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Rye Class at King Arthur - Pictures Added

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varda's picture
varda

Rye Class at King Arthur - Pictures Added

This weekend,  I and three other TFLers took a rye class at King Arthur with Jeffrey Hamelman.    Larry - aka Wally -  Faith in Virginia, and Otis - aka burntmyfingers - were there each driving from a different corner of the region.   It was fantastic to meet them for once, knowing them only from their bread and words up to now.  The class had 11 students (one didn't show up!)   ranging in age and experience, with the one from furthest away hailing from Malibu, CA.  

If I had any hopes in advance for the class, it would have been to gain a bit more skill in particular areas like mixing, shaping, slashing.   I can safely say that I did not make even an inch of progress in any of these areas.    That does not mean however, that I didn't learn anything.   Here are the lessons I learned in the order that I think of them. 

The most tangible lesson to come out of this class for me  is that my rye starter needs work.   The smell of the Hamelmanian rye starter is like nothing I've ever smelled before.   Since of course we were dealing with large enough quantities of starter to make 25 large loaves of bread for each of the 4 formulas we made over the weekend the mass was much larger than anything I'd ever worked with.    The smell was completely overpowering, and I had to move back a pace or two just to keep from keeling over.   My rye starter, even with my nose right up to it, just cannot compare.    This carried through all the way to the taste of the breads.

Chef Hamelman gave us a disquisition on the benefits of taking good care of our starters, explaining that extended refrigeration without feeding  (mea culpa) leads to an acid buildup that in turn begins killing off the yeast and beneficial bacteria.    While the King Arthur bakery feeds their wheat and rye starters twice a day, every day, he understood that might be tough for those of us who only bake once or twice a week, but he nevertheless suggested that we up our feeding schedule to at least a few meals per week.   While I have been skeptical of this in the past, I am not anymore.   In fact, if I could get the flavor in my breads that came out of the King Arthur classroom ovens yesterday, I would gladly feed twice a day no matter how much I had to throw out.    Consider me converted at least in theory.   We'll see what happens in practice.  

Home bakers are at a disadvantage when it comes to equipment.    Our loaves came out of the ovens with a sheen that I have never been able to achieve with my gas oven and various steaming techniques.    One press of a button and the deck ovens filled magically with steam which was then vented at just the right moment.     The spiral mixer just mixed the heck out of all the doughs while we all stood around with not much to do.   What can we do about this?   Be jealous.   That's it.

Chef Hamelman spent a lot of time testing us on when things were done.   Is the dough mixed enough?   Proofed enough?   Baked enough?   He kept a poker face throughout, there were always divergent opinions, and most of us were wrong as often as right.     What I did learn is that you can't just knock the bottom of a loaf to see if baking is done.   He recommended squeezing, looking, etc.   He did not pull out a probe thermometer and check.    Glad of that as I fried mine awhile ago and haven't replaced it.  

Peels with 8 or 9 loaves of bread on them are really heavy and getting them into the hot  oven was too scary for me.   I finally took a stab at removing a load, and that was bad enough.   Chef Hamelman's assistant was a quite thin and small young woman who was originally a baker in the KA bakery, so some are made of sterner stuff than I.    Other than that, the professional baking environment seemed much more manageable to me than I had imagined (see lesson about equipment above.)

Steam matters.   I already knew this, but we had a great accidental demonstration.   In addition to the 100 or so loaves that got made over the course of the two days, we also made a batch of salt sticks,  and a batch of deli rye rolls.   These were baked in the same oven as some 80% rye panned loaves - not a deck oven.    They came out looking very inedible, as it turned out the steam wasn't hooked up to that oven much to Chef Hamelman's surprise.   The loaves made of the same dough that were baked in the deck ovens were burnished and plump as could be.    The 80% rye did fine however, as it was very wet, and had the protection of the pans.  

Loaves made were a deli rye (best I've ever tasted) the 80% rye pan loaves, a flax seed rye, and a quark rye.    We each came home with two of everything but the pan loaves and I immediately wrapped most of it up and froze.   My husband who has always expressed an aversion to rye, has been chowing down on the flax seed loaf, and says it is the best loaf I've ever made.    Well I didn't really make it in any sense other than shaping it.    As my son put it,  I paid a lot of money to find out just how much I have yet to learn (and he didn't say it quite as nicely as that.)  

Final lesson:   if you are going to depend on your phone for picture taking, you have to remember to take the charger.   

Hope other participants will post themselves or add to this.

I sign off tired but happy.

-Varda

Update:   Rod, a student in the class, kindly sent in his excellent pictures and descriptions for posting:

Jeffrey put whole rye flour on the top surface of the sourdough as much to pay homage to his German mentor and less for environmental control.  In pursuit of tradition.  This sourdough was developed after 16 hour at room temperature with a plastic wrap cover over the container.

From the French word  gémir, to groan.  The backbreaking work of the third year apprentice.

So few caraway seeds in the deli rye dough but the flavor was pronounced.

Never far from the mixer.

Applying flour to the outer edge for an artistic flare.   It was recommended to perform this task while the dough was still moist and consider using niger seed for a more dramatic effect.

Here is a shot of the quark loaves.   Remember how hot they were when we were attempting to determine if they were done.   It was easier to compare the color in the loaves in the oven.

Fruits of our labor.

Comments

bagel_and_rye's picture
bagel_and_rye

Thank you for sharing your experiences! Wish we could've been there, sounds like a wonderful course.

varda's picture
varda

Hope you are able to take it someday.  -Varda

linder's picture
linder

Varda,

Sounds like it was a great experience.  Yes, I too pine and covet a REAL baker's oven with steam injection, they don't come cheaply and you have to bake a lot of bread to make them worthwhile.  But it's fun to play in the 'BIG' leagues every once in a while.  Interesting words regarding starter maintenance.  I'll have to be more vigilant with my whole wheat starter.  Thanks for all the info. 

Linda

varda's picture
varda

I have  just given my rye starter its first semi-daily feeding.    We'll see if my resolve maintains.   Thanks for commenting.  -Varda

grind's picture
grind

Hey Varda, what do you mean when you say his rye starter was overpowering?  Like sour overpowering, alcoholic vapor or something else entirely? 

varda's picture
varda

I think the right adjective to describe the starter is pungent.   Not vinegary, and not alcoholy but maybe a combination of sour and fermented.    The main thing though is whatever the odor was it was very, very strong.    I can smell it in the baked bread, but I wouldn't call the bread sour exactly - it is more complicated than that.   This is the place where I just don't have the vocabulary to give a good description.   Thanks.  -Varda

grind's picture
grind

Both bread and starter sound lovely.  Cheers.

isand66's picture
isand66

Thanks for sharing Varda.  I would love to take that course and it sounds like a great experience.  Did you learn how to make the starter smell like what you experienced?  

varda's picture
varda

Hey Ian,   I don't know exactly, but given that my feeding regimen is so different (worse) than his, I would say that's the first place to start.   I'll give it a shot minus the mass which I just can't manage.  -Varda

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

Glad we both made it home in the snow. I really enjoyed the class and meeting other TFLers... this was the 3rd I've taken from Jeffrey Hamelman and in contrast to the other two, everybody was pretty experienced so he quickly skipped to a pretty high level.

The only photos I took were of the "blooper" with the rolls made without steam. It's very instructive though. Here are loaves made with similar formulas in the same shot that are beautiful and dark but these rolls are pale and misshapen. As Chef Hamelman pointed out, without steam the exterior of the dough toughens up sooner and the oven spring happens wherever there is a weak spot in the shaping. Also, without moisture to aid in caramelization you get pale, unattractive product. I did taste one of the finger rolls and it was fine... but nothing you could sell or present to guests!

varda's picture
varda

Hey Otis,   A bit dicey on the way back and passed one car that had run completely off the road into a ditch.   So careful, careful, careful.    I realize I only scratched the surface above, particularly when it came to all his ideas about bread and meaning and so forth.   But those are slower lessons absorbed with time.   Glad you got that picture.  -Varda

CelesteU's picture
CelesteU

We shared a WFO class last spring...sure wish I lived close enough to KA to be a repeat student like you!  Sounds like it was another great class w/Jeffrey.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

I was just over on your blog the other day... the classes you're teaching sound great!

This was a bit more "serious" than the WFO class. But maybe that's the nature of rye bread... Germans, and all that. WFOers are a breed apart. The new facility is beautiful... you should find a way to get back and take another class.

Take care, Otis

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Hi Varda,

Thanks for posting all your insights.  Your experience with the care and feeding of starters is is valuable, and it comes on the heels of a couple of other recent threads that talk about the downsides of refrigerated and unfed starters.  You've inspired me (at least) to up my feeding schedule to improve the flavor.  As for getting a sheen, it is also one of my holy grails in baking.  Nice to have the opportunity to work on some professional equipment.  Sounds like you had fun.

  -Brad

varda's picture
varda

Intimidating but fun.   And really aside from the practical lessons, JH had a lot of interesting thing to say about baking and bread.   Still mulling them over.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Varda.  Concentrating on rye only had to make the time spent sharply focused and more concise.  The rye starter build is something I really fall down on feeding, at most once a week - but do have 3 builds when using it and it gets fairly if not overpoweringly, pungent.  Nothing like the smell of a huge pile of it though :-)

Thanks for sharing.

 

varda's picture
varda

I'm waiting to see if I can get "the smell."   We'll see.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

Well, now I have oven envy.....I remember Andy (ananda) writing about being spoiled by commercial ovens and how hard it was to use a home oven afterwards.  Too bad there aren't any home deck ovens that come close to what you got to use.  Oh well, my Cadco does have steam but not really super efficient.  I have to turn my oven off for the first 10 minutes of the bake or else all of the steam created is blown out of the vent. (It bakes with convection only)  Still, it does work better than all of the other steaming methods I tried prior to purchasing it.

The rye sour sounds heavenly.  I imagine it did make a huge difference in the final loaves too.  Now that is something that is do-able in a home environment.  I don't keep a rye sour as I don't use one all that often.  I do feed my ww starter 2x a day and it does live on the counter during the day but is refrig. at night.  It does have a nice aroma but, I am sure, nothing like a rye sour.  Pretty heady stuff that must have been :-)

Thanks for the write up and I am curious to see if you replicate any of the breads you baked here for us - especially the flax seed one which, I am sure, you will attempt since your husband likes it so much.....but who knows....

Take Care,

Janet

 

varda's picture
varda

Janet, I'm definitely going to try the flax seed bread.   I hope I can get something that at least reminds me of the one we made at KA.   My DH has already announced that the 80% rye is too rye-y for him.    I'm going to have to identify some 80% rye "customers" so I can try that again.    But first I have to make my rye sour healthier, and while I'm at it, my wheat starter as well.   I am already trying to work out a new steaming strategy to generate the clouds of steam that I saw at KA.   My current approach may be adequate but not good enough.   Thanks for commenting.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Someone posted using one of THESE to introduce steam into your oven.  I got one but soon after got the Cadco so I don't have much working experience with it.  (Does do a great job cleaning the grout on our kitchen floor though :-)  You do need an oven that has a vent available for you to attach the nozzle.  It comes with a long flexible hose which makes the reach easier.  I have  coil top burners on the top of my oven so the vent is within easy reach.  

I will be interested to hear what you come up with to create the steam you saw at KA.  An oven in the shower  :-O

Always a new and fun challenge.  Bet the wheels in your mind are turning at a greater speed :-)  I know mine would be.

Take Care,

Janet

varda's picture
varda

I'll do anything that hasn't been done before.   I just now know what the goal is which is a big cloud of steam that doesn't last that long.   I have been concentrating on generating a steamy oven for awhile, but I think I can do better with more concentrated steam up front.   Oh, and we have one of those tile cleaner jobbies.   But I think I'll find another solution.    Thanks.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

How long would you say the steam lasts?  If you find a way to achieve what you saw I would love to hear how you do it.  I have never gotten a cloud of steam that was visible.  Just something I could feel when opening the door.

Janet

varda's picture
varda

When Hamelman was instructing he said that the oven should be full of steam for 5 minutes, then vented.   I was surprised at this until I saw the clouds of steam generated in the deck oven.    I had been focusing on generating a steamy environment for around half of the bake, and like you, never saw a cloud of steam.    Not sure it's possible, but I'll work to that end.   -Varda

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

...steam is, of course, water vapor, which is normally invisible.  Think about when relative humidity outside is very high, and unless it is rainy or foggy, you can's see it.  What makes it visible is that it comes in contact with something cooler and condenses into microscopic water droplets that reflect light.  When a hot oven with the door closed has some sort of steam-generating apparatus inside, there is no visible steam because there is nothing cool inside to cause the vapor to condense, so it remains invisible.  When you open the oven door to the much cooler room, you (hopefully) get a blast of steam, although it probably dissipates too quickly to see.  Removing the apparatus from the oven to the cooler room will cause the vapor to be visible.

I'm not sure what exactly goes on in a deck oven with a steam injector and why steam is visible in that case.  Perhaps the pipe that carries the steam is sufficiently cool to cause condensation, making it visible.  Maybe someone with deck oven experience can help with an explanation.

-Brad

varda's picture
varda

with the facts!   Anyhow, perhaps I imagined the clouds of steam, or perhaps I saw them when he vented the ovens, or whatever, but my sense was these ovens were a lot steamier than mine has ever been, and given the condition of the crusts and wonderful ovenspring, I'd say that's pretty likely.   (Doh!  Invisible water vapor.  Yes.)  -Varda

breadforfun's picture
breadforfun

Varda - the only point of that discourse was to say that you shouldn't expect to see lots of steam in a home oven.  And I don't doubt you saw it in the deck oven, I am just trying to think of a reason why.

-Brad

 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Trying not to condense on Varda's parade... :) The steam point of water at atmospheric pressure is 212F for all practical purposes. As long as the deck oven is about this temp all the water will be vapor and invisible. Steam is visible condensing on the glass doors or leaking out of the doors on the deck ovens that I have used. The temperature does drop at the front of the oven during loading; if it goes below 212F-ish, which it could in the first few inches, vapor would be visible when the oven is steamed. It all dissipates quickly, though.  I suppose it would be possible to see steam in an oven if the steam pressure is high enough to exceed the saturation point, however, that is very unlikely in a deck oven. The volume is too big and the steam generators are low pressure, under 30-40 psi.

I, too, struggled with steam generation and maintenance at home. In my hands, the hand held steamer (Eureka 350A) could not generate enough steam fast enough to satisfactorily fill the oven, but it does work well enough to use if an aluminum pan covering the loaf. 

I have a GE gas oven at home and, like Janet, I found that the only way to keep any steam was to preheat to 500-525F, turn the oven off, load it as fast as I can, steam (about 8-10 oz water into a preheated 12" cast iron pan on the bottom rack), wait 8-10 mins and turn the oven back on to 450F. The inside air temp drops about 35-50F during loading. I have not measured the temperature drop during the off period, but it is not enough to be a problem. This method creates a huge cloud of steam which is visible, of course, at the top exterior door vents. There don't appear to be any interior door vents that I can block; I am guessing that it leaks through the door gasket.

Deck ovens with steam are better than sex. LOL

varda's picture
varda

Peter,   Thanks for describing your steaming method.   I just used it for a bake today.   I ended up spilling water all over the place, but other than that, it was great.    I have a few questions about it.   Do you use cold water to go into the pan?   Is so, wouldn't it make more sense to pour boiling water in, so you don't have to use the energy/time to heat up the water?    And also, why do you turn the oven off?   I wasn't clear on that although I did it.   As for your final comment, do we really have to choose?   -Varda

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Here is a pic of my oven & pan. I have the cast iron pan under the baking tiles and pulled out just enough to facilitate pouring water into it and not onto the tiles--which would crack. There is enough space between the rack and the door so that the pan can overhang the rack and not interfere with closing the door.

I pour the water into the pan using a 12-16 oz plastic non-disposable cold drink cup, because that's what I have, it works and is unbreakable. Pour the water carefully and as quickly as you can. Watch out for the steam cloud, it can burn and or crack hot glass and baking tiles/stones; stand to the side of the oven--don't look down over the edge of the pan--and pour from the side. Plus you want to get the door closed as quickly as possible.

As you note, using hot water would create steam faster, cold water would prolong the steaming. I use hot tap water when I remember and cold when I don't... The pan is massive enough to create sufficient steam from 8-10 oz of cold water.  If you have a window, you can watch the dough and when the oven spring stops, the oven can be turned back on. It is usually in the 5-8 minute range when the tiles are properly preheated.

I turn my oven off because it is gas, otherwise the burner would come on after loading and the combustion gases (exhaust) would quickly sweep the steam from the oven out through the vents. Electric is less problematic, however, as far as I know, any self cleaning oven, gas or electric, is going to be vented and should benefit from being turned off while steaming.  Except for baking under a pan or in a dutch oven, I was unable to maintain enough steam in my oven regardless of the method if I did not turn it off.

varda's picture
varda

Thank you.   I also have a GE gas oven.   This is very helpful.  -Varda

PeterS's picture
PeterS

...I meant to write that water (not steam) will crack hot glass or tiles.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Just have to jump in here with a word of warning that you might have already read.  

When I was experimenting with steaming methods I ended up burning my face really badly....I had placed the pan on the top shelf after reading that placing it beneath the stone can cool the stone down when the condensation hits it thus effecting the spring...I poured the hot water into the pan and the steam it created ended up burning my face.  It did not hurt at the time and I was standing well above the pan and didn't even realize what I had done because there really wasn't a lot of steam created.  I developed red areas on my face by my eyes and around my nose and mouth - upper cheek areas too.  Took a couple of days to figure it out.  While it healed it hurt like crazy and the skin in those areas is still sensitive to heat so I cover my face when around any kind of heat - ie loading my oven or my wood burning stove....It has been over a year since I did this....

SO, use caution :-O

Take Care,

Janet

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

But whatever, I was there along with Varda and I saw the same thing... clouds of something inside the deck ovens accompanied by a sort of a blast-furnace roaring sound as they were released. And I have seen the same thing in their old ovens which had channels running along the sides to make the steam when water was released into them.

If steam is an invisible vapor then I guess it's not what's moistening the surface of the dough, is it? But if it's airborne and then can condense on the dough rather than just evaporating that's what we want, yes? Also, since the surface of the bread is well below 212 degrees at this point, wouldn't any steam in the air condense on the bread when it comes in contact? 

Maybe what we're seeing is the effect when water becomes water vapor then becomes steam, but can be captured by the bread before it evaporates out the vents in the oven? 

PeterS's picture
PeterS

I apologize if I have confused anyone with terminology.  I've heard the roar, too; it is just the steam accelerating out of the ports when the valve is opened. One of the ovens I use whistles when it's steamed. Steam is just water vapor in excess of 212F/100C (at sea level, 1 bar pressure).

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

So I guess my 10 minutes isn't that far off of the mark.  I will drop my timing down to 5 and see what happens.  Another fun experiment :-)

Does he steam enriched breads?  I have read it isn't necessary do to the enrichments keeping the crust more flexible but I do steam mine and it does seem to make a difference in the initial spring that they have.

Thanks for the response.

Janet

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Great post, Varda. Very insightful.

I've read a few academic articles on the "microbiota" of sourdough and learnt that favourable microbes (i.e., L. Sanfrancisensis & S. Exiguus) required frequent feedings. So for the past few weeks I've been feeding my starter twice a day---not consistently---but I do my best. And yes, it's a bit of a nuisance, especially if you don't bake often. :)

I'll end this post by saying that I envy you. It's a dream for me to learn from Mr. Hamelman!

Take care and have a happy baking,

Zita

 

varda's picture
varda

and sometimes it takes a kick from an actual baking ninja to get me to do the right thing.   Hoping it pays off in great bread.    Thanks,  Varda

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Learning for experts is an invaluable opportunity, Varda. Lucky you :)

Very inspiring post.

eliabel's picture
eliabel

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this with us, Varda.

varda's picture
varda

haven't seen you in awhile.   Thanks for commenting.  -Varda

varda's picture
varda

Khalid,   I had no idea.   Now I do.   If I think about it the overriding lessons were 1.  engage with your breads - pay attention, and 2.  we deserve to eat great bread, so we should learn to make it.    But you have to know what great bread is and this weekend was a great push in that direction - more important than learning a bit more about technique.  -Varda

MANNA's picture
MANNA

Determining the doneness of bread was a big thing when I went to the baguette class. The dough reaching temp happens about 60% through the baking process. My bread has improved since I put down the therometer and paid more attention to the bread and not the temp. I just picked-up one of those hand-held electric steam cleaners to pump steam into my home oven when baking more than one loaf. I have yet to use it though. And my starter has been neglected in the fride for awhile now. Time to pull it out and offer up some TLC.

Did he discuss scoring rye bread before final proofing in the class? I would like to know the pro's and con's if it was brought-up.

varda's picture
varda

Someone did ask the question about scoring rye bread before the proof.   We didn't do that in the class and the breads came out really nicely.   He suggested trying it to see the difference, and said the theory was the rye would be too fragile after the proof.   We didn't score the highest percentage rye, hydration loaf at all.   Those were baked in pans.   -Varda

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi Varda, lucky you! Can you describe the feeding regime that J.H. uses? twice a day, ok, but with what hydratation and with what proportions? Does he use wholemeal rye or medium rye? It's unfortunate that D.H. doesn't appreciate rye:(

Thanks,

  Nico

varda's picture
varda

Nico,  I was kicking myself for not asking that question.   He was very casual about it, just saying they always held something back.   My sense was that for the morning bake they used the starter and withheld some and fed, and then fed again at night.   I believe he said they don't throw anything out.     If you look at his book, he withholds around 3% of rye starter and uses that same amount as the seed for the next build.   Hydration for his ryes is between 80-83%, and starters are maintained at the same hydration.   He used whole rye (a pretty fine grind) for several of the breads, and medium rye for the 80% rye loaf.   He said he just threw in the medium for variety's sake.  For wheat starters he seems to be withholding around 10%.   My guess is these considerations are a bit of a detail compared with putting your starter on a regular feeding regimen instead of waiting for a bake.   Oh, and DHs can be ornery creatures.   Will have to remember to bake some white.   Thanks for commenting.  -Varda

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Varda, if you don't mind I have one more question. How thick is Hamelman's starter? Mine ferments well only at an hydratation of  at least 125%, otherwise it's so thick that it tears when stirring. Does his starter stir easily at 80-83% hydratation?

varda's picture
varda

Nico,  See the picture above of the ripened starter.    It is not liquid by any means.    And if I recall correctly, it was mixed rather than stirred.    The rye was quite finely milled.   I have been remilling the stuff I buy as it is a much coarser grind.    Hope that helps.  -Varda

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Very interesting, Varda.  Thanks for sharing.

-Floyd (sneaking out to go feed my neglected starter now)

varda's picture
varda

Glad yours will get a good meal.  -Varda

grind's picture
grind

I have a rye starter that hasn't seen the light of day for about 6 months!!

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