The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a few sourdough starters lurking in your fridge. One I made from organic California grapes lovingly teased into fruition over 10 days some years ago. Another from rye flour that naturally ferments. And last fall’s brainchild, made from mountain berries plucked at 3600 feet. That last one yielded 6 lovely loaves and then promptly went into a funk.

But I’m going to be honest here: I don’t use any of my starters in this recipe. Every one of those starters is finicky and unpredictable at best, and when it comes to making bread, reliability is the key. So I’ve come up with a method that yields great sourdough loaves in a 3-day process. Very little attention is necessary until the third day, and the results are amazing. If you don’t have a woodfired oven, instructions on baking in a conventional oven are included as well. Go on, relax and make some sourdough!

 

Woodfired Sourdough Bread

 

Make 3 loaves, 23 ounces each

 

For the Starter:

2/3 cup rye flour

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup cold water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Mix these together in a large bread bowl with the handle of a wooden spoon, scraping the sides clean as you go. Cover with a clean dish cloth or a loose-fitting lid and let rise in a cool place (55-60° environment) for 12-14 hours until frothy. I do this step in the early evening and let it go overnight.

 

First replenishment:

½ cup rye flour

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/8 cup cold water

Add these to your starter to ‘feed’ it in the morning. Scrape the sides again, put on a loose-fitting lid or a piece of plastic wrap and let it sit in a cool place for another 10-12 hours.

 

Second replenishment:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup cold water

Feed the starter again, this time with wheat flour only. Let sit covered in a cool place for 10 hours or overnight.

 

Make the dough:  By morning, the starter should be bubbly and somewhat risen. It will also smell sour, which is the smell of active lactobacillus fermenting in the mix. This is good. Now add to the starter

2 cups of water at 105°

½ teaspoon of active dry yeast

4 cups of unbleached white bread flour (I use Pendleton Mills ‘Morbread’ with 12% gluten)

3 teaspoons of salt

2 Tablespoons of flaxseed meal (optional)

Mix the dough well, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients, and then knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Return the dough to a clean bread bowl, cover and let rise for 5 hours at room temperature (68-70°).

Deflate the dough, turning it over as best you can and leave to rest for a further 1 to 1½ hours before shaping into loaves.

For Baking in a Woodfired Oven: For best results, bake this bread in an oven that has been heated for 2½ hours by a medium-sized active fire. In the last hour, move the fire from side to side to allow even heating of the floor tiles. After this time, move the active but non-flaming coals to the back, throw on a fistful of hardwood twigs and sweep the floor clean of ashes. Once the twigs have finished burning, you’re ready to bake the bread.

For Baking in a conventional oven: Line the center rack with quarry tiles or a pizza stone and preheat at 450° for at least half an hour. When the loaves are ready for baking, drop the heat to 400°.

Form the loaves / final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. (note: if using a conventional oven, you can only bake 2 at a time; put one of the pieces back into the bread bowl for another hour.) Form a ball with each piece by stretching the longest skin of dough across the surface and tucking it underneath.

Line 3 baskets with cloth napkins or dish cloths, and sprinkle generously with flour. Plop the dough balls into these, toss on a bit more flour, cover with the corners of the cloth and let rise for 1¼ hours in a warm place.

Once risen, turn the unbaked loaves onto either a wooden peel or the back of a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush loaves lightly with an eggwhite mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water and slash as desired.

For Baking in a Woodfired Oven: Slip the unbaked loaves into the oven in a semi-circle about 12” away from the coals. Close the door all the way and bake for 1 hour, turning several times to bake evenly. Loaves are ready when the crust is medium brown.

For Baking in a conventional oven: Slip loaves 2 at a time directly onto the tiles or pizza stone. Bake for 20 minutes at 400°, lower the heat to 350°, and bake for another 40 minutes, turning the loaves as necessary to ensure even baking. Loaves are ready when the crust is medium brown.

See original publication and more photos at http://www.woodfiredkitchen.com/?p=2289

Copyright 2011 by Don Hogeland 

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Sortachef's Greek Easter Bread


 Greek Easter Bread


 


Makes one 2 ½ pound loaf


 


4 Tablespoons butter


2 heaping dessertspoons of honey


2 eggs


2 teaspoons dry yeast


1½ teaspoons salt (2 if using unsalted butter)


1 teaspoon anise extract


20 ounces (about 4 cups) unbleached white flour


1 1/3 cup water at room temperature


¾ cup additional flour for bench work


A 14" pizza pan fitted with parchment paper


 


4 red hardboiled eggs (see Dyeing Red Eggs @ http://www.woodfiredkitchen.com/?p=742 )


1 eggyolk+1 teaspoon water for wash


4 teaspoons of raw hulled sesame seeds


 


Note: A flexible bowl scraper (or a Tupperware lid cut in half) comes in handy for working this dough.


 


Make the dough: In a mixer fitted with a flat beater, cream together the butter, honey, eggs, yeast, salt, anise extract and 1 cup of the flour. Beat well for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water and ½ cup flour, beat for a minute; another 1/3 cup water and ½ cup and beat, etc., until you have used up all the water and all but a cup of the 20 ounces of flour. Beat for a further 2 minutes.


Scrape off the flat beater, scrape down the bowl, and put in the other cup of flour. Switch to the dough hook; run mixer 10 minutes on low (mark 2 for Kitchenaid). Scrape down bowl if necessary. The dough is not stiff enough for the hook to pick it up, but this mixing will improve its structure.


Knead the dough: Sprinkle half of the benchwork flour onto a counter or board, scrape the dough onto it and, using the scraper, quickly fold the edges in to the middle. Put a bit of flour onto the dough and let it rest for a few minutes while you clean out the bowl.


Knead for 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary until you have used up the ¾ cup of extra flour.


First rise: Put the dough into the bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature for 3½ hours.


Second rise: Use the bowl scraper to pull the dough in from the edges, releasing the air, and then let rise 1½ hours at room temperature.


Make the braid: Turn the dough out onto a barely floured counter. Cut a 5-ounce piece of dough off and put it to one side, covered. Now, make bulk of the dough into a snake about 2 feet long, rolling it on the counter under your hands to stretch it out. Let it rest for a few minutes. For the next step you will want a clean section of counter 3' wide, with no flour on it or the dough will slip instead of roll.


Roll the dough snake out to 3' long, and cut into three equal pieces of about 12 ounces by weight. Roll each of the three pieces out to nearly 3' long. Your dough ropes should be 5/8" in diameter and roughly uniform.


Put 3 ends together, cross two ropes and throw the third across the Y. Braid until the ropes are used up, keeping the dough slack to keep the braids loose and thick.


Make the loaf: Lift one end of the braid off the counter and slip the parchment lined pan under it, and then lift the other end around to form a circle. Overlap the two ends of the braid by an inch, and push your thumb down in at that point. The first egg will go into that depression.


Adjust the braided ring on the parchment to make it as round as you can, and push your thumb down to make depressions at the other 3 quadrants. Carefully put in the eggs.


Roll the leftover piece of dough into a snake the thickness of a pencil. Around the eggs, snip 4 places with scissors to receive the ends of the dough that crosses over them. Cut pieces of dough to make the crosses.


Final rise: Cover lightly with a cloth and let rise for 40 minutes.


Preheat oven to 400º. If you're using a pizza stone or quarry tiles (recommended), let them heat up for at least 30 minutes.


Glaze and bake: Mix the egg yolk and the water in a ramekin, and brush the egg wash over the dough, being careful not to cover the eggs. For best coverage, brush a second time. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Bake for 10 minutes at 400º. Turn oven down to 350º and bake for another 25 minutes, turning the bread around at halfway.


Let cool for at least an hour before sharing with your Greek friends.


See original content at www.woodfiredkitchen.com

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sortachef

 


We make pizza nearly every week here at Chez Bullhog. When you have an outdoor pizza oven, it's hard not to: pizza has become an obsession. But, even without using the special oven, we've gotten pretty good at turning out a quality pizza. Here are some tips:


 


For half the flour in the dough, substitute Caputo flour. This flour (tipo 00), made by Antico Molino Caputo in Italy, is formulated to let pizza dough stretch out. Using it in a recipe will keep your shaped dough from springing back from the rim when you flatten it. Available in Seattle at Pacific Food Importers, or through several sites online.


Cut the yeast by 1/3, and let the dough rise longer. Many dough recipes have more yeast than necessary in order to decrease the proofing time. If you're not in a hurry, let your dough rise at 70º (or even cooler) for at least 4 hours. Pizza aficionados let their dough rise in the fridge overnight, and then let it sit at room temperature for a few hours before shaping and baking. See 'Pizza time Pizza with long-rise dough' for details.


Drizzle olive oil onto the blank pizza. Joe Fugere, owner of Tutta Bella in Seattle, told me that when his original restaurant was certified by the Neapolitans, he had to omit this step. I never put olive oil into the dough, but I find that a thin coating of good olive oil enhances the flavor and keeps the crust from getting soggy during baking.


Use vine-ripened tomatoes and make your own sauce. The best and sweetest tomatoes are vine ripened. When our tomatoes are ripe, we don't bother making sauce, we just slice them onto the pizzas. Otherwise, we make a sauce with ripe tomatoes, a bit of onion and garlic, and freeze or can it. Second best is a big can of San Marzano tomatoes turned into sauce. When making sauce from canned tomatoes, use a bit of sugar to brighten its flavor.


Seek out quality toppings. The best toppings make the best pizzas, and in many cases less is better. A little prosciutto, a few good olives, herbed mushrooms dotted here and there. Locally made sausage, some fresh arugula - well, you get the picture.


Try different cheeses. This can make such a difference to your pizza and, again, you don't need massive quantities. Some suggestions: well-drained buffalo mozzarella, truffle-infused pecorino, gruyere, cacciocavallo, or fresh mozzarella. You can top the whole thing with a handful of shredded mozzarella if you like.


Balance salty with savory or sweet. All of the components of pizza already have salt in them, so you can easily overdo it with salty toppings. On the other hand, a fresh Margherita pizza (fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil) needs capers or a generous sprinkle of salt to balance it.


Learn to use a peel. There's a reason they use peels (wooden or metal paddles) in pizza places. A wooden peel gets a pizza into the oven safely; a metal one turns it halfway through baking and pulls it out when it's ready. While you can get the pizza out of the oven with a spatula or two, I'd recommend that anyone who wants to bake better pizza invest in a wooden peel. When the peel is topped with bread flour or semolina, your pizza will slide right off it and into the oven!


Make your oven hotter. My outdoor oven is at about 650º when we bake pizzas in it, and will turn out a pizza in 4 minutes. Admittedly, most ovens don't get that hot, but will go to 450º or more. At 450º, a 12-inch pizza bakes in 8 or 9 minutes.


Bake the pizza directly on a pizza stone or quarry tiles. I've saved the best for last. This simple addition to the center rack of your oven, even if you're baking your pizza in a pan, will instantly yield better pizza. Be sure to preheat your oven for a half hour before baking for best results. See 'Baking bread on Quarry Tiles' for more information on using quarry tiles.


 


One Final Note: Even as recently as last year, I would have included longer kneading on this list. Italians recommend 20 minutes of kneading the dough, which many Americans find excessive. As I play with some aspects of this, the list may evolve to include a 30 minute rest period - after mixing, but before kneading - which I am learning is nearly as critical for gluten development as the kneading itself. Stay tuned!


 


See original content for this and other bread and pizza recipes (woodfired and conventional methods) at www.woodfiredkitchen.com


 


Copyright © 2010 by Don Hogeland

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