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Have Failed Twice with Thom Leonard Country French Recipe

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Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Have Failed Twice with Thom Leonard Country French Recipe

I need some guidance please from all you master bakers. I made this Thom Leonard Bread last week-end and it was so hard and dense I ended up throwing it in the trash. I was home from work today so I started a new batch last night. I followed the instructions carefully and weighed the ingredients. This dough (after nursing it since late morning) was so wet it ended up in the trash as well. It stuck to the linen in the basket and was the stickiest (sp.) I've ever worked with. (Not that I have that much experience yet). I'm not giving up and will try yet again this week-end. Floyd or someone...can you give me a description for how wet the dough should be, ...what it should feel like? I guess this has been a good learning experience - I now know what too dry and too wet are. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

 Trish in Omaha

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Trish - sorry to hear you are having problems with this. I make this bread every week, so maybe I can help.

 

1) how active is your starter ?

2) exactly what types and brands of flour are you using?

It sounds like your starter may not be active enough if your loaf was a brick. I like my starter to at least triple in volume since it's last feeding before I use it to make the levain in this recipe, however, others such as SourDoLady say it does not need to triple as long as it has tons of bubbles.

 

Also, if your dough was that wet, it may be because you are using a very soft/low protein flour, or even a bleached flour? I use organic King Arthur AP flour with a protein level of 11.7% which is similar to other bread flours. To that I add about 100g of organic whole wheat flour in the final dough. My dough is soft - almost feels like raw pie crust dough, but not wet, it does not stick to my hands, but it is very extensible, which is what gives you the big holes. I find that I need to add a little more water to my final dough than what the recipe calls for, but I attribute that to the higher protein content of the KA flours I use.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

For all your information and descriptions. They are very clear and easy for a beginner to understand. It will make it so much easier when I try this again today. 

I think my starter was not active enough for some reason. I have one "overflowing" its jar right now in my kitchen with lots of nice big bubbles.  I am using KA unbleached AP, however we bought this at one of our large chain grocery stores so who knows how old it is since it's more expensive than the store brand (lol). Don't know if age makes a difference or not. We went to Whole Foods this mornng and bought some more KA unbleached and I'll bet it's fresher than the other stuff so I will try using that bag today.

I am weighing ingredients and my scale is digital but it doesn't weigh in tenths of an ounce and it's pretty old so who knows how accurate it is. My husband is off to Linens and Things to see if he can find a digital scale that will work better.

Do you think this is maybe too complex for a beginner like me? I have completed Floyd's lessons one and two with pretty good success. I am just wondering if I'm in over my head with this recipe?

I am going to try again however. I'm a pretty darn good cook if I do say so myself but never tried making bread until about a month ago.  As I recall, it took awhile to build my cooking skills so I figure this will take a lot of practice as well.

Thanks again to all who posted

Trish

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Trish, I don't think this recipe is too complex. The hardest part of the whole process is probably getting an active sourdough starter, so you should be able to do this, esp. if you are a good overall cook. Each time you make bread, you learn something and you get better, so don't give up.

 

If it makes you feel any better, here is a photo of my first sourdough attempt back in December - my starter was not active enough and I got bricks!


SourdoLady set me straight after that and I was able to get my starter active and had great results ever since, with the minor disaster of an overproofed loaf now an then due to someone or something interrupting my baking day (I hate when that happens).

 

So, try it again by making your levain when your starter is at its peak activity (i.e. overflowing with bubbles). Hopefully your new scale will work better, and if your dough seems too wet, give it time with the autolyse to see if it absorbs more water - if  not, add in a little flour until it is the right soft but not sticky consistency. Give the dough a good fold at 30, 60, and 90 each minutes into the first ferment - that really tightens it up. JMonkey has examples of how to fold a wet dough here. Good Luck!

 

 

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Looks like my first try lolol. Husband is on the way home with my new scale (he's a prince...) so I'l be mixing the levain shortly. I also have some bannetons ordered and can't wait till they arrive. I love the design they make on the bread. I had some "collander" designed bread last time. HA - Also picked up rice flour and semolina flour while we were at Whole Foods. It's been wicked cold here so it's great for staying inside and learning to bake bread. It's warming up today though - we're at 32 degrees - Heat wave!

Seriously, thanks for all your posts. I always learn from them and you've been so helpful. I'll be sure to report back with my third attempt.

Trish

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I deconstructed the recipe in Glezer pg 133. I get the following overall baker's percentages adding all ingredients from both the levain and the dough recipe (weight as percentage of total flour weight):

bread flour: 71%

whole wheat flour: 27%

rye flour: 2%

water: 65%

salt: 1.8%

I would expect this dough not to be very wet. At 65%, with 27% whole wheat flour, and the rest high protein bread flour, it should easily absorb 65% hydration and be relatively smooth, not too sticky, not firm or "resistant", but not really soft either.

I would expect it to be fairly similar to a normal french bread dough, if not slightly more dry because of the whole wheat flour. If you use lower protein flours, that might make it seem more wet. Are you sure you're using high protein flours? It is possible for some flours to absorb significantly different amounts of water, but I wouldn't expect this recipe to be that wet.

Your description sounds as if what might be happening is the gluten didn't form well. It probably would benefit from being autolysed (let water and flour sit for 20-60 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients and the levain), kneaded until it starts to seem like dough - not all sticky and wet, and then it can even be "folded" during the bulk fermentation, if it still seems to be too slack, wet, and sticky. I see "turning", which to me means the same as folding, is suggested to be done three times during the bulk fermentation in the recipe text. The best description of folding I've seen is in Hamelman's "Bread". I think there are pictures that maybe Jmonkey did on this site that were very helpful, but I can't remember where to find them.

To keep the dough from sticking, mountaindog suggests using rice flour on the couche. In any event, there should be enough flour dusting on the outside of the dough and on the couche to keep it from sticking. However, if the gluten has not formed sufficiently, it's hard to overcome that sticking problem.

Sorry, this is just guessing based on my own similar recipes, so the above is not from actually doing it.

caryn's picture
caryn

Trish- I have also had some experience with the Thom Leonard boule.  I agree with all of what mountaindog has said. My dough also does not come out too wet. 

Are you weighing your ingredients?  I weigh the ingredients according to the specifications in her recipe.  I think sometimes the volume measurements in a recipe are not accurate to begin with, and there is always more variation when measuring by volume than by weight.  If you don't have a scale, I think it is a worthwile investment. It actually makes baing easier.

And don't give up.  If you perservere, you will eventually be thrilled with the experience!!  It took me a long while before I got that bread the way I like it, and I still feel I can make more improvements in my technique, and by the way, I have been baking bread for many years.  I doubt if there is not one succussful baker who has not had failures- it seems like it is part of the learning process.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Yes, mountaindog makes a very good point. It might well be a brick if the levain isn't vigorous, even if everything else if fine. However, even if the levain were weak, I wouldn't expect the dough to be so sticky and wet as you describe it, if the gluten has been developed, hence mountaindog's questions and my comments about protein content of the flour.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Caryn's comments sent me back to the spreadsheet, and yes, weighing things vs. using volume measures can be a big problem with these recipes. For example, if I were to convert the weight of the bread flour to cups using my typical cups and flours, I'd get about 6 cups of flour for the 26.5 ounces specified, whereas the recipe states 5 cups. It all depends how hard you pack, what shape measuring cup, and so on.

Also, I see .8 ounce of salt, which can vary widely in volume measure. I think 0.8 oz of KA bread salt, for example, would come in under a tablespoon, whereas the volume in the recipe is stated as 1 tablespoon plus 1.5 tsp. Other salts that have more air in them might come out to a higher volume. I would imagine that 0.8 oz of regular table salt, like Morton salt, might be only 1/2 tablespoon. There again, lots of tablespoons aren't even correct. I've checked and many measuring spoons are way off.

If you were using something like a cup less of flour because of volume differences, it might raise the hydration up to around 73%, and that would be somewhat wetter and harder to work with. Even so, I have to admit that I wouldn't expect it to be so sticky and wet as you describe, unless the gluten is not developed, or the protein levels are very low in the flour you're using.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I am a very new bread baker but have made this recipe twice with great success. I also didn't have a problem with the dough being too wet or sticky. In addition, I had a very new sourdough starter which was from Glezer's recipe only started January 4 of this year. In her book, Glezer states that if you measure flour rather than weighing it one should use the scoop and level method which makes for more flour. Also, she based all these recipes on regular table salt so any other salt type would have to be adjusted. Glezer insists you use her firm starter and must quadruple before it is ready to use in a recipe and that this is the "gold standard" so I'm not sure what would result in using a batter type starter that is not as strong. The second time I made this I left the boules overnight in the fridge and the floured cotton towels I used easily pulled away. I also use KA flour so perhaps you need more flour or a stronger one.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Just to give an example of what I would expect to work in this recipe for a 1:1 by weight sourdough starter: 

My batter starter, which is 100% hydration (1:1 by weight of flour:water) will double in about 4-5 hours once it is fully revived/refreshed. I use KA bread flour and refresh it in a weight ratio of 1:2:2 of (old starter:flour:water to get a doubling of volume. If I were to put a recently refreshed, just risen by double starter in the refrigerator overnight, I would expect it would work in a very similar manner as the levain in the Thom Leonard Country French Bread recipe and would raise this dough in 3-4 hours of bulk fermentation. I'm not sure what the effect might be on the taste of not going to a very firm starter first, as she specifies, but since it's a fairly large dilution she specifies in switching to the levain, I would think it might be very similar.

To get a little closer to the version in Glezer, you could do a 1:5:5 refreshment of the batter starter the night before and leave it out on the counter overnight. That ought to more closely match what is done in the recipe by putting 0.8 oz of firm starter with 4.9 oz each of water and flour and letting it rise overnight. The larger expansion of the batter would take more like 12-15 hours to rise and gain back it's strength, so it fits the schedule of rise times similar to what the recipe describes.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

FYI - I did a comparison with the Columbia recipe using Glezer's stiff starter vs. a 100% hydration starter, results can be seen here. For myself, I find it easier to maintain a vigorous batter starter in the fridge as long as I feed and use it every week - I did not notice enough of a difference in flavor between the two in the same recipe to bother with the stiff starter, especially since when you are making the levain in this recipe, you are converting the stiff starter right back into a batter starter. That said, I have read where stiff starters favor the growth of a type of lactobacilli that creates a more sour flavor, so if that is the flavor you want, it may be worth the trouble to maintain a stiff starter over a long period to develop that flavor.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

According to Glezer's book (pages 88 & 89) higher temperature ranges and the wet batterlike starters favor the Lactobacilli that excrete lactic acid.  Lower temps and stiff starters favor the Lactobacilli that excrete both acetic and lactic acids.  She states that to achieve a true and correct sourdough flavor - not too acidic and not too sour - it is important to grow a starter that produces a balance of both acetic and lactic acids. That is why she recommends the firm starter and has said it is the gold standard of starters.  She gives some great information so, Trish, if you just bought this book please take time to read those pages.  I think this is a scary thing when we just start out because we read so much and there are varying opinions so by doing it we find what we like best. I'm very much a newbie at bread and have many of these wonderful books but Glezer's just stood out immediately and she offers some information others don't and explains away some myths that can save you some unnecessary work and time.  Trish, don't give up and by all means do not think this bread is too difficult to begin with.  My first bread was ciabatta and I've never started things at the beginning.  Go for it!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

I agree Glezer gives a great discussion of starters and many other topics. I hope it's OK if, in spite of having read most of Glezer's book fairly carefully recently, I maintain my opinion that BBA is a better learning book. It's just my personal feeling after spending quite a bit of time in a number of different books.

In the case of this recipe, it seems to me it uses a batter style levain, and the sourdough starter is just a starter. The recipe essentially converts a solid starter to a batter style starter. You could probably use almost any vigorous starter from liquid to solid as a starter in the levain, which is 1:1 by weight of flour and water. I don't think much of the flavor is the result of the 1 oz of starter, even if it is firm and therefore would be more sour than typical liquid starters. The flavor is more a result of the batter preferment overnight and the subsequent temperature, time of rise, and choice of flours for the dough itself. That's why I say you probably won't get much flavor difference if you just start with a batter starter, which is what mountaindog's experience was below, if I understood the experiment with batter starter for this recipe.

Also, for what it's worth, I think Glezer feels the firm starter is very good and adopted it as the starting point for the recipes in the book because it's easier to tell if it's truly active, not so much because it is inherently better in all ways, as in a gold standard. In fact, she discusses various preferments and their qualities and applications on page 103. One of the hardest things to troubleshoot when you're starting out with a culture is when is it truly active, so she has a good point there. I've seen a lot of discussions about exactly this troubleshooting topic on this site and others I've read.

Finally, I wasn't quite sure what is "not exactly correct", which is your title for the comment. What in particular were you saying is not exactly correct? It wasn't clear to me which part of the thread below you were reacting to.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I was responding to the comment made by Mountaindog, "...I have read where stiff starters favor the growth of a type of lactobacilli that creates a more sour flavor...".  According to Glezer that's not what her goal is in making the firm or stiff starter which she says creates the most balanced flavor from growing Lactobacilli that excretes both acetic and lactic acids thus not more sour.  I particularly liked her philosophies on the starter even though I had been worried about mine at one point and now have it sitting in my fridge awaiting my new scale.  (ugh)

I love the BBA book and agree it is great for learning.  But I think Glezer is a great teacher as well plus I just bought Dough and the Hamelman book which I'm excited about.  I read never to start with a ciabatta bread and couldn't understand why not.  I really wanted to make it so I did.  I have baked bread about a dozen times and I just feel one doesn't have to start with typical beginner's recipes - that's just the way I've always been.  BUT...I have a LOT to learn. :o)  I just think to take the deep plunge is sometimes the best way to go at least for some people.  You can see some of my bread here and please note I cannot get the BBA ciabatta to come out with a more open crumb (darn):  http://zolablue.smugmug.com/Cuisine/263058

As for the starter being converted to batter on this particular recipe, isn't she just making a poolish and not converting to a batter starter?  Honestly, a lot of this is like reading a foreign language to me - again, I'm a beginner!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Your pictures look great. I think you're understating your bread baking capabilities drastically. Do I understand right that you don't like the ciabatta results in BBA? I had tried that BBA recipe with a similar result - not as many holes as I thought it should have. I'll have to compare it to the Glezer recipe and see if the reason for more holes in the Glezer book's recipe jumps out. Maybe you'll convert me to more of a Glezer fan, eh?

I guess  I don't see the contradiction in moutaindog's comment vs. the stuff on page 89 of Glezer's book. If acetic acid excreting bacteria is favored in a stiff culture, then it would tend to be more sour than a liquid culture, other things equal, and I've heard that said in various different references. In other words if lactic acid excreting bacteria are favored, you get a milder less sour flavor. I've experienced that relationship. If I use my batter starter right after it rises, it is not very interesting in flavor and is very mild, i.e. not very sour. If I mix it into a firm preferment and let it rise, then refrigerate overnight, it would tend to be more aromatic and more sour in flavor than a recently refreshed batter starter, just as an example. Or, if I were to leave my batter starter in the refrig for a day or two, it would be much more sour, because of the cool conditions, which would also favor the acetic acid production for a time, if I got all that right. It seems to me that mountaindog is saying basically the same, but maybe I'm missing some key distinction. It is not the first time, nor will it be last time, if so.

I think poolish is very similar to what I've been calling batter starter, but the poolish and other preferments in books I've read are generally started with yeast, rather than being a sourdough concoction. However, it seems to me every preferment has a similar sourdough equivalent that can be used in a very similar way in the various recipes. I often switch a recipe to sourdough by making a sourdough version of the preferment in the recipe and just going from there. In other words, there is a sourdough version of a poolish, a biga, a pate fermente, and so on. In the BBA, the "firm starter" in the basic sourdough and miche recipes seem to me like bigas. I've used batter starter in place of poolish in the "focaccia from poolish" to make the raisin focaccia in a sourdough version, as an example.

Thanks for sharing those pictures.

Bill

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Bill, first let me answer your question on the BBA ciabatta since it is the wee hours and I'll come back later and answer the other stuff.  I should preface my remarks to say that it is really a delicious bread but you're right, I was disappointed in the crumb.  It was my first attempt at bread baking so naturally I was concerned and wanted to know what I had done wrong as I'd never seen or tasted ciabatta - only viewed it on FoodTV.  And I posted my questions on another food forum I'm active on but that didn't garner the answers I was longing for.  So I thought as a true test I would simply repeat the process and make the same recipe again.  The results were the same but again great tasting bread.

Meanwhile, I scoured the Internet for any information regarding this recipe, poolish version is what I used.  Interestingly, I found many comments on multiple sites stating this same result about the dense crumb.  Hmmm...that got me to thinking.  I'd already made the Ponsford ciabatta in the Glezer book - absolutely fabulous bread - and it was beautiful with a great open crumb.  (I have it in my photos although the photos are not good and color is off...my bad.)  Since I loved the folding method of handling the dough I decided to experiment and use the BBA ciabatta recipe but handle it according to the Ponsford/Glezer ciabatta instructions and I got a very different result.  Not exactly the "aha" moment I was hoping for but oddly I achieved a very open crumb around the outside edges of the bread but still dense on the interior.  So definately that method helped but someone with way more knowledge than I, would have to explain why that recipe doesn't work.  Its a puzzle and I've yet to see one person post that they've gotten the BBA recipe to come out with open crumb.  It shouldn't be that hard to do so I have to surmise there is some problem with that recipe.  Please figure it out for me!  :o)

PS...Thanks so much for the compliments on my bread but to me it really speaks well of the great books available and I agree with the ones you've mentioned although I have yet to use Hamelman but soon will. Oh, and also the Dan Lepard book, The Handmade Loaf is wonderful!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Well, I'll be gone for a about a week, but when I get back, I'll be very curious to compare those two ciabatta recipes and figure out what might be the difference. You've created an interesting exercise for me that may lead to some good insights. Meanwhile, I haven't seen the Dan Lepard book, but maybe the next time I'm doing some amazon purchases I'll add it to the list.

Thanks, Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Zolablue,

Well, I haven't tried anything yet, but I did do a spreadsheet deconstruction of the two recipes for ciabatta (actually 3 recipes, because BBA has both poolish and biga versions).

First, the hydration is quite different in the two bba doughs, and it makes me wonder why. If you take the bba biga recipe, the hydration using 8 oz of water (it says 7-9) would give a total overall hydration of 77.45%, vs. Glezer's recipe at 80.52%. If you use the bba poolish recipe with 6 oz water, the hydration level is 72.5%, which seems too low for a ciabatta dough.

Then the mixing instructions between bba and Glezer are somewhat different. The instructions in bba for a mixer say to mix 5-7 minutes until dough is smooth and clears sides but stick to bottom. That may be a long initial mixing/kneading time relative to Glezer's approach. Also, I would have to go to the lower end of the range of hydration in the bba recipes, i.e. around 74%, to get the described cleaning behavior in my mixer. I find that up at around 78% hydration, there is no cleaning of the sides of the bowl in my mixer. Glezer would advocate an autolyse, very little initial mixing, and then use folding to develop the gluten.

I think one difference that may have a lot to do with (holes)/(not holes) in these recipes is whether you are working with a very wet dough. I think the ciabatta recipe in bba may not make enough of this point. It does say in a little side panel, "As you become comfortable with wet dough, you may want to try increasing the hydration and the stickiness of the dough. The wetter the better...", but the recipe is not totally clear how important that is to the eventual amount of big holes you get. The suggested amounts of water and description of the dough might lead to lower than needed hydration to really get the big holes to work.

Another difference is that there is a small amount of rye and whole wheat in the biga in the Glezer recipe. Also, she specifies all purpose flour where bba has more bread flour. I wonder if the lower protein content of the all purpose flour may help with bigger holes too. That would also explain the focus on lower amounts of initial mixing and more folding later.

Maybe the above differences help explain why bba seems not to have the hole production, unless you take the bba recipe and move toward much higher hydration, as suggested in the side panel - and maybe try lower protein flours.

If you have the time/inclination to comment, I'd be curious to know which bba ciabatta recipe you used and if you think different hydration, different mixing techniques, different flour, or something else may have caused the difference in texture between the bba and Glezer versions.

At some point, I'll have to try changing one variable at a time from bba ciabatta toward Glezer ciabatta. However, I would bet that just going significantly higher on the hydration would make a big difference.

Bill

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Hey, I just posted a "ciabatta challenge" thread hoping we can put our heads together for fun and see if there is a general flaw in this BBA recipe or if we can find a way to make it work.  Maybe you'd like to repost your info above on that thread since you went to so much trouble and its good info. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I like the Hamelman book, too. His discussion of the folding process and the auto-lyse, and why he likes not to use just kneading to develop the gluten didn't really sink in for me quite so well before I read about it there. However, the Hamelman book was like Glezer's for me in that I somehow found myself going to BBA for getting myself going, and then eventually found the recipes in Hamelman to be a big help as I became a little more experienced. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but for me there was a very accessible quality to the information in BBA. After trying a lot of the recipes in BBA and succesfully making my own starters and so on, it seemed like there were all kinds of gems of information in the Glezer and Hamelman books that were either beyond me or not appreciated in the early going. It sounds like Glezer worked better for you the first time through. I've had much better success with my whole wheat miche lean breads by following the style described in Hamelman, I have to say. I also launched off on trying to find interesting flours, which has enhanced my baking experience, mostly because of things I've read in Glezer's book. Then there's Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and probably a few others. All in all, the really essential ones for me are these three: BBA, Glezer's book, and Hamelman's Bread.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I don't know how I do this but when it happens I have to point it out.  I completely misunderstood the science behind the firm starter vs batter starter and how I read it wrong I have no idea.  Well, I do but no need to try and explain and be more confusing.

 I'm glad both Mountaindog's post and Bill's prompted me to go back again and reread more info and understand how I got it mixed up.  I guess I was thinking that batter starters could be made with formulas that make either very acidic or only producing lactic acids.  That isn't correct. 

 When I'm wrong I say it and I'll reiterate I have a lot to learn.  It is a lot of fun though and why this sourdough thing tends to be so perplexing is very frustrating.  But at least I do have this clear in my mind now and wanted to correct it here lest my post confuses some other newbie. :o)

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Zolablue - not to worry - I actualy totally understood what you were trying to say about Glezer saying the stiff starter is sort of the "gold standard" among professional artisan bakers - it very well may be, especially if it is properly maintained to balance out that acetic vs lactic acid. I look at sourdough starters almost like making wine - there are so many variations, no one method is correct, it rather comes down to personal preference as to taste - some people here really like sour breads, some just want the extra flavor a long rise will extract out of their dough without getting the sour bite. I tend to be more in the camp of liking a milder flavor rather than a sour one, so for me the batter starter fits the bill in terms of ease for me to maintain. I did try to maintain the stiff starter for awhile, but it seemed to go dormant very quickly on me despite my daily feedings, I'm not sure what happened, so I gave up and just maintained a batter rye and a batter white/wheat starter.

Another book you would like if you have not read it already, as you seem to be very into the sourdough science, is The Bread Builders by Dan Wing and Allan Scott. Dan Wing, a medical doctor and very experienced baker, gives excellent explanations of sourdough microbiology and techniques that I found easy to understand, and he is also one of the experts on the rec.food.sourdough newsgroup.

Beautiful ciabatta you made from Glezer's book BTW! I'll to try that one next, her book and recipes are still my favorite so far.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...for ciabatta in Glezer's book.  After struggling to get the open crumb from the BBA recipe it was like magic! I'm probably going to make it again this week. Thanks for the other info.  I'm not sure I want to delve into the science that seriously however - my head may explode!

I agree with you on choosing the sourdough method that works best for your own personal use and tastes.  What's best and works for me doesn't always for someone else and that's the great part because then we can compare notes and learn from each other.  I am so new to this I can't even tell you yet what I like best until I experience more flavors.  I just know so far everything I've baked seems to taste wonderful even it is isn't exactly perfect.  Your posts are so helpful and I also love your screen name.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Actually, I'd say the Leonard Country French is a good choice to learn on. It is more challenging than the lessons in floydm, yet it's not as difficult as a 100% whole wheat, high hydration recipe.

Spoilage of flour might do bad things to your culture, so I would stick with the freshest flours possible for refreshment of culture. However, if you have that overflowing culture, it sounds like things are good there.

Sometimes the scales are a little more precise in grams. I have one that has 2 gram increments and goes up to a few pounds that I got from KA, but it only has 1/8 oz increments if you set it to ounces, which is more like 3.5 grams. So, the precision seems better in grams for the same scale, although I haven't checked if it is in fact accurate to less than 2 grams of precision, even if it uses 2 gram gradations.

I think the conversion is about 28.3 grams per ounce, but check. That was based on "1 ounce in grams" on google - not that carefully checked out. Getting the salt right is important, as that also affects the gluten texture/development.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I was trying to guess what .8oz of salt was and I think I way underestimated the amount needed. I diddn'tr realize that salt had more purpose than just as a seasoning. I'm learning so many good things today!

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I appreciate all your responses so much. I just bought Glezer book so I'll take a look.  I'm impressed at what a responsive group of people we have here more than willing to help "newbies" out. It's also nice to be a part of a group where every one treats everyone with courtesy.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Trish,

If you are looking for good books for learning, The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart has some very good sections on sourdough, at least I found them very good for learning, and he has many other nice recipes in there, too.

Glezer is very good also. It's hard to say, as I started mostly using the BBA, but I think Glezer is something I'm appreciating more now that I've been baking for a while. It's a great book, but I just think the BBA is a better learning tool. The Hamelman book, "Bread" is another great resource. There again, I'm finding it really great now, but when I was starting, I missed things in it that now make sense to me.

I'm sure everyone has their favorite and might disagree with the above, so I'll let others chime in. Those are my favorites, at least, if it helps.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mountaindog,

Those failures look OK to me. I'll take your word that they're dense, but I think I had some breads that were deemed "successes" in my notes back when I started that looked about like your failure pictures here. My failures were so dense, you could use have used them for construction - bricks, logs, hammers, you name it.

Bill

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Believe me, they were cement! Practically had to use a hacksaw to cut them...we referred to them as curling stones - bigger than hockey pucks! Ha!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I also have to say those look beautiful!  I bet they still tasted good, too. 

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

Zolablue, among the books you like, you mention "Dough". Is this the one by Richard Bertinet? If so - I love that one too, but he doesn't mention sourdough. It is possible to convert some of the recipes to sourdough very successfully though.He is bringing out a new book, "CRUST - bread to get your teeth into" scheduled for publication in September. However, with so many excellent bread books around already - I doubt if I'm ever going to cook every recipe in every book I own - let alonebuying any more.
Incidentally, the photos of your breads look fabulous. So many of the pictures of breads that members here post are truly inspirational.I must try the Ciabatta....
Andrew 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

...for the heads up on the new Richard Bertinet book coming out next fall.  I'll look forward to it.  in his book, Dough, while he doesn't address sourdoughs it is a very beautiful book with some really interesting recipes. 

Also, if Caryn happens to see this, he does include a DVD with this book and for some reason I have yet to pop it in.  Terrible of me because I have a feeling it will be a very good instructional addition to the book.  I'm especially interested in seeing how he shows kneading extremely wet dough without adding any flour. 

caryn's picture
caryn

Thank you zolablue for mentioning that Dough comes with a video.  Dough is not a book that I currently own- I already have 6 books on bread, but I am such an enthusiest, I would actually consider buying another!! 

andrew_l's picture
andrew_l

The video really is very interesting. It is amazing how he turns a really wet dough into a silky smooth substance so easily. And it works - I've tried it. I often now start my bread with a Bertinet knead, followed by a Dan Lepard turn at frequent intervals, follwed by either a NYT hot le Creuset - or a few more folds and into a couche and slash / bake. The next experiment will be the no pre-heat oven! Bizzarrely - they ALL seem to make fabulous bread!And I can't wait to try the Julia Childs french brerad video method - but I know in advance 850 kneads will be about 30 max.!!!
Take care,
Andrew

caryn's picture
caryn

I was skimming this thread, and I also have and love many of the books referred to here.  I am frustrated, though, that, it is often difficult to understand from words what a technique is like.  I was reading Hammelman's book over the weekend, and was so frustrated trying to interpret his technique from his descriptions- his diagrams are just not good enough for me.  He also uses labels for each step, and then does not refer to the letters in the narrative. 

So I am thinking of ordering some videos, and I know some have been suggested on this site before.  Have any of you had any experience with some of the videos being sold?  I want to see the folding and shaping techniques, not just read the description, or I would like someone to show me hands on!!

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Caryn - someone posted this link here awhile back I forget where, but there are some videos here that I found very useful, especially the ones on folding and shaping, although some of the "Godfather" narrations are a bit corny. The "Torpedo Shaping" is good (even though there is no sound on that one for some reason), as is the "Handling wet dough" one, showing how to stretch and fold, and the "Boule Shaping" one.

http://www.fornobravo.com/video/hearth_bread.html

caryn's picture
caryn

Thank you, mountaindog, I will take a look.

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

Caryn, if you are interested in buying DVD's of bread making techniques, try www.danielsrusticbread.com. Also King Arthur has one demonstrating baguette-making.

I think I paid about $20 each.

Willard

caryn's picture
caryn

Thank you, Willard. I think you were the original person who directed me to those videos. I want to know if you feel they were worth it. Are the demonstations clear, and do you feel you got your money's worth? Which of them did you like the most, or find the most useful. I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Not quite there yet. I again tried the T. Leonard country French this week-end following Mountaindog’s careful recipe with notes. I had two different batches – one using the K.A. starter that I purchased a few weeks ago and the other a starter I’ve had for several months. This time I got great oven spring and a beautiful crust but all four loaves were “gummy” inside – even after cooling overnight. The only thing I can think that I did differently was to use Harvest King Gold Medal Flour (billed as‘artesian’ flour) in place of the KA AP – could this have made the difference? Maybe it didn’t bake long enough? We did check the temp and all were over 200 degrees but they were big loaves. Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Trish,

Over 200F (at sea level) may be OK, but it's hard to tell if you're in the very center with a big loaf, and I've found a spot in the center that was not properly baked after thinking I'd read the temperature correctly on large loaves. I usually let the temperature get up a little higher, like 205F to make sure they're done. Also, if you don't let them completely cool before you cut into them, which can take hours for a large loaf, you might experience something like a gummy inside, because with those big loaves, it takes a long time for them to cool down and for the crumb to really set completely.

I've heard people say that they get "gummy" texture from putting too much diastatic malted barley flour in the dough. Could that be an issue?

Sorry if it turns out it's none of the above.

Bill

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

might be part of the problem. I didn't used any malted barley flour in this recipe. Do you think the flour made any difference at all? I'm planning on trying again next week-end and will use the AP flour and see how it turns out.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Trish,

Unless the flour has a particularly low protein level, which seems unlikely if it's billed as flour for artisan bread, then I would doubt it should make that much difference. However, flours definitely vary in the amount and quality of the protein, so you might notice some difference in handling and amount of water needed to get the same consistency and rise out of this flour as you got from another flour before.

Bill