually plan ahead carefully what you exactly want to do. Secondly, reading "Bread Science" gave me the ability (or at least moved me further into the direction of gaining this ability) to realize what I'm doing wrong the moment I ... am doing it wrong. The book even encourages to do mistakes on purpos, to, say, intentionally overproof a loaf and then touch the dough just to learn how it feels like and how it has to feel the moment before it is overproofed, the perfect one for loading into the oven.


I have baked the bread anyway, so here are some pictures. As you can see, the completely destroyed dough surface made the bread flatten out pretty much, resulting in a bread with only a height of about 6,5 cm (2,56 inch), but to be honest I have already seen comparably flat rye breads in local bakeries. I will cut it in a few hours and present cumb pictures later the day, as I've learnt that breads with higher rye content need some time for the flavour to fully develop and for the acids to set.
I will definitely try to do this bread again, provided it tastes good which I don't know yet.


crust


crust


a little bit of post-baking crackling crust action


crackling crust


loaf height


loaf height


 


Edit: Since I wanted to have bread for dinner and I wasn't sure if my baked loaf was okay inside or if I would have to buy a loaf I quickly checked the crumb. It was better than I expected! I am actually quite pleased with it (I know your eyes aren't focussing on the bread right now!).


crumb


crumb


 


 


I don't have time right now, but I may add a provisional recipe later if I am satisfied with the taste.

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Vogel

Introduction


Usually I am not too much involved in the blogging world, or the blogosphere, as it seems to be called. There is a fine line between writing just for serving your own ego and writing as part of a social endeavour, the desire to contribute to the wide array of knowledge and media which is the source for all the people, including myself, in the need for advice. I always feared going too much for the former.


When I started baking a few months ago, I learned that this is a craft which is less about pure facts and information but more about feeling, instincts, checking out boundaries, trial & error. All the things involved in social relationships. Thus it seems to discuss and reflect on the craft of baking in the environment of a social community is the natural way to do it. Often I learn the most from just reading about what other people have done, about their individual success and mistakes, originating from their individual circumstances. It makes me feel getting a better sense of the thousands of individual factors you have to take into account when baking.


As I am still quite new to baking, I am far away from being experienced. Therefore I won't be able to post fancy regional recipes yet. I definitely hope to get to that point in the future, in order to give something back to the community. At this point of time, this blog will be more of a personal baking diary, which serves as tool for myself to keep track of my own progress and mistakes, but maybe there are still some people left who are less experienced than me an might take some useful information out of my posts. That would be exciting!


 


General progress: sharpening my senses


Although I have produced some decent loafs of bread in the past, the results are generally varying a lot. Sometimes when taking the goods out of the oven I think "Wow, I should open my own bakery!". And then the next day something more along the lines of "Ehm, I should wrap this loaf in paper so that no one ever can see it" comes to my mind. Being well aware of having not quite figured out how long I have to knead, proper shape without every second loaf becoming flat again, at which point the final proof is finished and such things, I finally decided to buy a few books as advised here. I ordered Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Jeffrey Hamelmanns "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes", and "Bread Science" by Emily Buehler. The latter has arrived yesterday, so I haven't read the whole book yet (but I have a feeling that this will be my favorite and the most enlightening one), but I've already absorbed the other two.


Reading those books literally took me to a new level of bread making. When I made bread after having read them, it was the first time I really opened my eyes and tried to use my senses. It was the first time I actually started to get a feel of what I am actually doing. I learnt a lot of new concepts, like thinking about the dough having an axis, with two poles, the smooth side and the seam side, and that you should try keeping them on the positions. It feels like having progressed from step 3 of 100 to step 7 of 100 or so. Thus I am still far away to produce really good and constant results, but I have become yet again really motivated to finally get to this point.


 


Most recent baking experiments


Ciabatta


dough pieces / oven spring / crust /
crumb


Ciabatta doughCiabatta ovenCiabatta crust


Ciabatta crumb


The Ciabatta is made from an 80 percent hydration wheat dough with a biga (30% pre-fermented flour). Since I don't have a stand mixer, I used the Richard Bertinet kneading technique (http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough). Unfortunetaly, I didn't knead long enough so the gluten wasn't developed enough, which I realized while doing the stretch & fold during bulk fermentation. That's probably why the dough flattened a little during the final proof, but that's okay. I am really happy with the crumb. It has an open and glassy texture, just as I expect it from Ciabatta bread. The flavour was good, too.
Still I have a problem which I still haven't figured out, which is the following: My Ciabatta loafs tend to have rather hard crusts. I believe I know why it comes out like this. When pouring the dough onto the counter, I need a lot of flour to prevent the dough from sticking. The dough has a really wet surface (probably partly because I do the stretch & fold directly in the bowl and with wet hands) which hydrates the flour and creates sort of an outer layer of fresh and unfermented dough. As I use more flour because it is absorbed into the dough over time, this layer thickens. In the oven it creates a hard crust and prevents the loaf from properly browning. Another problem arises when I turn the dough upside down on the baking stone after its final proof. On the bottom side of the dough the flour from the counter builds thick lumps (especially when you stretch or scrape the dough a little) which are often incorparated into the dough when handling it. These lumps harden in the oven as well. I'm still searching for the perfect solution to use as little flour as possible and create a nice crust. Not turning the dough upside down when going to bake helps (see this photo: http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=ciabatta5j5u1.jpg), but then all the flour sticks to the bottom of the bread and I almost have to cut it away because it is too hard.
Well, I'll keep trying.


Norwich Sourdough


proofed dough pieces / right after loading into the oven /
3 minutes of baking / 8 minutes of baking / crumb /
crust


Norwich Sourdough proofed loafsNorwich Sourdough oven 1


Norwich Sourdough oven 2Norwich Sourdough oven 3Norwich Sourdough crumb


Norwich Sourdough crust


This is a Norwich Sourdough (http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/08/my-new-favorite-sourdough/). I basically used Susan's recipe, but I used medium dark rye flour (Type 1150) because that was the one I had here. I used a little more sourdough (16,7% instead of 15% pre-fermented flour). I am really happy with this one. I would say, these are the best loafs I have produced so far. I've learned a lot from reading the above books and finally found out that my shaped loafs need much more than the advised 2 1/2 hours (which produced this underproofed and very dense crumb: http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=crumbkjw0.jpg). I let them proof about 4 hours and the dough still felt very elastic (springing back when poked). This time I used the "put some dough in a glass, mark it and wait until it doubled"-test (http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=glassj7eq.jpg ; I let it triple) which helped a lot.
Especially considering that you cannot really find high protein or malted wheat flour in German supermarkets (the usual one used for breads has 9,8% protein relative to the whole flour weight [including natural moisture], that's why most white breads that are sold in Germany have additional pure gluten in the dough) I am quite happy to have finally produced a rather "big" loaf that is holding it's shape. Maybe I will try to find some malt to produce a more reddish crust, but if I will be able to reproduce my current results I am perfectly happy for now.


 


News from the local baking scene


"Aldi", the most popular discounter in Germany (a supermarket that offers a limited range of products but to the cheapest prices), slowly wants to set up vending machines for baked goods. You can imagine it like this: You press some buttons on the machine and order some rolls. Then the order is sent to some people in the store who finish half-baked rolls which come from big factories (and may contain a lot of chemical additives) in their ovens. Traditional bakeries are now protesting against it by trying to make a case out of it to bring to court. The bakeries charge Aldi of falsy using the term "freshly baked" where in fact the goods aren't really freshly baked but just warmed up industrial food, kicking the traditional craft of baking with their feet and just trying to make money. One of the bakeries is "Bäckerei Huth" (http://www.baeckerei-huth.de/weitere-seiten/news.html), which is home near the town I was born and therefore well-known by me (they have my favourite lye bretzels!). I'm eagerly waiting for which direction this whole case will be taken and keep you updated.

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