The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Matters

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The first week of December featured a lot of baking, in marked contrast to the prior week.  Having my hands in that much dough was a genuine pleasure.  Even better was the knowledge that most of it was for the benefit of others, rather than for myself.

On Saturday, December 1, I finished my shopping and dropped off the ingredients in preparation for a class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  I also prepared biga that evening for a batch of Stollen.  On Sunday afternoon, I prepared and baked the Stollen, three loaves worth, and two loaves of a Bohemian Christmas Braid.  Students who get to see what the finished product looks like, and enjoy eating it, in class go home happier than those who do not.  (And they did like the taste of these breads!)  On Monday evening, I prepped enough biga for 20 batches of Stollen. 

The Bohemian Christmas Braid, before and after glazing (it's easy to see why my wife handled braiding duties for our daughters' hair):

And the stollen, prior to basting with melted butter and blanketing in sugar:

The class on Tuesday evening ran from 6:30 to 9:00.  I arrived at the Center just after 4:30 and spent the next couple of hours prepping ingredients, portioning the biga, and prepping one batch each of Stollen and Braid dough so that they would be available for demonstrating shaping techniques.  Meanwhile, my assistant was setting out the required implements at the student workstations and taking care of other room preparations.  The students started rolling in as we were wrapping up our set-up steps, so we were able to start right on time. 

The students ranged from bread baking newbies to experienced bakers wanting to pick up some additional information about the specific breads being taught that evening.  For instance, one lady was curious about what adjustments she would need to make since she mills her own flour at home.  Regardless of their experience levels, they were a wonderful group to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

It’s interesting how little things crop up.  We ran short of fruit peel for the Stollen because I made a mistake in my estimating.  However, we had more raisins and currants than required, which I had anticipated, and that allowed us to make up for the shortfall in the fruit peels.  It also gave a good opportunity to illustrate how to be flexible while baking, adapting to unforeseen circumstances.  I’m still scratching my head about the flour though.  Since I didn’t have the final count when I shopped, I assumed that all 20 places would be filled.  From what I calculated, we needed about 42 pounds of flour; therefore, I picked up a 50-pound sack at Costco.  We used up every bit of that flour and pulled some from the Center’s pantry!  Since I haven’t found an error in my calculations, it’s still a mystery to me how that much flour was used. 

On Friday, December 7, I baked 6 loaves of a Honey-Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread, adapted from the Honey-Oatmeal Sandwich Bread in the KAF Whole Grain Baking book.  Six, because that’s as many 9x5 bread pans as I have and because that’s as many as can easily fit in my oven.  Then on Saturday I made 4 more loaves.  We hosted the Christmas party for my wife’s colleagues on Sunday and the bread was for gifts for them and for some other friends.  And one for us, too!  In addition to making fabulous toast, this bread goes really well with ham and cheese.  Other baking that Saturday for the party included about 3 dozen Eggshell Rolls from Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads and Rye Rolls, source not recalled at the moment.  The Rye Rolls got a bit of a tweak when I substituted 1 teaspoon of caraway and ½ teaspoon each of coriander and fennel seeds, crushed, for the called-for 2 teaspoons of caraway. 

Honey-Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread dough:

Baked and bagged:

Eggshell Rolls:

Rye Rolls:

The  Honey-Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread also marked the first time I have used the Great River brand of whole wheat flour.  I had picked up a 10-pound bag at our local Costco, having seen it there for the first time.  I believe PostalGrunt mentioned it in a recent post of his, too.  Based on my experience, I like this flour.  The grind is quite fine.  I should buy some Wheat Montana flour again to see whether one has a finer grind than the other, or if their textures are approximately equal.  The bran flecks are the same size as the rest of the particles.  My first guess would have been that the flour is produced with roller mills but the Great River Milling site says it is stone-ground.  Although I couldn’t locate a precise analysis, GRM says that their bread flours are milled from hard red spring wheat and “we strive to purchase wheat that contains 14 percent protein and strong gluten content.”  From a purely empirical point of view, I’d say that they hit their target for the bag I purchased.  Not surprisingly, I had to increase the liquid content to achieve the desired dough consistency.  The resulting dough handled well and rose well, too.

The Great River flour bag:

This past weekend I made a batch of Cromarty Cob from Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters. Having blogged about this bread previously, here, I won’t go through a blow-by-blow account this time.  I made two deviations from Mr. Whitley’s formula and process.  First, I increased amounts by 50% to produce two medium-size loaves, rather than one large loaf.  Second, I let fermentation proceed at ambient temperatures in my kitchen, which ranged from 65-68F, instead of the recommended 82F temperature.  As a result, fermentation times for the levain and for the final dough were in the 12-hour range, each.  With the whole-wheat content being approximately 50%, this yielded a bread with a noticeable sourdough tang.  The wheaty flavors that were masked by the cinnamon and raisins in the Honey-Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread get to shine in this loaf, too.  I expect that using a higher fermentation temperature would lead to a bread with a more subtle sourness and, therefore, a more wheat-forward flavor and fragrance.  As it is, I’m every bit as happy with this bread as I was the first time I made it.  And I’m happy to have found another high-quality whole wheat flour to work with that doesn’t inflict exorbitant shipping costs.

Since odds are pretty good that I won’t post any new blog entries between now and Christmas, please let me wish each of you a blessed and merry Christmas.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

If anybody wonders why, after a furious start, my Equal Opportunity Baking has somewhat slowed down - that didn't happen only because of my recent trip to Germany.

My last three breads proved to be tricky, they didn't turn out quite right. One was overly spicy, one too sweet and one too dry. On the other hand, they were not so disappointing that I didn't want to deal with them again, writing a bad review, and be done, once and for all. 

So I will get back to them, giving each of them a second chance to live up to their potential.

Though I had purchased "Bread Matters", by Andrew Whitley, a while ago, I hadn't really looked into it before I chose a recipe for my Fair Baking project. The Arkatena Bread, made with a chickpea starter, and inspired by a loaf the author found in a little village bakery in Cyprus, seemed intriguing. And I certainly go for a "bread with a hefty crust, chewy crumb, and intense flavor".

Like many baking book authors, Whitley doesn't cater to the sensibilities of thrifty housewives, making his starter large enough for the needs of small bakery - only to advise you later to discard the surplus. Though I'm not a miser, I hate trashing a perfectly good guitar starter, so my first step in mastering this recipe was recalculating the amounts I really needed for one loaf.

From then on it was pretty straightforward, though I have to admit I cheated a bit with the leaven. From my experiences with GF sourdough I know that chickpea flour (together with other gluten free flours), mixed with water, develops a lively fermenting activity if you just let it sit at room temperature over three days.

I didn't feel the urgent necessity, though, to make a leaven from the scratch, being the proud owner of a couple of healthy and hungry starters. So, instead of going through stage 1, I used a bit of wheat starter in stage 2, deducting the amount of whole wheat and adding the missing chickpea flour (from stage 1) to the production leaven.

Otherwise I followed the recipe instructions closely, but used steam for the bake, a measure Whitley, for some reason, doesn't suggest.

The result was this beautiful bread:

I couldn't wait to try it! But when I took my first bite, the only thing I tasted was FENNEL! Any other, more delicate aroma was completely knocked out.

Being a German, I love breads seasoned with anise, caraway, fennel and coriander - the typical German bread spices. And I do like fennel. But only as a hint of spiciness, not as full frontal attack. Whitley's original recipe has 6 g fennel seeds per 577 g flour = 1%!

We also found the bread could do with a little more salt (it had only 1.2%).

Everything else about the bread was fine, the crumb, the crust - and I still wanted to know how a chickpea leaven could flavor a bread.

So, after my baking break, when I came back from Hamburg, I made another Arkatena bread, this time with a little rye starter as stage 1 leaven. I added 10 g salt (instead of 7 g). And I reduced the pesky fennel to just 1 gram.

As before, the bread turned out beautiful:

I was a little impatient, and probably should have waited another 15 minutes before placing it in the oven, it "exploded" a bit. This time it tasted really nice, with a complex aroma, and still spicy enough with a hint of fennel.

Since I used a bit of mature starter, the overall development of the leaven didn't take 3 days, but only one.

ARKATENA BREAD

FIRST STEP LEAVEN   (45 g)
5 g whole wheat or rye starter
15 g water
15 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
 
SECOND STEP LEAVEN (91 g)
45 g all first step leaven
19 g water
23 g whole wheat flour
4 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
 
PRODUCTION LEAVEN (300 g)
91 g all second step leaven
68 g water
28 g whole wheat flour
28 g garbanzo (chickpea) flour
85 g all-purpose flour
 
FINAL DOUGH
100 g whole wheat flour
300 g all-purpose flour
10 g salt
300 g water
1 - 2 g fennel seeds
300 g production leaven (all)


DAY 1:

1. Prepare 3-step starter. Let the first step leaven sit for ca. 6 hours, the second one for ca. 4 - 6 hours, and production leaven for 4 - 6 hours, or overnight.

DAY 2:

2. Mix a dough with all ingredients except fennel and leaven, 8 - 10 minutes of vigorous action. Dough should be soft and elastic (82ºF/28ºC). Add starter and fennel, and work a few minutes more until smooth, but still somewhat sticky.

3. Transfer dough to a moistened work surface, cover with an upturned bowl (sprayed with water). Let rest for 1 hour.

4. S & F, using a scraper in each hand. Dip dough ball gently in a bowl with whole wheat flour, so that it's completely covered. Place in floured proofing basket, seam side up. Let proof for 3 - 5 hours (poke test, mine took about 4 hours).

5. Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC, including steam pan. Invert basket onto parchment lined baking sheet. Score 2 - 3 times.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 400ºF/200ºC, and continue baking for 10 minutes. Rotate, and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes.

NOTE: When I make this bread again, I would try working with autolyse, instead of long "vigorous" kneading.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

While perusing the cookbook section in a local second-hand bookstore, I came across several copies of Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters in like-new condition.  Despite having a number of bread books already, this one somehow followed me home.  Mr. Whitley's writing style is engaging.  Although he is appalled by the state of British factory breads, he doesn't come across as shrill or vindictive or holier-than-thou.  Rather, he takes a more measured approach in describing what he sees as the problem, how it came to be, the consequences, and some solid recommendations for improving the situation.  (None of which require dough improvers.)  That is not to say that he doesn't employ some well-turned phrases which made me laugh outright in a few instances.  

Having dealt with the deplorable state of the baking industry (emphasis on industry), he turns his attention to providing a tutorial for the home baker who wants to produce healthy and tasty breads.  While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a first book for a new baker, Mr. Whitley does take some pains to describe not just what to do but how it works, as well.  He includes a number of bread formulae, including some for gluten-free breads.

One that looked attractive to me was his Cromarty Cob.  It is a lean hearth bread made with a 50/50 blend of white and whole wheat flours, with a rye sour providing the leavening.  

I used a bit of my wheat-based starter to inoculate the rye sour on Friday morning.  On Friday night, I built the production leaven from the rye sour, white flour, whole wheat flour and water, per instructions.  (Note that Whitley's directions assume warm temperatures, since he mentions an approximate time of 4 hours for the leaven to double.  With kitchen temperatures in the 65-67F range, my leaven took about 12 hours to double.)  

On Saturday morning, I mixed and kneaded the wheat flours, water and salt to develop a sticky dough, as directed.  Then I worked in the production leaven.  Whitley only calls for part of the leaven, with no mention of what to do with the excess.  Since I had gone to the effort of making it, I put the entire leaven into the dough.  The weight differential isn't significant, so I wasn't concerned with upsetting hydration levels or dough characteristics.  I then fermented the dough in my proofer at 85F, with one stretch and fold at the 1-hour mark, per instructions.

This formula is sized to produce one loaf weighing approximately 1kg.  When the dough was ready for shaping, I elected to form two smaller boules, since that better fit my needs.  The bannetons went back into the proofer, although only just barely, for the final ferment.  Following Whitley's instructions, the breads were baked with steam at 425F for 10 minutes, then at 400F for the remainder.  And this is what I got:

And the crumb:

Whenever I get around to baking this bread again, I think I will experiment with bumping the temperatures up by 25F or so.  Even with the smaller loaves, I went nearly the entire recommended bake time before the interior temperature was north of 200F and you can see that the color is not particularly dark.

To my chagrin, the bread wasn't entirely cooled when I cut it in preparation for taking to the Kansas City TFL meetup.  Nevertheless, off it went.  In spite of the indignities it suffered, it arrived in fairly good condition.  The crust was still crisp and the crumb still moist.  I especially like the flavor.  While not sour, it is definitely more layered and more complex than a commercially yeasted loaf would have been even with the same fermentation schedule.

A good book and a good bread.  Both speak well of Mr. Whitley's capabilities.

Paul

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Rye Stories: Daisy_A

I love rye bread and I'm not alone. When faced with a continental buffet my dh will make a bee line for the pumpernickel. As far as rye in mixed grain breads go I always feel there's room for a little more. So it's odd that it's taken me so long to try a 100% rye. I've been working my way towards it but had heard rumours that it might be troublesome. I was worried that it might implode or explode, either crack all over like 'a wedding cake left out in the rain' (as the poet W.H. Auden so famously described his own face), or fall in on itself like the ground over a hidden stream. 

Over the last few weeks, however, I have tried 3 100% rye formulae, the Borodinsky and seeded ryes from Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters and Mini Oven's favourite 100% rye (Bread Matters pp. 168-171, pp. 167-168; Mini Oven here). In the end, given that my rye starter is much more stable and strong than my wheat starters, these ryes have probably given me less trouble than the average sourdough. 

I did not adapt the formulae substantially so what follows are a few notes on method and taste. Bakers wanting to look into the Melmerby Borodinsky outside of Whitley's text might follow up on Andy/ananda's post here about the different Village Bakery versions, including an 85% rye. Andy's post includes a formula. There is a great discussion of Mini's formula on her original thread and in other TFL posts. 

The first 100% rye I baked was the Borodinsky from Bread Matters. When I made this I was running down my stock of Dove's Farm rye to try Bacheldre Mill but could not immediately source the latter. I had to make multiple calculations in order to keep my stock rye going and put together the formula without running out of flour and was congratulating myself on stretching my pea brain maths to the limit when I blanked out and went over on the water. Well that taught me to bake at the end of a long day…

The loaf came out a lovely golden brown but I thought I would have to spend the night on the couch waiting for it to bake out. After cooling the top sagged ever so slightly, like a cotton clothesline, due to the slight overhydration,  but the taste was superb. 

The second Borodinsky was made to share at an art and bread tasting event. Happily every crumb was eaten but I was so preoccupied with getting it to the venue without a hiccup that I forgot to take shots of it. So the elegant still life below is courtesy of event photographer Julian Hughes - thanks Julian.

© Julian Hughes, 2010

The second time I made this bread and after reading up on ways to manage rye, I added 40g extra water and 40g extra rye to the sour after 12 hours.  This was in part to add sweetness to the final bread and in part to allow the high hydration (1.6.3.), sour to mature for another 12 hours without becoming too acidic.

After the first Borodinsky I was able to swap to Bacheldre Mill. This is a much stronger flour than the Dove's Farm and I've found it suits the high hydration of Whitley's formula well. Crust and crumb have baked out well in all loaves made with the Mill flour. I find the crust tends to have a grainy finish due to the high bran content but I like that look, particularly as the crust also tends to be very golden. The flour has a beautiful, nutty flavour.

The next bread I attempted was the seeded rye from Bread Matters. I did make some adjustments to this.  I used 100% sunflower seeds instead of sunflower and pumpkin. This was largely due to availability. I hope to be able to dry seeds from the autumn squashes to use in bread but had none at hand when I made this. Having struggled to keep the coriander seeds on the Borodinsky rye while turning it upside down regularly to check internal temperature I also felt creating a sunflower seed coating for the seeded rye, as Whitley suggests, was beyond my skills. I omitted it but think it would actually be a nice touch. 

I also added a teaspoon of organic blackstrap molasses because I had just bought some at the whole food coop and wanted to play with it. I though this might soften the edge of quite a sour rye but given the sour notes of blackstrap itself it probably made it taste even sourer!  I have used malt syrup or honey since.

The second time I made this bread I also included a second build of 80g of flour to the sour after 12 hours to allow it to go the full 24 hours without becoming too acidic. I then reduced the flour in the final batter by the corresponding amount. The flavour was amazing, similar to that of an aged Manchego cheese. 

My slightly adapted version of Andrew's formula was:

Rye sour

160g of rye sour at 1.6.3 (fermented 12 hours then 80g more flour added)

Final batter

All rye sour   240g

Rye flour     160g

Sea salt           5g

Molasses          5g

Sunflower seeds 100g

Water 140g

Total 650g


Mini Oven's favourite rye. What can I say? It is a super-delicious formula. When I first joined TFL I used to gaze on Mini's post in wonderment. Even though Mini describes the process extremely clearly I couldn't imagine myself attempting the bread. Having and reread read posts on rye from Mini and other TFLers, including Andy, Hans Joakim, Karin, Nico, Khalid and Larry, among others, I finally felt I could attempt it and it went fine! Thanks all for your postings - they were very helpful! Sorry if I've missed any other 'ryesperts' - you were helpful as well!

I started with a small loaf, working the formula up from 60g of starter and added 2 tablespoons (5g) of mixed seeds, with an emphasis on caraway. Based on Mini's (1:3.5:4.16), formula this gave me a nice round 210g cold water, 250g flour to the 60g starter, for a final loaf of around 570g. I also added altus for the first time in any recipe - 20g of mixed grain sourdough with I dessert spoon of warm water and I tsp of honey. I mashed this into a paste in a pestle and mortar then folded it into the final batter. This formula yielded a loaf that was beautifully golden, with a gorgeous aroma, which was sweeter than those from Bread Matters. I will definitely do a larger loaf next time. We managed to wait 24 hours to try it but it was gone in just over a day! Thanks Mini, it was gorgeous! 

 

© Daisy_A 2010 I love to share bread stories and read other bakers' posts about bread. If you republish this page for 'fair use' please acknowledge authorship and provide a link to the original URL. Please note, however, I do not support the unauthorized and unattributed publishing of my text and images on for-profit websites..

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