The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Introducing myself

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YankeeInExile's picture
YankeeInExile

Introducing myself

Greetings, bakers.  From a posting on my facebook wall last week:  I'm doing something I rarely do with success, but trying again at the request of [a friend]: Baking bread. I do fine with quickbreads and cornbread, and cakes and pies, but traditional yeast breads ... never been my strong suit.

I begin my introduction with "Why do I want to bake?  There's a perfectly good bakery on every block, and bread is cheap and my time is expensive."  Well, while the kerfuffle with the French in the 19th century left behind a legacy of fine baking, there are some kinds of bread that are just unobtanium here.  I want a nice sandwich rye.  I want a white bread that is more flour than guar gum (or whatever it is that goes into commercial white bread).  I want a tangy sourdough.  

I'm also about to head into the mountains for a year or two, and when 'town' is an hour away on a muddy jeep track, learning to make it at home can mean the difference between having bread and not having bread.

I've decided to start with "basic white bread", and when I feel I can consistently produce a loaf of that successfully, I will move on to some more complex pieces.

Last week, my first try, I used a recipe I got off the net that was all in "cups" and "tablespoons", and it was an unmitigated disaster.  I spent the evening searching online for a recipe that was in weight.

I had luck today with a basic white - I started with a sponge of 200g AP flour, 10g instant yeast [1], 10g sugar, 10g salt, 200g 45° water.  Let that ferment "a while" (about an hour).  Added to that another 370g of flour and 140g of whole milk.  Knead.  Rise.  Punch down.  Pan.  Rise.  Bake 35 at 200° in a pan 32 x 13cm.  Turned out okay, but more research has shown that I need to use a smaller pan (or make more dough - I weighed the dough before rising - 940g)

I welcome your ideas on what to bake next.

 

YankeeInExile's picture
YankeeInExile

Yeah, I know that "serious bakers" turn their nose up at instant, but it's what I can reliably find.  If I want a whole kg, I can get block yeast at the same place I go for cake decorating stuff, but the only place I've seen active-dry is at the "snooty imported food place" and it's US$3 for 3 envelopes of Fleischmann's.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Welcome,

This site abounds is formulas you can try out.  Just do a search in the box at the top right of your screen for the type of bread you want to try and you will get enough to read to last you a good year or two!

Another thing you might do is check out the formulas in the 'recipe' section - see tab above.  That is probably easier to do anyway.

I note you are living somewhat off of the grid so my next suggestion probably won't work for you but I am a big fan of an good bread book like Dan DiMuzio's Bread Baking or J. Hamelmen's Bread.  THe first is a really easy to follow and informative text book of sorts.  Lots of important things are included in an easy format that is user friendly to home bakers as well as professional bakers.  The second book is an excellent book as well but I am partial to the first simply due to how it is laid out.  The 2 complement each other nicely.

There are a lot of 'serious' bakers here and I am not sure that they all would turn up their noses at using IY.  Like all ingredients in bread - each serves a purpose.  What they would probably agree on is that if one is using it and one wants a tasty loaf of bread one should learn how to make and use pre-ferments to bring out more flavor in store bought bread flours.  I had never heard of a pre-ferment until I discovered this site and now I can't imagine baking bread without one….Both books that I recommended above include sections on pre-ferments all followed by recipes that include one so you can get a feel for how each impacts a specific bread.

Anyway, welcome and have fun :-)

Take Care,

Janet

YankeeInExile's picture
YankeeInExile

So - the woman whose advice I sought via telephone to make the bread today (who speaks not one word of English) described the process as "first you make a sponge" - a fraction of the flour and liquid and all of the yeast/sugar/salt, let that rise apart and then add in "the rest of the flour and liquid".  When I pressed her for measurements "well, enough - but not too much - it has to feel right."  I found a site on the web that had some bakers-percentages, and decided to go with 60% TH white bread using "some water, some milk"  Not having found any solid rules, I just decided to use 200g flour and 200g water because I could keep those two numbers in my head and subtract them out from the rest of the formula when the time came.

Is this what they mean by preferment?  Many of the recipes I've seen have some of the yeast in the first stage (whatever it's properly called) and then more yeast later.  Is this critical?  I got a vigorous rise each time (do we call the first stage a first rise, or is it just preferment, and the rise after you finish adding the rest of the formula is the first?)  The texture of the finished loaves was "okay" for one (Did I mention upthread - I baked one at 180° for 45m and that didn't seem done enough, so I cranked the oven up to 200° and baked the second for 30m and it came out GB&D)

Another joy of breadbaking:  Even your mistakes taste pretty good with butter and marmalade :)

 

YankeeInExile's picture
YankeeInExile

I'm not off-grid yet.  In fact, I live about 1km from the dead-center of the second-largest city in Mexico.  I will, in about a year, be moving into the mountains of Michoacan where I bought a couple of acres of land, which case I'll definitely be further out.  I've already asked my sister in the US to order Hamelmen for me, and she can ship it to me here when it arrives (grumblegrumble - many booksellers won't ship to MX grumble)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

A pre-ferment is a way of describing that part of the flour in your formula will ferment due to the addition of IY or WY prior to being added to the final dough.  The time allotted to allowing it to ferment depends on the amount of yeast added, temperature, and hydration level.  The trick is to bring out the maximum flavors without over fermenting the flour.

If one is using WY  (wild yeast AKA sourdough) it usually is the only leavening used in a loaf.  Once it has ripened it is added to the final ingredients and then allowed to rise once more prior to being shaped and proved.

If one is using IY the final dough will include more IY at a higher % than in the pre-ferment.

I highly recommend reading about this in a book because my knowledge is sketchy and I apt to misinform due to my limited knowledge on the subject…If you can't get your hands on a good bread book - search here for breads baked with pre-ferments and, if the methods are written out clearly, you will get a feel for the process in no time.

The lessons tab has good information in it too though I am not sure if pre-ferments are included.  I haven't looked at it in a long time.

Hope this helps.

Janet

YankeeInExile's picture
YankeeInExile

Just saw it -- AWESOME.  I also noticed the "Handbook" tab.  i think I need to buy a 10kg bag of flour, I'm going to be doing a lot of this for the next couple of weeks.