The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dan Leader

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

With few exceptions, most of my baking in the past weeks has been, well, pedestrian.  One of the exceptions would be Bernard Clayton's Pain Allemande Aux Fruits.  There's no way a bread like that can be pedestrian, even if the baker's efforts aren't stellar.  There was also the treat of introducing a young South African friend to the simple joys of a Southern-style breakfast featuring buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy and fried apples.  We initiated him into the Kansas City fellowship of barbecue with lunch at Jack's Stack on another day.  He is also now a fan of key lime pie.  But I digress.

A little more bluntly, I've been baking but haven't invested much of myself in the effort.  And it has showed in some rather medocre, if still serviceable, breads.  So I tried to do something about that this weekend and I'm pleased with the outcome.

Back in April 2009, I blogged about the Whole Wheat Genzano Country Loaf from Leader's Local Breads.  I said that it was so good that I would make it again.  Now, almost three years later, I have.  Almost.

The almost refers to three departures from the formula and process presented in the book.  The formula calls for 250g of whole wheat flour in the final dough.  There were only 140g left in my whole wheat flour container.  How did that happen?!  Faced with a hurried trip to the store or improvising, I improvised by subbing in 60g of whole rye flour and another 50g of bread flour to make up the difference.  So, technically, this is no longer Leader's Whole Wheat Country Loaf.  Rather, it is Paul's Now What Do I Do? Loaf.  The second variation is in the mixing regime.  As with my previous bake, I just don't see the purpose or value of the extended high-speed mix that Leader recommends.  After 10 minutes at speed 6 on my Kitchen Aide mixer (note that he recommends 8-10 minutes at "medium speed" which he defines as speed 8, followed by an additional 10 minutes at speed 10), the dough was already clearing the sides and bottom of the bowl and I was able to pull a windowpane.  That, of course, was after switching off the machine which I had been forcibly holding down on the countertop so that it didn't launch itself.  The third and final variation is that I preheated the oven at 500F and then turned it down to 450F after steaming and loading the bread.

In terms of being more purposeful with this bake, I made sure to pull my starter from the refrigerator and refresh it in ample time for it to be fully active.  The biga naturale was prepared and allowed to fully ripen.  I maintained the prescribed fermentation temperatures.  With the exceptions noted previously, I hewed to the formula and process, only deviating where necessity dictated or experience suggested.  Most importantly, I paid attention to what I was doing.  When it came time to shape the loaves, which is an exercise in minimalism, I was very careful to be gentle.  As a result, most of the gas in the dough was retained in spite of this being a sticky dough that wants to latch onto whatever it touches.  I even did a mini-hearsal of what movements I would need to take to get the shaped loaves onto the stone in the oven, which led to my reorienting their position on the peel.  Based on the loaves' development in the oven, I chose to pull the steam pan at about the 9-minute mark.  That seems to have been a good call, based on their coloring.

Given all of that, was the outcome perfect?  Of course not.  But I'm pretty happy with the bread.  Here's why:

The color on these loaves is much closer to what Leader describes in the book than what I achieved with my previous bake, so my decision to preheat to a higher temperature paid off.  Although the loaves sang softly while cooling, the crust retained its integrity instead of crackling.  Here's a closer look:

The higher preheat temperature had a couple of other effects.  One was to boost the amount of oven spring.  The loaves are probably almost twice as tall as they were when they first hit the baking stone.  The second effect is that the crust is thicker and chewier this time around.  I'll take that, given the richness of the flavor that comes with the bolder bake.

The crumb from one angle:

And face on:

One loaf exhibited slight tearing along the bottom, which suggests that I could have let the proofing run another 10-15 minutes.  However, the dough was so gassy that I was concerned more about overproofing.  

This is a good bread.  The rye doesn't stand out distinctly but it definitely adds another layer to the flavors.  The crumb, a day after baking, is moist, cool and firm.  The crust requires a definite bite and some deliberate chewing.  It went very well with today's dinner of brined pork loin. This week's sandwiches should be good.

My advice (mostly to myself) is to pay attention to the details because every detail matters and good bread is worth the extra effort.

Paul

jcking's picture

Panary News

December 16, 2011 - 1:27pm -- jcking

  • Pastries from Artisan Baking Company, Fort Worth, TX, were cited as the reason Cowtown Farmers Markets was named one of the Top 40 Places to Eat Breakfast in Texas.

  • Dan Leader of Bread Alone made a trip to Latvia in search of a special dark rye bread made near Riga.

ThreeToedSlothLuke's picture

Dan Leader's Ricotta Bread - a débacle and a couple of questions

December 27, 2010 - 1:50pm -- ThreeToedSlothLuke

 


I decided to make this bread today. I had already purchased the ricotta so I had everything on hand.


First off, when I opened the ricotta tub I found mold between the lid and the plastic paper covering the cheese. The lid had cracked at some point; whether before I bought it or after I don't know but had I been at all superstitious (which, touch wood, I am not) I would not have continued. But I cleaned off the mold and replaced the paper with cling film and continued.


 

SaraBClever's picture
SaraBClever

I keep my own blog with my sisters at www.threecleversisters.com, but as I have a question about this bread I figured I'd repost it here too!  I'm not sure if that's how TFL community works/if others do this as well?  Do people keep parallel blogs around here?  I think my bread stuff is a little technical sometimes for the rest of my blog, though here probably pretty basic stuff ;-)  All in the name of better bread, right? 


Anyway here is the post (link is http://threecleversisters.com/2010/09/12/dark-pumpernickel-bread-with-raisins/)



This bread, Dark Pumpernickel Bread with Raisins, from Dan Leader's Bread Alone, was a lot of fun to make.  However, it takes a LONG time-two ferments rather than one (that's three rises) and 1 1/2 hours in the oven. 


I halved the recipe (and Lord knows how I would have kneaded all that dough if I hadn't) and as the rye starter I maintain (from Dan Leader's Local Breads) seems to be different from the Bread Alone book in composition (and since my starter is drastically smaller in amount than required for this recipe), I built the necessary proportions using the rye sourdough elaboration from the Local Breads recipe for Whole Rye Berry Loaf.  (I added about 5oz of water rather than the 4 oz called for in the pre-ferment as the Bread Alone sourdough seemed wetter).   I meant to only add 9oz of the final starter but ended up adding the full amount which was nearer to 11 oz.  This turned out not to be a problem, as far as I could tell. 


The recipe gives a wide range of flours, I stayed within the lower end of this range.  This seemed to work out well.  The only problem was that I think my oven got too hot over the long baking period, so as is obvious, the crust was burnt.  The inside is just fine, and I was thrilled by the dramatic oven spring.  Plus it's the first pumpernickel I've made that was truly dark (which is what I think of for pumpernickel).  It was quite sweet from the molasses and raisins, and deliciously moist:  I was happy to eat it plain.  I put half in the freezer as this is one massive loaf (and I only made a half batch!  Unbelievable.  I'll have to keep this in mind when making more out of Bread Alone-Leader is clearly baking for a crowd!)


Final question:  if anyone uses both of these books, do you know if the starters are interchangeable, as they seem to be different formulas to me?  If you use a local bread starter, how do you convert to the Bread Alone starter (not only in the hydration proportions but in the quantities required!?)









 

SaraBClever's picture

Dan Leader's Pain au Levain and Local Breads

August 21, 2010 - 12:39pm -- SaraBClever

I love this bread!  See my blog post.  I also successfully converted my wet starter to a stiff dough starter.   Has anyone else baked much from this book?  I know about the errata but any other thoughts?  Any "must-try" recipes?  How about that Pane di Altamura with its special semolina sourdough?


http://threecleversisters.com/2010/08/21/dan-leaders-quintessential-french-sourdough/

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