The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Floydm's picture
Floydm

Onion Braid

I based this on the Onion Twist Bread in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. I reduced the amount of yeast and used a poolish, and went for a braid instead of a twisted and panned loaf, but otherwise it is basically the same.

Onion Braid

Poolish:
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough:
Poolish
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons butter or shortening
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1 3/8 ounce package of onion soup mix
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

Wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

The night before, in a bowl, mix together the poolish until it form a batter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight.

The next morning, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, the sugar, the onion soup mix. Mix in the poolish, the milk, one of the eggs, the butter, and the Parmesan cheese with a wooden spoon. Add more flour a quarter cup at a time until a proper dough forms, one that is dry enough that you can hand knead it yet moist enough that it is still tacky to the touch.

Pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean work surface and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. Return the dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it however you like. I tried a braid this time. I'm not good enough that I want to give directions on how to do it yet (for that please see your cookbook), but I will include the pictures my wife took of the process:







Cover the loaf with a damp towel or greased plastic wrap and allow it to double in size again, approximately 45 minutes. While you are waiting, preheat the oven (and baking stone, if you have one) to 450.

Just before baking, glaze the loaf with the egg wash. Put it into the hot oven. After 5 minutes, reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 15 minutes. Rotate the loaf and bake until the loaf is done. Total baking time may vary based on shape. My loaf took about 45 minutes.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini's 100% Dark Rye & Chia Recipe ...Love at 104% hydration

 

This rye recipe is my Chilean version of my favorite rye ratio recipe using a rye sourdough starter and the addition of chia seeds that increase the dough hydration yet maintain a nice shape.  Use a large Dutch oven for a free form shape. 

I designed this recipe for one narrow tapered loaf pan:   cm: 30 x 11 x 7.5   or   inches: 11 3/4 x 4 1/4 x 3 

It is my basic rye recipe (starter:water:flour) (1: 3.5 : 4.16) plus 6.1% chia (on total flour weight including flour in the starter) plus 4 times the chia weight in water added to the dough.  Also added nuts, seeds and 90g to 100g arbitrarily selected moist rye altus (day old bread.)

 

DARK RYE & CHIA BREAD

The wet:

  • 175g vigorous peaking rye starter  100% hydration
  •  90g  moist rye altus 
  • 812g  water  24°C   (75°F) 

        1077g

The dry:

  • 728g rye flour  (dark rye 14% protein)
  •  50g chia seeds
  •  17g salt   (2%)  
  •  17g bread spice  (2%)  (toasted crushed mix: coriander, fennel, caraway seed)
  •  17g toasted sesame seed  (2%)

         829g    (total dough so far 1906g) 

           (optional:)

  •     4g black pepper  (0.46%)
  • 100g broken walnuts
  • 150g chopped Araucaria Pine nuts   
  • sunflower seeds to line bottom and/or sides of buttered form 

 

Method:

Inoculate (1:5 to 1:10) sourdough starter soon enough to have a vigorous starter when ready to mix up dough.  

Plan to bake in 3 hours from the time you start combining liquids with the flour to make dough.  

Combine liquids and break apart floating altus.   Stir dry ingredients and add to liquids stirring until all dry flour is moistened.  Scrape down sides of bowl, cover, let stand 2 hours.  No kneading ever!  Dough will stiffen as it rests.   (Another order for combining is to add the chia and spices to the wet ingredients and allow to swell 15 minutes before adding flour, salt and nuts.  Not sure if it makes a difference but if you find you're getting a gummy crumb, let the chia soak in the water and swell before adding the flour.)

Smear bread pan with butter and dust/coat with raw seeds, crumbs or flour.  Spoon or plop dough (trying not to trap air) into form or floured banneton.  (The recipe lends itself well to free form in a large Dutch Oven.)  Use a wet spatula or wet fingers & hands to shape dough.  Pile the dough up higher in the center for a nice rising shape.  Sprinkle with seeds and press lightly into dough while making a nice dome shape.  

Let rise about an hour.  Meanwhile heat oven 200°C to turn down to 185°C (365°F) 15 minutes into the bake.  Make a cover for the loaf from a double layer of alufoil or flip an identical pan over the top.  Leave room for loaf expansion.  

When ready dock,  take a wet toothpick and poke about one hole every inch, all over, toothpick deep.  Wait a few minutes and smoothen over with a wet spatula.  Dough is ready to dock when you see the dough surface threatening to release trapped gasses under the surface.  One or two little pin hole bubbles is enough to start docking.

Spray or rinse the inside of foil or empty bread pan cover with water and cover the dough to trap steam during the bake.   Bake for about 40 minutes on the lowest rack, then rotate and remove the protective cover to brown the loaf top.  Finish the loaf in another 20-30 min for a rough total of one hour baking time.  Inside temp should reach 94°C, sound hollow, but I tend to shoot for 96°C or 205°F.   Cool on rack.   Wrap when cold.  

Here is the cold loaf (after 12 days, last 6 in the fridge) and you can see how much the dough rose. The shaped dough would have been rounded under the rim.   There are no nuts in this loaf other than what came from frozen stored altus.

Free form using floured rice sieve:           Oops, I spy a few docking holes!  

Have fun,  I do!    Really proud of that one!   

 

browndog's picture
browndog

Evolution

Here is an adaptation of an adaptation. The original recipe was featured in a bed & breakfast cookbook, adapted and published by the Boston Globe, and tweaked once again by me.

Cranberry Nut breakfast Rolls

1/4 c orange juice

1/3 c sweetened dried cranberries

1/4 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 c buttermilk or 1 c water + 2 tbsp buttermilk powder

2 eggs

1/4 c granulated sugar

1/2-2/3 c marmalade

1 1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp active dry yeast

3 c unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c coarsely chopped roasted pecans

6 tbsp butter, softened

(This is a good place to use up some starter discard if you have it. I used 50 grams firm discard and reduced the liquid by 1/4 c initially, then added a little more during kneading to make a tacky, silky dough.)

1. Combine juice and berries in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid.

2.Warm your buttermilk, add yeast to proof, then combine with the melted butter, eggs, 1/4 c sugar, and salt. Stir thoroughly.

3. Add flour and knead til dough comes together. Add cranberries and nuts, continue kneading til dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Let rise til doubled. Grease two 9" cake pans. Divide dough in half. Roll one half into a 12x8 rectangle. Spread with 3 tbsp soft butter, then enough marmalade to cover in a thin, even layer. Roll up from the long side and seal seam well. Cut into 12 even slices. Place the slices cut side down, in one of the cake pans. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. 30 minutes before bake time, remove from refrigerator and set in a warm place to rise til doubled. Set the oven at 375. If desired, drizzle 1/4 c heavy cream over each pan of rolls. (My Puritan up-bringing would not allow this.) Bake 20-30 minutes, til golden brown.

Icing

1 c powdered sugar

reserved juice

additional milk as needed

Combine, stir, and spoon over rolls. Serve warm.

Note: Not needing, for a family of three, 24 rolls to face first thing on a Saturday morning, I chose to make and bake the same day a small pan loaf with the remaining half of the dough. I spread the dough with butter and marmalade, rolled it without slicing and baked it for about 30 minutes. Lovely. The original recipe did not call for marmalade but a quarter cup of granulated sugar and half an orange's worth of zest. I found the marmalade to donate a fine bit of texture and piquancy.

And with this entry I'm pleased to be part of Bread Baking Day #2.

browndog's picture
browndog

Dan Lepard's Walnut Bread

 

My favorite bread changes as often as a teenager changes boyfriends. Here's this week's:

Dan Lepard's Walnut bread. It has yeast and leaven both; what makes it wonderful is the paste of

ground walnuts, honey and butter that infuses the dough with walnut flavor and a hint of purple.

 

 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Baguette crumb - 65% hydration dough

Some time ago, Pat (proth5) posted her formula for baguettes. This was in the context of our "great baguette quest" of some months back. We were playing with higher hydration doughs and cold fermentation à la Gosselin and Bouabsa.


Pat's formula is levain-based and employs a 65% hydration dough. She has insisted repeatedly that, while higher hydration is one route to a more open, holey crumb, fermentation and technique in shaping the baguettes are at least as important and that good technique can achieve the desired open crumb even with a dryer dough.


Okay. It was past time I tested my own technique against Pat's claim.


Pat's formula is as follows:




This is for two loaves at a finished weight of 10.5 oz each


.75 oz starter


1.12 oz flour


1.12 oz water 


Mix and let ripen (8-10 hours) 


Bread


All of the levain build


10.95 oz all purpose flour


.25 oz salt


6.6 oz water 


Dough temperature 76F 


Mix to shaggy mass (Yes! Put the preferment in the autolyse!) – let rest 30 mins


Fold with plastic scraper  (30 strokes) – repeat 3 more times at 30 min intervals 


Bulk ferment at 76F for 1.5 hours – fold


Bulk ferment at 76F 2 hours


Preshape lightly but firmly, rest 15 mins


Shape.  Proof 1 hour or so


Slash


Bake with steam at 500F for about 20 mins


 



I followed this except I baked at 480F. I used Whole Foods 365 Organic AP flour. The result was an excellent, classic baguette with a crunchy crust and cool, creamy crumb. It was slightly sweet with imperceptible sourness when eaten just ... well, almost ... cooled.


Here's  the crumb:



I'll let you draw your own conclusions.


Thanks, Pat!


David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Pain de Campagne

Pain_de_CampagneBatard

Pain_de_CampagneBatard

Pain_de_CampagneGrigne

Pain_de_CampagneGrigne 

Pain_de_CampagneCrumb

Pain_de_CampagneCrumb 

The formula for this bâtard is derived from that for Anis Bouabsa's baguettes, as shared with TFL by Janedo. Jane prompted me to add some sourdough starter, and this resulted in a big improvement, to my taste. We had also discussed adding some rye flour to the dough. Jane said she and her family really liked the result. The addition of rye and sourdough makes this more like a pain de campagne, which is traditionally shaped as a boule or  bâtard. The result of my mental meandering follows:

 

Formula

Active starter ........................100 gms

KAF French Style Flour.......450 gms

Guisto's Rye Flour..................50 gms

Water......................................370 gms

Instant yeast............................1/4 tsp

Salt............................................10 gms

 

Mixing

In a large bowl, mix the active starter with the water to dissolve it. Add the flours and stir to form a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let rest (autolyse) for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the yeast over the dough and mix with a plastic scraper. Then sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix.

Using the plastic scraper, stretch and fold the dough 20 times, rotating the bowl 1/5 turn between each stroke. Cover tightly. Repeat this stretch and fold procedure 20 minutes later and, again, after another 20 minutes.

 

Fermentation

After the third series of stretches and folds, scape the dough into a lightly oiled 2 quart/2 liter container and cover tightly. (I use a 2 quart glass measuring pitcher with a tightly fitting plastic lid manufactured by Anchor Glass.) Immediately place in the refrigerator and leave it there for 21 hours. (In this time, my dough doubles in volume and is full of bubbles. YMMV.)

 

Dividing and Shaping

(I chose to make one very large bâtard, but you could divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and make smaller bâtards, boules or baguettes. Or, you could just cut the dough and not shape it further to make pains rustiques.)

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and scrape it gently onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat it into a rectangle. To pre-shape for  a bâtard, fold the near edge up just past the center of the dough and seal the edge by gently pressing the two layers together with the ulnar (little finger) edge of your hand or the heel of your hand, whichever works best for you. Then, bring the far edge of the dough gently just over the sealed edge and seal the new seam as described.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30-60 minutes, with the seams facing up. (The time will depend on ambient temperature and how active your starter is. The dough should have risen slightly, but not much.)

To shape a bâtard, fold the near edge of the dough and seal the edge, as before. Now, take the far edge of the dough and bring it towards you all the way to the work surface and seal the seam with the heel of your hand. Rotate the loaf gently toward you 1/4 turn so the last seam you formed is against the work surface and roll the loaf back and forth, with minimal downward pressure, to further seal the seam. Then, with the palms of both hands resting softly on the loaf, roll it back and forth to shape a bâtard. Start with both hands in the middle of the loaf and move them outward as you roll the loaf, slightly increasing the pressure as you move outward, so the bâtard ends up with the middle highest and the ends pointed .

 

Preheating the oven

Place a baking stone on the middle rack and both a cast iron skillet and a metal loaf pan (or equivalent receptacles of your choosing) on the bottom shelf.  Heat the oven to 500F. (I like to pre-heat the baking stone for an hour. I think I get better oven spring. Since I expected a 30 minute rest after pre-shaping and a 45 minute proofing, I turned on the oven 15 minutes after I had pre-shaped the loaf.) I put a kettle of water to boil 10 minutes before baking.

 

Proofing

After shaping the loaf, transfer it to parchment paper liberally dusted with semolina. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel. Proof until the loaf has expanded to about 1-1/2 times it's original size. (This turned out to be 30 minutes for me.) Do not over-proof, if you want good oven-spring and bloom!

 

Baking

Put about a cup full of ice cubes in the loaf pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and close the door.

Slip a peel or cookie sheet under the parchment paper holding the loaf. Uncover the loaf. Score it. (The bâtard was scored with a serrated tomato knife. The knife was held with its blade at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf. One swift end-to-end cut was made, about 1/2 inch deep.)

Transfer the loaf and parchment paper to the baking stone, pour one cup of boiling water into the skillet, and close the oven door. Turn the oven down to 460F.

After 15 minutes, remove the loaf pan and the skillet from the oven. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees, if it is browning unevenly. Close the oven door.

Bake for another 15 minutes, then remove the loaf and place on a cooling rack. Check for doneness. (Nice crust color. Internal temperature of at least 205F. Hollow sound when you thump the bottom of the loaf.) If necessary, return to loaf to the oven to bake longer.

 

Cooling

Cool on a rack for two hours before slicing.

 

Comments

I got very good oven spring and bloom. This loaf has an ear by which you could carry it around. It sang to me while cooling. The crust is nice and crunchy. The crumb is well aerated and almost "fluffy" in texture, but with tender chewiness. The taste is just plain good. It is minimally sour. Based on my half-vast experience, I'd say it is fairly representative of a French Pain de Campagne, the major difference being that it is less dense than the ones I recall. 

 This is, for me, not merely a good "novelty" bread. It could join San Francisco Sourdough and Jewish Sour Rye as an "everyday" bread I would enjoy having all the time.  The method is good for those of us who work outside the home. It can be mixed in the evening and baked in time for a late dinner the next night. 

 

Enjoy!

 David 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Bagels Revisited

Many thanks to Susanfnp for posting a great sourdough bagel recipe based on Nancy Silverton's bagel recipe. She also provided a number of key tips as I made these. I posted photos of the first time I did these, and now I have some photos of my second attempt, as well as a spreadsheet with more details such as bakers percentages and preferment percentages.

Sourdough Bagel Recipe (revisited version)

Ingredients:

  • 335 grams (12 oz) 90% hydration white flour starter
  • 20 grams (0.6 oz) sugar
  • 12 grams (0.4 oz) malt syrup
  • 14 grams (0.6 oz) salt (I made salt bagels, so the salt in the dough is reduced to avoid too much salty flavor. Use 17 grams salt normally)
  • 2.8 grams (0.1 oz) instant yeast
  • 359 grams (12.5 oz) water
  • 186 grams (6.5 oz) first clear flour (I used KA First Clear Flour. Substitute a high ash or whole grain flour - maybe rye, whole wheat, Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo, or just use white flour)
  • 587 grams (20.5 oz) high gluten flour (I used KA Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour. Substitute bread flour or other high protein white flour.) This time I corrected an error in the previous version and made the hydration lower, probably around 56%, which unexpectedly made the bagel dough stiff enough that it was a bit more difficult to shape the bagels. However, I used Susanfnp's suggestion to spray the surface of each 3 oz piece with a fine mist before shaping. This makes a world of difference.

Mix Dough - Day Before Baking

I had to mix and knead these by hand, since I have no mixer in this house. While reading the Nancy Silverton recipe, the idea seems to be to get a very stiff dough. I mixed all the dry ingredients in one bowl. I mixed the water, levain, and malt syrup in another bowl and then poured the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a dough scraper I worked around the bowl a few times to get the ingredients initially mixed. I then vigorously kneaded the dough, using a traditional squeeze and fold kneading technique. This was not so easy with the stiff dough, but after about 5 minutes, the dough started to become elastic and fairly smooth, even if very stiff. After a few more minutes, the dough seemed fairly similar to what I had with the mixer in my first attempt at this recipe, documented in a previous blog entry. Since the dough is so dry, there is no need for dusting the counter with flour. In fact, you should avoid any extra flour, as the dusting can interfere with the smooth sheen of a proper bagel.

Shaping

Divide the dough into about 18 3 ounce pieces. Since the dough is so dry, it may develop a dry skin fairly quickly, so proceed smartly to the shaping stage. Don't dilly dally at this point, as the dough pieces will become too puffy quickly if they are allowed to sit at room temperature for very long. However, the pieces need to rest a short time, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, so that the gluten will be relaxed enough to shape the bagels.

I was more experienced and faster at shaping this time. The first batch of nine was placed on a jelly roll sheet, and immediately refrigerated. I discovered the next day that the first batch needed to rest on the counter for about 1/2 hour to ferment enough to come to the surface while boiling. The second batch, which had risen a while longer, was ready for boiling immediately out of the refrigerator the next morning.

If you have a fine mist spray (I have an atomizer meant for olive oil that I use for water), you can make shaping easier and avoid the dry skin, particularly on the pieces you shape last, by spraying a tiny amount of water on the pieces before you shape them.

To form the bagels, roll out an 8 inch rope shape with your palms. If the dough is too stiff or you make a mistake and want to start over, let that piece rest a few more minutes, and move to the next piece. Take the 8 inch rope and hold it between your palm and your thumb. Wrap the rope around your hand and bring the other end together with the end you are holding between your palm and thumb. You now have a "rope bracelet" wrapped around your hand. Rub the seams together on the counter to seal them, then take off the bracelet, which should look a lot like a bagel, hopefully. Stretch it out so you have a large 2.5 inch hole. It looks big, but it will shrink or even disappear as the dough rises during boiling and baking. The hole needs to be big looking compared to a normal bagel.

Place the bagels on parchment dusted with semolina flour on a sheet.

This time I used coarse corn meal, as I had no semolina available. This worked fine and seemed to make no difference to my results.

Cover with saran or foil or place the whole sheet in an extra large food storage bag (XL Ziploc is what I'm thinking here). The idea is to lock in moisture to avoid any dry skin forming yet allow room for some slight expansion as they puff up. Place the sheets in the refrigerator to retard overnight.

Boiling

Bring 5 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a good sized stock pot to a boil. Place a bagel in the pot and make sure it floats to the top. If so, you can do 4-6 bagels at one time. They should only be in the water for about 20 seconds. Push them under periodically with a wooden spoon, so the tops are submerged for a few seconds. In my case, I never managed to get the bagels out before about 30 seconds were up, but they came out fine. If the test bagel won't float, lift it out with a slotted spoon, and gently place on a rack to dry and allow the bagels you have removed from the refrigerator (I did 6 of them at a time) to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes and try again.

In fact, the batch I had shaped first the night before did sink to the bottom when I tested one. So, I left the first batch out for about 1/2 hour before it was ready. I then put them back in the refrigerator, since the baking and boiling process for the other batch was extending beyond 1/2 hour. I could tell the first batch was beginning to be ready, since I could detect a very slight puffiness in them after 1/2 hour.

The first batch floated immediately out of the refrigerator, probably because my second batch were formed and shaped after a rest of about 20 minutes while I was working on the first nine the previous night. Except for letting the first batch rise on the counter for 1/2 hour, I kept the bagels waiting to be boiled in the refrigerator to avoid any excessive rising. If you let them rise very much, they will puff excessively and become more like a bun than a bagel.

Dip in Seeds

Make plates of seed beds. I made three seed beds. One was 2 parts caraway seed, 1 part anise seed, and a pinch of salt. Another was 2 parts dill seed, 1 part fennel seed, and a pinch of salt. The last was poppy seed and a pinch of salt. I also made salt bagels, but those were done by just sprinkling a little kosher salt on some of them with my fingers.

Right after the bagels are removed from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, place them on a rack to cool for a few seconds. After they have cooled of slightly and dried enough not to ruin the seed bed with too much wetness, pick one up and place it round side down (the tops down), and gently press them into the seed bed. Pick them up and place them right side up on a sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted lightly with semolina flour or coarse corn meal.

This time I made only salt bagels. It wasn't convenient to get seeds, and my kids and I both love the salt bagels anyway. I just sprinkled a very, very light layer of kosher salt on them with my fingers while they were sitting on a rack just after they were boiled. The salt sticks to the wet surface, so you don't need to do anything but just sprinkle the salt on them. Careful, you can definitely put too much salt on them, even if you use a somewhat smaller amount of salt in the dough, as I did in this case.

Baking

Preheat the oven to about 400F. No preheat may work, but I'm not sure. It seems easy, from my limited experience, for them to rise too much. The result will be an open bread-like crumb, instead of the very chewy, more dense crumb expected in a bagel. So, I didn't risk a no-preheat strategy in this case.

If you have a stone, you can transfer the parchment paper on a peel to the stone and bake directly on the stone. I baked them for about 20 minutes at 400F. You can also bake them on the sheet.

Cool

Allow the bagels to cool.

Results

The bagels were chewy and delicious, as they were last time. However, I think the lower hydration was a definite improvement. I succeeded in getting a stiffer, drier dough this time. They had less tendency to rise excessively, even though I let them sit on the counter a little longer than last time. The resulting crumb was a little more dense and seemed just like the real thing this time. Last time, the slightly higher hydration gave me a slightly more open crumb, which seemed just a hair too soft and open like ordinary bread. This time, the crumb was dense and chewy and just right for a bagel.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

My Favorite Basic Sourdough Loaf

I bake a lot of sourdough bread. Over the past several months I have been trying a lot of new techniques and trying to perfect the quality of my loaves. The recipe below is how I am currently making my white bread. Next year I may have a whole different approach, as I am constantly learning and trying new things.

Deluxe Sourdough Bread

1 1/4 cups proofed starter
1 cup water
3 T. dry powdered milk
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup instant potato flakes
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 T. sugar
3 T. butter or margarine
2 tsp. salt

Combine the first 5 ingredients. Mix in the flour just until the mixture is a shaggy mass. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Add sugar, butter, and salt and mix until all is incorporated. Knead dough until it is smooth and satiny.

Cover and let dough rest for 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Pat each dough portion out into a large, flat circle. Gently stretch and fold the left side over the middle, then the right side over the middle (like folding a letter). Pat down with the palms of hands and repeat the folding with the remaining two unfolded ends. Shape loaves, always keeping the folded side as the bottom. I do free-form oval loaves and place them on parchment paper.

Spray the loaves with Pam and cover with plastic. Place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, take loaves out and let them finish rising at room temperature. They should be very light. Do not rush it or your bread will be dense.

While bread is rising, preheat oven and stone to 400� F. I also place a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom rack for steam.

When bread is fully risen, slash top and slide onto hot stone. If you don't have a stone, just bake on a baking sheet. After 10 minutes, turn the oven heat down to 375� F. When loaves start to show color, water pan can be removed. Bake until loaves are a nice golden brown. Time will vary according to the shape and size of loaf.

Cool on a wire rack. You can brush crust with butter while still hot if you like a soft crust.

The small addtion of white whole wheat flour that I use in this bread gives it an interesting depth of flavor that I like. It does not change the color of the bread. I don't know if white whole wheat flour is easily available just anywhere. I am fortunate to live in an area where wheat is grown and milled so I have easy access to various flours.

Sweet Corn Raisin Bread

corn raisin artisan breadLast week I posted a basic cornbread recipe. I suspect some folks reaction was "ho-hum". So this week I'm showing that you can, indeed, do more with corn meal than just make cornbread.

How about a yeasted bread with corn meal? How about a sweet raisin yeasted bread with corn meal in it? Sound good? It did to me.

The recipe and a lot more photos are below.

I based this one on a recipe from a little Betty Bossi baking book that my father-in-law brought back from France (Betty Bossi is, I gather, like a Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker). My French is fair, as is my metric system, but thanks to my scale, which can toggle from metric to imperial, I was able to pull something together pretty quickly.

I'm going to print the recipe with the original metric measurements. Next to each I'll include my imperial approximation, which also include my substitutions. My translations and measurements aren't exact, so if you are a stickler you can use the metric measurements or do the math yourself!

Sweet Corn Raisin Bread

Original Metric Measurements Imperial Approximation and Substitutions
150 grams corn flour
1 deciliter water
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup water
350 grams white flour
1/2 cube (approx. 20g yeast)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 deciliters milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pinch saffron
50 grams butter
2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
saffron I'm too cheap!
2 tablespoons butter
75 grams raisins 1 cup raisins
1 egg yoke
1 teaspoon water
1 pinch salt
2 pinches sugar
1 egg yoke
1 teaspoon water
1 pinch salt
2 pinches sugar

Mix the corn meal and the water together in a small bowl and allow to soak for half an hour.

Pour two cups of the flour in a bowl and combine with the yeast, sugar, salt, and saffron. Make a well in the middle and pour in the corn meal soaker, remaining milk, and butter. Stir until well blended.

Stir in the raisin and then add additional flour by the handful until the proper consistency is reached (tacky to the touch but not sticky, and clearing the sides of the bowl when mixed).

Pull the ball of dough out of the mixing bowl and place it onto a clean work surface. Knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes, until it begins to feel smooth and satiny. Place the dough back into a clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, roughly 90 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and gently degas it, then shape into the desired shape. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a moist towel and allow it to rise until doubled in size again, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour.

sweet corn raisin bread rising

While it is rising again, preheat the oven (and baking stone, if you are using one) to 425.

sweet corn raisin bread being glazed

When it has doubled in size, glaze the loaf with egg wash made from the egg yoke, water, salt, and sugar. Score the loaf so that it doesn't tear in the oven, and then place it into the preheated oven.

sweet corn raisin bread glazed and scored

After 5 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After 15 minutes rotate the loaf so that it bakes evenly, and then bake it until it is done. You'll know it is done when it is nice and brown, sounds hollow when tapped on, and reaches an internal temperature of at least 185 degrees. In my oven this took around 40 to 45 minutes.

Allow the loaf to cool for at least half an hour before slicing.

sweet corn raisin bread complete

Further Exploration

I was very pleased with this loaf, but I have some ideas I'd like to try to make this bread even better. One idea is instead of using 1 cup of medium grind corn meal, use a mixture of finely ground corn flour and coarsely ground polenta. Something along the lines of 3/4 cup corn flour and 1/4 cup presoaked polenta ought to lend the loaf a smooth, creamy crumb with a few crunchy bursts of polenta here and there.

The other idea I have is to substitute honey for sugar, and maybe increase the amount of sweetener just a tad. The thought is that I might be able to get a flavor something along the lines of cornbread with honey butter baked right into the loaf. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good.

Olive oil instead of butter might be good too.

So many options... and never enough time to bake!

Have any ideas for other ways to modify this loaf? Or questions about it? Please comment!

Lesson Three: Time & Temperature

The difference between mediocre bread and excellent bread usually has less to do with the ingredients being used than the process involved in creating it. Once you are comfortable with the basic process of mix, knead, rise, shape, and bake, your experimentation with the process can begin.

The two simplest variables in the process to modify are time and temperature. Below I will discuss how time and temperature change the character of your loaf of bread and then bake a loaf to show you how minor adjustments to the process can improve the quality of your bread significantly.

Time

Longer, slower fermentation extracts more flavor from your flour. If you are baking a simple white sandwich bread or in a hurry and you just want the darned thing to rise, you can put two or even three teaspoons of yeast into your dough and get the loaf to rise in under an hour. But if you want to create a rustic bread with a rich, nutty flavor, reducing the yeast and allow more and longer rises is appropriate.

Temperature's Impact on Rising

The warmer the temperature, the more active your yeast will be. The more active your yeast is, the quicker the dough rises. Simple enough, but you can use this in a multitude of ways. For example:

  • if you want to speed up a rise, turn your oven on for 30 seconds, turn it off, and then place your dough into the slightly-above-room-temperature oven. It should rise noticeably quicker.
  • If you need to leave halfway through preparing to bake a loaf, you can throw it into the fridge. It'll continue to rise in there at a much slower pace.
  • You can make a large batch of pizza dough and freeze individual pieces of it in freezer bags. The yeast will survive at least a month or two in the freezer. The day before you want to make the pizza, just move it to the fridge to thaw it and then pull it out of the fridge when you want it begin its final rise.

Temperature's Impact on Baking

Temperature also has an impact on how your loaf bakes. The general rule is that crusty breads should be baked at as high a temperature as possible. Soft shelled breads should be baked at lower temperatures. When you increase the temperature of your oven your bread bakes quicker (duh).

Professional bakers of rustic breads use ovens that achieve higher temperatures than home ovens achieve. Turning the temperature of your oven up when baking rustic breads will help you get closer to professional quality loaves. Buying a pizza or baking stone is another inexpensive method of capturing more heat in your oven and improving the quality of your bread (I have shattered two of these, so I don't currently bake with one. I'll probably end up getting another one some day, but I can't say the quality of my bread has suffered that much without one).

If you get really serious about bread baking, there is even a movement of bread hobbyest who build large hearth ovens in their backyards to reproduce professional quality loaves. Pick up a copy of "The Bread Builders" if this interests you.

My wife is pleased that I have not gotten that crazy about baking good bread at home (yet).

Time and Temperature Together

As you can see, time and temperature work in opposition to one another during dough formation: increase the temperature, decrease the time that your loaf rises; decrease the temperature, increase the time it takes to get to full size.

In the rising stage, if you are striving to extract the maximum flavor from your flour, you want to slow the rise down. If you want a make a quick loaf in time for dinner, speed the rise up.

While baking, If you want a crusty bread, you'll want to increase the temperature of the oven and reduce the amount of time your loaf bakes. For soft, pillowy breads, do the opposite (more time at a lower temperature). There are times when either technique is appropriate, so don't be worried that you aren't doing things the "right" way!

One Other Tidbit: Steam and Crust

For the first five or ten minutes of baking, having steam in the oven will improve the quality of your crust. Steam does two things: first, it keeps the outside of the loaf from drying out until the dough has fully risen; second, steam coagulates the starches on the outside of the loaf, which improves the color and texture the crust.

Professional bakers have ovens that inject steam during the early baking phase. Home bakers can use a lot of different tricks to recreate this effect. The simplest method I have found has been to put an old metal brownie pan on the bottom shelf of the oven when preheating. Right after I put the loaf into the oven, I pour a cup of hot water into the pan. It immediately begins to bubble and boil, releasing a nice steam cloud that seems to improve my crust.

Don't do this with a glass pan. I did this once and it shattered as soon as I poured the water into it.

There are other ways of introducing moisture: spraying the walls of the oven with a squirt bottle, putting a pan full of water with a hole in the bottom onto the bottom shelf so that it drips onto the bottom of the oven, or rubbing the outside of the loaf with water are some of the common ways. Hot water in a pan works well enough for me.

Also be aware that some bakers have experienced malfunctions in their oven's electronics systems from the moisture caused while trying to create steam. Indeed, adding steam may void your oven's warranty. I've never had any problems doing this, but please consider these risks versus the reward of highly crusty bread before attempting to steam your oven. Let the "baker beware."

Today's Loaf

I started with the base recipe from Lesson One. I was shooting for a crusty, rustic style bread, so I decided to reduce the amount of yeast to try to slow the fermentation process down. In fact, to extend the fermentation process even longer I split the dough creation into two stages: one stage I started the night before and then refrigerated. The next day I added the dough (also known as the sponge) from stage one to more ingredients to create my final dough.

This method, typically known as the sponge or barm method, is a tried and true method for improving the flavor of your bread (and one I'll write more about in future lessons). I'm more-or-less using Peter Reinhart's approach from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: the stage one dough in this recipe is modeled on Peter's Pate Fermentee, and the final dough is something like his Pain de Campaign. But bakers have been using different variations of this technique for centuries.

Day 1
Before going to bed I mixed together:

1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1/2 cup of water

Mix these ingredients together in a bowl. Pour it out onto a flat surface and kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough back into a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour or so. It won't rise a lot in that time, but the yeast will begin to wake up.

Punch the dough down, place it back in the bowl, cover it with with plastic wrap again and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

Day 2

When I got up, I pulled the bowl of dough out of the fridge and let it warm on the counter for about an hour.

In a larger bowl, I combined:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (this can be regular flour. I used whole wheat flour simply because I like it!)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup of water
day one's sponge

I mixed all of the dry ingredients together. Then I chopped the sponge up into a dozen or so little pieces with a knife and mixed them into the dry ingredients. Finally I added the water and mixed everything together, adjusting the flour or water until the dough formed a nice ball of dough that was soft and tacky but was not too sticky.

I poured the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it for approximately 10 minutes. Then I put the dough back into a greased bowl and allowed it to rise for approximately 90 minutes. I then shaped the loaf and allowed it to rise for another 90 minutes.

(A note about these rise times: they are not exact. In reality, much was going on during the day, including a trip to the store and another trip to the playground, so no one was closely monitoring the clock. It seems to the uninitiated that making bread is a long and complicated process because the overall time it takes can be a day or more, but understand that it's really only about 20 minutes of work spread out over the entire day. It is easy enough to accommodate if you are going to be near the house all day.)

I put an empty metal pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheated the oven to 500 degrees.

When the oven was hot and the bread looked risen, I put the bread into the oven on the top shelf and quickly pour a cup of hot water into the pan on the bottom shelf and closed the door. After about 3-5 minutes, I reduced the temperature from 500 to 400 degrees, figuring that the loaf was done springing and would bake more evenly at a lower temperature. I baked it for 20 minutes, then rotated the loaf and bake until done.

This loaf took about 45 minutes, but time is dependent on the shape of the loaf. I used an instant-read thermometer. When the loaf hit 200 degrees inside, I pulled it out.

Aftermath

Comparing this loaf (on the right) to my bread from lesson one (on the left), I definitely noticed that this one had a nicer crust - it even crackled when I took it out of the oven and set it out to cool. It seems to me that it had a richer flavor, which was in part the whole wheat flour and partially the longer, slower rises and overnight fermentation.

A criticism of both of these loaves is that, although they are decently raised, neither one has the big irregular holes that you strive for in a rustic loaf. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One likely reason is that I handle the loaves fairly roughly when shaping them: I suspect I am squeezing out too much of the air at that stage and rolling my loaves too tight. I also suspect I am underhydrating my dough. A moister, slacker dough should have an easier time forming large pockets. Underkneading or baking before my dough is fully risen could also have been contributing factors. As I have mentioned before, getting started baking is extremely easy, but mastering baking takes a lifetime. One shouldn't be intimidated by this: the majority of your experiments still end up quite edible.


The path to perfection is tasty, indeed!

Continue to Lesson 4: Glazing.

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