The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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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!

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Steel-cut Oat Bread

Steel-cut Oat Bread

 

Makes two large loaves. 

 

Steps1  evening before bake day

 

1. Refresh 100% starter to yield +200 grams for the next morning.  Overnight room temps can be 60F.  Use 50 gm whole wheat, 50 gm AP, 100 gm H2O and 30 gm natural leaven at 100% hydration.

Steps 2 - 12 , bake day AM.  Work at 70F

2. Pour 600 gm boiling H2O over 300 gm steel cut oats in a pot or bowl with a lid or cover.  Stir the oats once and  cover. Let steep 45 minutes.

3.  (45 minutes later) Pour the steel cut oats and associated water into a large sieve  set over a bowl. Let drain about 30 minutes but capture and reserve the water. After 10 minutes use the accumulated water.

4. Into your bulk dough bowl, add the oat water and enough other water to yield 650 gm. 

5. Add to the bulk dough water, 200 gm starter and whisk to incorporate.

6. In a small bowl add 50 gm of remaining oat drainage water (add more water if necessary) to 25 gm kosher salt.  Set aside.

7. Add 1 kg AP flour to water and starter in bulk dough bowl. Mix by hand or on a work surface until all flour is moistened. Dough may be rather stiff.

8. Let dough autolyse for 30 minutes. 

9. Add salt and associated water to dough by hand. When the salt-water is incorporated, do a set of stretch and folds. Return to bowl and let rest 30 minutes. Do another set of stretch and folds. Let rest 30 minutes. 

10.  Add the oats.  Turn the dough out on to a wet work surface. Stretch the dough into a large rectangle. Incorporate the oats using letter folds. [Sprinkle 1/3 of the  steel cut oats on to the middle 1/3 of the dough. Fold an end 1/3 of the dough over the oats. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the oats over the middle and fold the final 1/3 of the dough over the middle. turn the dough and sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining oats over the middle. Fold the end over the middle, sprinkle the remaining oats over the middle and fold again.]  Give the dough a few kneads to ensure good distribution of the oats. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover and rest at 70F until doubled ( maybe 3-4 hrs.)

11. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Form into balls and let rest 15 minutes.  Shape into logs (for oval loaves) or rounds (for boules) depending on whether you are baking in round or oval dutch ovens (or oval Romertopfs , as I do).  Roll smooth (non-seam)  surface of shaped doughs into rolled oats to cover the surface and place seam side up into appropriately shaped forms. Let proof about 1hr 30 minutes at 70F. 

12. At the 1 hr, 30 minute mark, place dutch ovens into oven and preheat to 500F for about 30 minutes.  Remove dutch ovens, turn loaves out onto dusted work surface, score, place into dutch ovens, cover and place in the oven.  Lower oven temp to 475F and bake 30 minutes. Remove dutch oven covers and bake for 25-30 minutes uncovered at 450F. Let cool completely.  While they can be eaten as soon as completely cooled, the loaves will hold perfectly, uncut,  1-2 days as the moisture from the steel-cut oats permeates the crumb.

 

eatalready's picture
eatalready

Borodinsky Supreme -- Old School -- 100% Rye

Borodinsky bread is my childhood staple food.  We had it practically every day and never grew tired of it. The aroma, the well balanced sweet and sour, the substantial “meaty” crumb and thin glossy crust — should I go on listing all the wonderful things that put this loaf in the bread hall-of-fame?

Nowadays, it seems that every dark rye bread sprinkled with caraway or coriander seed claims the name Borodinsky.  I tried those sorry numbers from stores that carry Russian foods… Half of them are too dry and too fluffy, others are missing that signature tang that only wild sourdough can lend, others still, generously “enhanced” with chemicals resemble very little of the bread we used to eat instead of chocolate.

Over the years, I’ve seen scores of recipes of Borodinsky and, having tried more than enough of them, came to a grim conclusion that the true Borodinsky has become a myth, an urban legend, an elusive unicorn — many claim to have seen one, but none actually delivered the goods.  However, I knew that somewhere out there in the world of used books, there should be an old school formula from soviet bread factories, a so called GOST (Government Mandated Standards) recipe, or even an older one, which, if done right with good ingredients and a bit of careful planning, could yet bear the right results.

Making 100% Rye Borodinsky Supreme

I was right.  There are still some serious bread enthusiasts, both in Russia and otherwise, who dug up the old textbooks and technologies and rendered very good step-by-step instructions accompanied by beautiful photos explaining the process in modern terms and in great detail. Some even dared to adapt for available flour types in each country via many a trial (and, no doubt, some error).  Exciting!

Now to the business of the actual Borodinsky.  Majority of us who grew up with Borodinsky, consumed the part rye/part wheat bread.  It was delicious and we loved every bit of it.  There is, however, a version of Borodinsky of a higher grade, called “supreme”, which is 100% rye.  It blends whole rye and white rye flours in 85/15 proportion.  No wheat to be found. The formula of that bread is cited in the book by Plotnikov called 350 Varieties of Bread (4th Edition, 1940). Some of the formulas in the book existed before government standards were established (1939).  See, many GOST formulas were streamlined for mass production, sometimes simplified, cheapened, etc., while many of the pre-GOST formulas upheld the old school best traditional methods and standards of bread making, thus yielding superior (albeit more labor and time consuming) bread.

Making Red Rye Malt Flour

Sprouting organic rye berries to make red rye malt

Making Red Rye Malt Flour

Final product — red rye malted flour, milled moderately fine

When I stumbled upon the pre-GOST formula, and soon thereafter a detailed blog post with illustrations, I was beside myself. The only thing that stood between me and 100% rye Borodinsky loaf was red rye malt, more precisely, the lack of the above.  Now, that one I still can’t get over.  Possibly due to differences in product naming, and partly due to the fact that I can’t reliably get the true organic red rye malt anywhere in quantities less than 100 kilo (190 lbs), I finally decided to make red rye malt flour at home.  I entrusted myself to the detailed set of instructions I found on this site (THANK YOU!!!), and made my first batch the other day.

Making 100% Rye Borodinsky Supreme

I have to say that the aroma that permeated my house during the roasting process has brought back some serious childhood memories, and for that alone I will be forever grateful.  It also brought the first promise of true Borodinsky in the future, because it smelled exactly like our USSR bread shops filled with still warm unwrapped bread loaves.

Anyway, I am getting distracted here, as my bread is almost done baking and the entire house is now smelling unbearably beautiful.

The process is quite lengthy, but the actual hands-on time is minimal. Good ‘ole “good things come to those who wait” has never been more true (well maybe beat by the famous Pumpernickel). The most important thing here is to plan your pre-baking stages, so that they don’t disrupt your busy schedule.

My impression of the bread: for me it turned out a bit sweet and under-salted, even though I weighed everything quite precisely. The aroma and visual appeal were definitely there. The crumb and crust are both as I remember them. Thin, slightly crunchy crust and substantial, lightly moist, uniformly porous crumb. Color is about milk-chocolate shade. I feel I could have given it a bit more rise and it could be baked at a higher temperature — the top didn’t come out quite as dark as it should be, but the bread was at 180F throughout and baked uniformly through.  I will definitely try this recipe again with the above adjustments.  Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend this formula, especially if you like your bread with a touch of sweetness.  It passed the ultimate test of schmaltz with cracklings and coarse salt, the sweetness of the loaf was just perfect for this.

References/Sources:

- Detailed blog post with superb step-by-step photo of rye+wheat Borodinsky 1939 version (in Russian) http://registrr.livejournal.com/16193.html

- Blog post with excellent photos  of 100% rye Borodinsky Supreme (in Russian) http://mariana-aga.livejournal.com/152489.html

Borodinsky Supreme

Makes a small loaf in a 1-1/2 quart (1.4 liter) pan.
From start to finish (with some steps going simultaneously) – 14-16 hrs

Step 1: Rye starter

Refresh your 100% hydration rye starter (6-8 hrs), you will need 125 g of it

Step 2: Scalding (5-6 hrs)

  • 200 g boiled water at 150F (65C)
  •   50 g whole rye flour
  •   25 g red rye malt flour

Step 3: Pre-ferment  (3-4 hrs or until doubles or more)

  • all of the scalded batch
  • 125 g refreshed starter
  • 125 g whole rye flour
  • 125 g water, room temperature

Step 4: Final dough — soft and very sticky (30-90 min bulk fermentation or until doubles or more)

  • all of the preferment
  • 200 g whole rye flour
  •   75 g white rye flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 30 g sugar
  • 25 g molasses (I used Blackstrap)
  • 2.5 g ground coriander (best if freshly ground for more intense flavor)
  • 0.5 g dry yeast activated in 75 g water and 3 g sugar (20 minutes)

Step 5: Shaping and final proofing (60 min or until tops the pan)

Grease 1.5 quart loaf pan. Pack the dough nicely into corners at first and then the rest. Smooth over with wet hands. Cover with plastic and let rise until reaches the top of the loaf pan.

Step 6: Flour washing (1 min)

Mix 1 tbsp AP flour with 50 ml water, shake well. Brush the bread right before setting into the oven. Sprinkle the top sparingly with whole coriander or caraway seed, if desire

Step 7: Baking (60 min)

Preheat to 400F (200C). Bake 60 minutes.

Step 8: Kissel (custard) washing (1 min)

Mix 1 tsp corn or potato starch with 150 ml water. Bring to a boil.  Brush the bread as soon as it finishes baking. Remove the loaf from pan and cool on rack.

Flour wash before baking and custard wash after baking are needed for creating that famous beautiful glossy, almost lacquered looking crust on top of the loaf, which also prevents the bread from going stale too fast.

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

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.

 

 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

A Hamburger Bun

A Hamburger BunA Hamburger Bun

I just got a new barbecue grill, so hamburgers were in order. As a home bread baker, I've occasionally made homemade hamburger buns, and there is no question that a hamburger is just better with freshly baked buns.

If you've had the same thought, well here's a recipe for a hamburger bun. The recipe uses direct method instant yeast, so it only takes 3-4 hours. The hydration is a little higher than french bread, but still very easy to handle.

A Hamburger Bun

The Dough:

  • AP flour (I used KA AP) 650 grams
  • Water 290 grams
  • milk 200 grams
  • olive oil 30 grams
  • salt 13 grams
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • Mix flour, water, milk together using frisage and a few folds, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Mix/Knead

Work yeast into the dough, then work salt into the dough, then work olive oil into the dough. This can be done with a mixer or by hand using frisage and a few folds. Then knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it becomes workable, stretchy, and seems like it bounces back when you punch it, or whatever magic you use to tell if the dough is right. Add flour or water if necessary to make the dough elastic and not too stiff, but it shouldn't spread out when placed on a table. Place the dough in a container to rise.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding (about 2.5 hours)

When the dough has risen by about half, which should happen in roughly an hour, turn it out on the counter, spread it out a little, pressing on it gently. Then, pull a side of the dough and gently stretch and then fold it into the center of the dough. Do this for four sides. You will now have approximately a ball of dough again. Turn it over and push the seams created by the folding under it. Place it seams down back in the container. Repeat this again in about another hour when it should be about double the volume of the original dough when you first mixed it. Then, let it rise for another 0.5 hours or so.

Shaping

Split the dough into ten pieces. I use a scale and break pieces of dough off if necessary. Let the pieces rest for 5 minutes. Take each piece and do the same type of fold as above in the bulk fermentation. You press it down and spread it out gently, and then fold the four sides toward the middle. After folding, turn it over, and make it into a small boule by pushing the sides under and creating some tension on the top surface. Press down on it with your palm again, to seal the seams underneath. Shape all ten buns and place them on a peel or sheet, leaving some room. I had to bake these in two batches in order to have enough room in my oven. Spray them very lightly with oil. Cover them with a towel.

Final Proof

While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 450F.

Prepare to Bake

Paint the buns with milk and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Press them down gently with your palm to spread them out a little.

Bake

Bake for about 15 minutes at 450F. The internal temperature should be around 207F

Cool

Let them cool for a few minutes at least.

buddye's picture
buddye

Sourdough Banana Bread

This is an outstanding sourdough banana bread that I would like to pass on. This came from Don and Myrtle Holm's Sourdough Cookbook in 1972. I have used it many times with excellent results.

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp grated orange rind

Cream together the shortening and sugar, add egg, and mix until blended. Stir in bananas and sourdough starter. Add orange rind or vanilla. Sift flour, measure again with salt, baking powder, and soda. Add flour mixture and walnuts to the first mixture, stirring just until blended. Pour into greased 9x5" loaf pan. Bake in moderate or 350� oven for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Hint: I used 1/2 cup cooking/baking Splenda for regular sugar. Came out beautifully.

Mixing and Dough Development

This is the part of baking that is intimidating to many new bakers, and it doesn't need to be. Please take a few minutes to read this section and begin to learn what the dough should feel like and how to get it feeling like it is well developed. Many of us started baking by using a bread machine or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer to mix and knead the dough. While this works reasonably well, and other methods are described below, you will learn more quickly how the dough should feel in the different stages of development if you use the tools god gives us, our hands. For thousands of years humans have made good bread using only a crude bowl and their hands as tools. While commercial bakeries don't have the time to hand mix and shape thousands of loaves daily, much of what is wrong with commercial bread starts here in the first phase of bread making.


Mixing: Start by gathering all of the needed ingredients for the recipe. If you are making a basic French style bread that uses just the basic four ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast), measure or better, weigh each item carefully ahead of time and have it in front of you ready to use. This might seem like over simplifying this procedure but I can tell you from experience you will forget the salt or pour all the water in without having measured it or can't remember some additional ingredient, if you don't get organized, first.


In a large bowl, add all of the dry ingredients first and stir or mix them together well. This means that Instant Dry Yeast and salt are added to the flour and any other dry ingredients you may be using with your recipe. NOTE: If you are using Active Dry Yeast, the directions for re activating this type of yeast call for adding the yeast to a cup or so of the water (warmed) needed for the recipe  5 or 10 minutes ahead of mixing the dough. If you are using Cake Yeast, crumble it with and into the flour using your fingers.
Continuing; Next, add all of the water and begin combining the flour into the water. You can use your fingers, (yes it will be a mess but it is supposed to be) or a spoon to accomplish this first mixing. Wood, Stainless Steel, Plastic, any kind of spoon or bowl will do fine. When the mixture is mostly a shaggy mass and looks like most of the dry flour is combined into the mass, you can stop, clean your hands over the bowl and cover the bowl with a plastic bag or a damp towel or plastic wrap. Plastic grocery bags are my favorite. Wait at least 15 minutes and as long as an hour for the flour to absorb the water. When you come back to the mix, it won't feel anything like it did after first mixing. Scrape everything you can onto a clean counter and quickly clean and dry the mixing bowl.


 


Kneading or Developing: This is the fun part of bread making. You are starting with a mixture of flour, water, salt and yeast. At the moment it is just those things put together in a bowl. We need to develop these things into something more, a smooth dough. The best way to show you or tell you how to accomplish this is with a video. There are many video clips that show similar techniques but this one I like the best. Richard Bertinet has produced an excellent video with Gourmet Magazine that shows the mixing technique above, and the slap and fold kneading technique that many of us now use in some form or another. I urge you to watch this video and learn to do this maneuver with the dough. As you will see in the video, the dough gradually comes together and becomes smooth and flexible. Bertinet is making a sweet dough with eggs and sugar but the method works on any kind of dough or bread type. Finish by rounding and putting tension on the outer skin of the dough and forming a ball.


Once the dough is well developed, smooth and rounded, lightly oil the now clean mixing bowl with a few drops of oil on your fingers (or lightly spray regular cooking oil into the bowl) and place the dough into the bowl, seams down and roll the ball around to coat all the surfaces. Cover the bowl as before during what is called the Primary Ferment. During the primary ferment, the dough will expand in volume as the yeast begins to eat the sugars in the flour and create Carbon Dioxide. Your well developed dough will trap those CO2 bubbles and form pockets that will become the air pockets in the bread, making it lighter.


NOTE: For Whole Grain and Multi-Grain breads, It is advisable to not try and develop the dough entirely by kneading. The sharper grains will cut the gluten strands and allow the CO2 gas to escape. A Stretch and Fold will often work as well, done during the primary ferment. A link to this procedure is provided below.


You can always come back to using some appliance to mix and knead your dough. In fact some doughs are somewhat better suited to machine mixing, but not many. You can easily produce wonderful bread in the manner of our ancestors.


Once the dough has doubled in volume you are ready for the next step, Shaping


There are a number of ways to develop dough. The easiest is probably to put it in a KitchenAid-type mixer. About 8 to 10 minutes of mixing the ingredients in a KitchenAid on low speed will generally do the trick.

There’s no need to buy a KitchenAid, though, to make good bread. Here are three ways of developing dough by hand.

Traditional Kneading:
Use this method when the dough will rise fairly quickly (1-2 hours for the first rise) or if I’m in a hurry to get it developed.

First, mix the ingredients with a spoon until everything is hydrated. Cover and wait about 15 to 20 minutes – this way, you’ll let the water do most of your work for you (if you don’t have time for this step, feel free to skip it – you may have knead just a little more, though). After this waiting period is done, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a smooth surface, and push on the down and forward with the heels of your hands. Fold it up back on itself, give the dough a quarter turn, and repeat.

Knead for about 4-5 minutes, and then cover it. Let it rest about 5 minutes, and then knead once again for 1-2 minutes. It should be well developed at this point.

One way to test dough development is to tear off a small chunk and then gently stretch it. If the dough is ready, you should be able to stretch it thin enough so that it becomes translucent. This is called the “windowpane” test.

Stretch and Fold: This method adds about an hour to the rise of an ordinary yeasted loaf, but when you’re working with sourdoughs or yeasted breads that have a long rise anyway, it doesn’t make that much difference. And it takes hardly active time at all – just a few minutes total. Really!

Mix the ingredients with a spoon until hydrated. Cover and wait 30 minutes to 1 hour. After this rest, scrape the dough out of the bowl and stretch it to about twice its length, if possible. For the first fold, the dough will still be pretty shaggy, so only go as far as you can without ripping. Fold the dough like a letter, give it a quarter turn, and then stretch and fold once again. Place it back in the bowl and cover.

Repeat this folding process twice more with 20-30 minutes in between each one.


More information and a video may be found here: http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfold.html




Stretching and Folding Illustrated: Here is the Stretch and Fold method illustrated by Mebake (Khalid). He has artfully depicted the process of keeping the dough in the bowl while developing the gluten and incorporating air into the dough. This easy to do technique is employed by many members here and allows the baker the opportunity to develop the gluten in a bowl during fermentation with little effort and no mess. Once you understand how this works, I'm sure you will use it every time.


 


French fold: This is a great, quick method for developing dough, but it requires a relatively long rest after everything is hydrated, so it’s most appropriate for doughs with a long bulk rise.

Once everything is hydrated, cover and let the dough rest for a least an hour. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a smooth surface. With one hand on either side of the dough and your thumbs underneath, stretch the dough parallel to your body while simultaneously folding it in half along its length with your thumbs.

Give the dough a quarter turn, pick it up, and then throw it down onto the surface, smooth side down. Really, smack it down. Stretch it again while simultaneously folding it over with your thumbs, make another quarter turn, and give it yet another smack with the smooth side down.

Do this about 10 times, and you’ll have a well developed dough. If it doesn't seem as developed as you'd like or if it starts to tear, let it rest for 5 minutes, and repeat.


A good video of this technique may be found here: http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough


An alternative method: that  keeps the dough in the bowl and all of the kneading is done there.


I use my fingers and scrape the dough into a single lump and flatten it and then fold it in half, turn it a quarter turn and fold again and flatten it. I continue this for about twenty folds. Often it gets very stiff and needs to rest for a few minutes to relax. As noted the dough will let you know when you have done enough.  This stretches the original surface a million times the size it was at the start and assures a complete blending of the ingredients. I use this method because it confines the mess and permits making bread in less than ideal places. See the illustration mentioned above for a pictorial that describes this process.


There is no wrong way to knead bread but some ways are much better than others. Some breads benefit from special kneading and handling and some are very hard to get wrong. Before kitchens and mechanical mixers and tables there were dough troughs and all of the mixing and kneading was done there. You could make bread in a dough trough and bake it on a hot flat stone on an open fire.


No knead bread: For bread mixes that use very little leavening and are fairly wet, time provides the development.
Simply mix everything up until hydrated, cover and go to sleep. Anywhere from 12 to 18 hours later, give the dough one stretch and fold, shape as necessary, and then let it rise a couple of hours until it’s ready to bake. Learning to use a plastic scraper to handle dough in the mixing bowl, as described below, is a big help.


Alternative video: If you are just a little adventurous, Check out this excellent video, provided by Mark Sinclair of The Back Home Bakery. Mark demonstrates folding in the bowl using a plastic scraper over a period of time to develop strength in the dough. This and all of Marks videos are excellent training aids.

Section II: Bread Basics

You can jump right in and start baking without knowing much about the ingredients or how the process works, but if you'll take the time to learn a little bit about the baking process you'll find baking to be much more rewarding.  You'll also be equipped to modify recipes to fit your taste if you first understand how those modifications will change the results.

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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