The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Old Hand, New Game

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sawhorseray's picture

Old Hand, New Game

Hello all! I'm somewhat new to baking my own bread, I've had a bread machine for a few years, results have been fair at best  I'm a sausage making enthusiast and also smoke my own hams, bacon, and chickens for quite some time now. A few months back I started dabbling in learning how to make rolls and buns for the sausage and burgers I produce, which is how I landed here. I've been disappointed, to say the least, with the heavy, dry, brick-like outcome of most of my efforts so far. Santa left me a Kitchenaid stand mixer under the tree this year to take a little of the kneading load off my arthritic hands, they aren't in the best possible condition after 34 years in the carpenters union. My quest will be to try and produce a product with a softer crumb and crust in my efforts, more like store-bought rolls and buns. Guess I'll just start snoopin' around the site! RAY

dabrownman's picture

You have come to the right place for all things bread.

Happy Baking

richkaimd's picture

As a long time home baker who taught himself pretty much everything he knows from cookbooks (I started at 19 and am now 65), I can say it can take a long time to get good.  I wish someone had suggested and I'd done what I recommend to beginners now.  Unless you've regular access to an expert, pick and learn from a text book, not a bread cook book.  Use the text as your primary source of information, trust it, and compare everything you do to what it says.  There are lots of bread cook books but a text book is another thing entirely.  It is written to take you from ignorance to a level of well above that in graded steps, often along with exercises to practice at home.  I suggest that you look at DiMuzio's Bread Baking and Hamelman's Bread.  They are quite different.  The DiMuzio is for the amateur who won't respond well to lots of detail.  Hamelman knows everything and tells you everything.  Your local library may have one or both.  You can get them used and in good condition on-line at Alibris and/or Powell's Books.  Of course there are others.

The more you study the more sense The Fresh Loaf make. 

The more videos you watch right away (click on videos at the top of any page here), the more you'll know the kind of things available to you when you start to need something specific.  Videos are specifically useful for watching the choreography of dough.

One thing none of these things can give you is hands-on experience with knowing textures and temperatures.  If you cannot find a local home baker to work with, maybe you can find a bread baking class specifically to teach you how to move dough around.

Practice lots and post your successes and failures.  TFL readers are a happy bunch willing to offer help at the slightest hint of need.  But you must use your chosen text to help you decide whether offered help is the best path. 





sawhorseray's picture

Thank you Rich! I've written down the names of the authors you suggested and will do some investigating. I've been helped in my efforts quite a bit by a fellow on one of my sausage making forums who has been making bread for about sixty years, he's probably forgotten more than I'll ever learn. I also watch a lot of youtube videos, they were especially helpful in being able to fire up my new machinery in the first day.

I was quite pleased with the outcome of my initial effort last night after going back to the King Arthur site to retrieve a recipe I'd used before. The Kitchenaid, with a recipe I'd tried previously, seemed to make a huge difference in the quality of my finished product.

I'm already getting results that are closer to what I want, and next I'll be trying a "scalded flour" recipe that may improve results even further, according to my guru. I'm also quite interested in learning to make my own pasta with the Kitchenaid mixer. Being an accomplished hunter and sausage maker I'm renowned in my circle for my Wild Hog Italian Sausage with Zinfandel and Garlic. I can see fresh ravioli in my future, just like my Sicilian noni used to make. RAY

mkelly27's picture

Yeah, 25-30 yrs. as a wood butcher, that's me.  But I have been baking bread for almost all of that time.  In addition to this site and the others books recommended to you, I would suggest "The Bread Bakers' Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart.  That's the book that really pointed down the right track to great bread.  I too, have dabbled a little in the cures meats area and look forward to conversing w/ you.

sawhorseray's picture

Thanks for the shout-out Mkelly27. Sausage making and meat smoking is my passion, this is the forum site I frequent and am quite active in. A great group of folks who share information freely and try to keep things safe for all involved.

I got into sausage making about a decade back in order to avoid the butcher bills involved with the wild hog hunting I do, I've whacked about seventy of the critters in my hunting career


I started out by buying a Cabelas commercial-grade meat grinder and everything kind of grew from that over the years

I stay busy supplying family and friends with a steady stream of stuff they love to eat. Now we're off for a few days in Vegas, have great seats to what could be the last Fleetwood Mac concert at the MGM on the 30th. I'll be back at my computer New Years Eve. RAY

mkelly27's picture

Meaty looking.  Is that a Savage 110 you're holding.  You have a fine selection of butchering gear, not to worry though, bread-baking doesn't require that level of investment.

sawhorseray's picture

Weatherby 270 Mag Ultralight, 4x16x50 Swarovski scope. It's killed many things, a lot! Vegas was terrible, you get a better shake these days at a indian casino. RAY

mkelly27's picture

Nice rifle.  I've only hunted hogs in Fla. with a pitbull and knives. Drug them out alive to sweeten the meat by feeding them corn.  Butchered them 2 weeks later.  As for Vegas, "I wouldn't go there on a bet"


sawhorseray's picture

My son has hunted wild hogs with dogs and a lance, that's for far younger men than I. I don't kill boars anymore for over ten years now, just fat young sows. My son ran into something like I've got hanging in my garage, one dog dead, $1200 vet bill for another, and no hog to show for it. Kids!

ElPanadero's picture

Good to see someone close to nature and engaging in what I personally think are dying arts, i.e. smoking, curing and real butchering.  Sure there are plenty of suppliers / companies smoking and curing but in terms of the everyday man and woman in the street, these are "skills of the past" that our grandparents did in the days when there were no fridges and meat was just kept in a wooden dry box with some kind of gauze frontage !  IMO we've all become far too dependent on the multi-billion dollar corporations and lostnot only the ability but also the beauty and satisfaction in fending for ourselves and managing our own foods.   I've done a few school courses on smoking and curing meats myself which was an eye opener, also cider making and of course lots of various bread making courses.  That was 3 yrs or more ago and I have baked my own breads ever since, usually twice a week.

Some things that may help.

Firstly, for your arthritis.  Counter productive to your bread pursuits I know BUT . . . . may I suggest you go "gluten free" for 2-3 weeks as an experiment.  Gluten isn't the cause of your condition but my wife also suffers and went gluten free voluntarily and it made a very significant difference.  Feel free to go back and forth into and out of gluten as your body requires (assuming it helps).   Second, here in the UK there is something called Glucosamine Gel we can buy.  It's effects are instantaneous.  Unlike pain killer gels (Ibuprofine etc) this is much better.  Don;t know if you can find it where you are (USA? Canada?) but do try.  You can also get Glucosamine tablets of course which you probably already know about.

Right, and so to bread.   First off, whilst you are learning to understand basic bread making and dough I suggest you leave the stand mixer in the cupboard.  You need to get a feel for the dough, how wet / dry it is, how easy or ard it is to stretch / fold and so on and the best way is to get your hands in.  I realise your arthritis leads you to think this must mean 10 mins of painful dough kneading but it isn't true.  At home I make all my breads in the same basic way which includes white loaves, wholewheat loaves, baguettes etc etc.

Take a large plastic mixing bowl and whack in the flour and salt and mix evenly.  Take a glass jug and whack in the water and yeast and mix evenly.  Pour the wet mix into the dry mix in the bowl and stir with a spatula until all of the flour is incorporated, takes about 30 secs.  Now place a smaller plastic bowl upside down in the big bowl to cover the dough and maintain a moist environment and then WALK AWAY !

Come back after 10mins, then do a "10 second knead" with the dough still in the bowl by simply pinching some of the dough at the outer edge with your thumb and fingers and drawing it into the middle of the dough ball.  Rotate the bowl a little and pinch another bit and bring into the middle.  Work your way around the bowl and in total do about 10 such pinches.  As indicated this should take about 10 secs to do and is very easy on the hands, no "real" kneading at all.  Now . . . WALK AWAY and leave for another 10 mins.  Then come back and do this all again and repeat so you have done it all a total of 4 times.  So to clarify it's:

Mix dough and leave for 10 mins, do 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead.

So this soaks up 40mins of time during which time you mostly just sat, had a cuppa, read a paper etc and did just 40 seconds of actual "kneading" work inbetween :-)  so easy !

Now leave the dough in a warm place to rise for an hour or more (depending on type of yeast you are using and ambient temp) until it has doubles in size.

After this rise, knock back down, measure out into roll sized portions and form the rolls, allow to rise again then bake.

In terms of the forming, I notice from your photo that all your rolls looked different and really only the lower right one is nice and round and smooth skinned.  The easy way to get consistency here is to repeat the pinch / folding technique you used in the dough kneading.  With each little roll dough portion, pinch at the outer edge and pull over into the middle.  Do this about 4 times which has the effect of stretching the underside of the roll surface.  Then flip the roll over and gently finish rolling them with your hand completely over them but with fingertips on the table and keep those fingertips on the table as you roll in small circles.  Hopefully you'll get lovely round rolls with a smooth surface.

Anyway, hope at least some of that helps.  Sorry for long post.  GL sir !   And do let us know how that goes :)

sawhorseray's picture

"Mix dough and leave for 10 mins, do 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead, leave 10 mins, do another 10 sec knead."

Thanks for the advise El Panadero. After every 10 second knead would I cover the dough in the big bowl with the smaller bowl for the ten minute period, or leave the dough uncovered?

Yesterday I baked some bread to go with a double batch of split pea soup I was making for New Years dinner. Quite by accident I produced rolls with the softest crumb and crust yet. The recipe was a "scaulded flour" type, calling for four ounces of boiling water poured onto a one pound of all-purpose flour, then left to sit for thirty minutes. After that time eight ounces of milk and the yeast were to be added, but I had no more direction than that. I decided to dissolve the yeast into the milk by microwaving the milk to 110º, adding the heaping tablespoon of dry active yeast, and let sit for about 15 minutes while the boiling water-flour mixture cooled. I dumped in three tablespoons of sugar, one and a half teaspoons of salt, a nice chunk of melted butter, and a scrambled raw egg. When I turned on the mixer I could tell almost immediately that I had too much liquid. I started adding flour, stopped the mixer to spatula everything together, kneaded some more with the mixer, and finally had to turn it off and add more flour while kneading with my hands. The dough was still very loose and would hardly hold form, brushed the four rolls on the lest with egg-wash till I ran out, the last two with melted butter. !8 minutes in a 375º over produced rolls that didn't look the greatest but had the best crumb and crust for my efforts yet.

I believe the scaulded flour is getting me very close to what I want to achieve. I'll work on the measurements for the ingredients in order to get a more consistent dough which should be easier to form. I'll be taking your advise on the forming, thanks again. The combination of wild and domestic hams that I smoked myself made for a fantastic double batch of split pea soup, 12 hours cooking time in the pot on stove

Was the kind of dinner that warms the heart and gave me a great deal of satisfaction in knowing I'd processed everything myself from pulling the trigger to setting the table. RAY