The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan Breads

breadnerd's picture

Fired up the oven today for the first time this year, and the first time since late october. I had imagined baking on a wintery January day, but as it happened, we had record highs of nearly 50 degrees (in wisconsin) so it wasn't that much colder than the last time. Today's breads: Ciabatta and the Columbia French bread


I started the columbia dough (which has a 3-5 hour first proof) at 9:30, and lit the fire at 10:15. Ciabatta dough followed after that. I let the fire start to burn down around 3:30, and shoveled out the coals by about 4:00. This is a little longer than I usually go, but I wasn't sure if the cooler weather would effect things or not. Turns out I had PLENTY of heat, so I did overdo it a little. Fortunately with a cool kitchen and 2 slow-rising doughs, I wasn't in a rush. After cleaning out the coals and "soaking" the oven with the door shut for a half hour or so, the oven was a lovely 550 degrees. I put the ciabattas in, and they were done in 10 minutes. Turns out I should have left them in a little longer, they look great but softened up a bit after cooling--so the crust is not as crunchy as I normally like:

In the oven:


And out:



After this the oven was still a bit too hot for the french bread--the recipe calls for a rather cool 375 degrees. I cracked the door for 20-30 minutes and loaded the bread when it had dropped to 425-450 degrees. I figured I'd just keep an eye on them and bake them a little less than the recipe called for. I had a TON of oven spring on this batch, and was very pleased. They were done in about 25 minutes---three loaves around 1 pound each.



Now, stay with me here--we got a little carried away. The thing with the mud oven is, you spend 5 hours getting it hot, you feel like you need to USE THAT HEAT. So, we stuck in a chicken to roast, and some sweet potatoes! The oven temp was about 400-410 degrees to start, and about 350-375 after an hour. The chicken was done in about an hour and 15 minutes! :)



Of course by now it was eight o-clock. We ate dinner, and I had one last thing to throw in---granola. I made two batches, 2 cookie sheets each, and they took about a half hour per batch. By 10:30 I was done---12 hours after starting the fire. Phew! A really long but really fun day. 





Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker's picture
Rocky the Wanna...

Hi.  I think it would be very helpful to have a moisture meter to check the moisture content of my sour dough.  I have never been able to find one.  Can anyone tell me where I might?  Has anyone ever used one?  I tried using my soil moisture meter, but dough is so moist that it reads right off the scale.  The manufacturer has not answered my query about whether I could solder a resistor into it that would put the dough oisture level within the range of the meter.

                                            Rocky the Wannabe Italian Bread Baker

thesteelydane's picture

Raw flour problem

January 3, 2007 - 2:57pm -- thesteelydane

After years of futile attempts of creating a ciabatta with those gorgeous huge holes and a chewy crumb, I finally got very close today, in no small way thanks to all the excellent advice I've found o this site! 
I used a poolish starter (100 % hydration) with just a speck of yeast and a 16 hour ferment, then made a 72 % hydrated dough, of which the poolish made up 30 %. It was very wet and imposible to knead, so I just brought it together with a stiff silicone spatula in the bowl, then folded it 2 times during the first rise, and baked super hot with steam and all - pretty straight forward, a pain working with such a wet dough, but well worth it. 

buh's picture

Slash Top Problem

January 3, 2007 - 11:44am -- buh

I know how to slash my bread but my brand new razor blade still drags, pulls, bread. Right now a loaf is rising for 2nd time. I smoothed on flour, then covered pans w dry kitchen towel. This way I should get a slight crust, so that my blade won't drag. But any other ideas?? Thanks.

buh's picture

Re Crisp Crust

January 3, 2007 - 11:01am -- buh

Hi Friends:

I'm new and couldn't figure out how to answer the person who couldn't get a crisp crust. Maybe she'll see this. I get a gorgeous crisp crust by using a 2" paint brush and paint my bread w water just before baking. I also throw in about 1/4 C water onto the side of oven 3 X within first 5 mins. After the first 5 mins, no more opening till u think it's done.


SourdoughGirl's picture

crisp crust

January 2, 2007 - 11:31am -- SourdoughGirl

Hi, everyone.  I've been baking bread for about a year now, mostly sourdough, with no commercial yeast.  Most of what I bake has good flavor and is chewy, with (usually) moderate to large holes.  However, while I've been able to get a chewy crust, the crust is never crisp - you know, that good, crackling crust.  I use a baking stone in a conventional electric oven (heating the oven to about 500 for an hour before baking and then dropping the temp to about 425 for a basic sourdough recipe).  I spray the sides of the oven with lots of water for steam during the first 15 minutes or so of baking, and then let the steam out for the remainder of the bake.  

Scone Boy's picture

First try at French Bread

January 2, 2007 - 10:45am -- Scone Boy

My first try at French Bread went well. I followed the formula in the BBA so it was a full-flavored bread.

What I want to work on next time is a more open crumb characteristic of the best French Breads. Mine had a fairly small crumb with a few large pockets here and there. What I'm trying to figure out is how to create a more open crumb. Part of the problem, I know, is that I have an old, crappy oven that doesn't cook evenly. But is that all? Did I not handle it gently enough after primary fermentation?

What are your suggestions for creating a more open crumb?


Loafer's picture

Buying Poilane Across the Pond?

January 2, 2007 - 8:00am -- Loafer

So,  I was watching something or other on FoodTV the other day, and they mentioned that Poilane will ship loaves overseas.  Since Reinhart seems to be so taken with the Poilane miche, I thought I might take a look into trying one loaf.  I know that it will be basically highway robbery, but it would be very interesting to give it a try and see what "The best bread in the world" might taste like. Maybe a birthday present to myself.  But the Poilane website isn't terribly helpful on what the actual costs will be.  It seems that I would have to click the button to confirm my order before I was really told what the price might be.  Has anyone else made an order from Paris?  Were you pleased with the shipping time and the quality of the bread after shipping?  Was it "worth" $20+ to try a loaf?  Of course, that is cheaper than a trip to Paris...

sonofYah's picture

Immediate Opening/Opportunity

January 2, 2007 - 2:50am -- sonofYah

Immediate opening is available for a Head Baker. Artisanal bakery in Evansville, Indiana is looking for someone experienced in artisanal breads.

We are a small family-owned bakery. Knowledge of cakes, cookies, pastries and Mexican baked goods is a definite plus. Also, a kowledge of the Spanish language a plus, but not necessary.

For info, call 1-812-402-2253. Ask for Claudia or Antonio Carillo.

breadnerd's picture

Wow is right! Mountaindog recommended this bread, and I have to agree it tastes fantastic! I haven't used Glaser's "Artisan Baking" very much, I think like mountaindog, it was a little too advanced for me when I got it, and then I learned from other books and it was left on the shelf. I also get stuck in ruts, and get lazy and ignore recipes with 5 hour rises, etc!


A couple of notes on deviation from the recipes. One, I just converted a seemingly happy and active wet starter to a stiff one, and it was taking a bit longer than 8 hours to triple in size. It's either the cool temperatures in my house, or I just hadn't refreshed it enough to encourage the beasties that like dry conditions. So, I used a little more preferment than recommended, AND I cheated and threw in a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I was on somewhat of a schedule yesterday, and wanted my rising times to be a little more predictable. Even so, I let the first proof go for almost 3 hours, and proofed the final loaves at least 2 hours. (The original recipe called for 4-6, and 3-5 I believe.) Oh and I used malt powder instead of syrup as that's what I had.


I made a fatter batard, a slightly skinnier loaf, and boule in my banetton. They were each around one pound unbaked. The crust is very crackly and crunchy, the crumb (though not as open-holed as mountaindogs) is creamy and lovely. The sourdough tang is nice but not overpowering. There are *very* small amounts of wheat and rye flour in this loaf, and a few tablespoons of toasted wheat germ (which smelled LOVELY), but these tiny amounts added so much to the final loaf.



All and all a relaxing new year's eve bake--I also made a chocolate cake which will definitely be hampering my healthy eating resolutions as it will take a week to eat it!  Oh well! 


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