The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Complete Book of Breads

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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.

PMcCool's picture

In Memoriam: Bernard Clayton

April 16, 2011 - 5:36am -- PMcCool
Forums: 

In light of Bernard Clayton's recent death, and in gratitude for his Complete Book of Breads, this weekend's bake is dedicated to him.  I have a batch of his Italian Bread and his Pain Siegle fermenting right now.  More to follow in my blog as the breads are completed.


Anyone else who wants to bake one or more of Mr. Clayton's breads is welcome to participate in the "wake".


Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

We were invited to a Cajun-themed dinner party last evening at a friend's house here in Pretoria.  Not the easiest thing to pull off in South Africa but it turned out pretty well, considering the limitations.


Knowing that there would be gumbo and jambalaya and etouffe, I wanted to take some bread that would be good all by itself and as a sop for all those wonderful broths and gravies.  Preferably, it would resemble something one might find in Louisiana; maybe in a poboy sandwich.  I came across Eric's (ehanner) post about utilizing Bernard Clayton's Blue Ribbon French Bread and figured that might be a good starting point.  Since I have the book (The Complete Book of Breads), it was easy to reference the recipe.


Clayton's approach is a fairly quick, straight dough method.  Wanting to build more flavor, I chose to build a sponge from 4 cups of water, 6 cups of flour and about a tablespoon of my approximately 50% hydration starter that would have been discarded as part of a refresh.  (Note that I doubled the recipe.)  That was assembled around 11:00 p.m.  This is what it looked like around 10:00 a.m. the following day:


Sponge for Blue Ribbon French Bread


Overnight temperature in the house was around 72ºF.  I'd estimate that the sponge had expanded by at least 25%.  The butter, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with the sponge.  It was just convenient to leave it in the same bowl while it came to room temperature.  (No, this is not a classic French bread; more of an Indiana interpretation of a French bread.)


The only other alterations that I made were to omit the powdered milk, simply because I didn't have any on hand, and to reduce the yeast to 1 teaspoon.  I elected to use some yeast just to ensure that the rest of the fermentation went at a steady pace even though the sponge was more aerated than I had anticipated, given the small inoculation.  The rest of the ingredients and process were by the book.


Even though I used AP flour, the gluten in the sponge was well-developed after nearly 12 hours of hydrating.  Because of the high percentage of pre-fermented flour (approximately 60%), the dough was quite extensible.  Having made a lot of whole-grain breads in recent months, including quite a few ryes, this white-flour dough was a big change.  It was much smoother, less sticky, and felt more "pillowy" while it was being kneaded.


I steamed the oven as much as I could, hoping for a thin, crisp crust.  The loaves expanded beautifully, producing big ears and grignes on  the loaves, as below:


Blue Ribbon French Bread 


The crust turned out to be thicker and harder than I had hoped, more crunchy than crisp, so I didn't quite hit my target for this bake.  The crumb, which won't be pictured since none came home with us, was much less open than a classic baguette but more open than one would expect for a dough that had been kneaded 10 minutes.  The flavor was rich and only mildly sour.  Our resident Cajun was overjoyed with it and wanted to know how I was able to produce this kind of bread with a home oven.  He loaded up most of what hadn't been eaten and went home with visions of pain perdu in his head.  We'll be scheduling a play date in the kitchen one of these weekends.


And for my Northern Hemisphere friends, one last picture as a reminder that winter isn't forever:


Blue Ribbon French Bread


Warm regards,


Paul

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