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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.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Sourdough Challah (photos & recipe)

I baked my first challah last Thursday and wanted to share.

I was unsure what to expect but it was so much fun. I’d been meaning for some time to bake a recipe from Maggie Glezer’s book, A Blessing of Bread, which is a wonderful compilation of traditional Jewish recipes from around the world. Floyd has written a very nice review of the book here.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/bookreviews/ablessingofbread

I decided to start with Glezer’s own personal recipe for sourdough challah. I love making sourdough and was interested to see what the texture of this bread would be compared to a yeasted challah which I have eaten only a couple times.

The recipe seemed easy to me despite the fact Glezer calls it expert. I’m not sure why but, again, I’m new to challah. The dough was so easy to mix together and then, as Glezer puts it, the time involved is mostly waiting after that.

She says to bake it to a dark brown which I did. I’m not sure if it is considered too dark or not but it was really a beautiful color and I do typically bake my bread darker as she instructs in Artisan Baking.

The crumb was amazing to me. It was very creamy and soft and almost reminded me of an angel food cake. It has remained moist to this day (5 days later) as there are only two of us to eat and can’t quite get rid of all the bread I bake. I am going to cut very thick slices of what is remaining to freeze and later use to make French toast.

I decided for my maiden voyage into challah bread I would make an elaborate braid. I used the six-strand braid version and got a lot of help from the video Glezer did showing how to do it. Gosh, the internet is awesome! Just as she said it makes a beautiful, very high loaf.

Braiding ChallahFine Cooking Video, Maggie Glezer

http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/videos/braiding-challah.aspx?

I’m posting the recipe so those of you who are new to challah as I am can have a chance to make it and perhaps will be inspired to buy this lovely book. For those who have made challah for years I’d love it if you tried the recipe and let me know your thoughts on it compared the some of your favorite traditional recipes.

More of my photos can be seen here:

http://zolablue.smugmug.com/gallery/3500289#197395950

Thank you to each and every one of you on this site that have been such inspirations in baking such as Floyd, Bill Wraith, Susanfnp, Mountaindog, JMonkey, Browndog, Bluezebra, Eric, SDBaker, Mini Oven, Dolf, Qahtan, Zainab and so many others. All you wonderful bakers have helped me incredibly along the way over the past few months that I have been baking so many thanks to all.

My Sourdough Challah - Maggie Glezer's personal recipe from her book, A Blessing of Bread

Sweet sourdough breads are delicious and well worth the time (which is mainly waiting time) if you are a sourdough baker. The sourdough adds a subtle tang to my challah, and the crumb has a moister, creamier texture that keeps even longer than the yeasted version. While it’s true that challah or, for that matter, all bread was at one time sourdough (the Hebrew word for leaven, chametz, means “sour”), challahs have definitely gotten sweeter and richer since the introduction of commercial yeast. To convert such recipes back to 100 percent sourdough, the sugar has to be cut back in order for the dough to rise in a reasonable length of time (sugar that is more than 12 percent of the flour weight inhibits fermentation), so this version will taste slightly less sweet than the yeasted one, a deficit completely overridden by the rich complexity of the sourdough. I have also changed the all-purpose flour to bread flour, which has more gluten, to counteract the starter’s propensity to loosen the gluten (the acids in the starter change the proteins, a natural part of sourdough baking).

Skill Level: Expert

Time: About 20 hours (about 8 1/2 hours on baking day)

Makes: Two 1-pound (450-gram) challahs, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) challah plus three rolls, or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) rolls

Recipe synopsis: Make the sourdough starter and let if ferment overnight for 12 hours. The next day, mix the dough and let it ferment for 2 hours. Shape the dough and let it proof for 5 hours. Bake the breads for 15 to 40 minutes, depending on their size.

For the starter:

2 tablespoons (35 grams/1.2 ounces) very active, fully fermented firm sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier

1/3 cup (80 grams/2.8 ounces) warm water

About 1 cup (135 grams/4.8 ounces) bread flour

For final dough:

1/4 cup (60 grams/2 ounces) warm water

3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing

1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams/0.3 ounce) table salt

1/4 cup (55 grams/1.9 ounces) vegetable oil

3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.3 ounces) mild honey or a scant 1/3 cup (60 grams/2.1 ounces) granulated sugar

About 3 cups (400 grams/14 ounces) bread flour

Fully fermented sourdough starter

Evening before baking - mixing the sourdough starter: Knead starter into water until it is partially dissolved, then stir in the flour. Knead this firm dough until it is smooth. Remove 1 cup (200grams/7 ounces) of the starter to use in the final dough and place it in a sealed container at least four times its volume. (Place the remaining starter in a sealed container and refrigerate to use in the next bake.) Let the starter ferment until it has tripled in volume and is just starting to deflate, 8 to 12 hours.

Baking day - Mixing the dough:

In a large bowl, beat together the water, the 3 eggs, salt, oil, and honey (measure the oil first, then use the same cup for measuring the honey — the oil will coat the cup and let the honey just slip right out) or sugar until the salt has dissolved and the mixture is fairly well combined. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix in the bread flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface, add the starter, and knead until the dough is smooth, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now to clean and warm it for fermenting the dough.) This dough is very firm and should feel almost like modeling clay. If the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons flour.

The dough should feel smooth and very firm but be easy to knead.

Fermenting the dough:

Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for about 2 hours. It will probably not rise much, if at all.

Shaping and proofing the dough:

Line one or two large baking sheets, with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound (450-gram) portions for loaves, one 1 1/2 pound (680-gram) portion for a large loaf and three small pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this without a scale is to divide the dough into quarters and use one quarter for the rolls and the rest for the large loaf), or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) portions for rolls. Braid or shape them as desired, position them on the prepared sheet(s), and cover them well with plastic wrap. Let proof until tripled in size, about 5 hours.

Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the lower and upper third positions if using two baking sheets or arrange one rack in the upper third position if using one sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas mark 4). If desired, preheat one or two baking sheets to double with the baking sheet(s) the loaves are on. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the breads.

Baking the loaves:

When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, the 1-pound (450-gram) loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) loaf for 35 to 45 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the loaves from front to back so that they brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let cool on a rack.

zorra's picture
zorra

Chickpea bread

Recently I baked the following bread with chickpea flour. This recipe is my own creation. The chickpea flour gives the bread a light sweet taste.

chickpea bread

100 g chickpea flour
150 g white flour
5 g fresh yeast
~110 g water
1 TL honey
5 g salt
50 g refreshed sourdough

Dissolve yeast and honey in 20 g water. Mix the two flours and salt. Add sourdough, yeast and rest of water, mix and knead your dough (by hand or mixer) until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and leave covered for 1 hour or until double in size. 
Shape and leave to prove for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 230C. Mist inside with a spray. After 10 minutes reduce heat to 190 C and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove and cool.

Recipe in German: http://kochtopf.twoday.net/stories/2841127/

Recipe Convertor

I haven't had a chance to document this much. Play with it. You'll figure it out.
Better documentation to come soon.
JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Biga vs. straight dough Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Bread experiment

I'm still not ready to write a review, but from my first hands-on experience with their work, I can confidently say that Laurel Robertson and her compatriots know a thing or two about whole wheat bread.

I started my foray into the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book with their Buttermilk Bread, a loaf that they say "keeps well (when hidden)." It's true. These loaves are moist and delicious days later, but they're so deliciously sweet and light, they won't likely stick around that long.

I made two different loaves. For the first loaf, the night before, I took 30% of the flour and mixed it with the appropriate amount of water from the recipe and a bit of yeast to make a biga. The next morning, the biga was nice and ripe, so I took the remainder of the recipe, reduced the yeast from 1 tsp to 3/4 tsp, mixed it up and started to knead.

And knead.

And knead.

Then about an hour later, I mixed up a second loaf, this time following the straight-dough recipe to the letter.

Laurel recommends a long, hearty knead for whole wheat bread if you want a light, high rising loaf, which I do. About 20 minutes or 600 strokes. A few more weekends of Laurel's Kitchen-style kneading, and I'll not only have great whole-wheat bread, but enormous, rock-hard shoulders to boot. Or a herniated disc, whichever comes first.

But it does make an enormous difference in the quality of the bread. I have never seen whole-wheat bread rise so high. It's astonishing.

Her other piece of advice, which I'd heard of second-hand long before buying the book, was to let whole-wheat doughs rise twice during the bulk rise before shaping. This step takes a lot of the edge of the whole-wheat flavor, and also helps with the final rise.

I'd wondered previously in this forum whether the double rise would make a pre-ferment unnecessary. My experiment lacks a wide enough sample (2 loaves does not a sample make) to make a conclusive finding, but ... well, see for yourself. I wasn't able to put them in the oven at the same time, because kneading them seperately takes 20 minutes a piece, but I did keep all other factors equal to the best of my ability. I can't guarrantee that they proofed for exactly the same amount of time, but the age-old finger poke test showed both loaves were ready.

On the left, the straight dough. On the right, the dough made with a biga. Now, the loaf on the right did suffer from a bit of poor shaping that left a moderate gap in the top middle of the loaf, but that gap alone can't account entirely for the difference in size. Clearly, the biga loaf rose higher.

Here's another view. I scored the loaves differently so that I could tell them apart during the tasting.

So, what about it? How did they taste?

Both breads were excellent. Nevertheless, the difference was noticeable, though subtle. The loaf with the biga had a richer, stronger aroma, a deeper sweetness and a longer finish than the straight-dough. If you plan to eat this bread primarily in sandwiches or with jam, the biga will make little difference. As a bike commuter, however, the first thing I usually do after removing my helmet after my ride home is to run to the kitchen for a slice or two of plain bread to tide me over until I can cook the family meal.

If you eat the bread plain, the biga does make a difference.

Here's my version of the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book Buttermilk Bread, with a biga. NOTE: I made this using the flour and water weights, not cups (except for the buttermilk). Laurel seems to have a heavy hand with a cup of flour, so you may need to add some if you use volumetric measurements -- let the dough be your guide. Some of the cup measurements don't match grams / ounces. That's OK. It all comes out even in the end.

Biga 5 ¼ ounces -- 150 grams -- 1 cup water 250 grams -- 8 3/4 ounces -- 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Final dough All of the biga 1 ½ tsp instant yeast 4 3/4 ounces -- 135 grams-- 3/4 cup warm water ¼ cup honey 1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk 580 grams / 20.5 ounces -- 4 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 2 tsp salt 2 Tbs butter

The night before, make up the biga. Knead it until it forms a relatively smooth dough, and then cover it to sit overnight for about 12-14 hours.

The next day, tear the biga into about 12 pieces and mix it up with the rest of the ingredients. Start kneading -- it'll take about 600 strokes and 20 minutes, but once you're finished, the dough should stretch nicely into a translucent, whitish pane, flecked with bits of bran. This dough may start a bit sticky, but should lose the stickiness and become simply tacky about halfway through. Add water or flour as necessary.

Form the dough into a ball and put it into bowl or bucket. Cover it, and allow the dough to rise for about 90 minutes or so. Poke the dough with a wet finger. When the indention starts to fill in very, very slowly, the dough is risen.

Gently degas the dough, and tuck it back into a tight ball for the second rise. Fold the dough if you wish, but really, after 600 strokes, the dough shouldn't need any additional strength. Once it has risen, divide the dough into two and shape it into sandwich loaves. Place the loaves into pre-greased 8.5 x 4.5 pans. Cover the pans with plastic for the final rise.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. (I like my oven a little hotter than Laurel does -- she prefers 325). Once the dough is risen and has crested one to two inches above the side of the pan in the center, slash the loaves as you wish with a serrated knife or razor blade. Personally, I prefer a single slash down the middle, but do whatever makes you happy. Place them in the oven and steam it if you wish (I find it helps with oven spring quite a bit, even with panned loaves), and bake for about 35-40 minutes, turning once to ensure even baking.

The loaves are done when they register 195-200 in the center. Let them cool for one hour before slicing.

If you want to make this as a straight dough (no biga), just dump everything together and increase the yeast to 2 tsp.

One other point. The quality of the whole wheat flour you use will make a big difference in the quality of your bread. Whole wheat flour, unlike white flour, goes rancid and if your brand has sat on the shelf for a while at the store, it may not make good bread. Also, you want the flour to be high in gluten, so look for flour made form hard spring wheat, if possible. Hard winter will do, but it won't rise quite as high. I use King Arthur Flour, myself, and it's worked fine.

Sourdough Lessons

Community members have contributed some great information about baking naturally leavened breads. SourdoLady's pieces (who, as the name implies, knows a thing or two about sourdough) Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter and her Deluxe Sourdough Bread are among the most popular articles on the topic. JMonkey posted a great lesson on getting a sourer sourdough. Gaarp has also posted a wonderful sourdough tutorial. Other folks contributed some excellent recipes for sourdough pancakes and sourdough banana bread.

When I had my first starter going, I was able to write a couple of introductory articles on sourdough: When Yeasts Attack: A First Experience with Naturally Leavened Bread and More about Sourdough. These two articles contain enough information for an amateur baker to learn how to bake with a starter.

More recent forum posts, blog entries, and articles have included information on sourdough as well (and new information gets posted all of the time), so use the site search and look for terms like "sourdough" and "starter" to find the very latest.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My sourdough starter routine: a FAQ

My Sourdough Starter Routine: FAQ

December 30, 2014

 

I get questions about how I manage my sourdough starter frequently enough that I decided to put the information in a single blog entry to which I can refer in the future. What follows applies to a sourdough starter/levain containing mostly white wheat flour. Mostly rye and mostly whole wheat starters are different beasts.

Please understand that this is my routine. It has worked well for me for a number of years. I am not presenting it as the only way to manage sourdough starters. It may not be the best way at all for some one else. But, as I said, it works for me, and here it is:

My starter was originally was purchased from KAF in about 2008. (See: Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter - 1 oz.).

Taking care of mother

I keep my "mother starter" in the refrigerator. It is fed at a ratio of 1:2:4 (Starter:Water:Flour). When feeding the mother, I mix 50 g starter, 100 g water and 200 g flour to make 350 g total. This is refrigerated imediately after mixing. I refresh the mother every 2 to 3 weeks. The flour feeding is a mix of 70% AP, 20% WW and 10% Medium or whole rye.

Getting active

When preparing to make bread, I generally refresh the starter as a liquid starter at a ratio of 20:50:50 (Mother starter:Water:Flour) using the same flour mix described above. This is fermented to peak activity at room temperature (generally about 12 hours). 

This refreshed liquid starter is then fed again according to the specific formula I am following. In other words, the degree of hydration, the flour mix, the ratio of levain:water:starter and the fermentation time and temperature are variable.  When posting a formula, I specify these variables. This may involve converting the refreshed liquid starter to a firm starter.

Ripening

How long it takes to ferment a starter before it is ready to feed again or mix in a final dough depends on four variables (at least those are the ones I can think of at the moment):

  1. What flours you put in the starter. For example, flours with whole grains ripen faster because of their mineral content.

  2. The ratio of seed starter:flour:water. If you introduce relatively more seed starter, it has a “head start” and will ripen faster. All other things being equal, a more liquid starter will ripen faster than a more firm starter.

  3. The ambient temperature. A warmer temperature speeds up metabolic processes, including fermentation, at least within the usual range of kitchen temperatures. (The Temperature/Metabolism curves for fermentation and acid production are beyond the scope of this FAQ.) This effect can be rather dramatic. As a consequence, any instruction for how long to ferment a levain without specifying the ambient temperature should be taken with a grain of salt. (In fact, adding salt to the levain is one way of slowing fermentation down, but that's another topic for another day.)

  4. The flavor profile you want for the bread you are making. A “younger” levain will generally be less sour. A more “mature” levain will have more acid and make bread that is more sour. (Assuming the formula for the bread is otherwise the same.)

 How can you tell how ripe a levain is?

There is a lot of confusion about the criteria to use in judging the ripeness of a levain. The most common criterion I see is how much it has expanded, and “doubled in volume” is most often the specific criterion. The problem with this is twofold. First, unless you are fermenting your levain in a graduated container or have marked your container yourself, doubling is hard to measure accurately. Second, I don't think doubling carries the same meaning for liquid as for firm levains. And, at no extra charge, here is a thirdfold: Depending on the flavor profile you want, doubling (even if you could measure it accurately) may be too much or not enough.

So, as implied, I use somewhat different criteria depending on the levain's hydration, and I do use a container that is graduated, and I do use a semi-transparent container, so I can view the internal structure of the levain, not just its surface. My container is also tall relative to its diameter and has relatively straight sides. It is more like a cylinder than a bowl. This provides support to the ripening levain that permits greater expansion.

My Sourdough Starter Fermentation Container

Ripeness criteria for a firm levain

A firm levain is one with a hydration level of around 50%. That is, it contains half as much water, by weight, as flour. A firm levain can expand in volume a lot more than a liquid levain. So, volume expansion is actually a useful criterion for ripeness. A doubling in volume is generally associated with enough yeast activity to raise your dough well, but it may not be ripe enough to have fully developed flavor. I usually let my levain triple or quadruple in volume before I mix it in the final dough. In addition to volume expansion though, I look for an extensive network of large and small bubbles throughout the levain. I can see these through the walls of the container. I look for a well-domed top of the levain. And, last but not least, I look for any signs that the levain has had a decrease in volume, which indicates excessive ripeness. This is indicated by a concave surface, rather than a dome.

There is a lot of wiggle room between “ripe enough to raise dough” and “peak of fermentation, just short of collapse.” A less ripe (“young”) levain will make a sweeter bread, one with more creamy flavor from lactic acid formation. A riper (“mature”) levain will have relatively more vinegar-like, acetic acid sourness. Besides the criteria already mentioned, the aroma of the levain tells you the relative prominence of lactic versus acetic acid. You could use your sense of smell alone to judge when your levain is at the point of maturity you desire, in order to achieve the flavor profile you want for your bread.

 

Firm Levain, just fed

Firm Levain, 10 hours after feeding. Note: Approximately doubled in volume. Full of bubbles. Domed surface. I regard this as a still "young" levain.

 

Firm Levain, after 10 hours. Note: Domed surface. Some bubbles on surface.

Ripeness criteria for a liquid levain

A liquid levain is one with a hydration level of around 100%. That is, it contains equal weights of water and flour. A liquid levain cannot expand as much as a firm levain. Quite simply, all those water molecules get in the way of connections between folds of the long gluten molecules that provide structure to a firm levain and a bread dough. Now, a liquid levain does expand as fermentation produces CO2 gas, but this forms bubbles that rise to the levain surface and pop rather than getting trapped in a gluten web and causing levain expansion. If you use a glass container or a semi-transparent plastic one to ferment your liquid levain, as it ripens you can see the internal structure of the levain become full of tiny bubbles – almost like a mousse.  On the surface, you see bubbles forming, faster and faster as the levain gets riper, until they actually form a froth on the levain's surface. The surface of the ripe levain often has a "wrinkled" appearance.

As with a firm starter, one can choose to use the liquid starter “young” or more “mature.” With a liquid starter, as with a firm starter, levain recession or collapse indicates that you have let your levain over-ferment.

 

Liquid Levain, just fed.

 

Liquid Levain, just fed.

 

Liquid Levain after about 9 hours fermenting at room temperature. Note: Bubbly interior.

 

Liquid Levain surface after about 9 hours fermenting at room temperature. Note: Bubbles forming. Surface just beginning to wrinkle. This would still be "young."

The consequences of levain over-fermentation

Over-fermentation implies any combination of several bad things. The yeast may have fermented all the free sugars they can get at. Reproduction and fermentation will both slow down. The levain may not be as potent in raising the dough to which it is added. The levain may also contain excessive amounts of metabolic byproducts, especially organic acids. A little acid is good for both flavor and gluten strength. Too much acid is bad for yeast growth. An optimally ripened levain has positive effects on gluten structure, but, over time, protease activity increases, and those enzymes will degrade gluten. (That's why a very over-ripe sourdough starter that hasn't been fed new flour for a long time gets more and more liquified.)

What's missing?

There is another important variable in my routine for sourdough starter feeding and use, and that is the manipulation of fermentation temperature. Temperature effects the rate of yeast and bacterial growth and metabolism dramatically. Different metabolic processes are favored by different temperature ranges. Temperature changes can change the flavor of your bread. However, that is an advanced topic which is beyond the scope of this FAQ.

 The one temperature manipulation I will discuss is cold retardation. I often refrigerate my levain, usually at the point that it is nearly fully mature. I do this for two reasons, primarily. The first is, quite simply, my convenience. If I have to go out (or go to bed) at the point that a levain is going to be optimally ripe and ready to mix into a dough, I will stick the levain in the refrigerator, maybe for a few hours, maybe for a day or even two. The other reason I refrigerate a levain is to make it more sour. Especially a firm levain will generate more acetic acid in a cooler environment.

If I have refrigerated my levain, before mixing it into the final dough, I will usually let it come to room temperature. Sometimes, I will let it ferment further at a warm temperature, for example 86 dF in a proofing box. It is appears almost over-ripe already when it comes out of the refrigerator, I usually use warmer water when I mix the dough, so the over-all dough temperature is no excessively lowered by cold levain.

 I believe I have addressed the questions I get asked most often about my sourdough starter care and feeding. As indicated, there are additional more advanced topics I have not addressed in this FAQ. Maybe I will another day. 

I hope this helps.

Happy baking!

David

MarkS's picture
MarkS

Help me understand "builds".

Peter Reinhart touched on this briefly in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, but did not elaborate.

I am working on a sourdough recipe. I want a 350 gram leaven in the final dough, so I am starting with 50 grams of 100% starter.

If I understand the meaning, my leaven has three builds with a fourth when added to the final dough, as follows:

First build: 50 grams of starter, plus 15 grams of flour to bring it to 60% hydration. Ferment overnight at room temp.

Second build: 100 grams flour plus 59 grams water, and ferment again at room temp.

Third build: 70 grams of flour plus 56 grams of water and ferment.

The final build will be adding it to the final dough. This, to me, seems what is meant by "build". Is this correct, and if so, what purpose is there in doing this as opposed to just adding the correct amount of flour and water to bring it to 350 grams and letting it ferment?

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

My San Francisco Sourdough Quest, Take 4

I almost decided not to bake this past weekend, but I activated some starter, thinking I might make some sourdough pancakes for breakfast Sunday. But, then, there was this starter, and I thought maybe I'd bake something or other. Well, I might as well have some fresh-baked bread for Sunday dinner, and it had been a while since I'd given a loaf to my next door neighbor who really appreciates my breads. I guessed I'd make some San Francisco-style sourdough to share.

I didn't want to be completely tied to the time-demands of my dough, so I relaxed the rigorous procedures with which I had been working to accommodate the other things I wanted to do. I expected the bread to be “good” but maybe not quite as good as last week's bake.

To my surprise and delight, the bread turned out to be the best San Francisco-style sourdough I had ever baked. So I am documenting what I did and hope it's reproducible. And I'm sharing it with you all. The modifications in my procedures were determined by convenience of the moment. This was sort of “a shot in the dark that hit the bullseye.”

So, here are the formula and procedures for this bake:

I started with my stock refrigerated 50% starter that had been fed last weekend. This feeding consisted of 50 g active starter, 100 g water and 200 g starter feeding mix. My starter feeding mix is 70% AP, 20% WW and 10% whole rye flour.

I activated the starter with a feeding of 40 g stock starter, 100 g water and 100 g starter feeding mix. This was fermented at room temperature for 16 hours, then refrigerated for about 20 hours. I then mixed the stiff levain.

Stiff levain

Bakers' %

Wt (g)

for 1 kg

Wt (g)

for 2 kg

Bread flour

95

78

157

Medium rye flour

5

4

8

Water

50

41

82

Stiff starter

80

66

132

Total

230

189

379

  1.  Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the flour and mix thoroughly until the flour has been completely incorporated and moistened.

  2. Ferment at room temperature for 16 hours.

Final dough

Bakers' %

Wt (g)

for 1 kg

Wt (g)

for 2 kg

AP flour

90

416

832

WW Flour

10

46

92

Water

73

337

675

Salt

2.4

11

22

Stiff levain

41

189

379

Total

216.4

953

2000

Method

  1. In a stand mixer, mix the flour and water at low speed until it forms a shaggy mass.

  2. Cover and autolyse for 120 minutes

  3. Add the salt and levain and mix at low speed for 1-2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium (Speed 2 in a KitchenAid) and mix for 5 minutes. Add flour and water as needed. The dough should be rather slack. It should clean the sides of the bowl but not the bottom.

  4. Transfer to a lightly floured board and do a stretch and fold and form a ball.

  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly.

  6. Ferment at 76º F for 31/2 to 4 hours with a stretch and fold at 50 and 100 minutes.

  7. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. (Note: I had made 2 kg of dough.)

  8. Pre-shape as rounds and rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

  9. Shape as boules or bâtards and place in bannetons. Place bannetons in plastic bags.

  10. Proof at room temperature (68-70º F) for 1-2 hours.

  11. Cold retard the loaves overnight.

  12. The next morning, proof the loaves at 85º F for 3 hours. (If you can't create a moist, 85 degree F environment, at least try to create one warmer than “room temperature.” For this bake, I took two loaves out of the fridge and started proofing them. I took the third loaf out about an hour later and stacked it balanced on top of the other two. I did one bake with the first two loaves and a second bake with the third loaf.)

  13. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 480º F with a baking stone and steaming apparatus in place.

  14. Transfer the loaves to a peel. Score the loaves as desired, turn down the oven to 460º F, steam the oven, and transfer the loaves to the baking stone.

  15. After 15 minutes, remove the steaming apparatus, and turn down the oven to 435º F/Convection. (If you don't have a convection oven, leave the temperature at 460º F.)

  16. Bake for another 15 minutes.

  17. Turn off the oven, and leave the loaves on the stone, with the oven door ajar, for another 15 minutes.

  18. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack, and cool thoroughly before slicing.

 

Note: Because these loaves were smaller than those baked in “Take 3,” the oven temperature was hotter , and the baking time was shorter. I also wanted a slightly darker crust, which this modification accomplished.

The crust was thick and very crunchy but not “hard.” The crumb was more open than my last bake. The crust had a sweet, nutty flavor. The crumb had sweetness with a definite whole grain wheat overtone and a more pronounced acetic acid tang. It had a wonderful cool mouth feel and was a bit more tender than the last bake.

This bread was close in flavor and texture to the best tasting bread I've ever had which was a half kilo of pain de campagne cut from an absolutely huge miche in Les Eyzies, France some 15 years ago. It's a taste I've never forgotten and often wished I could reproduce.

I need to make me a miche like this!

David

Submitted to YeastSpotting 

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