The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Day 1

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--pk's picture
--pk

Day 1

Ok, so not day 1, but sort of. I have baked bread for a few years now, but not with any sort of structure. I mixed some water, yeast, sugar, and enough flour to make a dough. Kneaded it until it felt right, let it rise, punch it down, let it rise, shape, let it rise and bake until it sounded hollow.  About 6 months ago something went wrong and for some reason the bread that I was turning out just did not taste good.I blamed the flour change (had previously used only gold medal bread flour, then switched to a local store brand AP), but I realized that I could not actually narrow it down to this as I had not documented the process when it was not working. So began a long period of frustration where I cannot seem to get anything right and I end up tossing about half the bread I am baking out because it does not look/feel/taste good to me. I have resolved over the next year to get to the point where I am a decent baker and can tell why my bread is doing what it is.  I have picked up several bread books and am doing as much research as I can. So anything that you see here is from my understanding only. Not law. If it is incorrect, let me know. I appreciate any help that can be afforded.

 

 

Comments

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Hoo-boy, pk!  Asking this crowd for commentary is like waving red meat in front of a Doberman.  You'll get plenty of response, I'm sure.  The good news is that it will be friendly commentary, delivered out of a desire to help.  Even better, a lot of what you'll get will be insightful and immediately useful.

Oh, and welcome to The Fresh Loaf, too! 

Let me get the ball rolling.  Could you describe your bread when things were going the way you wanted?  What recipe were you using (even if it's only an approximation)?  How did the dough feel?  Was it firm, or loose?  Dry or wet?  What were the (approximate) temperatures in your kitchen and your dough then?  Were the loaves free-form, or baked in a pan?  What oven temperature(s) were you using? Could you describe the crust of the finished bread (dull/shiny, pale/dark, thin/thick, smooth/wrinkly, etc.)?  Could you describe the crumb of the finished bread (tough/tender, firm/soft, even/irregular, big holes/small holes, dry/moist, color, etc.)  How would you characterize the flavor/fragrance? 

Can you describe your bread now, when things aren't going as you wish, considering the same factors as above?

Keep us posted as you work through the issues.  And best of luck, too.

PMcCool

--pk's picture
--pk

Lots of questions there, I will take them in turn
How the bread was:
Crust: Thick, crunchy crust. (Similar to what I get when I run a sourdough w/steam)
Recipe: Modified from tasajara bread book:

Sponge:

  • 2 1/4t yeast (Fleischman's Active)
  • 2c water (tap)
  • 2c flour (Gold Medal unbleached bread)
  • 2T molasses (typically Brer Rabbit, occasionally sorghum or honey, In a pinch white sugar but would knock it back to 1T for white sugar)
Dough:
  • 1t salt (mom was on dialysis, so as little sodium as possible)
  • 1T oil
  • enough flour until it held together and let go of my hand, usually another 2-4c
Method:
  1. Mix Sponge and let set until doubled
  2. Add salt and oil
  3. Mix in add'l flour 1/4c at a time until it lets go of my hand, the texture would be roughly the same as a kneaded eraser
  4. Continue kneading with `spare hand` technique (tried to keep my left clean, so would push with right, left folds and turns) for another 5 minutes
  5. Let rise till double
  6. Degas. At this point the dough is smooth and satiny
  7. Let rise till double
  8. Degas.
  9. Shape into loaves, rounds or rolls
  10. Let rise for 45m.
  11. Preheat to 350
  12. Bake until it sounds hollow 45-55m
Descriptions:
Good:
Crunchy, thick crust. Golden -> Nut Brown. Crumb is fairly open and uniform, largest holes would be maybe 1/8" diam. Firm and chewy. Well developed yeastiness, with subtle bitters from the molasses hanging around.
Bad:
Same crust, Crumb is much denser and does not seem to rise nearly as well (may take up to 90-120 to get the double, if at all). No oven spring and the flavor is fairly chemical in nature. So bad in fact that I will regularly not touch it after I bake it (my girl swears it tastes good, but I can't stand it). It is roughly the same flavor as generic store bread.
Temps:
Can't really say, but pretty sure it would be cooler now by 5 degrees in the winter and warmer by 10 in the summer, both ways same taste/dough issues
--
thanks,
--pk
PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

pk,

After reading through your responses, I'm stumped, too.  I don't see anything in your recipe or process that jumps out as big problem.  The slower rises and the lower oven spring could both be a function of the lower house temperatures now vs. then, but only if you are working by the clock.  If you are letting the dough fully double, then that wouldn't be an issue.

There are other possibilities but the ones that I can think of would only address the flavor issue, not the texture issue.  For instance, maybe somewhere between the mill and your mixing bowl the flour picked up an off flavor from exposure to (fill in the blank).  Maybe your water source is more heavily chlorinated than previously, or is experiencing a seasonal change in flavor.  I'm kind of grasping at straws here.

Hopefully, some other TFL-ers will jump in with some bright ideas.

PMcCool

--pk's picture
--pk

The water thing is something I was thinking also. I moved from fairly rural Missouri to St. Louis. The difference in water is _very_ prounounced.  Also, much higher mineral content out in the sticks. Both would contribute to the flavor, I was also thinking that the chlorine was killing off yeast. I have gotten brita filter to address this.

--

thanks,

--pk

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

this may sound simplistic, but have you tried going back to the Gold Medal flour? Maybe it is the generic brand of flour that is causing the flavor of your bread to be not of your liking.

--pk's picture
--pk

Did that, and it still didn't taste good. See the followup above for a more thorough description. I have since switched to KA and have picked up some books to learn what is going on and to try and recreated. Previously the only book I had was the Tassajara Bread Book. While this has many recipes, it does not overindulge the why ticker. The ones I found locally were:

  • Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads
  • Alton Brown's I'm Just here for More Food
  • Greg Patent's Baking in America

--

thanks,

--pk