The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


pmccool's picture

It started simply enough.  I needed to make bread this weekend for sandwiches this week.  Since I hadn't gotten my starter out of the refrigerator and activated soon enough, it had to be a yeasted dough.  And there are so many formulas to try in BBA . . .

After taking stock of time requirements and ingredient availability, the winner was Reinhart's Multigrain Extraordinaire Bread, a successor to his Struan bread.  With a few modifications, as it turned out.  Cornmeal was on hand, although not the coarse polenta grind.  No wheat bran, but I figured that substituting 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the white flour ought to get me fairly close.  No brown rice, either.  However, there was some whole flax seed available, so why not crush some of that and put it in the soaker?  Perhaps most unusual, I actually had buttermilk in the refrigerator.  That doesn't happen often.

So, the soaker was constructed with crushed flaxseed in place of the missing wheat bran.  Note to self: next time try using the blender to chop or grind the flaxseed.  It has to be easier than using the mortar and pestle.  (I don't have a grain mill on hand.)  The following day I put together the rest of the dough pretty much per instructions, other than substituting in whole wheat flour for one of the 3 cups of bread flour and omitting the brown rice.  The dough was stickier than I anticipated and absorbed nearly a cup of flour during the recommended 12-minute kneading.  Toward the end of the kneading, the gluten was becoming very well developed.  Has anyone tried using an autolyse with this recipe?  It seems that it might cut down on the time required to knead the dough.

The dough was nearly doubled in about 60-70 minutes of bulk ferment and then shaped into loaves and put into pans for the second ferment. The baking instructions had about the widest latitude that I have seen for recommended baking time: 40 to 60 minutes for loaves in pans.  When checked at 45 minutes, the internal temperature was about 175F, so back into the oven for another 10 minutes.  At the second check, the internal temperature was between 185F and 190F.  They also had a nice hollow sound when thumped that was missing at the first check. 

Observations: 1) This bread is fairly forgiving of modifications.  Replacing 1/3 of the bread flour with whole wheat flour doesn't appear to have had an ill effects on texture or flavor; I should probably admit to enjoying whole-grain breads to all-white varieties.  2) The addition of the flaxseed lends a nice crunch in the finished bread.  3) This bread is sweet!  That isn't a complaint, although probably the brown sugar or the honey alone would be adequate for sweetening.  I think dropping the brown sugar entirely and adding a tablespoon of dark molasses in combination with the honey would make for an interesting flavor.  4) Even with all of that sugar and honey, the bread really didn't develop a dark crust.  Apparently the 350F temperature isn't high enough to drive a lot of caramelization on the crust.

All in all, a very pleasing outcome, especially in view of the liberties that I took with the ingredients.  And yes, today's sandwich at lunch time was delicious!

pmccool's picture

This weekend's baking exercise focused on sourdough Enlish muffins, using the recipe from King Arthurs Flour.  The taste is wonderful!  Even my 4-year old grandson polished his off and he is at a stage where he is developing some very strong opinions about what flavors are or aren't acceptable. 

The crumb was moist, tender and fine-textured.  I had hoped for a more open texture with large, open cells.  A couple of observations: First, with 1 cup of starter (mine is approximately 100% hydration) and 1.5 cups of milk providing the moisture for 5.5 cups of flour, this isn't exactly a slack dough.  Would a wetter dough be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  Second, would the use of water, or a water/milk combination, be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  (The milk I used was 1% milkfat.)  Third, this dough gets a lot of handling, especially since it is rolled out before the muffins are cut.  Would portioning out balls of dough and then gently flattening them into rounds by hand be better for open crumb formation?  Any ideas or suggestions will be cheerfully accepted.

The notion of leaving the sponge overnight, even in a cool basement, when it contains that much milk had me somewhat concerned.  Thankfully, it did not develop an off flavor or odor from any milk spoilage, as I had feared it might.  Could it be that the sourdough starter prevents other not-so-welcome bacteria from getting a toehold?

One adjustment that I will make for future batches is to lower the amount of salt.  The recipe called for a tablespoon of salt, which made the flavor rather more salty than I enjoy.  I think that I will try cutting it in half the next time and see how that works.

I will need to focus on balancing the temperature and time on the griddle in future batches.  While I managed to avoid burning them, the griddle was probably at too low a temperature for the first group; it took a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time for the first side to brown.  So I turned up the heat a little and was surprised at how quickly the second side baked.  Practice, practice, practice!

This recipe makes a large number of muffins.  In this case, 16 muffins that are approximately 4 inches in diameter.  We'll be freezing some of these for use later.  And when they are gone, I'll be making more.

Floydm's picture

I'm trying to make a few improvements here to make things easier for the non-techy user. You'll notice I've installed TinyMCE, a javascript-based editor. I think this will help most folks, but if you don't like it you can go into your account settings and turn it off.

I've noticed a few quirky things about it, like that you must have a chunk of text selected before the link button activates. It also is a little weird about deletes, at least in Camino.

Which reminds me: TinyMCE doesn't work in Safari, so Mac users will need to use something else. I recommend Camino. It is a lighter weight version of Firefox. I use Firefox all day when I need to get work done, but when I am browsing for pleasure I use Camino.

Please send any feedback you have about the recent changes I've made to me, either via the feedback link or by posting your thoughts on the site.

On the topic of bread, I baked Rustic Bread and a Whole Wheat Bread last weekend. I'm not sure how much baking I'll get in this weekend. Hopefully some.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

July 28, 2006 Found Buckwheat berries in the market.
They are hulled, meaning I can crush them between a finger and fingernail. This ought to be fun, one more whole grain without gluten to experiment with. The locals mix and cook them with rice to enrich it. I will first wash and soak them and add to my Poolish. They are shaped like little hearts with three sides reminding me of Austrian Löffel Kraut, a sort of nutty herb that grows everywhere there, picked for salads and high in vit C.
Having heard of Buckwheat flour for pancakes, I made a dough ball of fine buckwheat flour, water, salt, com. yeast and kneaded it. More like "play dough." It rose minutely for gas escaped in tiny little cracks all over the surface. I tweaked it and practiced my kaiser roll folds with it and left it in a little ball to rise. When I had had enough, I painted it with milk to seal the cracks and baked it. I managed to trap some bubbles and I like the taste but the dense grey puck cannot stand on its own. I cut it up and dried it.
My neighborhood dogs love me, by the way, they get all kinds of bread snacks. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've taught them all to sit. The ladies laugh as dogs of different sizes sit in a row like rice paddy ducks as soon as they see me coming. :) Mini Oven

pmccool's picture

My wife purchased a copy of BBA as a birthday present some weeks back and I finally got around to using a formula from the book; in this case, the New York Deli Rye sandwich loaf. It is a definite keeper. I have been admonished to put a big star next to that particular formula.

The bread is a wonderful base for a corned beef and swiss cheese sandwich, to start with. We'll keep experimenting and see what else works, too. The onions in the bread are a a delicious complement to other savory flavors, but somehow manage not to overwhelm the other components.

Since it was my first attempt for this formula, I made sure to follow the instructions closely. I opted out of the use of caraway seeds, since my wife does not enjoy that flavor. Next time I may try either dill or fennel seeds, since it seems either of those would make a good flavor complement.

The use of commercial yeast, brown sugar and buttermilk in the formula were a bit surprising. I think that the buttermilk (and the shortening) contributed to the finished bread's moistness. For the next attempt, I will probably skip the yeast. My starter seems to have plenty of boost, so the yeast really isn't necessary to ensure an adequate rise. I do need to follow some of JMonkey's recommendations for increasing the sourness of the starter. Mine is more mild than wild in the flavor department, even with having refrigerated the second build of the starter overnight. A longer, cooler rise with no commercial yeast would probably increase the sour flavor.

The other thing that I should have done was keep a closer eye on the dough during the final rise. When I came back in from some outdoor chores to check on it, it was almost 2 inches above the edge of the pan, instead of the recommended 1 inch! Warm day plus commercial yeast--who'd have thought it? Anyway, I got lucky in that there aren't tunnels and that the bread holds together instead of crumbling in the middle of the slice, like some other over-risen breads that I have made.

All things considered, this was a very satisfactory experiment with a new recipe. And it will definitely be back for an encore.

longlivegoku's picture

I have been on a quest for several months now to build a brick oven. I bought Alan Scott's book and also ordered some building CD's from a guy in Australia named Rado. While Alan's book was amazing (I will be re-reading it here soon) I ended up going with Rado's plans for what he calls a Masterly Tail oven. He gives amazingly detailed pictures of each step along with instructions for the mixtures needed. I think in all, I received 1000 photos of him building an MTO. Anyhow, I'm less than a month away (hopefully) from finally being able to bake and thought I would post some pics of the progress so far. It's been fun and a challenge to build. Fireclay was the only ingredient I've had trouble finding locally. I ended up running out yesterday while building the arches or there would be more done at this point. So it goes!


Hearth with wall

One arch

maggie664's picture

Have made this 3 times for my cafe and it sells rapidly. Blueberry and cream cheese combination is a new flavour combinatiion for New Zealanders. I drizzle a little lemon juice icing over the braid which adds to ita appeal. Thank you for the recipe as muffins are becoming passe

JMonkey's picture

A comment from Joe Fisher in this lesson I put together got me thinking about trying a really wet starter to see how it turned out. I usually make my sourdough with a 50% hydration starter (1 part water to 2 parts flour) which makes a really stiff starter. What if I reversed it? What if I had a starter at 200% (2 parts water to 1 part flour)?

Well, I tried it. On Wednesday, I converted part of my stiff starter to a 200% hydration starter and fed it about three times before making bread.

The result?

It was still sour, but a different kind of sour. Less tart, more smooth. I liked it. Now, it's possible that my starter hadn't fully adjusted to the super wet environment and I had some stiff starter microbes hanging out, I dunno. But I'm beginning to think that time and temperature may be much more important to the sourness of one's bread than the starter itself.

Anyway, I'm still keeping my starter stiff. Less chance of a spill in my cramped fridge, and it's easier to give away as a solid dough that a liquid. Fun experiment though!

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

Boy was this a busy weekend! Had the day off today, so I spent part of it baking.

First, the 'basic' sourdough recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Always a big winner.

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Had a bit of a blowout on the boule ;) It probably could have used some more rising time before going into the oven. The oven spring was beautiful!

Here's Pane Siciliano, also from TBBA. It's a wonderful recipe. The interior is soft, almost fluffy, and the exterior has a nice crunch to it. The sesame adds a welcome nuttines.

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The one on the end was supposed to be a spiral, but rose into something that looked remotely beehive-ish, then fell over :)

And here are my favorites in the looks department. I butchered a Pain de Campagne recipe in a bread book. The recipe was a 4-day recipe that told you to make a starter from scratch. I decided to use my rye starter (Clyde!) as the base, and modify the recipe to suit. Recipe follows.

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It's comforting to know I can basically wing a recipe, and the experience from dozens of loaves lets me come out with a finished product.
The one that looks all knotted up is just that - it's a square knot made with 2 long pieces of dough. I put shallow slashes in it to make it look like rope. I think it came out pretty cool! I'm bringing it to my father-in-law who is a Boy Scout Scoutmaster.
Oh, and the donut is an off-cut from making the square knot :) It was delicious! teehee

Starter recipe:

9oz rye starter
5oz flour - bread and whole wheat in about a 4:1 ratio
4oz water

Mix, let sit overnight.

Bread recipe:
6cp bread flour
4tsp salt
1 1/2 cp water (+/- 1/2 cup or so to suit the flour)

Mix everything together, knead about 10 minutes until dough passes the windowpane test, proof 3-4 hours until double. Punch down, shape, proof 2-3 hours until double. Preheat to 450F, bake on a stone 25-30 minutes.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Submitted by Mini Oven on June 17, 2006
Taking a tip from SourdoLady and since I had a little orange juice (that I didn't mix with Campari) I tried mixing it with oat flour. I'm curious if it is any faster than the process I used for my wheat starter. Smells like breakfast (like the OJ got poured into the cereal). What do you think of "Breakfast in China?" Smell it once a day. It is three days old and maybe I'll add more orange and oats. I'm very patient and it helps to park it out of the kitchen. I refuse to "watch the pot." My other starter is on holiday... no name. No guilt when i pitch it.
Bought more wheat flour and I'm back to step one. Seems like every bag has it's own idea of how it should be baked. Yesterday, hocky pucks, today I added oat flour and they came out super. It's enough to drive me crazy sometimes.

Strong Oat Starter

June 21, 2006
Breakfast in China or Chinese Breakfast is officially a starter. I added more flour and orange juice and within the hour it had gone thick, bubbly and doubled. Smells wonderful. Now the orange juice can go back into the Campari. In this heat, 44°c the ice cube tray is wearing out but my Chinese Breakfast is keeping cool in the living room. I think the name is too long... Chuzhou Sourdough is also a possibility and our ancient nearby park including Lang Yashan Mountain. O heck, let's be Chinese and call it: "Sourdough Breakfast with SourdoLady on Lang Yashan Mountain with Oat flours in her hair" in honor and praise to SourdoLady.

Tonight I will add one cup white wheat flour and 8 oz water, beat it and mess with it in the morning
Next Day: Mixed it real good and Took out one cup starter for the fridge. Then one cup for my recipe (780gm loaf) and the rest went into dry dock taking dulke's advice and pouring it out on baking paper on a tea tray to dry.

June 22, 2006
I didn't use any baker or commercial yeast but did a 3/4 cup each flour and water poolish using my Chinese Breakfast bowl with some of it still clinging to the sides ( as I moved the starter to a bigger bowl). Today as I came back from the market, the dough had trippled and still on the go. (It wouldn't degas by dropping or banging the bowl.) I shaped some rolls aprox. 95 -100gm each and will have some fun with my scissors.

Today I will test out my new stainless stone. Now I know some of you will think it's not "earthy" but steel doesn't come from outer space and this particular plate was fashoned with lots of TLC. I bake with baking paper because of the fantastic non-stick lift I get, and it doesn't breathe either. As the bread lifts, it also separates from paper and "stone" so I think the major point of the stone is to give that continous concentrated heat right there at the bottom center of the loaf and has less to do with "breathing." I'm curious, did anyone ever try baking a loaf on a hot cast iron pan or griddle?

Yep, Oat Starter
Submitted by Mini Oven on June 25, 2006
Yes, Oat starter and it formed rather quickly too!
Well I don't know if it is the heat or air pressure, my dough in the air-condition room or because of the nature of the yeast but it seems to produce a lot of rise in the first 3 hours and then get lazy. By the time I want to bake it, it gets down right sleepy. I got a picture of my Barley loaf (later please) and granted it is a little flat. Seemed the longer I let it rise, the worse the skin tention, it developed rips and tears and wouldn't hold a shape. I did use a lot (over 50%) of barley flour, like I would with rye and also white wheat and oat flour. I kneaded with wheat. It also stuck to my heavily floured cloth when I tried to basket it. So it did get knocked around.

The next loaf, will be a white wheat/oat one with pure oat starter. If it acts the same, then I'll have to skip the doubling rise and shape after a 30 minute rest from kneading. If that doesn't work, I'll add comercial yeast to stabilize it. I'm at or just below sea level and I need all the lifting help I can get! The bread does taste sour enough and barley has a slight bitter taste that I'm not used to. Make better bread sticks snacks for beer and the next Argentinian game! Now, That's an Idea!

And the next loaf...
Submitted by Mini Oven on June 27, 2006
And the next loaf is taking it's dear sweet time. Isn't it funny, just when you think ya know something, your dough has other ideas? But I think I know why, I'm always experimenting and what I did last time with my starter was to feed it and pop it back into the fridge. a couple of days have past but I guess that just wasn't long enough for my cold (5°c) starter. I will go back to my old habits of leaving my starter out till it rises and falls. But I think there is still something funny going on and will figure it out.

While I was waiting, I whipped up a batch of Sweet Corn Raisin Bread and like the recipe with only two changes: honey for sugar and nutmeg. I used real medium ground cornflour and also added the flour very slowly, very slowly, with lots of beating in between. Very nice skin this time and you are soon to see what my scissors has done. (If I can only get my picture to be accepted by this program.)The house smells lovely! It was fun to see something rise the way it should.

Barley flour 25%
Submitted by Mini Oven on June 29, 2006 - 8:18am.
At the moment, I've got problems and I think it's the Barley flour. Seems everytime I use it, my yeast refuses to cooperate. I was noticing that barley can be full of alpha-amylase. Could too much of this be killing my yeast? My loaf has been sitting in a 23°c living room since noon yesterday. It never really doubled so after 8 hours, I did a final fold and shape and put one in the fridge and left the other one out, covered to rise. It's now morning and nothing. Pulled the loaf from the fridge and set them both outside where it's warmer. We are expecting thunderstorms soon.

The oat starter on the otherhand is brewing away. How can this be? I cut the loaf to look for bubbles and some are there, not what I'd expect. Reshaped into rolls, and stuck into a plastic bag to rise. I am going to start a serious experiment to test my starter and the reaction of the flour to it. I will take two spoons of starter, put into two small bowls and mix one with barley flour and the other with oat. Could it be that barley neutralizes the pH? Add to my experiment: two more spoons of starter, two bowls, barley, oat, but with a little orange juice in each. I need a control so one bowl gets only starter. Covered all five bowls with plastic wrap and wait for a reaction.

My husband is telling me to stop breaking my head over it and go back to adding comercial yeast. Looks like this batch are doggy biscuits. Is there anything I can do without overworking the dough?

Letting the whole grain flour soak for an hour helped a great deal and the satiny texture looks good. Even now the surface is intact and smooth. Unfortunately it just lies there. :(

11:00 ....Dough 1 cm higher. I just baked the buns, cut them through first to look for bubbles, a few. Then stretched them into sticks. After one hour, baked them. they did puff up in the heat. Broke one open, does have air pockets. Taste? Bitter but rye like with aftertaste like chewing on aspirin. Crumb? Still hot but not bad, no soggy or heavy spots, little tiny bubbles. Suggestion? Forget Barley bread and leave it for beer and whiskey production. If I bake with it, then in very small quantities under 10%.

Oat/barley experiment looks so far like this: after 3 hours, nothing much going on in all 5 bowls and hard to see bubbles. So at 11:00 added to all bowls: 2 tsp water, tsp white wheat flour, pinch of sugar, stir one minute. Plastic wrap back on and wait.
15:00 Looks like no bubbles in barley-water, and very little action in control starter with white wheat flour... AHA! Barley with orange is thick and bubbly, so is oat and orange, pulling up second is oats and water. What does this mean? What did I do? Develope an oat starter that only works with oats or orange juice? (And I complicated matters by alternating oat and wheat flour when feeding my starter.)

For all practical purposes, since I'm not about to add orange juice to every recipe, the starter I made only works with oat flour. White wheat & Oat Sourdough Bread recipe will need oat starter for the oat flour and commercial yeast for the wheat flour. But will the sour have a chance to develop? Guess I should bring my wheat starter back from holiday. Then if I want pure wild yeasts I would have to use TWO starters for my sourdough bread. Does anybody else have a combo going on? I was looking through the write ups and can't find anything specific. Is this covered in Bread Baking 101?


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