The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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pumpkinpapa's picture

Drafty, dry winter weather makes for slow proofs

January 29, 2007 - 6:30am -- pumpkinpapa

I currently live in an old drafty farm house which in this cold winter weather is dry enough to dry salt in :) My last house was newer and less drafty and had a humidifier.

I've seen the proofing times rise dramatically and am trying to find ways to counter this. It's also tough to keep the temperature above  the 69 F or 20 C range too.

What methods have you found to lessen this kind of impact?

In the summer we swelter in humidity so that will be a completely different experience. 

pumpkinpapa's picture

How big is a batch?

January 9, 2007 - 6:58am -- pumpkinpapa
Forums: 

I have read so many pieces about this bakery or that where they say this oven makes so many batches over a certain period or this bakery holds the record for consecutive batches...

So, having not been trained by a school or a professional baker, how big is a batch? Is it 2, 10, 20 or what? For me 10 loaves in a row at 2 pounds each was a great workout kneading but the time really flies when you are having that much fun!

 

Happy baking!

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Friends of ours are fond of panettone, so I thought that I would try making some for them as a Christmas gift.  After much browsing, I decided to use the recipe for Il Panettone Milanese, located here: http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0946.htm.  One of the things that drew me to this one is that it uses a naturally-yeasted biga, instead of commercial yeast.  I figured that my sourdough starter (which isn’t especially sour) would yield a good biga and it did.

 

I should say at the outset that I am pleased with the result, especially since the recipe yields two panettone that are in the medium to large range; one for the friends and one for the baker.  There are some things to address, but it is a very satisfying first attempt.  Here's a picture: Panettone

 

However, I’m not sure that I would use this specific recipe again, since it does have a few quirks.  For instance, the directions for the second-stage dough don’t say when to add the egg yolks (I put them in with the rest of the wet ingredients) and they call for water that isn’t in the ingredient list (I chose not to, since there was no indication of quantity and it looked like a repeat of the instructions for the first dough).  The recommended baking temperature is 380F, while Reinhart’s formula recommends a baking temperature of 320F.  Since I was improvising with soufflé dishes (one glass and one ceramic) in lieu of panettone molds or papers, I dropped the temperature to 360F and still wound up with rather dark crusts, even after covering them loosely with foil.  The recipe gives no indication of baking time, other than that a skewer should come out clean after inserting into the panettone.  I pulled them out of the oven when the internal temperature reached 185F, which took almost 1-1/2 hours.

 

I gave a slice to an Italian acquaintance from Milan and asked for a critique.  The first thing that she noted is that my panettone is denser than what she is accustomed to Italy.  While I followed the directions and allowed 6 hours for the second rise before baking, it didn’t achieve that almost lacy sponginess of a traditional panettone.  There are probably five factors at play.  First, additional time for the second rise would probably have helped.  My acquaintance says that a friend of hers bakes it frequently and allows it to rise to a point where it is almost ready to collapse.  While mine had more than doubled in size, it hadn’t yet reached the wobbly stage when it went into the oven.  Second, by baking it in soufflé dishes, the dough had room to expand sideways quite a bit before being forced to expand upward.  A regular panettone mold would have encouraged more vertical expansion, which may have improved the texture.  Third, this is a very rich dough, especially with fats (a pound of butter and 12 egg yolks!).  Fourth, there is almost 2 pounds of fruit in this recipe.  With that much fat and that much fruit weighing it down, the dough is going to need every bit of help it can get to fully expand.  The last factor, and I don’t have a way to address it, is that Italian bakers have a special rack for inverting and suspending the panettone as it cools.  That keeps it from settling and reducing in volume before it is cool and firm.  I didn’t notice much, if any, settlement which isn’t too surprising since the crumb wasn’t as spongy as it should have been.

 

Her second observation was that the candied fruit peel was somewhat bitter.  I had noticed that both the orange peel and the lemon peel that I purchased used the full thickness of the peel.  Since the white pith can contribute bitterness, that is probably the culprit.  I’ll opt for making my own candied peel from just the zest of the lemon and orange in future attempts.

 

The third observation that she made was that the finished bread was drier than the panettone to which she was accustomed.  I had expected it to be very moist because of all of the butter and eggs.  Maybe the recipe writer meant it when she said to add water to the second dough.  If only she had said how much!  A wetter dough might also have been able to expand more during the final rise.

 

The good news is that the flavor was very close to what my acquaintance knew and loved, so she was happy to have the slice that I brought for her.  I’m happy to know that my first attempt is close to the mark on this most important point.  Almost everything else can be tweaked and adjusted to get closer to a traditional panettone’s texture. 

 

Best of all, my friends were delighted to receive their panettone.

gashmore's picture

My Pannetone is to "cakey"

December 20, 2006 - 5:38am -- gashmore
Forums: 

Baked my first pannetone yesterday.  Rose fine, looked and tasted great but the texture was a bit to "cakey" and a little heavy.  I was expecting it to be lighter and more spongy.  After adding the fruit the dough was a bit wetter than I am used to but after the first rise it had a nice  stringy structure with lots of bubbles.  Second rise was a little slower than I thought it should be (about 3 hours).  Both rises were at 78F.  The recipe called for all purpose flour but I wonder if I should have used bread flour. 

 What else should I do to get it more spongy?

Floydm's picture

Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll)

December 4, 2006 - 10:16pm -- Floydm
Keyword: 

makowiec

Makowiec isn't, strictly speaking, a holiday bread. But it is a classic Polish dessert or tea bread that is commonly served around the holidays. And it is delicious.

Almost all of the moisture in this dough comes from the sour cream, butter, and eggs. There is no primary fermentation: it is one rise and in the oven. This suprised me enough that I verified the recipe in 3 different Polish cookbooks. All of them used this same technique.

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

This week, one of my colleagues volunteered our team at work to host the monthly Happy Hour. Thanks, bud. Anyway, it was a Thanksgiving theme and since I'm "The Bread Guy," they wanted me to bake something. I thought it would be a good excuse to convert the Bread Baker's Apprentice's Cranberry Walnut Celebration Loaf into whole wheat. So I did. Here's how it turned out:







I think I've pretty much got this whole wheat thing down. Converting from a white bread recipe usually involves:

1) Increasing the recipe by about 20-30 percent in order to get the same volume.

2) Increasing the hydration by 10-15 percentage points to get the same consistency.

3) Either let the dough soak overnight (with a bit of salt to control enzymes) or knead for 20 minutes. If you soak everything and use a biga (highly recommended, as it really helps eliminate the bitter, dry taste that so many people find unappealing), you'll only need to knead until the soaker and biga / starter are well combined.

4) Use buttermilk. Man, buttermilk works wonders with flavor and loft.


The taste was definitely "Holiday" and it's an impressive presentation, though you can tell I was a bit sloppy with the egg wash. My wife's reaction upon tasting it was, "Wow! This is like fruitcake, except good!" And that's pretty much true. Reinhart recommends using either orange or lemon extract -- I went with orange, though I imagine lemon would not elicit the "fruitcake" comparison.


In any case, I'll be making this again come Christmas, for sure.

helend's picture
helend

Browsing the news feed led me to this recipe for a yeasted pumpkin bread from the World bread day link. I have slightly adapted it and it turned out well although I can't say it is too exciting - a useful recipe for using up an excess of pumpkin I guess.

 

It is slighltly more orange than the pictures imply with a good caramelly chewy crust and is quite moist but the crumb is a bit tight - although it slices quite well.

Loafer's picture

Can I actually get flour from my Corona Mill? What mill next?

October 23, 2006 - 8:26am -- Loafer

I bought a Corona Mill and I got it for really cheap, so even if all I can get out of it is cornmeal and peanut butter, I won't be disappointed. However, I was expecting to get at least passable flour if I ran it through a couple times. I am using hard red wheat from my local health food store, and grinding it several times. I end up with meal that has some flour in it, but is mostly sand sized grains of grain ;) I am wary of tightening the coarseness adjustment too much and damaging the burrs. Any advice?

I'd love to use this one for a while before I commit to a more expensive mill, so I'd appreciate help figuring this out. But my next step will be to get a better mill. I am very tempted to get the Family Living mill because I can get the adapter for my Kitchen Aid and can also get the rollers and flakers later. The next option that I like (probably the best) is the Country Living Grain Mill. I like that because it is beatuiful, well respected, and durable. It doesn't adapt to other things as well, but it would certainly turn out the flour I need! I don't think that I would be able to justify any of the models that are more expensive than the Country Living mill, so it won't help to recommend the $3k models :)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

In case you are thinking that there is no way that particular sequence of dots can be connected, stay with me. You may want to send for the nice men in the white coats when I'm done explaining, but until then, think of it as a case study in aberrant psychology.

It began, innocently enough, with Floyd's suggestion (challenge?) to submit some ideas for harvest breads. Some of the things that I have long associated with Autumn are the late-season vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and parsnips. Squash can add moisture and texture to breads, as well as a low-key sweetness. Combine that with something savory, like sage, and you have the flavor foundation for a knock-out loaf of bread. Ah, you begin to see where this is going . . .

As I was rummaging around on the internet to see if there was a recipe that I could adapt or just plain steal, I came across a couple of interesting possibilities. Here is one of them: http://www.recipelink.com/mf/0/58698. And here is another: http://www.cookadvice.com/recipes/winter_squash_herb_bread-54827-recipe.htm.

The thing that really grabbed my eye, though, was this recipe: http://www.stephencooks.com/2005/09/roasted_buttern.html. I hadn't been aware of the StephenCooks.com site previously, but I'll definitely be back to browse some more. Sorry, sidetracked again. Anyway, I had a new recipe to try, a fresh-from-the-farmers-market butternut squash on the counter, and a note with the recipe that suggested serving the carbonara with ciabatta. Hmm, ciabatta. That's been on my list of things to try for a while now. There was a stiff starter in the refrigerator that would serve well as the biga for the ciabatta recipe in BBA . . . (Are you paying attention to the dots?)

Saturday dawned, rife with possibilities. My wife was away all day, conducting a seminar. The grass was in need of mowing and there were bare patches to reseed, now that the weather has cooled. And bread to bake. Actually, there was enough starter, after doing 3 builds, to do two batches of bread. First things first: run to the lawn and garden center for 5 pounds of grass seed. Get home, prep the squash and put it in the oven to roast. Mix the ciabatta, set it to bulk ferment. It's definitely a sticky dough, but not nearly as wet as I expected from others' descriptions. First time to follow a recipe by weights instead of volumes.

Back outside to mow the yard. Pop back in to check on progress of ciabatta and do first stretch and fold. (Yes, I washed my hands first!) Took squash out of oven. Decided to make just a plain sourdough bread from BBA. After further looking, decided that one loaf would include walnuts and blue cheese, since my wife loves blue cheese. Mixed mixed and kneaded the dough for that and set it to ferment.

Back outdoors to rake and seed the front yard patches. Headed back in for second stretch and fold with ciabatta. Sourdough rising slowly but steadily. Decided to break for lunch. After lunch, devised couche from heavily floured dish towel and shaped ciabatta loaves per Reinhart's pictures in BBA. Wound up looking like this:

Before heading back out, I put the stone and a steam pan in the oven to preheat. Oh, and separated the squash flesh from the skin and innards now that it was cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for later.

Then I went back outdoors to rake and seed the patches in the back yard. Afterwards, back in to check on breads. Oven was ready, so gave the ciabatta a final stretch, per BBA instructions and popped them onto the stone, riding on some parchment paper. Filled the steam pan and winced to see some of the spatters landing on the oven window. Somehow escaped causing any damage. Shaped sourdough loaves and placed them in the now-vacant couche.

Went back outside to make sure the seed was properly covered and then started the sprinkler. Next, started putting up new hangers for tools in the garage (that's a follow-up from last weekend's project. Checked the ciabatta when it was close to time. Internal temp read at 202F, so whisked them out of the oven. Sourdough loaves were still rising, so shut off the oven.

My wife got home about this time, so after chatting about our respective days, I ran to the store for carbonara ingredients that weren't on hand at home. (Pancetta isn't part of my standard batterie de cuisine.)

On returning home, after reading the carbonara recipe again, decided that it might take a while to pull everything together, so started working on that. A couple of notes from that process: 1. The recipe calls for 2/3 of the herbs at one point, 2/3 of the herbs at second point, and the reserved herbs in yet a third step. I suspect that the amounts should have been 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3, respectively. 2. The recipe directs you to "sizzle" some of the sage leaves in butter and olive oil as a garnish. I managed to scorch them (literally too many things in the fire at that point), but wound up not missing them in the finished dish. They are a garnish, not an integral part of ingredients, so if you want to simplify by skipping this step, go for it. Fortunately, everything else came to gether successfully. 3. Although the recipe specifically calls for butternut squash, I don't see why other winter squash (buttercup, Hubbard, acorn, etc.) or pumpkin or even sweet potatoes couldn't be substituted.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed that the sourdough was about ready for the oven, so I started the preheat. Since it hadn't cooled completely yet, it got up to temperature fairly quickly. Eventually, the carbonara came together and the bread baked as it should.

The carbonara was fantastic and, yes, pinot grigio is a very good accompaniment. This recipe is definitely in the "keeper" category. It will probably also be a once or twice a year event, because of its complexity.

The ciabatta, however, is going to require some further practice. I don't know if it was the use of the stiff starter for the biga, a too-low hydration, my inexperience with and/or mishandling of this bread, or some combination of those elements, but it wasn't a thing of beauty. Like most sub-par bread experiences, it was, at least, delicious. The crumb was, well, bready. I was looking for an open and big-eyed crumb and wound up with a relatively close-textured, soft crumb. And the shape--well, I'll keep trying.

Here's a photo:

 

The two ciabatta are on the right. You might be able to make out part of the crumb of the nearer loaf. Sorry that the view isn't clearer. The front loaf on the left is the plain sourdough; the rear loaf on the left is walnut/blue cheese sourdough. I was braced for a strong cheese flavor in the walnut/blue cheese loaf, since I'm not especially fond of blue cheese, but was pleasantly surprised that the cheese flavor was subtly blended with the other flavors. I haven't cut into the plain loaf yet.

A long day, lots of work done, good bread and a fantastic dinner to wrap it up. Not bad at all. And, needless to say, Sunday was a quiet day. Thanks, Floyd, for triggering my pinball progression.

PMcCool

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

We had guests over for Saturday night dinner. Here's two of the poolish baguettes I baked, along with a very buttery Brioche that we ate for dessert with lemon curd and raspberries.

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