The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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alexlegeros's picture
alexlegeros

Greetings fellow bread bakers and bread lovers,

I have been thinking all morning about what led me to bake bread, and I think it might be fun to share some stories and experiences about how we all came to this really rewarding activity.  I think we all come to breads in a very personal and meaningful way, and I'd like to hear from you what it was like. 

 

Here's the link to my blog where this post is hosted.  Hope you don't mind my attempts at MS Paint illustration!  Be kind--all I have is a touchpad!

http://sourdoughrye.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-i-started-baking-bread.html

mse1152's picture
mse1152

Hello all,


Most of you will not recognize my username, since I last posted here in March of 2008.  But I've been reading TFL daily for years now, since I first searched online for a good pretzel recipe, and found this one.  The combination of TFL, BBA, and Glezer's Artisan Baking Across America got me to the point where I could bake bread that I was proud of.


This evening, I pulled two loaves of Thom Leonard's Country French bread out of the oven, and they looked like this (shouldn't I have brushed off that little speck of flour on the near loaf?):


 



 


But when I first posted about this bread, I was disappointed (see blog entry here).  I goobered up some of the process, and thought the crumb was not what it should be, etc.  Back then, I sweated every line of instruction, every minute that some step of the process went too long, and was almost afraid to handle the dough for shaping.  Tonight, I called in a take-out order from a local pizza joint, loaded the bread in the oven, went to pick up dinner, got back home with 45 seconds to spare till I had to rotate the loaves.  Hey, just another day in the kitchen!


After all these years, and many dozens of loaves of all kinds of breads, it has become relatively easy to produce really nice stuff.  But as soon as I typed that, I remembered that a few weeks ago, I attempted the Polish Cottage Rye from Leader's Local Breads.  It had a cavern big enough for half the bakers on TFL, and a gummy crumb.  Yecch.  But usually, I'm quite happy with my results.


I just wanted to post this to encourage all you newbies to keep at it.  Find a bread you're interested in, and make it many times till you'd be glad to give it as a gift.  There's so much common sense and wisdom on this site, you can find any information you need.  And really, an investment of time will definitely yield a satisfying reward!


Happy Baking,


Sue


 

Bricejacob's picture
Bricejacob

In my first post, I mentioned the recipe I started with.  Here's how things have evolved since then.

My first problem with the original recipe was pretty major: I could never get a enough of a rise to get two loaves with the pans I had.  Given I was making bread for a family of five, my first change was to simply double everything.  From this doubled recipe, I made 3 loaves.  This seemed to work out pretty nicely.  I generally ended up with 3 2-lb loaves of bread from each batch.

The next changes were more evolutionary.  I don't recall the exact order of each of these changes.  Likely the most interesting change was this: I stopped using powdered yeast.  There is a local farmer's market here that has excellent produce and cheese.  Hidden among the cheese are 1-lb blocks of something labeled "Red Star Yeast" for about $1.50.  They are about the size of quarter of butter.  Since that is *much* cheaper than the instant stuff, I started breaking off a bit of this stuff and creaming it in the warm water with my fingers.  Now, I've been at a loss as to what this stuff is, but it works wonderfully.  I'm guessing it's what I've heard called "compressed yeast", so that's what I'm going to refer to it as.

The original recipe calls for "butter" generically, and I'm pretty certain the first few times I made it I just used normal sweet cream butter (salted), but after doing a bit of reading, it seemed that I wouldn't want to include "extra" salt, so I've clarified it as unsalted butter.

The next change was flour.  I originally just used whatever flour I had available (generally AP of some brand), but I wanted to try "bread" flour.  My wife found 50-lb bags of Bread Flour at Costco for ~$11, if memory serves.  So, I started using that.  Recently, I've been looking for another source of good flour in quantity, as the flour from Costco is bleached and enriched, but thus far I haven't found anything reasonable.  I can get KA flour in 5-lb bags from a few local stores, but that's hardly cost effective when I'm baking 6-9 loaves of bread a week (at least lately....).  I discovered Wheat Montana flour when visiting my in-laws, and fell in love with the Prairie Gold variety, but I have yet to find anywhere I can get it here in St. Louis.  Ooops....big tangent there.  Let's get back to my changes, shall we?

Another change was accidental.  You may have noticed that the egg yolk is the only "wet" ingredient not included in the melting butter mixture.  This caused me to forget to add it on more than one occasion (I'm a bit disorganized, for many reasons).  Interestingly, my family and I never noticed a difference when I didn't include the egg yolks.  So I dropped them.  It also makes things a bit simpler and means I don't need to find a use for the left over egg whites.  I did use them as a wash a couple of times, but at least in my oven, this made the crust quite dark and a bit thicker than I could convince my kids to eat regularly.  So I stopped.

The most significant change is also the most recent: I've started making a Poolish before hand.  The first time, I just did the Poolish using the water from the recipe and a pseudo-random amount of flour.  I think it was actually more of a sponge than a Poolish.  After consulting with Levy's Bread Bible from the local library, I adjusted this a bit and have been *quite* pleased with the results.  I've dropped the amount of milk in the doubled recipe from 2.5 cups to 1.5 cups.  I've doubled the water to 2 cups.  So my Poolish is now 2 cups of warm water, approximately an ounce of compressed yeast (I really need to get a good scale...), and a pound of bleached bread flour (about 2.5 cups as I measure it).  The poolish seems to take about 4-6 hours to reach maturity (beginning to collapse), longer if I use a bit less yeast.  I'm trying to get it to the point I can make the poolish in the morning before work and finish the process in the evening, but I haven't mastered that just yet.  It works, but I haven't achieved consistency.

The last adjustment I've made was switching to Kosher salt.  Since I don't have an accurate enough scale, I've been using Alton Brown's rule of thumb that you need 50% more Kosher salt than table salt to achieve the same weight.

Oh, and I dropped the sugar, because the bread was a bit sweeter than I wanted for everyday use, and my wife and I certainly don't need the calories.  We're also trying to move away from refined sugars anyway (which seems a bit silly, I know, when I'm using bleached bread flour).

So, for those of you still reading, here's my adjusted recipe:


Mr. Dugan's White Bread - with Brice's Modifications

Poolish 

  • 2 Cups of warm tap water
  • 1 lb (~2.5 cups) of bleached bread flour
  • 1-2 oz of compressed yeast
Remaining Ingredients
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1.5 cups of 2% milk
  • 2 tbs Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup of Honey
  • ~7 cups of bleached bread flour
Instructions:
  1. In a glass of ceramic bowl, dissolve the compressed yeast in the water, creaming it with your fingers.
  2. Add 1 lb of flour and stir until nice and gooey.  Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let stand on the kitchen counter until it starts to collapse.  Make sure you use a big enough bowl for the poolish to more than double before collapsing.
  3. When the poolish is starting to collapse, combine the butter, salt, milk and honey in a small saucepan on low heat until the butter has melted.  Stir occasionally.
  4. Combine the milk mixture with most of the remaining flour (save ~1/2 cup for dusting the kneading surface).  Stir until liquid is absorbed.
  5. Add the poolish to the above mixture.  Mix until the dough starts coming together.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until uniformly combined.
  6. Cover with the bowl and let rest for 15-30 min
  7. Knead the dough until it starts to get elastic. 8-10 minutes.
  8. Shape into a rough ball and drop into a large, lightly oiled, ceramic bowl to rise.  As I have a pretty drafty kitchen, I place mine in the oven with the light on, and a pan of steaming water below the bowl.  Let rise until doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour for me)
  9. De-gas and shape into 3 loaves.  Place in lightly oiled bread pans.  I tend to use a rolling method.
  10. Let rise until doubled again.  This takes about 90 minutes for me (about twice as long as before the poolish method)
  11. Bake at 350 for 30 min.  I've actually been using the convection setting on my oven for the same time and temp.  This seems to better insure the loaf is "done".
Well, hopefully you've enjoyed this look into the evolution of my core bread recipe.  I've done several variations on this (an herb bread, a cinnamon-raisin bread, replacing various portions of the bleached bread flour with something else (usually a whole wheat of some type).  I'd welcome any and all comments and suggestions.  I still have a *lot* to learn. Mr. Dugan's Evolves  - Brice -  
Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

Earlier this month I participated in Paney Camp 2007, a bread making learning session with participants from the Garden Web Cooking Forum. I was the teacher and my "students" were from all over: California, Colorado, Michigan, Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina. Our base camp was a delightful Bed & Breakfast in Oak Ridge, NC which is near Greensboro and very close to the airport. My quilting friend, Marilyn, and her husband Don own the B&B and she has a large kitchen, just right for lots of people making lots of bread.

We began by making a sponge after our kick-off dinner (NC BBQ) followed by Shaker Daily Loaf (a white bread) and Herbed Country French Loaves (using the sponge) the next morning. We continued our baking by making Struan Bread and Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread. Soft Butter Knot Rolls and Orange Sweet Rolls followed the grain breads. The seven students worked in pairs, taking turns mixing and kneading. I tried my best to help some of them improve their kneading skills - LOL! One class member was a standout at kneading, having made bread regularly years ago. Her breads had a vastly different feel to them which I attributed to her kneading skills.

This group of experienced cooks did a champion job of cleaning up the kitchen every day! And I didn't even have to ask them to clean up or ask that they be quiet while I was talking! Going on field trips was a bit like "herding cats" for me though - LOL!

We went to the Old Mill of Guilford after a lunch break the first baking day. I purchased a few things for the class recipes at that time, but I was very pleased to have organized the class so well that we did not once have to run down the street to the grocery store the entire time - Wednesday evening to Sunday morning.

Thursday night we went to L'Italiano, a very good local Italian restaurant in High Point. Friday we alloted to shopping at the Vietri outlet in Hillsborough, A Southern Season in Chapel Hill (where we had a wonderful lunch at their Weathervane Cafe) and Replacements, Ltd. on I-40/85 near Greensboro. Dinner Friday night was at Blue Water Grille in High Point where we had delicious seafood, fish, and pork.

Saturday began with a morning visit to the NC Farmer's Market nearby. We found lots of vegetables and goat cheese for our pizza lesson that day. We continued class with Focaccia and pizza dough from the Basic Pizza Primer found here at The Fresh Loaf. I asked for questions Saturday afternoon and an hour later we finished up with the Q&A session! We concluded Paney Camp with homemade pizza on Saturday evening.

Our B&B hosts provided a delicous Italian Breakfast Strata (made with our breads) for our brunch on Sunday morning. Two members left for their 11:00 am flight and the other campers went to Old Salem and SECCA in Winston Salem, just a few miles west of the B&B location. All the campers had a chance to pack up bread we had made to take home if they had room. After our fond good-byes, I packed up and came home where I promptly crashed and didn't move for several hours - LOL!

All in all, I think the breadmaking camp and classes went very well. We couldn't do anything about the 100 degree temp heat wave that the whole Southeast and other parts of the nation was experiencing in early August. And...it's supposed to get up to 100 again today. Even though the B&B had A/C, it was about 85 in the kitchen with the ovens going all day. We did change our plans to go shopping after my friend at the Goat Lady Dairy called and said it was miserably hot there and they had no A/C in their cheese tasting room. Our planned trip to the potteries around Seagrove was also canceled due to the heat. But as the camp teacher/tour guide, I just went with the flow of what the campers wanted to do and everything was fine. I did make sure to call ahead and cancel our visits to the Dairy and the pottery where I had scheduled a demonstration.

Last year's camp was Canning Camp in Michigan, where the campers learned to can and make jams, salsa, etc. Next year may be Pastry Camp, but the location has not been set yet. In two years....maybe cooking classes in Italy??? I am soooo getting ready for that one!

Teresa, the "Doughmaster" (the name the campers gave me)

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