The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bread baking

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

This is what I made for myself of all the things that I have learned so far.  I'm finding that there's a huge amount of information from various sources, all with spoon-fed amounts of usefulness.  So, here's my attempt to help others out there, whomever might actually find this.  Please note that my use of the word "yeast" means the brewer's instant yeast, and starter means the friendly creatures (or "the fish", as it is called in our home) that are cultivated from flour and water.  The numbered parts are all of the steps to actual bread making that I've found out.  I'm just now gleaning information about the preferment/poolish step (just learned a few weeks ago about the existence of such a step, and was relieved to find that "sponge" "poolish" "pate fermente" are all the same thing phew).  Here is basically what I've learned in the past four years:

 

EQUIPMENT    scale, oven peel/large spatula, unglazed quarry tiles or baking stone, measuring spoons/cups, bowls, wooden spoons, towels for bread, thin long stemmed thermometer to HIGH temperature

 

ABOUT STARTER

Not rigid method. Repeatedly successful recipes can fail.

Use variables to gain some control and predictability.

Variables include-- time, temperature, humidity, water quality, dough density/hydration

Use scientific method---only change one variable at a time

Starter bread characteristics:  large irregular holes, crumb, structure;  spreads, advantages (can make starter yourself, doesn't need extra food in the recipe, more room for creativity, ability to do more with texture and flavor, English Muffins, French bread), disadvantages (rise time less predictable, needs help to keep shape, needs to be tended and fed)

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating yourself

Yeast bread characteristics—small crumb, regular small holes, less notable structure), tends to rise not spread, advantages (more predictable rise time, not need fed), disadvantages (cannot make yeast yourself, needs food added to recipe, flavor is entirely in the recipe--little creativity, has to be degassed)

 

MAKING STARTER

½ c whole grain flour with ¼ c water (equal weight).  Keep in glass or stainless steel with lid

Watch for life signs (bubbles) after 12 hours, if no signs for a few days, start over (check water quality)

Check the PH of your water---should be neutral or slightly acidic….basic is no good for starter. Add fruit juice or citric acid if needed

Feed when life signs, every 12 hours:  throw out ½ amount in there.  Put in exact same amount flour in there as in there already, plus ½ that in water (or equal weight of both)

*change container often*

Recommended stainless steel, glass, or glazed ceramic containers with lids (to keep bugs and children out, and moisture in)  starter reacts to most metals

After 3 days of consistent rising and falling, switch to white flour (to avoid bad critters)

Will smell like fish, should change to wheaty smell

After 1 week of consistent doubling, ok to use

Only use small amount of old starter to new starter (Tablespoon at most), keep discarding/baking—do not keep….ends up being a sponge not a starter

Note peak and fall times   starter:flour:water

Recommended 1:2:1 once a week feed fridge always, keeping Tablespoon amount or so

 

 

 

Once get good, can keep different teaspoon sized starters for each type of bread (CHEF)

More flavor=more time between feedings

 

1 PREPARE STARTER

Called preferment, sponge, poolish, bigas, levaine, pate fermentee (all the same)

Develops flavor, texture, lighter bigger air

More sour, more acid, longer shelf life

Note peak and fall times

Recommended 8-12 hours before dough mixing/kneading, 25% of total dough (so subtract from recipe flour and water used)

Add to bread at peak time

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

 

2 AUTOLYSE AND MIXING

Mix flour, water and poolish together, let rest five minutes or so (keeps from adding too much flour, and helps in kneading)

Most variable amounts are water and flour (coarse/fine ground flour, humidity, etc)

Set aside CHEF

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating

oil--lending or not lending its flavor depends on recipe

Do NOT add salt directly to starter—mix in flour as a buffer first to keep starter alive

Do NOT use iodized salt—iodine becomes a gas in the oven—messes up your bread

 

3 KNEADING

-helps prevent too much flour being added--easier to add flour than water

-Palm push quarter turn only good for FLAT breads like pie crust, crackers

*Stretch&Fold:  adds air and builds structure—gluten sheath.  Also called French Kneading, or Slap Happy, etc.  Take the dough; slap the furthest side away from you down on the counter and away, while drawing the nearer side towards you.  Taking the nearer side in your palms (do not break, draw evenly like drafting wool) draw up and over further side, stretching sideways under and around, making a heart shape almost.  Make sure while you are drawing the dough over the further side to incorporate a nice big air bubble.  Turn the dough over and a quarter turn around (flip and turn like clockwise/counterclockwise).  Repeat.  Should change in feel and look—it will begin to pull dough off the counter and fingers.  Only dust the counter with flour if large pieces of dough are sticking—you want it to be tacky.  Shoot for 20 minutes of kneading. 

-Windowpane test—dough stretches between fingers fine enough to let light through without breaking

 

 

 

 

4 BULK FERMENTATION

Do not let ferment on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Use oil to keep from sticking (using flour at this stage creates flour dumplings inside your bread)

Use heat during winter to help, especially in the North—direct heat ok at this step  70-90 degrees F optimal

Stretch and fold at least every thirty minutes to keep gluten structure from relaxing, and to distribute temperature evenly (fermentation heats up dough) S&F twice minimum during this stage

For smaller crumb, deflate while S&F

Bigger holes, keep as much air as possible

 

5 SHAPING AND PROOFING

This is the stage to choose your shape:  boule, baguette, loaf, braid, rolls, etc.  A shape doesn’t define a recipe, a recipe enhances the shape.  (good recipe, good rolls, etc)

Do not let proof on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Starter spreads---need to use something to help.  Linen towels with flour method, proofing trays/counters, baskets heavily floured, etc.

use flour to keep from sticking--lightly

Do NOT use direct heat source (like oven light) to keep warm --creates a second crust that will not fill

Harder crust---use towel and let dry out to create a rind

Softer crust—let proof in moist environment (covered with bowl, etc)

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

Overproofing---when bread collapses---gluten stretched too far and cannot recover (make toast!)

Ready for oven:  when you poke it, it fills back your fingerprint but not all of the way

 

6 BAKING

Use flour on baking pan to keep bread from sticking (oil fries the bread and usually sticks)

Oven spring—put in already hot oven.  Oven high temp for 5 minutes, then lower temperature for optimal oven spring (example 450 degrees F, lower to 425 or 415)

Baking stone acts as heat sink to increase oven spring, can use unglazed quarry tiles---ALWAYS put into cold oven and let heat up and cool down with the oven (or break)

Slashing loaves a way to make the oven spring more predictable.  If bulges out near tray---temperature different in pan and air, etc.

Harder crust—spray dough with water right before putting in oven.  Do NOT steam oven directly if electronic---it will destroy oven entirely

Internal temperature 204 degrees F and above best indicator of doneness.  Cutting open stops the cool pressure cooker effect of the inside.  Thump test does NOT work.

If bread fell or didn’t bake well, make toast immediately

 

7 STORING

Sourdough:  Store in paper bag and bread cabinet if have one.  Fridge hastens going stale, Plastic keeps too much moisture

If bread contains milk products (milk, lots of butter or sourcream), or has a lot of moisture and sugar (cornbread or banana bread prime example of both), keep in fridge.  They only last about 2 days before going bad : (

Sourdough: make toast if going stale or out too long.  Bread should last for about 4 days, unless quick pour sugary breads like banana bread.

purpleronie's picture

Countertop pizza oven - good for bread baking??

May 21, 2010 - 4:34am -- purpleronie

Hi,

Am looking to start a small cafe and bakery, and intiially we are baking in a standard domestic electric oven. Have seen twin deck countertop pizza ovens, which are only about 9cm high for each deck and electric. I was wondering if it would be feasible to use these for rolls, baguettes and the like, as well as pizza? with not much money or space we are needing versatility!

Does anyone have any experience of these? Or any thoughts as to why it would or would not work?

Ronie

gardenchef's picture
gardenchef

Hi All
Gardening Season in New England is just about over (a few herb plants left that I can use) and now onto Baking! We'll be focusing on breads for the next few weeks. Always happy to post recipes if anyone is interested, just let us know.

You'll see the profile photo of myself with my sweet apprentice! I'm thrilled she has expressed interest in good old fashioned home baking. There is NOTHING like baking from scratch. The aroma fills the house, everyone walks thru the door and can't help but smile and express interest in what that great smell is..and the loaves are magically gone!

We'll post photos along the way. Making Country White Bread at the moment. The family fav from way back when my oldest, now in college, was a toddler. I had gotten away from baking for some years with all the activities and fun family adventures that kept us very busy, I'm thrilled to be baking again..it's is almost meditative.

I have so many stories to tell in future blogs. My mom-in-law has been a wealth of knowledge regarding the baking that her older sister and mother did back in the day. Will tell, promise.

God Bless and Merry Christmas...just around the corner now. I want to appreciate every moment of every day.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I wanted to try one of Dan's breads for Mother's Day and thought his Double Raisin Bread with Toasted Walnuts sounded delightful!

Dan gives several options for making it: as a straight dough, as a pain au levain, and as a pain au levain with a little added yeast. I chose to make the bread without the addition of any yeast.

Early yesterday morning I created a liquid levain from my stiff levain on the thought that it would take about 12 hours to fully ripen. At 8 hours I could see that it was just starting to recede, so I went into to action thinking I would have enough time to complete the bread before going to bed. (Just to clarify, I had planned to make the liquid levain in the AM and refresh it in the PM for use today, but when I saw it was proceeding faster than I expected, I just went for it.)

Results: I didn't get any oven spring but I think that was because I let them proof too long in the pans and I didn't have the oven hot enough (see below). The crumb is slightly wet, but pretty open. The flavor is quite delicious. This is the best raisin walnut bread I've ever had. I especially like it because it doesn't have a sugary or cinnamon flavor to it, just the pure pain au levain taste mixed with the natural sweetness of the raisins and nutty walnut flavor. I would definitely make this bread again. It is a real winner.

I'm hoping Dan will critique my method below. Dan's book, like Suas', is a big jump for me. But I figure if I don't try to learn to use this type of book, that I will never make real progress, and I really want to understand what I am doing so I will be able to develop my own recipes some day. I have given a detailed description below of how I understood Dan's method. Dan: you won't hurt my feelings so please don't hold back on any comments! Many of us will benefit from what ever you have to say.

dan dimuzio double raisin bread with toasted walnuts

dan dimuzio double raisin bread with toasted walnuts

From: Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective

Liquid levain:

133 g bread flour

133 g water

67 g ripe levain (I used about 60 g of my stiff levain and added a little more water to get to the total of 333 g)

 

Final dough:

467 g bread flour (I used KA bread flour)

67 g whole wheat flour (I used some I had ground about 30 hours before)

347 g water

13 g salt

167 g dark raisins (I pumped the raisins with warm water, but drained them before incorporating)

167 g golden raisins

167 g toasted walnut halves

266g of the liquid levain at the peak of ripeness

 

My interpretation of Dan's method:

1. Mix the levain and the water together with the paddle attachment on speed 1 until the levain is well incorporated, about 1 minute.

2. Add the bread and whole wheat flours, and the salt. Mix with the paddle attachment on speed 1 until everything is combined, about 1 minute.

3. Let dough hydrate with mixer off, about 5 minutes.

4. Resume mixing with dough hook on speed 2 until dough reaches improved mix stage (window pane forms but breaks when stretched), about 5 minutes. I had to add a small amount of additional flour, approximately 1/4 cup, to get the dough to sit right on my dough hook.

5. Reduce to speed 1 and add in the nuts being careful not to break them up too much.

6. Fold in the raisins with a kidney shaped bowl scraper. Dan warned me to be careful not to cut the raisins because they are high in calcium propinate, which is a yeast retardant.

7. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let bulk ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes.

8. Do one stretch and fold, return to covered bowl, and continue to bulk ferment until dough doubles. (Although the dough was a little sticky after one stretch and fold, it seemed to have good strength so I only did one. I thought bulk fermentation would take about 3 hours--my kitchen was about 74º--but it took more like 5 1/2 hours).

9. Preshape the dough into two balls and let rest under plastic for 30 minutes. (The dough was difficult to preshape because it was loose/wet/a little sticky--not sure what the remedy was here, but I floured my hands and the board in an attempt to make it easier to shape.)

10. Shape into two loaves and place in 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch oiled bread pans. Cover with plastic and let proof until about 1 1/2 times. (It was now 10:30 PM and I didn't achieve very good surface tension.)

11. Bake in a preheated 375º oven for 55 minutes. (I think the oven should have been hotter because the loaves didn't brown as much as I thought they should. Also, I didn't get any oven spring, but that was probably my fault because I think I let them almost double in the pan--of course in my defense I had gone to bed. I got up at 2 AM to turn the oven on and again at 3:15 AM to put them in. By that time they were doming the pans and were probably more like double.)

--Pamela

fatdog's picture

My Wife is Very Very Good to Me

December 21, 2008 - 12:01pm -- fatdog
Forums: 

My wife was very good to me on my birthday (Dec. 18).  She gave me a copy of The Taste of Bread.  What an amazing book.  I had borrowed a copy of it from the local library and had started reading it, sorta' rushing through the science to get to the baking.  Now I can take my time reading while I am out for the Christmas break (I teach high school drafting).  Right no there is a 70% hydration French dough in its primary fermentation.  I'll let y'all know how it turns out!

zhi.ann's picture
zhi.ann

This is from before I actually joined this site - actually this is the reason I joined this site.

Background:

In the States, I baked yeast bread. I had one recipe - from a craft, not a cookbook, so it used terms I was familiar with rather than the terms I more often find in baking recipes now that I'm looking around. It was a honey-whole wheat bread. I found all the ingredients in my local grocery store, used that recipe with no alterations except substituting applesauce for half the butter, and I baked it every Saturday, never with a problem.

Now, I live in rural China. I didn't bring the recipe with me. I don't have access to whole wheat. When I look at recipes, they confuse me. And yet my husband really misses bread. I am at a high altitude, but right now it's not dry at all, rather, close to 95% humidity most days. And, without air conditioning, heating, or well-sealed/insulated windows and walls, what it's like outside is a whole lot what it's like inside.

I found this recipe (I can't now for the life of me seem to find it anywhere!! I have it on a notecard) last week and tried it.

Oat-Nut Bread

830 ml flour
830 ml oats, ground to a flou
180 ml finely chopped walnuts
180 ml raisins
60 ml brown sugar
14 ml yeast (1/2 oz.; 14 grams)
10 ml salt
460 ml water
160 ml yogurt (I used vanilla unintentionally)
60 ml oil

1. Combine half the flour, all the oats, nuts, fruit, brown sugar, yeast, and salt.
2. In a saucepan heat water, yogurt, and oil over low heat, just until warm.
3. Add wet to dry ingredients, beating until smooth.
4. Add enough remaining flour for a soft dough.
5. Knead about 4 minutes, or until soft and elastic. Form to a ball.
6. Place on greased baking sheet, cover and let rest for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight to bake in the morning (I did it overnight.)
7. Bake at 200C for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Cool on a wire rack.

Unfortunently, this didn't work out for me so well. I did step 1, step 2, step 3. In step 4, I kep adding flour until I'd added way, way more than the recipe called for, and it still was a dough I could barely handle, it was so wet and sticky. I ran out of flour, and began adding oats, hoping to save it - I ground most of them but out of desperation began throwing them in there as whole rolled oats until I could finally knead the bread. Even then, it stuck to my hands, the cutting board, etc. In step 5, I formed it to more of a blob than a ball, since it was runny, and stuck it in a covered bowl in the fridge. In the morning, it was conformed to the shape of the bowl, so I dumped it on a baking sheet, stuck it in the oven, and let it bake.

The result was a very dense bread, tasty enough to eat mostly because of the raisins, but so dense I had to eat the whole thing (my husband didn't like it at all).

dough as I took it out from the freezer 

I tried the other loaf (this was supposed to make two) leaving it out all night after having frozen the dough (based on something I'd read online, somewhere). It came out just as dense, though it rose a bit in the oven whereas the first never did.

 piece of the bread

I'm munching on the second loaf now, hoping to get rid of it so I can bake something decent.

The only other note is that I won't be doing the walnuts again, even if I do come back to this recipe, because I couldn't taste nor feel them, and they cost the equivalent of $1.50 for so little!!

Any ideas, anyone, on what I can do better? 

 

tommy d's picture

bagels

October 17, 2007 - 2:32pm -- tommy d

 I'm a baker of bagels thats all I know how to bake ! recently my former employer closed down and some one else bought the store and now that person is my boss they want to expand but like I said I only know how to bake bagels and make the dough for the bagels is there any suggestions !

Cliff Johnston's picture

Maple Syrup as a Bread Ingredient - Mixed Emotions

April 2, 2007 - 2:46pm -- Cliff Johnston
Forums: 

Today I used a new recipe.  On one hand it was a failure, but on the other hand it had some redeeming qualities.  There were three ingredients which I normally don't use in bread:  egg, maple syrup and milk.  The crust burned before the internal temperature of the bread reached 200°F..  I don't know which of the ingredients caused the crust to burn.  The loaf itself reached an excellent height.

A closer look at the burnt crust follows:

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