The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (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.

robynallgeyer's picture

Bread Baking training

March 22, 2011 - 9:28am -- robynallgeyer

Hello,  I'm an amateur baker and have been doing local Farmer's Markets and delivering bread to a local bakery about once a month.  I would like to know about artisan bakers/bakeries that offer an apprenticeship, classes or workshops.  I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, but willing to travel.  Anyone with any experience or leads, please comment.  Thanks so much.  Love The Fresh Loaf!!  Robyn

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!

jondough's picture

cinnamon raisin bread

August 15, 2008 - 5:49pm -- jondough

I've been baking simple breads for a couple of years.  Reciently, I tried cinnamon raisin bread.  I tried a variety of loaf-forming methods - the short of it is all of the loaves opened up inside of the loaf, meaning I had large air voids between the outer layers of the rilled up dough.  I would prefer whole loaves, not hole in loaves.  Is there a secret or is there a trick?  A little help please!!

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