The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Stayed home today to nurse my lame dog, so I have time to make some notes for myself for future reference:

For this past weekend's baking, I decided to make the Thom Leonard Country French bread (Glezer) again, but using my rye starter, and compare it to the Essential Columbia (also Glezer) my current favorite recipe. For the Columbias, however, I made two different batches for further taste comparison: one with a wet rye starter (saving the step of making a firm starter if you don't keep one) and the other with the firm white starter called for in the original recipe in Glezer's book.

Here is how the Thom Leonard bread came out:

The crumb was beautiful as was the oven spring and crust. I also used King Arthur AP flour only, rather than a mix of AP and Bread, because the protein level of KA AP is as high as other bread flours (11.7%). The last time I made this bread using KA bread flour, the crumb was way too tough and chewy, even for me who likes chewy bread. Seems like the only reason to use a very high protein bread flour like KA (12.7%) would be to strenghten mostly whole grain breads. The Thom Leonard above tasted very nice for a mostly white French bread, however, I have developed a taste for a bit more whole wheat in my bread which is why I prefer the Columbia at the moment. Of course, the original Thom Leonard recipe calls for high extraction flour, not white AP flour. If I can ever get my hands on some, I will try it again with that.

Next, I made the Columbia using a wet rye starter, and omitted the small amount of rye called for in the recipe, replacing it with additional whole wheat and white AP. To first make the levain for this recipe using the wetter rye starter rather than the stiff white starter called for, I used a bit more starter, a bit less water, and a bit more flour, until the correct consistency was achieved and the total weight of the levain as an overall ingredient in the recipe was preserved. This was a pretty slack dough, as I like to work with wetter doughs for improved crumb, so when I tried to slash it for the batard, the darn razor dragged again despite oiling and I went over the same slash too many times and compressed the dough too much in those spots, you can see the results in the crumb shot below:

Despite the spread out loaf, I still got some nice holes and the crust was gorgeous! The taste was as great as before, with a slight flavor from the rye starter that made it taste mildly like a rye bread.

The next batch of Columbias were made with the stiff white starter called for in the recipe, my stiff starter uses 75% white bread flour to 25% whole wheat flour. I fed it 3 times at 12 hr intervals before making the levain with it for this recipe. Rather than making 4 smaller loaves, I made 2 large ones using bannetons. I had trouble with slack dough sticking to bannetons before so I got over-eager with the flour on these, and I had to brush a lot of it off after baking. I also think it inhibited the crust forming nicely as in the free-form loaves above which have the nice crisp crackly bubbles. The other thing I did differently was to degas them by pressing the flat of my hand all over the dough before rounding into boules, thinking I would try to even out the crumb more, but I overdid it, and I did not get as nice holes this time - there are some big ones, but not as many as I like to have and not as even. Below are photos of the large boules made with the stiff starter, and for comparison I stacked the previous batch's smaller rye starter batard on top of the sliced boule - the pic on the right is without a flash and shows the holes in shadow a little better, while the left shows the actual color of the crumb nicely:

I also found that I prefer making the smaller batards free-form for this recipe rather than using a banneton to make larger boules. Not only does this avoid getting excess flour on the crust, but it provides a greater surface area and ratio of crust to crumb, since the crust is so good on this bread. As far as taste difference in crumb between the wet rye starter method vs. the stiff white starter, it is very hard to tell the difference, but I like the stiff starter version's flavor slightly better - it has a bit more tang and wheaty flavor and slightly less rye flavor - the rye flavor in the rye starter batch may outcompete the wheat germ and malt flavors. I would probably get the same result using my wet white starter, so I will try that next.

Lessons learned:

1) levain: using a wet starter seems to work just as well in this recipe as using a stiff one - the type of flour used will make a bigger difference in flavor than the hydration does.

2) first fermentation: do not de-gas the dough completely, just fold it 2 or 3 times for strength during fermentation 30 min. apart. I also retarded the dough overnight in the fridge after a 2 hour room temp. first fermentation.

3) shaping and proofing: handle as little as possible without de-gassing as noted above, but do gently form smaller batards rather then large boules to get more crust ratio. Without pressing out the gas, do tighten the batard into a very tight cylinder as much as possible to create enough surface tension to avoid it spreading out too much or flattening when scoring.

4) when slashing a slack dough like this, don't score over it again or it will flatten it out too much.

5) avoid over-flouring bannetons as it ruins the crust and didn't really help with the sticking anyhow, maybe a spray oil is better - I'd like to know how people avoid banneton stickiness and resulting collapse with the coiled willow baskets.

That's it for this week...

 

slothbear's picture
slothbear

Result: gorgeous loaf. crunchy chewy crust. The texture is just a little ... moist, like perhaps just a tad undercooked. I forgot to get a temperature. The taste has a nice sourdough tang, but is a little too, too ... rubbery?

Details: I made the basic Breadtopia recipe, with 1/3 whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of sourdough starter. Even though the dough looked good after 12 hours, I decided to let it develop for a while longer (thanks Floydm!). I declared the dough ready when I needed to walk the dog at the 16 hour mark ("natural timing").

After the fold and rest and 1.5 hours, the dough didn't look like it had risen at all. I forged ahead and plopped it into my 2.5 liter CorningWare French White casserole. A number of references said the casserole was ok to 500 degrees. The loaf got a great oven spring and started browning before I took the cover off. The brown was aiming towards black, so I ended the bake at 42 minutes.

Next loaf (already underway) will be the basic white with yeast. I like experimenting.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Here is a video of me scoring my loaf today:

More interesting than the scoring, to me, was the dough. I made a strange one: last night I made a real wet poolish with a cup of whole-wheat flour, much water (didn't measure) and about 1/4 teaspoon yeast. I also built up my AP flour-based sourdough starter. This morning I then threw them both together with another pound or so bread flour, an ounce of rye flour, a couple of teaspoons salt, and a bit more flour. So I ended up with a slack, rustic-like dough leavened with sourdough and a teeny bit of yeast. I haven't tasted it yet, but it seemed to perform real well. I'm curious to taste what combining the sweetness of a poolish with the tartness of a sourdough does.

slothbear's picture
slothbear

I'm trying no-knead bread for the first time, using the sourdough variation I found at Breadtopia. It sounds so easy (and it is), but I'm one of those bakers who is always wondering if I'm doing it right. My dough has been sitting for about 12 hours now at 70 degrees, and it looks ready to me. Bubbly on top, and nice strand development. Perhaps I should go on to the next step, or perhaps I should follow the 18-hour instructions and ... what ... allow more flavor to develop? more later.

bubbly

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread

 

I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:

In the oven:

 

And out:

 

 

After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.

 

 

Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)

 

 

Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day. 

 

 

 

 

Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker's picture
Rocky the Wanna...

Hi.  I think it would be very helpful to have a moisture meter to check the moisture content of my sour dough.  I have never been able to find one.  Can anyone tell me where I might?  Has anyone ever used one?  I tried using my soil moisture meter, but dough is so moist that it reads right off the scale.  The manufacturer has not answered my query about whether I could solder a resistor into it that would put the dough oisture level within the range of the meter.

                                            Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker

Ruth Redburn's picture
Ruth Redburn

I don't think that Poilane bred is worth the price.  My kids lived in Paris for several years and we all thought it was good, but very expensive there.  I can't even imagine what it would cost shipped to the US.  And would it be fresh like it should be.  Try the no-knead bread and make with some wheat or rye or both  mixed in.  It is sreally incredible and much cheaper. 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I baked an olive levain today.

Olive Levain

Olive Levain

This was basically like Hamelman's Olive Levain: 10% whole wheat, no yeast, just starter. I loved it:

Olive Levain inside

olive levain inside

Delicious, but not cheap (well, at least by bread baking standards). The olives alone cost as much as... what... thirty pounds of flour and a pound of salt. I can bake an awful lot of regular sourdough bread for that much money. Yes, ok, to put it in perspective it is still cheaper than a drinkable bottle of wine, but still... baking bread, one gets spoiled by how inexpensive a hobby it is.

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!

 

A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.

 

I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.

 

 

All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 

sylvstr540's picture
sylvstr540

We made your pita recipe tonight, but they didn't puff in the oven. Any ideas?? We had some pockets but not a full puff!  They were still very tasty though!

Maria

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