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Too Much of a Good Thing?

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ananda's picture
ananda

Too Much of a Good Thing?

 


TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?


On Tuesday lunchtime we'll be boarding an aeroplane at Newcastle Airport to take us to Crete for a long-awaited, and hugely necessary fortnight together on holiday in the heat.   For much of this time we'll be relaxing in a small seaside villa on the South Coast, away from pretty much everything.   I'm told there's a dusty road with a taverna at the end of it....about 3 miles away.   Otherwise; nothing, except 2 other villas above ours, and a lot of beach and sea.   Oh! I almost forgot to say; there is a barbeque and wood-fired oven on the veranda just to the side of the house, and a pergola nearby, to sit under and drink wine and eat tasty food, staring out to sea.


So, I've been working out how to successfully transport a small portion of my levain to use for baking purposes...afterall, it's going to be mighty tricky getting fresh yeast, and I've yet to source good dry yeast over here which actually works for me.   I know that's silly, but there is little point investing in it without faith.


First call, therefore, was to strengthen my leaven up with prodigious feeding sessions.   Thought I might as well do this for both rye and wheat, even though the wheat specimen is the only one bound for a holiday.   The result is that I end up with over 2kg of wheat leaven and 600+g of rye sour.   "Better do some baking, I think!"   At least we'll come back to a freezer stocked with plenty of bread, and any family coming to stay at our place, in the meantime, for a brief spell in the country can enjoy lovely bread too!


So I devised a formula for mixed leaven bread which I thought would be easy to make, and tolerant to an overnight retard, on account of making the dough in the early evening.   This is the formula:


Material

Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

  • 1. Wheat Levain

 

 

Strong White Flour

20

900

Water

12

540

TOTAL

32

1440

  • 2. Rye Sour

 

 

Dark Rye Flour

5

225

Water

8.3

375

TOTAL

13.3

600

  • 3. Final Dough

 

 

Wheat Levain [from above]

32

1440

Rye Sour [from above]

13.3

600

T65 Farine de Tradition

20

900

Strong White Flour

50

2250

Strong Wholemeal Flour

3

135

Dark Rye

2

90

Salt

1.8

80

Water

45.6

2050

TOTAL

167.7

7545

Pre-fermented flour: 25%; Overall Hydration: 65.9%

To use up all the rye sour, except for the small amount needed for regeneration, I calculated I should multiply the formula by a factor of 45.   This is what I did, and you may have noticed the rather scary amount of dough I was therefore challenging myself to make....at home, with no mixer, and no bowls anywhere near capable of holding the amounts of flour and water called for here.

So, it's back to the traditional way of mixing dough sufficient to provide bread for the whole household, by piling the flour onto the bench, making a well in the middle, and carefully incorporating the liquid to form the dough.   What I actually did, was to mix the liquid rye sour with the rest of the dough water.   I then piled all the flour needed for the final dough onto the bench and incorporated liquids as described for a short autolyse of half an hour.   From there I added the salt and the wheat levain, working up a reasonably soft, but strong dough.   The leaven was in perfect condition, and it was a treat just to smell the fresh and subtle aroma of this dough.   Good job too, as I reckon it took the best part of an hour's hard graft to actually assemble the fully crafted dough from flour, salt, water and the 2 levains.   I scaled off 2 pieces immediately, and moulded them, depositing them straight into bread pans.   The remaining 5½kg was divided into 2 equal sized pieces and stored in plastic bowls, covered with oiled cling film, overnight in the chiller.   On top of all this, I STILL had an excess of wheat leaven.   So, I made some ciabatta dough too, somewhat disastrously, as it turned out; another story.

It's now nearly 4pm, and I finished baking just after 3pm.   I started about 9 this morning, although I was up at 7 to turn the oven on and get everything else ready.   I've ended up with 7 large loaves; 3 made in bread pans, and 4 fermented in bannetons and baked directly on the bricks in my home oven [ordinary electric fan oven].....and 2 slabs of foccacia.   We had a good few courgettes in, so I sweated them down in olive oil flavoured with garlic, then added a few sun-dried tomatoes.   The neighbours had one slab, plus a loaf, as a "thank you" for painting our shed door at the same time they painted theirs too.   We ate the other one [or most of it, anyway] for lunch.   Foccacia worked just fine, but had a big learning curve today.   Making ciabatta with wheat levain only, and then retarding it overnight produced very tasty dough, but the quality was abysmal.   I had a small amount of dough leftover, and tried to bake it off as ciabatta, by pouring it onto a hot tray to bake off directly on the hot bricks.   Only one place that's going: the bin [trash]!

Still, I now have a stack of lovely tasty bread [6 large loaves], and wheat levain which I can turn into something which will stand the stresses and strains of a few days of intense heat before I can revive it ready for another baking session; this time in our own little paradise, far away from the norms of the everyday, and computers too!

Bye for now

Andy

Comments

txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

That's a big production! You are a true baker - not wasting anything. I would've given up and thrown most of it away!

wally's picture
wally

Andy, I can't imagine undertaking a hand mix of that quantity of dough, let alone doing it on a bench!  You'll need the rest in Crete just to recover from the bake I suspect.  The loaves look beautiful however, and it was a creative, if labor intensive way to use all that excess levain you built up.


I suspect you'll put the wfo to some good use in Crete.  Perhaps some fougasse?


Enjoy your holiday!


Larry

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Maybe include a 'Pizza' in the hot wfo with some of that fougasse dough!


Have a great holiday!


Sylvia

ananda's picture
ananda

pizza/foccacia/fougasse are musts.   Too early for the olive season, but I'm sure I won't struggle to find stonking olives.   Alison's fond of those cheese pies with mezithra too!   Maybe I'll be rolling out filo pastry sheets as well?


Thanks to you all


Andy

Nathan's picture
Nathan

That must have been challenging that amount of dough. Hope you have a great time in Crete. If it's as hot as it's been here in Spain make sure you have some salt on hand to tame your levain. Without salt, mine was tripling in 3 hours!


Enjoy your holiday.


Nathan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Surley you jest!  Pulling out. 


Keep your eyes on the look out in the garden for herbs!   Have fun! 


Mini

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Nathan,


That's great for me to anticipate.


I had thought to use a really small amount of leaven and refresh as a really tight dough.   But, if I add salt to it as well, that will slow the activity right down.


Basically, we land in Heraklion on Tuesday evening, but I won't be able to tend the leaven until the next Sunday afternoon!   I reckon I can just keep it going, but, salt will really help.


Cheers


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Wow, that was a mighty and generous bake - not only preparing leaven for Crete but also so many good things to share with family and neighbours - looks gorgeous!


Have a well-deserved break and enjoy the fruits of the wfo as well as some much-deserved relaxation!


I remember Heraklion, I visited a friend who did an occupational therapy placement there. I remember people being keen to serve us raki/tsikoudia and pickles in most of the bars. Saw the palace at Knossos and a little bit of the coast but more time on the coast sounds preferable!


Have a great time,  Daisy_A

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Andy.


Your willingness to experiment and tackle the "near impossible" is all the more laudable in a professional. I bet working with students can be credited with keeping your attitude young.


Have a great time in Crete! I'm anticipating reports on the WFO, local breads, etc. 


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I don't know Andy, all that sand and sun and plenty of time to spend with Allison. I wouldn't be planning anything ahead. Enjoy the break.


 


Eric

ananda's picture
ananda

Thanks Daisy, David and Eric for commenting.


Daisy, we love the South Coast.   Heraklion will be a good resting place...but in a boutique hotel for one night, with a great looking restaurant.   Thence to Finnix, and on to Preveli.


Tsikodia, or raki, will doubtlessly feature, but we like to have ouzo, with a stack of ice and a little water, with a few nibbles, just as the sun goes down.


David, the secret actually is to keep ahead of the students...I keep them young!   But that is what inspires them and challenges them.   Bottom line, I know more than they do [that does not mean I don't learn from them; I do!]!   BUT, there is nothing I will not share, so if I inspire them enough, they get to take EVERYTHING with them...true?


Eric; I cannot conform to both your thoughts and David's.  We do have plans..but they are very loose indeed.   Lots of reading; Alison will write poetry, and I will make food.   Other than just enjoying being with each other, celebrating that and totally unwinding, I concur: no plans cast in stone!   So, I wouldn't guarantee unturning any great secrets about Greek bread.


Thank you friends,


Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Beautiful looking bread Andy! The fact that you mixed that massive amount of dough by hand is impressive as well and shows true craftsmanship. Do you mind me asking how long it took for you to work it up?


Have a great vacation my friend.


All the best,


Franko

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,


When we first got our small bakery off the ground in the late 1980s, we had a 20quart planetary mixer.   We used to mix batches of dough around 14.5kg, or 32lb.   That was the maximum for the machine.


If we had large orders for the more popular wholemeal and brown breads, we would need to make 2 batches this size.   Then we would put them together on the bench!


Actually, because we only worked with local Organic English wheatflour, grown [usually bio-dynamically] in the North of England, we had to mix the dough very gently to avoid overworking it and thus destroying the gluten network.   The solution was to combine all the ingredients in the mixer to form a loose dough.   From there we always developed the dough by hand.   I got quite used to gently moving nearly 30kg dough back and forth; it took about 20 minutes per batch.


The faff at home was to mix without any large bowls.   Actually, it is a common first task given to students to ask them to mix a dough from scratch without any mixing bowls.   However a common size would be about half the amount I decided to make!


It took 4 stages to incorpoate all the ingredients.   From there I worked the dough up for about half an hour, but had at least 3 rests along the way so the dough didn't get too sticky on me.   So, an hour altogether.


Just a note about the oil running out.   I got further depressed when I caught the headline in the "Money" section of Saturday's Guardian [UK newspaper].   Having ignored throwing money at Agriculture for years, it now seems that investing in the sector is all the rage.   Woohoo!! you might think?   Well, do you trust the city institutions, or, like me, do you just think they're professional [!?] gamblers, meddling in areas of our lives that they have neither understanding for, nor do they care about sustainability, or, viability.   I had hoped that the nonsense of bio-fuels, and growing wheat to put in our cars, rather than our mouths, had been exposed for the folly, nay crime, that it really is.   But it seems not.   Messrs Goldman-Sachs have realised that a growing population, plus demand for bio-fuel means we will have to grow more crops in the upcoming years.   So if they buy up land, then they can sell it on and make a huge profit, as those wanting to provide solutions by growing more food, will have to buy the land from G-S at what will become hugely inflated prices.


Land access for all of us to grow food?   Not a chance in a million.   So depressing.   Let's go for a bike ride Vincent!


Cheers


Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Andy,


 Welcome back! Hope you and Alison had great vacation on Crete. By the time I read your reply a couple of weeks ago it was the day you were meant to jet off so I thought I'd wait till you got back to respond. Interesting you mention about the students having to mix a dough by hand. I wish they'd had such an exercise for us when I took the course back in the 80's. The way my old KA is acting these days I may be mixing by hand myself sometime in the near future.


You have to wonder about this bio-fuel nonsense don't you? Do they really think people would rather be able to drive their cars... or eat, if/when it comes to crunch time? Our present governments need to read a little history to remind themselves of the consequences of a poorly fed population. Not sure about Britain but in Canada we have what's called an Agricultural Land Reserve whereby designated parcels of land can only be used for agri purposes. Do you have anything like that in your country?


I wonder if I could tap into your knowledge of levain breads? Last week I decided to have a go at making Hamelman's Pain au Levain. My results were less than stellar to say the least. Here's the link to my post :


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19045/long-overdue-try-pain-au-levain


I've made 3 subsequent attempts, with little, if any improvement. The levain I made seemed pretty healthy and vigorous, doubling or tripling with each addition of flour. The flour I've been using has a 10% protein content which may be a little low, but Hamelman recommends a lower protein flour for Levains, and everything else available here where I live is in the high 12%-13% range. None of the batches seemed to ferment properly, or least to the degree that I'm used to seeing in bakers yeast made dough. I'm wondering if possibly the percentage of levain in the formula is too low for the flour weight. The last dough I made I increased the hydration from 65% to 70% and retarded it overnight .  This is going off formula, but at this point I'm less interested in adhering to the original than I am with getting acceptable results. Still no joy. The other thing I've wondered about is the difference of flour types between what's used in the formula and what I have access to. In Canada, as you know , our wheat for bread flour is a hard spring with a fairly high quality gluten content, whereas bread flour in the U.S. is made from hard winter wheat that I believe is softer than a spring wheat. Would the difference in flour types make a difference to the overall formulation do you think?


I don't know , I'm just spinning gears here trying to get to the bottom of this so your thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.


All the best Andy,


Franko

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,


Thanks for your post above.   We arrived back in Newcastle, England on Tuesday night after 10pm.   I was back into work the next morning...although I really am still on holiday.


But, a golden opportunity to run Bakery courses at Level 3 ["A" Level] has come my way, and I don't want to miss out.   Further discussions with major industry players came up at the same time, so getting back to work was well worthwhile.


I'm now on holiday again....and feeling absolutely tired out, and very dejected about the rain and cold here.   It was close to 40*C in Crete.   I'll post on my Cretan adventures soon!


Meantime, I'll comment in a pm on your questions; that seems more appropriate to answer your quite specific questions.


Thanks again


Andy