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English muffins inspired by browndog's baking

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mariana's picture
mariana

English muffins inspired by browndog's baking

 

Hi,

 

Today I prepared English muffins for the first time in my life. Oh, My. God.  So good. Why do people say that English food is bland? These little breads are out of this world!

 

This was also the very first recipe I am testing from Rose Levy Beranbaum's BIG book on breads. I followed the recipe steps exactly. Ingredients were all the same as hers, but I had to make these muffins sourdough, like browndog's muffins. So I instead of 1 tsp of instant yeast that Rose L.B.  lists in the ingredients I leavened the dough with a tablespoon of sourdough sponge left over from baking pain au levain.

 

Many thanks to browndog for inspiration! Thank you.

 

 

 

browndog's picture
browndog

oh, gorgeous, Mariana! I'm just one small link in a chain of English Muffin bakers here, but thank you for the kind nod. Your photographs are so polished, and your muffins perfect. I'm surprised you haven't made these before. Isn't the difference (homemade vs storebought) amazing?

I am curious about the Berenbaum recipe, if it calls for sweetener, oil, milk, or baking soda. Also, was the dough dry enough to knead? What did you use for dusting? (Questions, questions, I know.)

xma's picture
xma

Hi mariana and browndog,

I dropped out of TFL for a while (browndog, long story but I won't tell you here for fear of being a thread hijacker again) and now I see there's this whole thing going on about English muffins.  (Last I was here, it was still the Vermont sourdough party.)  I haven't made English muffins before, so I'm interested to try.  I don't have the Big Book on Breads, so please share a good recipe.  Thanks!

xma

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

... is right here.

I made some using all whole wheat flour. Those results are here.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana,

Those are beautiful! I've never had English English muffins but I certainly have had Canadian English muffins so I have very clear memory of them with the butter filling the holes...yummm.

There are so many recipes in her book that I've made and are terrific. If you follow her instructions, you can't go wrong.

I'm enjoying your blog very much - you've made some wonderful looking breads. Getting ready to try some of your new methods.

L_M

Jamila's picture
Jamila

Beautiful!

Bart's picture
Bart

Nice!  I need to try to make it myself.

Seeing this pic makes me want to eat them now! 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

it's a great formula! If you are short on time one morning try, it as a loaf.. equally tasty.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi,

 

Thank you for the compliments.

 

Ten English Muffins

 

From R.L. Beranbaum

 Sponge

1 cup AP flour

¾ cup water

1 Tbsp honey

½ tsp instant yeast (I omitted yeast, because I used 1 Tbsp of ripe sourdough leaven instead)

 

Beat for 2 min until very smooth and well aerated. I used paddle attachment in KA mixer. Let the sponge ferment for 1-4 hours.

 Muffin dough 

Sponge

1 cup AP flour

2 Tbsp dry milk

½ tsp instant yeast (I omitted yeast completely, since I was making sourdough muffins)

3 Tbsp butter

1 1/4tsp salt

 

Mix everything except salt on low speed for 5 min. Cover and let the dough rest for 20min. Add salt and knead for 10 min on medium speed (#4 in Kitchen Aid).

 

Let the dough ferment for 1 ½ hours at room temperature. I fermented for 50 min, since I was working with ferocious sourdough.

 

 Roll the dough out about ¼” thick and cut out muffins. Place them on a sheet pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let muffins rise until ¾” thick. Yeasted dough will puff up in about 45 min. Sourdough muffins will puff up in 30 min to 1.5 hours, if kept warm and covered. I proofed muffins in humidified oven on ‘proof’ setting, so they rose really fast.

 

 Preheat griddle to 275F (medium low heat), cook for 10 min on each side.

 

 

Browndog, hello! All you questions are answered by the recipe itself, I guess. I give the brief version above, since Rose's text is 4 pages long and the process is many hours and even days long in execution (due to development of pre-ferment and retardation phase). My sourdough muffins took 3 hours, or so, and turned out just fine.

 

Hi xma, how are you? Glad to see you back and I hope that this time you stay longer : )  I liked these muffins. I prepared them in the evening and in the morning they were perfect to be split with fork and toasted for breakfast.   

 

L_M, darling, you always have kind words to say. You are so nice!  About Rose's books.. now, that I have 'conquered' sourdough, I am ready to boldly go ... and start baking pies from Rose's pastry book.  I am totally pie terrified right now, but I must learn or else. I hope this autumn I will learn to make pies and then, later, cookies, lots of cookies for Christmas.  Do you bake a lot? Other things, besides breads?

 

Jamila, hi! Tomorrow I am going to prepare your crepes. I finally consumed all sourdough starter. None is left. NONE. So how I can simply enjoy yeasty treats, like your pancakes with honey and butter. yummy.

 

Paddycake, I didn't know there were so many of us, bakers of RLB's breads. Wow. That feels great. I will try this dough as a sandwich loaf. I will. It's delicioius. Thank you !

 

mariana

xma's picture
xma

for the recipes.  And just to explain, I did see Katie's recipe but was taken aback by the 1/2 cup starter, first because I like my sourdough really mild, and secondly, I have no idea how much a half cup of starter is--am I supposed to estimate a half cup before scooping it out, because measuring it after it has collapsed from scooping seemed excessive.  Mariana's recipe with a tablespoon of starter seems more manageable, phew! :)  Thanks again!

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana,

I'm only familiar with Rose's bread bible, but I'm sure all of her recipes are perfect. This wasn't my first bread book but it actually was the one that taught me the most. Every recipe worked - mind you I wasn't into sourdough at that time....

I do bake quite a lot, mostly cakes, cookies, muffins and brownies. We aren't really pie people, simply because if a dessert is going to be eaten around here, we need to hear the word "chocolate" loud and clear!  Once in a while I'm allowed to make something else.

My oven also has an automatic "proof" setting but that is set at 40C. For doughs with yeast it really gets the job done in no time at all. I use it sometimes in the winter or if I'm really pressed for time, but I thought that it was too hot for the yeast in sourdough. Do you know what temp your oven's "proof" setting is?

Good luck with your pies.

L_M

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi L_M,

 

My oven is just like yours, it heats up to 40C (105F) when I turn on PROOF setting. It mimics the temperature of a commercial proofer. Commercial proofing boxes are set to 105F and 80% relative humidity.

 

Actually, 40C (105F) it is not even the best setting for proofing yeasted dough. Yeasted goodies rise the fastest at 46C (115F) and 90% humidity. But then it is easy to miss the point of optimal proof to begin baking breads.

 

 PROOF setting in our ovens is the best …surprise!!!... for sourdough breads, believe it or not.  A piece of sourdough with initial temperature of 75F reaches the temperature of approximately 90F (32C) in 20-30 min inside my oven set to PROOF.  

 

In sourdough breads, 50% of gas production is by yeast cells and 50% by lactic bacteria cells. Yeast cells (candida milleri, ‘wild yeast’) produce most gas at 86F in a well oxygenated dough, i.e. earlier in the proofing process. Lactic bacteria produces most gas at 93F.

 

So, if you can achieve 86-93F inside your proofing sourdough loaves, it would be the best for your baking schedule, the fastest achievement of desired volume. In Celsius, it’s 30-34 degrees. If you are curious, L_M, place a piece of dough in your oven when it is in PROOF mode with a thermometer inserted, and monitor how it’s temperature changes as dough warms up and stabilizes for about one hour. OK. I would like to know your results.

 

To bring humidity to the optimal level of 90% during proofing, I place a shallow plate on the bottom of the oven and poor ½ cup of boiling water in it. This amount of water is not enough to alter oven temperature significantly, but it is just enough to make it humid inside.  

Thanks for good luck wishes. I am actually on a 'baker's leave' now, LOL. DH has left to work overseas for a couple of weeks, and I will not bake anything meanwhile. Whew... Feels like freedom, LOL. After nursing thouse sourdoughs day and night for the last 3-4 months, trying to figure out how to treat them right, I needed a break.

xma's picture
xma

Hi Mariana and L_M,

I remember reading somewhere (most likely in Hamelman's Bread) that optimal proofing temp is not necessarily the fastest proofing time.  The author was clearly an advocate of cooler rising temperatures--in the vicinity of 70F/21C for starters and 76F/24C for doughs--for best flavor.  There was something about developing 'off' flavors above 80F/27C.

Mariana, thanks for the tip that the muffins are best toasted the morning after.  I was trying to figure out proofing schedules and how on earth I'm supposed to get them ready in time for breakfast.  I was considering retarding them overnight, so I was wondering if anyone has ever tried that?

xma

mariana's picture
mariana

Yes :) Nice to see you carefully reading Hammelman. He is a great baker.

Hammelman advocates just that: room temp for fermentation for flavor development. Proofing is nor really about flavor development, just gas production to get the volume right. Flavor develops during building preferments and bulk fermentation. These are best done at 75-78F. I do distinguish between fermentation (dough, flavor development) and proofing (odorless and tasteless gas production, volume development) Hammelman writes, p21:

 

Bread flavor is largely determined by the correct mixing technique, the use of a pre-ferment, the duration of the bulk fermentation, and the quality of the bake.

 

The goal of the final fermentation is to raise the bread to the desired degree.

 

I was watching Calvel's videotapes and he also ferments sponges and starters and dough in bulk at room temp, but proofs in a proof box, at 90F, both yeasted and sourdough breads. I tried it and it works just fine.

 

Yes, xma, you can refrigerate this dough, or shaped muffins themselves. You can also refrigerate the sponge, says Rose L. B.  In fact, she recommends to refrigerate the sponge for up to 24 hours and final dough, after it has doubled in volume, for 24 hours again.

xma's picture
xma

this is great news about the muffins--retarding them each step of the way!  Have you ever done it that way using sourdough?  

Thanks for that distinction between bulk fermentation and final proofing.  In my head I tend to lump them together as 'rising times 1 and 2' or 'bulk proof and final proof'.  I think I get better oven spring when I do the final proofing in a cooler temp, but then again, I might be over-proofing when I do the final rise in a warm place.

I can't wait to try the recipe you posted this weekend.  In fact, maybe I should do retardation #1 on Thur night and retardation #2 on Fri night, for freshly made muffins on Sat am without caring what time I wake up. :) 

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Nice you hear you so inspired, xma! : )  I am with you, normally I proof at regular temperature, no rush.

 

I must confess that I dislike retardation, because I was unlucky enough to learn to bake sourdough breads from Peter Reinhart's recipes and they were horrible, disheartening, utter failires. You know how he insists that refrigeration for several hours is THE tool of an extraordinary baker. I didn't give up and after several tortured loaves I managed to produce very good breads, very tasty, according to his formulas. However, in my experience, shorter, same day processes of breadmaking make bread as great if not better as Reinheart's 'extraordinary' breads. So I won't retard my dough ever again on any stage. Too many bad memories of too much work and disheartening confusion for a loaf of bread.

 

 I do refrigerate leftovers, to bake something else later, but I won't retard/refrigerate dough on purpose to develop 'flavor'. For yeasted goodies I will simply add a piece of sourdough to the mix et voila like I did with 10 English Muffins : ) . For sourdough goodies, I love full mellow aroma of fresh dough and bright tender crumb, not the retarded dough, which has heavier crumb, grayish in color, sharper flavor, and thicker crust.

 

Please, let me know how your muffins will turn out, xma, OK?  Do you have some special recipe to share? I would love to learn from you. I am very new to this breadmaking thing.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana,

That is really new way of thinking about proofing sourdough for me. I must admit that even though I understand the different effects the bulk fermentation and proofing have on the dough, I do have trouble understanding how the dough knows...what I mean is - why does the dough stop developing flavour just because it has been shaped? Most sourdough recipes instruct to proof the dough at warmish room temp, certainly not as hot as the 'proof' setting, and they mention almost equal amounts of time for bulk rise and proof. On the other hand, many yeast dough recipes do instruct for proofing at a higher temp and a shorter time. 

I'll try the proofing test tomorrow and let you know what temp, how long etc. It will be interesting to see how long it takes because usually when proofing I just think about the air temp and don't really pay enough attention the actual temp of the dough. During, and after kneading I always use the dough temp for a guideline to help me figure out how long it will take for bulk fermentation.

Mariana it sounds like you take on projects with all your heart, and in my case I find that bread baking is like a magnet - I just can't stop! So, I know just what you mean about needing a break -  with DH away you'll probably have more time to relax and catch up on all sorts of things :-)

L_M 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

have me dying to try some. Are they best hot off the griddle, or just as good toasted the next morning?  (I don't want to try to make these before breakfast!)

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Hi KipperCat,

 

They are very very good, yes. Believe me. I am completely objective : )  I tried them both off the griddle and toasted next morning and morning after and morning after (sourdough, they don't age at room temperature). 

 

In my opinion, the next morning is better, because they cool off and set, which makes them more suitable for traditional splitting with fork and toasting the insides for pretty looks, buttering and smothering them with marmelade. 

 

 Because they are nicely pale when they are done on the griddle, I also tried them toasted whole, keeping insides fresh, moist, tender, and they are gorgeous with omlet, bacon, slices of fresh tomato, etc. as a sandwich.  

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi L_M,

 

You made me smile, again. Thanks.

 

The dough obviously doesn’t know that it is undergoing bulk fermentation now, or is proofing the next moment. It’s the baker who knows.

 

 The processes in the dough are continuous and more or less the same: yeast and bacteria produce 3 flavorless compounds, i.e. they don’t contribute to the flavor of a finished bread, such as water, alcohol, and gas, and many flavorful compounds, like acetic acid and hundreds of others, derived from alcohol and other precursors. The baker knows to give dough enough time to produce flavor through the chain of chemical reactions which take time. That is why the phases of pre-ferments and bulk fermentation last so long, require several rises and punching downs.  It’s the baker’s decision to make them last that long. Once the baker is satisfied with flavor development of the dough, s/he just lets the dough rise fully and bakes it.

 

One of the criticisms of ‘bad’ bread, modern bread, industrially produced bread, is exactly this lack of flavor due to the absence of pre-fermenting and long bulk fermentation in yeasted breads. Industrially produced bread is mixed by bakers intensively, ‘Frankenstein’ yeast type is added to produce enormous amounts of gas in record time, and then loaves are immediately proofed and baked.  Sugars and fats and other additives, like sourdough powder, buttermilk, etc., compensate for the lack of flavor produced by the living dough itself. That’s just an example of a different baker’s decision.

 

In the past, long fermentation and long cold proof were unavoidable: modern yeast, methods of temperature control, and mixing methods were not available. Today, they have become desirable features of the bread making, when a baker can afford it, when his profit margin lets him do so.

 

Personally, I like my sourdoughs to be just the way I like them: sometimes white and fluffy and mild, sometimes dense, gray, and sharply acidic. Occasionally I like white and fluffy and acidic, and I know how to achieve that as well. Knowing how fermentation times and microbiology affect characteristics of bread lets me choose this or that particular recipe for bread. I don’t really engineer my breads ad hoc; I just find a recipe that does it.  How about you, L_M? Do you tinker with your breads or faithfully follow the recipes?

 

mariana

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have been following along reading this thread since the beginning. L_M, I share your wonder about how these processes overlap in the development of a flavorful dough. I too was not thrilled with my results in following the BBA's instructions.

Mariana you have given me a better perspective on developing that mild and nutty flavor I strive for in every bread. For a long time I believed the fable that the road to fully developed flavor wandered through the cooler. Frankly I had many disasters trying to get the activity started again after the retardation phase. The results were dense chewy crumbs and thick crusts with a tangy taste. The complex, multi day processes are also not for me. Starting a preferment the previous day is fine as I can appreciate the improvement but I think I'm done retarding the dough except for a schedule change which causes me to leave the kitchen unexpectedly.

Mariana when you say "Once the baker is satisfied with flavor development of the dough, s/he just lets the dough rise fully and bakes it. " This is the source of my greatest confusion. I feel like I have understanding of the basic components of the chemistry that is at work but not the capability to measure the process from a qualitative basis. How does one know when the flavor has developed to the fullest point when there don't seem to be any visual clues? You say that the bulk ferment may not result in a doubling of volume so how is one to know when s/he is satisfied? For me, it is what is referred to as a WAG (Wild A-- Guess). :>)

Eric

xma's picture
xma

Ooh, Mariana, you put me to shame claiming to be a beginner with all those fantastic photos you've been posting!  Heheh.  You know what, what you said got me thinking because probably 90% of my sourdoughs are retarded.  Heck, I retard probably 80% of all my breads.  I'm a freshly-baked-bread-for-breakfast-at-7am fanatic, which explains why I have this thing for retarding, or else I'll really be losing sleep on a regular basis to attend to the doughs.  I also have a confession to make--I don't have any of Reinhart's books.  (I almost feel guilty because of all the accolades I read about them.) So I haven't heard of the-best-breads-are-retarded idea.  Retarding for me is really just to be able to get a good night's sleep and fresh bread for breakfast.  I feel your pain on bad experiences with dough retardation; those experiences are just heartbreaking, and we all have horrible-bread tales to tell! Sigh. 

As for recipes, I'm a real fan of Hamelman and have tried nearly all in his Bread book, except for the super heavy ryes.  I like his oatmeal bread and roasted potato bread.  They're not sourdoughs though.  I intend to try his raisin-pecan and might convert it to sourdough this weekend.  If interested, I also posted this recipe in floyd's site of sweet corn bread, which is really an amalgamation of  Glezer's, Hamelman's and Floyd's. Again it's not sourdough, but my friends love it and say it's unique.

L_M, I laughed out loud when you asked how the dough knows whether it's in the bulk ferment of final proofing stage, because the same idea crossed my mind.  :)

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi Eric,

 

I sent you Calvel's DVDs a couple of days ago. You'll get them next week. OK?

 

I loved your question, Eric. Where L_M was asking 'how does the dough know?', you are asking 'how does the baker know'. Well, with breads the effects of different procedures on final flavor of baked loaves are found by experimenting and due to old-fashioned discovery process. There are certain guidelines of working with yeasted and naturally fermented doughs, but of course all of them are violated here and there by creative artisans.

 

So, for us, who do not work with dough full time for decades, professionally, passionately, it is more a matter of finding good recipes, i.e. recipes that we can work with and which will produce in our hands bread that we like. 

 

When we learn, we learn by noticing certain rules of managing pre-ferments and doughs. They are guidelines, but useful nevertheless. So that we don't make gross mistakes in the beginning.

 

 For example, rules for sourdough sponges tell us that they should be fermented for at least 5 hours, but probably no more than 8, because otherwise gluten will be affected too much, and crumb and flavor bread will be affected. 

 

Yeasted pre-ferments have their own set of rules, i.e. pre-fermented dough (pate fermente, old dough technique)  should ferment for 3-6 hours, poolish - for 3-15 hours; sponges - for  1-4 hours; stiff biga - for 18 hours.  These are just guidelines for 'normal conditions' and 'normal compositions of pre-ferments', because all we want is mature pre-ferment, yeasted or sourdough. We don't want it to be too young or too old. Visually, maturity of pre-ferment is determined by the volume, amount of gas, appearance of the surface (domed, collapsed, bubbles breaking up, etc.)

 

Direct doughs have their own sets of guidelines. OK?

 

mariana

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mariana,

I'm still trying to learn those rules so I don't make a gross mistake. Part of the problem is that I don't give enough weight to the importance to the timing. I tend to get distracted by my daily fire fights so to speak and the sponge or preferment is forgotten for a while. I will try to get it into my head what my range limits are and stay inside for the product.

By the way thank you so much for sending those videos. I'm looking forward to next week.

Eric

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Eric, don't worry. You don't have to force yourself to memorize times and stay within limits. Once you try really good breads, you will do it naturally. They are so nice to work with, you won't get distracted. They are so tasty, you will not want to ruin them. They are also quite forgiving, thank God.

 

I am quite forgetful myself, so I set up three alarm clocks when timing is important: a mechanical with a single alarm, an electronic with a continuous alarm, and I also have one hanging on my neck, a cute little thing with a very annoying alarm, LOL. I set them up a few minutes apart, to keep bothering me, so I stop doing what I am doing and go and pay attention to bread in the kitchen. For very critical stages, like proofing, I also ask my husband to make sure I react, LOL. It's because I am able to ignore all three alarms, if I am really into another thing while bread needs my attn.

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Xma, I baked your conr bread today. I did it with corn meal and in loaf pans - good for sandwiches. I belive this is the best recipe for sandwich loaf that I have made so far. Your recipe is excellent.  Instead of mixing kernels in the dough, I rolled shaped loaf in them. It is very pretty that way and conr kernels have roasted a bit during baking and taste delicious. Thank you for sharing.

 

L_M's picture
L_M

xma and Eric, I'm delighted that I'm not crazy, and you also have these questions!

Mariana, again you have a wonderful way with words and as I've said before, you somehow manage to fill in the gaps with links between the theory and what is actually happening in real life, in our kitchens.

I tried the proofing test with a piece of dough at 26C weighing about 200 grams. Considering the information you mentioned above about the different rates of gas production, I'm glad I did monitor the results. It took 30 min for the dough to reach 32C...45 min to reach 35C...1 hour to reach 38C...1 1/2 hours to reach 42C.  After that I stopped testing. So if I want to keep it between 30C - 34C I'd be best to turn the oven off after 30 - 45 min. and just let it continue from the heat still left in the oven. How long does proofing take using this setting as opposed to a 3 - 4 hour proof at moderate room temp?

As for tinkering with recipes...oh yes, I certainly do! BUT, only after I've made it first the way the recipe instructs. Then I start playing around in order to achieve the bread I want. I must say though that with Rose's recipes I still have the best results. During the summer, using the overnight sponge in the fridge is the only way that enables me to finish kneading the dough and end up with the correct temp. The type of flour, kneading times, hydration, amount of yeast, etc, all work out right for me. My first real bread book was BBA and unfortunately I had very little success. The hydration didn't suit my flour, I now feel that the doughs were mostly underkneaded, they almost always ended up too warm, and then it rose too quickly, and I really didn't know what to do. The slightly enriched breads were also very often too sweet for our taste. Now that I feel much more in control when working with yeasted doughs, I enjoy tinkering and creating, but using his and other recipes as a base.

With sourdough I do not tinker at all - I'm still very far from knowing how.

L_M 

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Hi L_M,

 

I am relieved to know that I am not the only one who finds that P.R.'s recipes are not so easy to bake successfully and that his enriched doughs are too sweet. Generally, I find his breads to be more like cakes: too artsy, festive, unique. Once succesful, they are nice, but they are definitely not a daily bread. I am baking Calvel's breads lately and they are honest bread. Unmistakingly so.  I also want to bake Hamelman's and Leader's breads, since these gentlemen are actual bakers and hopefully they know how to transmit that sense of real bread through their recipes. But before that I will bake Thom Leonard's breads from "The Bread Book" that he published in 1990.

 

Your question about proofing is a good one, again. The answer is that it depends, mostly on the size of the loaves.  Having discovered the temperature gradient inside loaves, you now understand, that the middle takes longer to get ready than the outer parts, because the middle is cooler. So I would use oven proofing only for the smaller  or thinner items, not for big, round 2-4 pound loaves.  The sourdough muffins above, small and 1/2" thick, took only 15min to fully proof, instead of 45 min, outlined by Rose for yeasted muffins at room temp.

 

So, once you start using oven proof setting for your sourdoughs, test with your finger and hand and use 1Tbsp test dough method to track the progress. Then you will know, for your favorite breads, how long it takes. 

 

Finger and hand test are very important, IMHO.  You poke gently the surface with your finger to see how it reacts. A well proofed dough is giving in, but at the same time feels strong, i.e. capable of oven spring. And you also lift loaves with your hand to get the fell of their lightness and how evenly they have proofed: must feel light throughout, the center must be as well proofed as the outer layers of the loaf. 

 

 There is also this subjective test of gassines: the loaf should feel light for its size, hot heavy, not featherweight, but definitely lighter than it looks and surprisingly stronger than it looks.

 

mariana

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana,

From what you described it seems that sourdough speeds up tremendously just like yeasted doughs when using the 'proof setting'. So while that is not rocket science, it certainly is a good indication that full attention is necessary in order not to overproof! I usually make rolls or small sized loaves - tops around 1 1/2 lb, and boules even smaller. I just find it more convenient for slicing and eating normal sized sandwiches, and it's also nice for give-aways. I imagine though that using your 1TBSP method for checking progress is really only that - checking progress, since that small amount will be ready before a larger piece of dough when using the proof setting, right?

 Emily Buehler's instuctions in "Bread Science" on shaping and checking for when to bake are the best I've found so far, and very similar to what you have described. The additional tighening of the shaped dough is like an extra secret weapon to achieve good volume. I think many home bakers underproof because of this. If the dough is not shaped well enough and this step is left out, then the dough feels a bit limp all the time so it's harder to pinpoint the best time to bake. I don't pick up the loaf - I'm still afraid of that, and if it's in a loaf pan I'd really be terrified, but besides the famous poke test, I also place my whole hand on the dough and give it a quick, firm but gentle shake and try to imagine what is going on inside. I call it the ' jello test'. If the whole thing wobbles, but still feels somewhat tight like jello then it's ready to bake.

Are you sure your on a 'bakers leave' ? I noticed a very nice bread pictured above :-)

L_M

mariana's picture
mariana

 

Hi L_M,  how are you? What are you baking now?

 

Yes, Emily’s chapters on shaping and checking readiness of the dough are simply the best! I agree.  And she is such a nice person. I also loved her illustrated explanations of how the degree of proofing coordinates with the depth of cuts. Huge help. Have you tried her sourdough recipe?  I haven’t yet. I am confused by her ‘fully risen in 2 hours’ twice instruction before shaping. Can sourdough fully quadruple in 2 hours? It escapes me. However, the loaf on the picture looks good (p 254). I’ll ask her.

 

The problem with proofing sourdough in the oven is that the same oven should be preheated for 1 hour prior to baking (IF your use baking stone).  So, to use warm environment to speed up proofing sourdough, microwave method might be better. I tried it and it works, indeed, freeing the real oven for preheating.

 

1 Tbsp method is good for small pieces or for loaves proofed at room temp, yes. Gosh, you are so clever! Nice to meet you : )

 

I have no idea what other home bakers do with their loaves: underproof or not. No idea. I know I have never overproofed a loaf to the point of collapse, but severe underproofing, with cracks beyond slashes? … hmm, not really.

 

I was petrified to touch swollen dough in the beginning, like you are now, L_M . To the point of holding my breath and not batting my eyelashes, LOL. However, lots of baking and learning helps. Dough is a very resilient creature. If you have kneaded, shaped and proofed properly, it will hold just fine. I don’t pick up a loaf if it’s in a pan either. By definition, it’s much softer a dough, so poke test and overall height are enough of evidence, yes.

 

 Does your flour have vitamin C added? If not, you can try adding a tiny pinch. Your dough will become amazingly strong. If your starter liquefies gluten too much, you can moderate it by adding salt to the starter and sponges.  Also, proofed loaves have slightly dried surface which helps them hold their shape and be handled with ease. I lost the remainder of my fears when I saw Richard Bertinet in his video transferring the entire baguette from the couche to the baking sheet with hands (i.e. not using baguette board) and telling us, “don’t worry, it is strong, you won’t deflate it”. A fully proofed baguette was looking like a snake, hanging in the air as he was transferring and adjusting it, making it look straight on the baking sheet. Wow.

 

Yes, I am on a baker’s leave, LOL. I guess that’s why yesterday I baked 20 loaves of levain de pâte, because I found a quarter of cup of forgotten sourdough starter in the back of my fridge (milk based, that’s why it lived in the fridge). Lots of practice just because I didn’t want to discard a ¼ cup of starter, huh? I don’t have to bake, that’s what I mean by ‘vacations’. DH is not here to serve him fresh bread daily.  

 

Thank you for teaching me the jello test. Wonderful idea! Just wonderful! Thank you, my friend. I am a convert now. Please, teach me more of your good baking habits. I want to learn from you.

 

mariana

 

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana,

I've been busy lately so I've hardly had time at the computer - just wanted to let you know.

I'm touched that you actually feel you might be able to learn something from me as you are sooo far ahead of me in bread baking... but I might be able to point you to a few recipes that we really enjoy. If you like pizza, I do have a few ideas that you might like, so just let me know. 

I've got a mish-mash of methods happening (proofing) right now so I'll post results later on the 'firm starter' thead when I get a chance later, and I'll also answer your post above in more detail.

I'm glad you liked the jello test :-)

L_M

xma's picture
xma

Wow Mariana, L_M and Eric, I was only away from my computer over the weekend and you got this entire thesis on proofing!  I'm overwhelmed.

Mariana, glad you liked the corn bread.  I gather you used white corn meal?  Interesting. I've only tried it with yellow, so they've always been bright yellow bread.

Ok, now I've got this saga about the English muffins.  (You'll be sorry you asked me to post results.) First of all, I made a huge mistake and somehow put 3 tablespoons of honey in the sponge, and it didn't expand at all.  And guess what, I repeated the same mistake on my second try, thinking it was the flour--I almost always use bread flour for pre-ferments, first time using AP.  Same thing happened, and that's only when I realized my mistake about the honey.   

I told myself I'll give your recipe a break, so I tried Katie's. It was ok, but I'm sure mine was quite far from intended results because my starter is 100% rye, and hers called for a significant amount of starter. Then I tried RLB's recipe again using yeast.  I was pressed for time so I made many shortcuts but the texture was unbelievably light, kids loved it.  A nephew said it's a much better version of Krispy Kreme--that kid is strange, he never likes anything sweet. 

Now I'm on my third attempt using your recipe.  The sponge is resting at the very moment.  I think I got traumatized by the honey experience so I just left it out and will put it in when I make the final dough.  The schedule was a bit hard for me to work with too and the sponge will have to rest longer than 4 hours, so I'm going for cooler temp and lower proportion of starter.  I'll post results tomorrow. 

Makes me wonder about the honey though--I could only hazard a guess that too much honey smothered and killed the yeast?  I made an all-white sourdough for a friend using the very same starter and it was fine.  Starter also worked ok with Katie's recipe with the milk.  And oh yeah, after all this tinkering I've run out of starter except for the small amount I needed for refreshing I ended up not converting Hamelman's pecan and raisin to sourdough and made it as the recipe indicated. Any insights?

mariana's picture
mariana

 

 

Hi, L_M,

 

Thank you! You are so generous; you are great! Please come back to teach me how to bake pizzas and tell me about your favorite recipes. I must learn as much as possible about pizzas, because I have to bake them every weekend. It’s practically a part of my marriage contract, LOL.  If you want, we can start a new thread, to make it specifically about pizzas. I promise I will follow your instructions. Thank you, L_M.

  

Xma, yes. While you were busy baking muffins of your own kind : ) , we’ve been doing nothing but chatting about things, LOL.  Glad to see you back!

 

Re: corn bread. This particular bread was made with yellow corn meal. Dark yellow. I discovered that it must be cooked prior to mixing it into dough.  When not cooked, even with long pre-soaking and nearly an hour long baking it stays hard, like grains of sand inside bread crumb.  Yours was with yellow corn flour, that’s why it was a brighter yellow. I have both white and yellow cornmeal and white and yellow corn flour to use in this bread, so there is plenty of possibilities for different crumb color and texture.

 

Re: sourdough English muffins. I don’t know if honey killed the starter, xma. Maybe. I suspect that the sugar content in your sponge was unreasonably high and sugar dehydrated yeast cells.

 

3 tbsp of honey (63g) contain 52g of sugar. The rule is not to add more than 3% of sugar to the water when working with regular kinds of yeast (wild or baker’s yeast, non-osmotolerant types). Up to 3% of sugar in water stimulates yeast and it ferments extremely vigorously. Between 3 and 6%, there is no more increase in fermentation rate, and above 6%, sugar actually decreases the rate. In such amounts, sugar begins to dehydrate the cells of yeast and lactic bacteria.

 

In your little experiment, you had 63g of honey and 180g of water in the sponge, to a total of 191g of water. Sugar to water percentage was a strong 29%, instead of 9% as in Rose L.B.’s formula. Even her percent sugar was high, and she had to overcompensate by adding 60% more yeast than normal.

 

Also, I didn’t use starter, but a tablespoon of sourdough sponge; this makes a lot of difference, IMHO. It was white sourdough sponge seeded with white flour starter. Rye starter is a starter on steroids, because rye flour is full of microorganisms and nutrient-rich. Using it to seed white sponge directly is probably risky for several reasons. I would rather convert the rye starter to white wheat starter and then make an intermediate sponge and use it to seed the pre-ferment for muffins. Whole Rye -> White Wheat Starter conversion takes me a couple of weeks, actually, and it creates two very different starters, flavor-wise and performance-wise.  Not worth the trouble, imho, to bake just 10 muffins, LOL.  I used a Tbsp of existing white bread sponge.

 

xma's picture
xma

you know, I'm surprised by your experience with corn meal and corn flour.  I used corn flour when I developed the recipe particularly because I don't like corn bread (the baking powder kind) because I find it gritty.  When I wanted to make the yeasted corn bread again, I ran out of corn flour and thought I'd try using corn meal for exactly the same recipe, and I was surprised that my sister and I liked the texture even more, it was softer and fluffier.  Yes, just by soaking and no cooking.   I think I even used less water to achieve the same consistency. 

Anyway, I finally had the english muffins.  It was good, a bit denser than RLB's recipe but pleasant sourdough flavor.  Chewy too.  I think the family's divided about whether they prefer this one of the yeasted kind.  And you're right, not worth the bother to convert my starter for 10 muffins.  :)  Thanks again for sharing the recipe, and good luck with your pizzas.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Mariana, My family also loves pizza so I make it almost every weekend as well. Starting up a pizza thread sound like a good idea, but I don't have time yet.  I'll still be quite busy for the next day or two since our New Year's celebration is tomorrow evening and there is still lots to prepare. In the bread department I'm making a challah from Rose's site - It's newer and I think better than the ones in her book. I've made it before and it is excellent. Here is the link in case you are interested :http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2006/03/my_new_favorite_traditional_ch.html#moreMy mish - mash bread came out to be exactly that...so nothing  to write home about. I was trying out a few of your suggestions like:  salt in the levain, Vit C in the dough, longer kneading, shorter bulk fermentation, and I even picked up the dough to check it just before baking - it was scary, but at the same time amazing - nothing happened to it! It survived!  This was all with Bill's recipe, and Zolablue's instructions for the starter. Some parts were better than before but not everything and I've proved to myself once again, not to tinker with sourdough - I just don't know enough. In a few days I'll have more time to get back to it. I corresponded with Emily quite a while ago after trying her sourdough recipe with no luck, and in the end she just didn't know how to help me out with my starter, so I can't really say if part of the problem in the recipe or not.During the summer I have completely converted to starting out with a cold oven - no stone and no preheat, except for pizza. I honestly haven't found that it makes a difference, or at least enough of a difference to make it worthwhile. I turn on the oven while I get the water boiling, do the slashing etc. so it is really just a few minutes - just enough to get the steam pan hot enough to sizzle when I pour on the boiling water. I also use the microwave  for proofing sometimes if I'm not planning to bake on a baking sheet or something really big, but it doesn't really keep the warmth that evenly so it really is not my favourite place.Mariana, you mentioned before that you don't freeze your breads - please tell me what did you do with those 20 loaves you just finished baking???????? Lucky neighbours maybe? :-)L_MEdit note: I'm not sure why, but this all came out as one long paragraph. Hope it's not too confusing. 

mariana's picture
mariana

 

L_M,  thanks for reminding me of that Rose’s recipe. I read her blog a while ago when I was looking for errata for her bread book and now it would be the perfect time to bake that challah and for me to practice round shape which I have never done before. My husband is coming home for Rosh Hashannah, how convenient. : )  I trust your recommendation of this recipe.

 

As for sourdough breads, you must persevere. Do not give up. Please. There is nothing like a good loaf of sourdough, really.  I am nursing two different whole wheat sourdough cultures now, Calvel’s seven day recipe and classic desem, Thom Leonard’s recipe. My son surprised me with a gift of a roomy wine cooler that has just the perfect range of adjustable temperatures for slow dough fermentation and sourdough cultures storage. I am in heaven.  So today I baked my first baby desem loaves and they are stunning. I didn’t know that whole wheat could taste THAT good, wow.

 

As for frozen loaves, no, I don’t like freezing anything, and bread specifically. So those 20 loaves of delicious levain de pate went to the neighborhood store, whose owner kindly sold them for me. So they paid for a 25kg bag of light rye flour, a 10 kg organic hard wheat flour, and a 10 kg bag of whole rye berries.  I am all set and ready to begin baking rye breads. Wish me luck!

 

I hope to see you here on forums soon, L_M. Meanwhile, happy holidays!