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Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 1

You know what they say... Life is a journey. But have you ever been pulled down a path that you otherwise would have walked on by? That's what happened to me when I started playing with sourdough. I didn't even like sourdough, or so I thought until about seven and a half years ago. I was watching the food network one day, and Daniel Leader appeared as a guest on Cooking Live. He was demonstrating how to make a sourdough starter from nothing but flour and water. How fascinating! I had no idea you could do that. Bread science was nowhere in the curriculum when I went to university almost 30 years ago, let alone sourdough. But for someone with a microbiology degree and a passion for baking, sourdough is the perfect marriage of two loves. I had to try it for myself. And so began the journey. The path so far has taken some surprising twists and turns, and led to meeting many interesting people along the way. Including Peter Reinhart, who has been nothing but gracious and supportive throughout, and who is ultimately responsible for getting me to sit down and record this story in my own words. Now, back to the beginning...


In early 2002, I was a member of the King Arthur Baking Circle, a message board for baking enthusiasts. With this brand new interest in sourdough, I found myself reading all of the threads under that category. In March another member, Pat Doucette began posting of the difficulties she was having in getting a starter going. She had tried a few different recipes with no success. Now she was following the formula in The Bread Baker's Apprentice and... still no luck. Newly armed with all of the advice that she was getting from others on the forum, she started over. And once again, she got results that were nothing like the book describes. But a pattern was becoming clear. On the second day, her seed cultures would fill with bubbles and expand to over three times the starting volume when minimal growth was expected. And then do nothing on the third and fourth days when they were supposed to be expanding more and more. They came on strong and then died at the same point each time. A pattern holds a clue, so I offered to do the procedure myself and see if I could reproduce what she was seeing. I followed the directions to the letter and, lo and behold, my results duplicated Pat's perfectly. I may be the only person on the planet who would be excited about this, but it gave me something to study and troubleshoot. There was something unexpected going on at the microbial level. Living things are funny that way, and microorganisms don't always follow directions.


One by one, other people on the message board began to speak up and post that they had experienced the same thing. In fact, it seemed that many more saw that scenario than the one described in the book. This phenomenon had nothing to do with local strains of lactobacilli and yeast as some had surmised, because Pat was making starter in Massachusetts and I was in Missouri. Others chiming in represented various regions of the country from coast to coast. This pattern is apparently quite common. We ran the gamut of theories on why yeast were coming on like gangbusters, only to quit and become non-responsive. We tested each theory by trying different flours at various points, increasing the feeding frequency, changing the hydration and water source, cooling it down, and anything else that anyone thought might help. But in the end, nothing fixed the problem, and the results weren't making much sense to me.


At that point, I had to do what microbiologists do when things don't add up---go back to the microscope and take a look. That meant packing up my starters, taking them to work, and having to answer all the curious questions about what I was doing and why. But the microscope answered a few of my questions, and that day proved to be the turning point. No wonder things didn't make any sense! We were operating on the assumption that we were growing yeast. What I found was that there were no yeast or lactobacilli to be seen anywhere in all the activity of day two. Not a single one. But it was like a three-ring circus in there---different kinds of bacteria, some round, some rod-shaped, some motile, some not. Some were spinning, some were twirling, some flipping or zigzagging, and some were just darting back and forth across the field. What were these bacteria, and which one was responsible for all the gas?


I knew, from having made so many starters by now, that this pattern does turn into sourdough if given more time. So, I looked at cultures each day in the process, comparing them to my established starter which was yeasty and stable. Everything quiets down in there and yeast emerges a few to several days later. They don't appear to be coming from the air as many people believe, because it happens even in a covered container. But if they are already in the flour as the more reliable sources say, then why couldn't I find any? Obviously, there was more to this than just a symbiotic relationship between lactobacilli and yeast gradually increasing in number, good guys out-competing bad---the usual explanation. It was evident that there are many more bacterial and fungal species present in flour than just sourdough lactobacilli and yeast. But where were the good guys? Why weren't they growing? It was time to close the cookbooks and open the textbooks.


I turned to a large, newly updated food microbiology tome, and was disappointed to find only two brief paragraphs on sourdough, and not much more on yeasted breads. So it became a challenge to find the information, mostly borrowed from chapters on wine, beer, dairy, and other food fermentations that share something in common with sourdough. I was able to narrow down the gas producer to a Leuconostoc species. The tip-off was reading that almost 90% of spoiled doughs are caused by Leuconostoc mesenteroides or Leuconostoc dextranicum. When I started searching for more on the genus, I found Leuconostoc mesenteroides is considered the primary agent in the fermentation of an Indian steamed bread called idli. (Spoilage is a subjective thing from culture to culture.) After soaking grains for a day and then grinding them with water into a paste, there is a 15-24 hour fermentation during which the idli batter increases in volume by about one and one half to three times---the same as our wild day two growth.


Leuconostocs are also occasional spoilage bacteria in wine making, "but they undergo little or no growth during the alcoholic fermentation and tend to die off because of competition from yeasts. Nevertheless, these bacteria are capable of abundant growth in the juice and, if yeast growth is delayed, they could grow and spoil the juice or cause stuck alcoholic fermentation."[1] Many microorganisms produce characteristic aroma compounds, and so smell is also an important clue. I had previously described an unamended, all-white seed culture as smelling like sour milk with a hint of rotten cheese. Then I learned that some leuconostocs are added to dairy fermentations (such as cultured buttermilk, and cheeses like Gouda, Edam, blue cheese and havarti) for their carbon dioxide and aroma compounds. Together, these pieces all fit what we were seeing, and according to the chapter on fermented vegetables, leuconostocs are quite common in nature and found routinely on all kinds of produce and plant material. So, we can expect them to be present on grains and in flour.


Knowing how bland a flour-water mixture starts out, and seeing how the microscopic picture becomes more subdued as the sourness increases, it was apparent that the shift in populations and activity are tied to changes in acidity. pH is a fundamental factor in microbial growth. Some like it neutral while others need more acidity or alkalinity, but each species has its own pH range. The reason that the starters had become quiet on day three was because the pH had fallen and the gas-producing bacteria were no longer growing. Even though I still wasn't sure what these bacteria were, it was clear that whenever the gas-producing one or ones grew, the starter would subsequently become still and take longer to finish---sometimes by several days. I reasoned that the best solution might simply be to keep them from growing. And since they stop growing as the pH drops, why not add an acidic ingredient to the mixture to lower the pH and inhibit them from the outset?


It was May now and Evan Shack had entered the picture. Unaware that this was already a hot topic, he began posting to the message board seeking help after having just tried to make starter and getting the same result that we had. Evan was interested in learning the science behind it, and he and Pat were both eager to get to the bottom of the problem, so they volunteered to do some testing. Soon after we joined forces, Gary Wray contacted me and we invited him to join our little task team. With so many different recipes to choose from, it was clear that there are several approaches to making starter. But we needed to pick a direction to focus our problem-solving efforts. And because so many people on the message board were loyal fans of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the group decided the goal would be to use that formula, altering it as little as possible, and make it proceed as described in the book. The fix should be simple, with ingredients readily available at home or in the average grocery store. Our choices for the acids were ascorbic (vitamin C), citric (sour salt), tartaric (cream of tartar), acetic (vinegar), lactic (yogurt), and mixed acids (fruit juices).


For our first trial we chose ascorbic acid, because it is readily available in the vitamin supplement section, known to be beneficial, and widely accepted in bread-making. Pat and I used vitamin C tablets that we had on hand. We crushed them and mixed the powder with the flour and water on day one. And much to our amazement... it worked! No gassy bacteria, and we were both growing yeast on or before day four, where it had been taking about seven days. But I discovered a little problem with supplement pills, which is that some are buffered without being labeled as such. I was not getting the pH to drop in mine even though I kept adding more and more vitamin C. When I took a closer look at the bottle, I found two ingredients listed which together, formed a buffer system that was keeping me from reaching the pH I was aiming for. Pat's vitamin C was not buffered and her starter took off in only three days.


Buffer problems aside, neither one of us enjoyed the task of crushing pills. And whirring them in a blender with the water only worked so-so. We also had no idea what the best dose would be. Gary and I both had ascorbic acid powder, so we did another experiment testing different doses ranging from 1/8 to over 1 teaspoon mixed with the 4.25 ounces of flour on day one. It was a fun experiment to do. With the jars lined up next to one another, they looked like perfect stair steps as the starters began to rise. It was easy to see which doses were most effective by how fast and how high the cultures rose. For me, the most active jars were the ones with 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder. For Gary, the best results came from 1/2 and 3/4 teaspoon, and so we settled on 1/2 teaspoon as the recommended dose. While the ascorbic acid worked quite well, and may be the ingredient of choice for purists or professionals, the average person must go a little out of their way to find or mail-order it. So we decided to press on.


All of the acids that we tried, inhibited the gassy bacteria effectively, but sour salt (sometimes found with canning supplies) was so strong that it was hard to measure the tiny amounts accurately. Cream of tartar (found in the spice section) was too weak, and required an impractical amount to effectively lower the pH. We dismissed lactic acid because we didn't want to deal with dairy or go to the trouble of draining yogurt for the whey. And vinegar was so highly inhibitory to yeast in the doses required to lower the pH, that it was no solution at all. That left fruit juices. I tested the pH of various juices and made a list for the group to try---apple cider, orange, lemon, grapefruit and pineapple juices seemed like the most suitable candidates based on wide availability. But whenever trying a new juice or acid, I had the group run a negative control alongside---a duplicate to the test in every way, except using plain water. This would show whether changes in the result were due to the ingredients under evaluation, or to chance or variation in experimental conditions. Time after time though, the control jars followed the familiar pattern, while the test jars proceeded by the book.


While the trials were under way I went back to basics, monitoring the changes in acidity and examining seed cultures under the microscope every day. I recorded pH readings, growth measurements and observations at the beginning and end of each 24-hour feeding cycle. After a number of runs, I gathered my notes to compare and look for patterns. (My pH paper was only sensitive to the nearest 0.5 increment, so readings are approximate.) I found that when I acidified the day one mix to 4.5, it stayed at 4.5 until I fed it again on day two. If I didn't add more acid at that time, the freshly fed starter would read 5 and the gassy bacteria grew on day two and followed the oh-so-familiar pattern. If I acidified the day one mix to 4, it stayed at 4 until I fed it on day two, after which it read 4.5. The gassy bacteria did not grow and the culture started producing its own acid as other lactic acid bacteria were increasing in activity. During the second 24 hours, the pH dropped to 3.5 and the starter tasted really sour. Yeast usually appeared the day after. When I acidified the day one mix to 3.5, I actually got some yeast growth on day two. I'm not sure that this is the best way to go, though. I've only done it once with citric acid and yeast were not as vigorous the next day as I had hoped to see them. More testing could be done. But the key points here are that the gassy bacteria grew at or above pH 5, not at or below 4.5, and the cultures I was growing all failed to produce acid of their own in the first 24 hours. That is important because a day one flour-water paste measures about 6---quite inviting to leuconostocs. And even more importantly, in all my trials I have never seen yeast before a starter gets sour, but it usually follows very soon after.


I was hoping orange juice would perform well, since it is a good source of Vitamin C and a staple in many homes. But, it turned out not to be acidic enough to meet the group's objective, which was to use it only on the first day. However, Orange juice and apple cider do work well if they are used in place of the water for two or three days. Pat was the first to try pineapple juice, which has a lower pH than most other juices, and just happens to come in handy 6-oz cans (exactly the right measure for day one). She liked it so well that she stopped testing anything else and started recommending it to others. Almost everyone who tried it was thrilled with the results, and so pineapple juice became the solution that stuck. While the group's mission was accomplished, the story doesn't end here. But the rest will have to wait until next time, so please stay tuned...


References
1.
Doyle, Michael P., Larry R. Beuchat, and Thomas J. Montville. 2001. Food Microbiology Fundamentals and Frontiers, 2nd ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Wahington, DC.


-------------------------------
This article was first published in Bread Lines, a publication of The Bread Bakers Guild of America.
Vol. 16, Issue 1, March 2008


The Pineapple Juice Solution, Part 2 | The Fresh Loaf

Your First Loaf - A Primer for the New Baker

The Fresh Loaf
Pocket Book of Bread Baking

Now available for Kindle

When I tell people I am into bread baking, people often respond by telling me that they wish they could bake bread but it just seems too complicated. I find this discouraging, because baking a basic loaf of bread is about the easiest thing you can do in the kitchen. Once you understand what is going on in a simple loaf of bread you should be able to look at 90% of more difficult bread recipes and have a sense of what that loaf will taste and feel like.

Bread, at its core, is just four things:

Flour
Water
Yeast
Salt

That's it. There are even methods to cut out at least two more of those (yeast and salt), but the end product is unlikely to come out tasting like a typical loaf of bread.

Each ingredient and step in the process of making bread serves a distinct purpose. Once you understand what role each ingredient performs and what is occurring in each step of the process you will feel liberated to experiment and create your own recipes.

Understanding the Ingredients

  • Flour. There are a million different types of flour. Among them are those made from different grains, those made from different types of wheat, bleached and unbleached flour, enriched flour, blended flours, whole grain flours, and on and on. Don't let this intimidate you! Realize that your standard grocery store, All-Purpose Enriched Unbleached Flour that comes in a ten pound bag for under two bucks is good enough to produce an excellent loaf of bread. It is probably higher quality than the flour that 90% of bakers throughout history have ever gotten their hands on. Ok, you are unlikely to win the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (The Bread Baker's World Cup) using it, but that isn't what most of us are aiming for.

    Flour forms the basis for your loaf of bread. No flour, no bread.

  • Water. You can probably find some of this around the house, can't you?

    Water activates the yeast and dissolves all of the other ingredients. Adding more water results is a stickier, flatter loaf with less regular holes in it, like a Ciabatta. Too little water restricts the expansion of the dough and results in a tight, dry, hard loaf.

  • Yeast. Once again, basic Instant Yeast (also known as Bread Machine Yeast) from the grocery store that comes in those little packets is good enough for all but the most elite baker.

    Active Dry Yeast, another kind commonly found in grocery stores, needs to be activated by pouring it in warm water prior to mixing it into the dough. So read the back of the packet before adding it to your mixture.

    Yeast is what causes the dough to rise. Adding more yeast will cause the loaf to rise more quickly. Adding too much yeast can cause a beery, off taste in your loaf. A teaspoon or two of yeast per loaf is typically called for.

  • Salt. Table salt works well enough. The kosher salt or sea salt that most grocery stores carry tastes a little better, but it isn't worth picking any up just for baking your first loaf: use whatever you've got in the house.

    Salt retards the yeast and helps control the fermentation process. It also adds flavor that most of us expect in even the simplest of breads.

These are the fundamental ingredients for making a decent loaf of bread. Additional ingredients add flavor or complexity to your bread. These will be discussed in a later article.

Once you understand the way these four principle ingredients function, you can look at any recipe and realize that the basic rules of how bread works don't change.

Understanding The Process

For a basic loaf, all you need to do is put the ingredients together in a large bowl, mix them together with a wooden spoon, and then knead the dough on a hard surface for approximately 10 minutes.

Kneading


before rising

Kneading is more than just stirring: kneading actually releases and aligns a protein in the flour called gluten. Gluten strands are what allow bread to form irregular pockets of carbon dioxide. Without this step your bread will have uniformly small holes, more like a muffin or loaf of banana bread.

As long as you aren't tearing or cutting the dough it is hard to go wrong with kneading. Squish and roll, squish and fold, applying a fair amount of pressure on the dough, is a basic kneading technique.

At some point, typically around seven or eight minutes into the process, the consistency of the dough will change. It'll become silky and smooth. You should feel it change. This is a good sign that you've kneaded enough. I typically give it another 2 or 3 minutes before calling it quits.

At this point, drop the dough into a bowl (it's helpful if the bowl is greased to keep your dough from sticking to the bottom - regular spray oil will usually do the trick) and throw a towel over the bowl, and leave it alone to let it rise.

Rising


after rising

Status check: by the time you are ready to let your loaf rise the yeast should be activated and the gluten should be aligned. The yeast does what any organism does after a long nap: it eats. The yeast feeds on the simple sugars that occur naturally in the flour. The yeast then releases carbon dioxide, which causes the bread to swell and form pockets.

If you have kneaded properly the dough will form long strands of gluten which allow large air pockets to form in your loaf. If not you will end up with numerous smaller holes. No holes in your dough means your yeast failed to activate.

The loaf must rise until it is approximately double in size. This typically takes from 45 minutes to a couple of hours, all depending on how much yeast the recipe called for. Temperature too is a factor: the warmer the room is the quicker the yeast will rise.

Punching Down and Shaping


shaped loaf

Some recipes call for one rise before shaping the loaf. Other recipes call for punching down the loaf to allow two or more rises. Punching down means simply to squish the risen dough down and re-knead it so that it is smaller again.

The purpose of punching down is to free up more food for the yeast. The longer the yeast feeds, the more complex the flavor of the loaf. Too many rises, however, can result in off flavors, such as bitterness and a beery flavor, to occur in your bread. As well as carbon dioxide yeast releases alcohol and acids. Too much acid in your loaf can actually cause the yeast to die off.

You do not shape the loaf until you are ready for the final rise. Either you place the loaf in a loaf pan or you shape it into a baguette, batard, round, or whatever shape you want. Then you give it another hour or so to double in size again.


scored loaf

Scoring the bread is just slicing it. You'll want to use something really sharp so that the dough doesn't fall and collapse again. A razor blade does the trick if you don't have fancy knives. The purpose of this is to release some of the trapped gases in your loaf so that it doesn't tear open while baking. It also makes your loaf look nice.

Baking

In the first five minutes in the oven your loaf will have one last growth spurt. This is called oven spring. Think of it as the yeast feeding itself quicker and quicker as it heats up until the rising temperature finally kills it off.



done

Many bakers use baking stones, which retain heat, to try to maximize the oven spring. This is helpful but not necessary when starting out.

Let's Make a Loaf!

OK, now that you have the basic idea, let's try it out with a really simple basic recipe. I tried this one today while stuck inside during an ice storm. This worked out well, since the freezing rain hit before we had realized that our refrigerator was lacking eggs and milk, along with a variety of other grocery items!

A Generic Recipe

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/8 cup water

Mix everything together. If it is too wet and won't come free from the sides of the bowl or keeps sticking to your hands, add a little more flour. If it is too dry and won't form into a ball, add a bit of water.

Knead it for 10 minutes. Cover and set it aside to rise until it doubles in size, approximately 90 minutes. Punch it down and let it rise again. Shape it, either by putting it in a greased loaf pan or by rolling it out into a long loaf and putting it on the back of a cookie sheet.



Ready to eat!

After it has risen to twice it size again, another hour or so, put the loaf into a preheated oven at 375 degrees. Let it bake for 45 minutes and then pull it out. If you made it into a long skinny loaf, it may cook 5 or 10 minutes quicker, so adjust the time based on what shape you chose. I baked the loaf in these photos for 40 minutes). 350-375°F for 45 minutes is typical for a loaf in a loaf pan.

Eat!

Wrap Up

Well, how was it? It may not be the best loaf of bread you've ever had, but it ain't bad.

There are many additional ingredients and techniques that are used in creating world class breads (some of which I will talk about in future articles), and each step of the process that we discussed (kneading, rising, shaping, scoring, baking) can be further elaborated on, but the approach used in this recipe is at the core of almost every other recipe you will encounter.

Continue to Lesson Two: Adding Something More to Your Loaf.

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FlourChild

Tortas de Aceite

Our family traveled to Spain this past Spring, and Sevilla was our favorite city on the trip, we were there during Semana Santa.  We particularly enjoyed the Tortas de Aceite- yeast-leavened olive oil wafters laced with sesame and anise.  This version is a little different than the standard torta in that it is leavened with sourdough and uses star anise instead of anise seed.

 

A view of the courtyard in Sevilla's Alcazar, the Royal Palace.

 

Tortas de Aceite Recipe

 

Levain  Baker's   %  
 Sourdough starter, 60% hyd.6g  Total flour200g 
 KAF AP30g  White flour100% 
 Water, room temp18g  Hydration60% 
     Salt0.7% 
Main Dough   Levain flour10% 
 Unbleached AP, 10% protein180g  Sugar6% 
 Sesame seeds, toasted1Tb + 3/4 tsp  Olive oil27% 
 Sugar1 Tb     
 Salt1/4 tsp     
 Water, room temp108g     
 Levain32g     
 Olive oil54g     
        
Topping      
 Star anise1 piece     
 Granulated sugar2 tsp + 2 Tbs     

 

Night Before:

Mix levain, allow to ferment ovenight at 68-70F.  It should rise but not yet be fully mature.

 

Next Morning:

Weigh flour into mixing bowl and coat a 3-4 cup bulk ferment container with olive oil.

Use spice grinder to grind toasted sesame seeds, salt and main dough sugar until fine.  Stir into flour.

Add 32g levain (the rest is for perpetuating the culture), water and oil to the flour mixture and mix until combined, then knead by hand about 10 minutes.

Transfer to oiled container and cover. 

Ferment until dough has doubled, about 5 hours at 81F.

Using olive oil to grease work surfaces and dough, stretch and fold 3 times in first 3.5 hours, then allow to rise.  Ready when rounded peak reaches a little past 2 2/3 cups.

 

Afternoon:

Divide and pre-shape into 12 rounds.  Place on oiled sheet pan and rest one hour, covered.

In spice grinder, grind star anise with 2 tsp sugar until fine, then scrape into bowl.

Preheat oven to 450F, placing rack in middle of oven.  Prep a half sheet pan with silpat or parchment.

Spread 2 Tbs granulated sugar on a plate.

Flatten dough balls slightly, then sprinkle the top with 1/4 tsp of the anise-sugar mixture.  Spread mixture over dough disc with fingertip.

Shape six discs into pizza-like tortas about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, then turn face down in sugar plate to coat with sugar. 

Place six tortas on one half sheet pan and bake 8 minutes, then rotate and bake 3-5 more minutes, until nicely caramelized.

Repeat with remaining six tortas.

 

Editing to add notes:  

Don't be tempted to add the anise into the main dough- it has potent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities and will kill off every discernable trace of sourdough culture (did this with my first go at these).

These re-heat and re-crisp beautifully in the toaster.

 

Dough Rounds:

 

Flattened Discs with Anise-Sugar Mixture:

 

The Shaped Tortas:

 

Plaza Nueva at Sunset:

 

Sevilla's Cathedral:

 

Torta Crumb:

More Tortas:

 

Looking for Tapas:

 

 

Potato Rosemary Rolls

potato rosemary rolls

Thanksgiving in the States is coming up soon. These rolls would make a wonderful accompaniment to the banquet table, though they are simple enough that they can go along with any night's dinner. They make amazing hamburger buns too.

Potato Rosemary Rolls Makes 18 small rolls or 12 hamburger sized buns 1 potato, cooked and mashed 1 lb (3 1/2 cups) bread or all-purpose unbleached flour 3/4 - 1 cup water 2 teaspoons instant yeast 2 teaspoons salt 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon dried rosemary or 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 teaspoon ground sage leaves

Cook the potato until soft, either by boiling or baking in the oven or microwave. For this batch I chopped up and boiled the potato. I then reserved a cup of the potato water to add to the loaf, figuring it had additional nutrients and starches that would help my loaf.

Mash the potato. Removing the skin prior to mashing is optional: if you are using tough skinned potatoes like russets I would suggest removing them, but with soft skinned potatoes such as yukon gold or red potatoes I typically leave them on. The chopped up skin add nice color and texture to your rolls.

Combine the flour, mashed potato, yeast, salt, pepper and herbs in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cups water and knead or mix for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more water or flour until a consistency you are comfortable working with is reached. I added close to a full cup of water and ended up with an extremely sticky dough that was difficult to work with. I was only able to shape the rolls by repeatedly dipping my fingers in flour. The end result was wonderful though.

(I encourage amateur bakers to push the limit of what they think they can handle, moisture-wise. More often than not you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results, though you can go too far and end up baking a pancake, which I've done more than once.)

potato rosemary rolls

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist towel and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, typically 60 to 90 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, gently degas it, and shape it. For rolls or buns you can weigh them if you like or just eyeball them. I cut racquetball sized chunks of dough (larger than golf balls, smaller than tennis balls) then rolled them into balls in my well-floured hands. I placed them on a baking sheet covered with parchment, placed the entire sheet in a plastic trash bag, and set it aside to rise for approximately an hour again.

While the dough rose, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees.

If you have a spritzer, spray the top of the rolls with water right before placing them in the oven. Place them in the center rack and bake them for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake them for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size. My large hamburger bun sized rolls took close to half an hour to bake. You'll know they are done when the bottom of the rolls is solid and slightly crispy. If you have a probe thermometer, check the temperature inside one of the rolls. When the internal temperature is approaching 200 degrees F, they are ready to pull out of the oven.

potato rosemary rolls

potato rosemary rolls

Allow the rolls to cool before serving. They keep very well too, so you could bake them a day or two ahead of time and still serve them for Thanksgiving.

Related Recipe: Kaiser Rolls.

Struan Bread

In the 15 years since I first tried Brother Juniper's Struan Bread, I've tasted a lot of great bread, but I still don't think I've tried anything that makes as great toast as Struan Bread does. Nor have I tried any bread is so universally enjoyed: everyone who tries it agrees that this bread makes killer toast.

It isn't bad for sandwiches either.

I have to admit though that this bread occasionally gives me nightmares. Click "Read More" to learn why.


The Nightmares

When I was in high school I worked in the Brother Juniper's bakery and cafe. For the most part I worked on the slicing machine, but I also helped scale and shape the loaves. Oh yes, and top the loaves with poppy seeds.

The poppy seeds. The poppy seeds are what give me nightmares.

I have no idea how many pounds of poppy seeds we went through a day, but I know we made as many as 500 loaves of Struan Bread, each one covered with hundreds of poppy seeds. Those seeds would get everywhere: in your hair, under your fingernails, in your clothes, everywhere you can imagine. Even a few places you can't imagine: I recall a number of times pulling poppy seeds out of strange places (like my book bag for school or a clean pair of pants) and wondering "How in the world did poppy seeds get in there?!?

I still avoid poppy seeds most of the time, though I'll admit they are wonderful on top of this loaf.

About Struan Bread

Struan Bread (properly pronounced "STRU-en bread", but most people I know call it "STRON bread") is a harvest bread. I believe the story is that Peter Reinhart read something about a traditional bread that Irish villagers baked into which they threw a little bit of everything they were harvesting. Struan Bread as we know it is an attempt to capture the spirit of that loaf.

Regardless of the origin, this bread is wonderful. One is certainly free to experiment with including different or additional grains. I've done so a bit and the bread has turned out quite good, though I don't think any of them have be as excellent as the combination found in the original recipe (reproduced below).

Oh yeah, I need to add that this recipe is roughly the recipe found in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I believe he includes versions of it in most of his other baking books (Crust & Crumb and Brother Juniper's Bread Book come to mind). If you don't already have one of his bread books on your shelf you owe it to yourself to pick one up.

Struan Bread

Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves

Soaker
3 tablespoons polenta
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat bran
1/4 cup water

Dough
3 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons cooked brown rice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water

topping
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Mix together the ingredients for the soaker. Cover and allow to soak for at least half an hour or as long as overnight.

In a larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients and soaker. Add more flour or water until the dough can be formed into a ball that is tacky but not sticky. Place the ball of dough on a clean work surface and knead it for 10 to 12 minutes, then return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

struan bread

Remove the dough from the bowl, degas it gently, and split it for two loaves or shape it as is for one. Place the loaves in greased bread pans, spritz or sprinkle water on top, and sprinkle a handful of poppy seeds on top.

struan bread

Cover the pans loosely with plastic and allow the loaves to rise until doubled in size again, approximately 90 minutes.

struan bread

Bake these loaves at 350 for 40 to 60 minutes, until the internal temperature is around 190 degrees. When ready the loaves will be quite brown on top and will make a hollow thud when tapped on the bottom.

struan bread

struan bread

Doesn't that look good? Trust me, it is WONDERFUL! Try it, it is worth the work!

Related Recipes: Maple Oatmeal Bread

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Scoring Bread: An updated tutorial

 

What is scoring?

Scoring” is the word used to describe the cuts made in a loaf of bread before it is baked. Some breads are not scored. For example many loaves baked in pans are not. However, almost all free-formed “hearth breads” are scored.

When is scoring done?

Scoring is generally performed just prior to loading the loaves in the oven. French rye breads (pains de siegle) are sometimes scored right after shaping, before proofing.

Why are breads scored?

Intentionally creating a weak spot on the surface of the loaf prevents the loaf from bursting at weak spots created during shaping.

The type of scoring performed controls the direction in which the bread will expand during “oven spring.”

The pattern of cuts made, the angle at which they are made and the depth of the cuts influences the rate of expansion and the formation of an “ear” - a raised flap of crust at the edge of a cut.

The pattern of cuts can create a pleasing visual pattern on the surface of the loaf. While there are some very traditional patterns, for example for baguettes, the baker can use the scoring pattern to identify the type of bread or to create an unique pattern that identifies the loaf as coming from his or her oven.

The effects of scoring on loaf shape are discussed in more detail below.

What do you use to score bread?

The blade used to score bread is often referred to as a lame (pronounced “lahm.”) This is simply a French word with means “blade.” Breads may be scored with straight or curved razor blades, either held in the hand or mounted on a handle. Scoring may be performed with other sharp, straight blades, even with a straight razor. Some bakers prefer serrated blades.

For some types of scoring, a straight blade is preferred. Straight bladed knives are preferred for cuts made with the blade held perpendicular to the loaf's surface. This sort of cut is generally used for round loaves (“boules”). For other types of scoring, a curved blade works better. Curved lames are generally used for long breads like baguettes which are scored with cuts parallel to the long axis of the loaf.

Video on Choosing a Blade: http://youtu.be/vF7eFluzHXc

How are the cuts made?

The scoring stroke should be firm, rapid, smooth and decisive. For the beginner, it may help to take “practice swings” or to visualize the movements and totally focus one's attention before making the cuts. Understanding the functions of scoring and the effects of the variables described can help, but there is no substitute for experience. In this respect, scoring bread is no different from an athletic skill or any other art or craft. (Tourist: “Please, sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” New Yorker: “Practice, practice, practice.”)

The cuts should generally be 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. A wet, sticky dough requires a more shallow cut than one would make in a dryer dough.

Scoring a boule (round loaf)

The angle the blade of the knife makes with the surface of the loaf is important in determining how the cut will open up. If you want the cuts to spread equally from the cut and to open quickly, as is traditional with round loaves (boules), the knife should be held vertically – at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf.

Video on Scoring a Boule: http://youtu.be/gnL7mvR9wFg


Besides the “tic-tac-toe” pattern, boules can be scored with diamond patterns, simple crosses or much more elaborate and creative patterns.

Miche scored with a diamond pattern

Scoring a long loaf (bâtard)

If you want the cuts to spread more slowly and create an “ear,” as is generally desired with long loaves (baguettes and bâtards), the knife blade should be held at a shallow angle with the surface of the loaf, at about 20-30 degrees or so. Many find using a curved blade helps make this type of cut. The blade is held with the concave surface facing up (away from the loaf). A flap of dough is created that will lift up to create an “ear” as the loaf expands and, by lifting gradually, slows the expansion of the loaf. This prolongs the time during which new areas of dough are exposed to the direct heat of the oven and results in greater overall expansion – a larger “bloom.”

Video on Scoring a Bâtard: http://youtu.be/UC5HLCWAyMo

 

Bâtards

 

Baguettes

The effect of scoring on loaf shape

Michael Suas, in his book "Advanced Bread & Pastry," provides some information about how scoring patterns influence loaf shape. Scoring is not just to make a visually pretty design on the top of a loaf. It is also how the baker controls the direction in which the loaf expands. This impacts the shape of the loaf cross section (rounder or more oval), the height of the loaf and, for a boule, whether it stays round or ends up more oblong.

According to Suas, long loaves like bâtards and baguettes are traditionally scored parallel to their long axis. This may be a single long cut or multiple cuts that are almost parallel and overlap somewhat (for ¼ to 1/3 of their length, generally). This pattern promotes sideways expansion of the loaf, resulting in an oval cross section when the loaf is sliced.

 

Baguette showing overlapping cuts, almost parallel to the long axis of the loaf

For breads with high-rye content which have lower gluten and less oven spring, the traditional objective is to encourage a higher rise in the oven spring resulting in a rounder cross section. This is achieved by "sausage" or "chevron" cuts.

"Sausage cut" on the left. "Chevron cut" on the right.

Boules are scored in a variety of patterns with differing effects on how the loaf expands. The common "tic-tac-toe" pattern and a simple cross will direct the expansion upward. More complex patterns like diamonds result in a relatively flatter loaf.

One of most interesting effects is that scoring a boule with multiple parallel cuts encourages expansion at a right angle to the cuts. This results in an oblong loaf shape.

 Two boules scored differently. Note the effects of the scoring pattern on the final shape of the baked loaves.

What's the point of an ear? Controlled bloom!

This topic is not about the auricular anatomy of elves (or Vulcans). It's about scoring breads.

Scoring loaves creates a visually pleasing pattern, and it helps control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.

What Suas called "the classic cut" is parallel to the long axis of a baguette or a bâtard. The cut is made with the blade at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf. The cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch deep. Paradoxically, this shallow cut results in the flap lifting better than a deeper cut would, thus forming a nice "ear." Hamelman (pg. 80) points out that "a deep cut will simply collapse from its own weight."

The angle of the blade is important. "If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development." (Suas, pg. 116.)

These photos illustrate nice "ears," but they also show that the bloom occurred slowly, as it should. Notice that the color of the crust in the opening has 3 distinct degrees of browning, decreasing from right to left. The darker part on the right obviously opened first and was exposed to the direct heat of the oven for longer. If the bloom occurred too rapidly, it would have a more even coloration.

In summary, in order to achieve an optimal bloom in baguettes and bâtards, one must attend to 3 variables when scoring them:

  1. The cuts should be almost parallel to the long axis of the loaf.

  2. The blade should be held at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf.

  3. The depth of the cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch.

Variable shading of the bloomed crust confirms that the desired slow but prolonged opening of the cut during oven spring occurred.

A final word

This tutorial focused on the mechanics of scoring, but the other steps in bread making impact the behavior of the cuts you make and the final appearance of your loaves. In fact, every single step, from your choice of ingredients and their proportions – your formula – to how you steam your oven plays a role in how your cuts will open. Your best looking loaves will result from a series of choices that are mutually dependent, where how you score a loaf takes into account the other choices you have made about the formula, mixing, fermentation, shaping, proofing and baking.

Happy baking!

David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Pizza Bliss

I like pizza quite a lot, but my wife loves it. She told me last night that Pizza is the one food she can “over-eat.” I could not start to list the foods I will predictably over-eat given the opportunity, but my wife has this super-human self-control. So this confession tells you that pizza is really special to her.

I've made some pretty good pizze and some not so good. Last night I made the best pizza I've ever made by a long shot. In fact, I do believe it was the best pizza crust I've ever eaten.

The crust was based on the “Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain” from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. I say “based” because, while the ingredients and procedures were pretty much as Forkish prescribes, the timing of many steps was different. Some of those differences were planned, and some were …. accommodations. I'm not going to claim that the crust turned out so well because of my baking genius, but I am going to try to capture what I ended up doing so I can do it again … on purpose next time.

  

Total dough

Wt (g)

Baker's %

Levain

 

10*

Caputo 00 flour

980

98

Giusto's fine whole wheat flour

20

2

Water

700

70

Salt

20

2

Total

1720

172

* Percent of total flour that is pre-fermented.

 

Levain

Wt (g)

Baker's %

Mature, active levain

25

10

Caputo 00 flour

100

80

Giusto's fine whole wheat flour

25

20

Water (90 ºF)

100

80

Total

250

190

 

  1. Dissolve the levain in the water.

  2. Add the flours and mix thoroughly.

  3. Ferment at room temperature until expanded by 2 to 2.5 times. (Note: Forkish specifies fermenting for 8 to 10 hours. My levain was ripe in 6 hours. So, I went to step 4.)

  4. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.

 

Final dough

Wt (g)

Caputo 00 flour

900

Water (90-95 ºF)

620

Fine sea salt

20

Levain

180

Total

1720

  1. Take the levain out of the fridge 1-2 hours before mixing the final dough.

  2. Mix the water and flour to a shaggy mass and allow it to rest, covered, for 20-60 minutes (autolyse).

  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and add 180 g of the levain divided into 4-6 pieces. Mix using the “pinch and fold” procedure described by Forkish.

  4. Bulk ferment for 5 to 14 hours, or until the dough has expanded 2 to 2.5 times. Do stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals 2-4 times . Then just let the dough ferment undisturbed. (Note: I know this time range (5 to 14 hours) sounds absurd. Forkish's instructions are to ferment overnight for 12 to 14 hours, but my dough had doubled in 5-6 hours and was very bubbly. If I had let it ferment for another 6 to 8 hours, I would have had soup.)

  5. Transfer the dough to a well-floured board. Dust the dough and your hands with flour. Divide the dough into 350 g pieces. (You will get 4 pieces of 350 g and one that is larger.

  6. Shape each piece into a fairly tight ball and place them in ZipLoc-type sandwich bags with a tablespoon of olive oil in each.

  7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and for up to 3 days.

  8. When you are ready to make your pizza/e, 2 1/2 to 4 hours before shaping the pizze, take the number of dough balls you will need out of the fridge. Let them warm up at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The balls should expand by a third to a half.

  9. Put the dough balls back in the fridge for the last half hour to an hour before shaping them into pizze. This is because the dough is a bit more elastic and less fragile when cold.

  10. Take one ball of dough at a time out of the fridge. Shape it. Top it. Bake it. Enjoy!

 

This “in and out of the fridge” stuff may seem unduly complicated. It happened because we changed our minds about going to a concert a couple times before finally deciding to stay home and make pizza. See, if we had decided to go, there wouldn't have been time to make pizza and eat it beforehand. But, in hindsight, this procedure makes a lot of sense. A longer fermentation improves flavor, but retarding the dough in the fridge was needed to prevent over-fermentation. The warm-up in Step 8. just completed the fermentation to an optimal degree. I could have just let the bulk fermentation go a bit longer – say about an hour – and then not needed Step. 8 and 9 at all.

This dough was a delight to shape. It had just the right balance of elasticity and extensibility. When baked at 500 ºF for 10 to 11 minutes, the edges puffed up beautifully. They were crackling crispy. The dough under the toppings was moderately chewy but not at all “tough.” The most remarkable feature was the flavor. It was mildly sour but very wheaty, sweet and complex. It was astonishingly delicious. My wife, who often leaves pizza crust un-eaten, actually left the center part un-eaten and ate the outer crust in preference.

How much of this was the procedures and how much the use of 98% Caputo 00 flour? That's hard to answer. I suppose I need to make this dough again using a good AP flour to find out.

I made two 10 or 12 inch pizze. One was a classic Pizza Margherita made with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, fresh, locally grown San Marzano-variety tomatoes which were par-boiled, skinned, seeded and cut into strips and fresh basel leaves from our garden, added after the pizza was baked.

 

The other pizza was topped with a heavy spread of good olive oil, fresh, finely chopped rosemary and fleur de sel. After baking, the top was rubbed with a cut San Marzano tomato which was then hand-shredded and spread over the pizza. (Note to self: Lose the salt, if you don't want Susan to complain. Substitute thinly sliced garlic.)

 

Well, we do have 3 pizza dough balls left, including a 380 g one. I am going to make a potato pizza that's been on my “to bake list” for a few years, ever since I first read about it in Leader's Local Breads then again in Maggie Glezer's Artisan Breads.

Yum!

Happy baking!

David

Submitted to YeastSpotting

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini's Favorite 100% Rye Ratio


I've been playing with rye loaf ratios (starter/water/flour) and I came up with one using any amount of rye starter that when refreshed is a paste (100% hydration) and as it ferments loostens to a thick batter.  I was looking for basic numbers (like 1/2/3) and I found them they're  1/ 3.5/ 4.16.   It makes Rye so much easier!  The starter should be generously refreshed 8-12 hours before and mixed into the dough just before peaking and in a 22°c room (72°F) the dough ferments 7-8 hours before baking.   Dough should not be folded or shaped 4 hours before going into the oven.


Basic Ratio> 1 part starter: 3.5 parts cold water: 4.16 parts rye flour    


4 tablespoons bread spice for 500g flour    Salt 1.8 to 2% of flour weight


Hydration of dough aprox 84%.  Handle dough with wet hands and a wet spatula.  Combine starter and water then the flour, stir well and let rest covered.  Add salt about one hour after mixing and any other ingredients.  If room is warmer add salt earlier.  Three hours into the ferment lightly fold with wet hands and shape into a smooth ball.  Place into a well floured brotform or oiled baking pan.  Cover and let rise.  Don't let it quite Double for it will if conditions are right.  Before placing in the oven, use a wet toothpick and dock the loaf all over to release any large bubbles.  Bake in covered dark dish in cold oven Convection 200°C or 390°F (oven can reach 220°C easy with the fan on.)  Remove cover after 20 to 25 minutes and rotate loaf.  Reduce heat by simply turning off convection and use top & bottom heat at 200°C.   Remove when dough center reaches 93°C or 200° F.


All kinds of combinations are possible including addition of soaked & drained seeds and or cooked berries or moist altus and whole or cracked walnuts or a little spoon of honey.


How it works:  I have 150g rye starter at 100% hydration.  I figure for water: 150 x 3.5 gives the water amount or 525g.  I figure the flour: 150 x 4.16 gives 624 g Rye flour.  For salt:  2% of 700g (624g + aprox. 75g in the starter) makes salt 14g or one level tablespoon of table salt.


This amount of dough took 1 1/2 hours to bake and included moist rye altus.  It was baked in two non-stick cast aluminum sauce pans (20cm diameter) one inverted over the other .  The rounder of the two on the bottom.  No steam other than what was trapped inside.  Top removed after 25 minutes.  It has a beautiful dark crust with a light shine.  Aroma is heavenly.



 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Bread Scoring Tutorial (updated 1/2/2009)

 Please Note: This tutorial has been updated extensively with additional material and new and improved videos. Here is a link to the updated Bread Scoring Tutorial: Scoring Bread: An updated tutorial

Scoring Bread

 

What is scoring?

“Scoring” is the word used to describe the cuts made in a loaf of bread before it is baked. Some breads are not scored. For example many loaves baked in pans are not. However, almost all free-formed “hearth breads” are scored.

When is scoring done?

Scoring is generally performed just prior to loading the loaves in the oven.

Why are breads scored?

The purpose of scoring is primarily to control the direction in which the bread will expand during “oven spring.” Intentionally creating a weak spot on the surface of the loaf prevents the loaf from bursting at weak spots created during shaping.

The pattern of cuts made, the angle at which they are made and the depth of the cuts also influence the rate of expansion and the formation of an “ear” - a raised flap of crust at the edge of a cut.

The pattern of cuts also can create a pleasing visual pattern on the surface of the loaf. While there are some very traditional patterns, for example for baguettes, the baker can use the scoring pattern to identify the type of bread or to create an unique pattern that identifies the loaf as coming from his or her oven.

The effects of scoring on loaf shape are discussed in more detail below.

How are breads scored?

Breads are scored with very sharp cutting implements. These may be straight or curved razor blades, which may be held in the hand or mounted on a handle. Scoring may be performed with other sharp, straight blades, even with a straight razor. Some bakers prefer serrated blades. Some examples are pictured below:

Lame

This is a “lame,” the French term for a razor blade used to score bread. This one is permanently mounted on a handle. Others are made with replaceable blades.

This lame holds the blade in a curved position. Others hold the blade straight. The curved lames are generally used for long breads like baguettes which are scored with cuts parallel to the long axis of the loaf. The cuts are made with the blade held at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf, about 20-30 degrees or so. The blade is held with the concave surface facing up (away from the loaf). A flap of dough is created that will lift up to create an “ear” as the loaf expands and, by lifting gradually, slows the expansion of the loaf. This prolongs the time during which new areas of dough are exposed to the direct heat of the oven and results in greater overall expansion – a larger “bloom.”

Serrated knife

Serrated knife

Tomato knife

Tomato knife

These are examples of serrated, straight bladed knives. The first one is made expressly for scoring breads. The second one is manufactured as a “tomato knife,” but it is very sharp, holds its edge well and has been found to work very well for scoring bread.

Straight bladed knives are preferred for cuts made with the blade held perpendicular to the loaf's surface. This sort of cut is generally used for round loaves (“boules”). However, they can be used for the same kinds of cuts described above as well.

The angle the blade of the knife makes with the surface of the loaf is important in determining how the cut will open up. If you want the cuts to spread equally from the cut and to open quickly, the knife should be held vertically – at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf. This type of cut is usually made ¼ to ½ inch deep.

Wrong lame position

 

If you want the cuts to spread more slowly and create an “ear,” the knife blade should be held at a shallow angle with the surface of the loaf, like this:

Correct lame position

This type of cut should be shallower than the cuts made with the blade vertical to the loaf – about ¼ inch deep. A deeper cut will result in the flap closing from its own weight rather than separating from the surface of the loaf to form an “ear.”

The scoring stroke should be firm, rapid, smooth and decisive. For the beginner, it may help to take “practice swings” or to visualize the movements and totally focus one's attention before making the cuts. Understanding the functions of scoring and the effects of the variables described can help, but there is no substitute for experience. In this respect, scoring bread is no different from an athletic skill or any other art or craft. (Tourist: “Please, sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” New Yorker: “Practice, practice, practice.”)

 

The effect of scoring on loaf shape

Michael Suas, in his book "Advanced Bread & Pastry," provides some information about how scoring patterns influence loaf shape. Scoring is not just to make a visually pretty design on the top of a loaf. It is also how the baker controls the direction in which the loaf expands. This impacts the shape of the loaf cross section (rounder or more oval), the height of the loaf and, for a boule, whether it stays round or ends up more oblong.

According to Suas, long loaves like bâtards and baguettes are traditionally scored parallel to their long axis. This may be a single long cut or multiple cuts that are almost parallel and overlap somewhat (for ¼ to 1/3 of their length, generally).

Classic cuts

Classic Cut – Single and multiple cuts

However, for breads with high-rye content which have lower gluten and less oven spring, the traditional objective is to encourage a higher rise in the oven spring resulting in a rounder cross section. This is achieved by "sausage" or "chevron" cuts.

Sausage cut (on the left) and Chevron cut (on the right)

Sausage cut (on the left) and Chevron cut (on the right)

Boules are scored in a variety of patterns, again with differing effects on how the loaf expands. The common "tic-tac-toe" pattern and a simple cross will direct the expansion upward. More complex patterns like diamonds result in a relatively flatter loaf.

Boule with tic tac toe

Boule scored with “tic-tac-toe” pattern

One of most interesting effects is that scoring a boule with multiple parallel cuts encourages expansion at a right angle to the cuts. This results in an oblong loaf shape.

 

What's the point of an ear? Controlled bloom!

This topic is not about the auricular anatomy of elves (or Vulcans). It's about scoring breads.

Scoring loaves creates a visually pleasing pattern, and it helps control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.

These San Francisco Sourdough breads illustrate a more "advanced" aspect of scoring that is alluded to by both Hamelman (in "Bread") and Suas (in "Advanced Bread & Pastry.")

San Francisco Sourdough Breads (from Peter Reinhart's "Crust & Crumb")

Bloom

Detail of bâtard crust, with "ear," grigne" & "bloom."

 

What Suas called "the classic cut" is parallel to the long axis of a baguette or a bâtard. The cut is made with the blade at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf. The cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch deep. Paradoxically, this shallow cut results in the flap lifting better than a deeper cut would, thus forming a nice "ear." Hamelman (pg. 80) points out that "a deep cut will simply collapse from its own weight."

The angle is also important. "If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development." (Suas, pg. 116.)

The second photo, above, illustrates a fairly nice "ear," but it also shows that the bloom occurred slowly, as it should. Notice that the color of the crust in the opening has 3 distinct degrees of browning, decreasing from left to right. The darker part on the left obviously opened first and was exposed to the direct heat of the oven for longer. If the bloom occurred too rapidly, it would have a more even coloration.

This boule was slashed with the blade held at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf. Note the even coloration of the bloomed crust.

In summary, in order to achieve an optimal bloom in baguettes and bâtards, one must attend to 3 variables when scoring them:

  1. The cuts should be almost parallel to the long axis of the loaf.

  2. The blade should be held at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf.

  3. The depth of the cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch.

Variable shading of the bloomed crust confirms that the desired slow but prolonged opening of the cut during oven spring occurred.

Happy baking!

David

P.S. I have made a video version of this tutorial. It was my first attempt at editing a video. I am not delighted with the quality, but I hope I can show it and, maybe, get some help improving it. Here is the link:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4381896920195658969&hl=en (for slow connections)

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6866686363544546201&hl=en (for broadband, e.g., DSL or cable)

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

No Muss No Fuss Starter

I thought I would make a post on how I keep my starter for those who have an interest in doing the same.  My method is based on several wants.  First, I don’t want to maintain or feed a starter for up to 16 weeks.  Second, I want to keep as small amount of starter as possible so that I can bake a loaf of bread each week using a bit of it and still have it last 16 weeks.  Thirdly, I want a starter that is sourer and has a higher LAB to yeast ratio than the normal 100 to 1 found in most starters.  Finally two more wants, I don’t want any waste and I want to make any kind of bread with it.

To get these characteristics I make a stiff (66% hydration) whole rye starter in the 100g range and keep it in the fridge.  Stiff is relative, since many breads are made with this hydration but mine tend to be quite a bit more wet than 66%.   I take a small bit the starter each week and when it gets down to 10 g or so I build it back up using a 3 stage starter build.  As follows:

 

Build

1st

1st

 

2nd

2nd

 

3rd

3rd

 

 

Seed

Flour

Water

Total

Flour

Water

Total

Flour

Water

Total

H2O

10

10

10

30

20

20

70

40

16

126

65.7%

8

8

8

24

16

16

56

32

13

101

66.1%

6

6

6

18

12

12

42

24

10

76

66.6%

I usually build the 101 g total line for my 1 loaf of SD bread a week.  The first two feedings are 4 hours each at 100% hydration and the starter should double 4 hours after the 2nd feeding.  I it doesn’t then toss the 2nd feeding total amount in weight and redo it.  The final 66%hydration is accomplished by using much less water for the 3rd feeding.  Once the starter rises 25% in volume after the 3rd feeding, that is when you refrigerate it for its long term storage.

Make sure you are maintaining 80 -84 F while building the starter.  This is the temperature range that suits yeast reproduction rates and the LAB will still be out reproducing yeast at that temperatures.  What happens, over weeks of storage time in the fridge, is that the starter will become sourer as time progresses.  The bread it makes after 8 weeks in the fridge is worth the wait.

But, like most things it is relative and the resulting bread isn’t too sour either.  If you want really sour bread do some of the following at 94 F – build the starter, levain build, gluten development, bulk ferment or final proof after shaping.  I like using a small amount of starter to build a levain amount under 10%, a very cold bulk ferment, counter warm up and a 94 F final proof when I’m going for a really sour bread.

Now, to get this small amount of starter to last for 12-16 weeks you want to make bread with a small amount of it to build the larger levain you want for the bread.  Here is a chart to use for 800g of dough (1 loaf for me) that can be used for different times of years, various ambient temperatures, how much time you have (faster or slower process needed) and how much sour you want for the time you have.  Making a 3-5 day loaf of retarded bread in the summer is much different than making 1 day SD bread in the winter.  I like to retard dough to bring out its full flavor and fit my schedule better.  So in the warm summer, I use half the levain that I might in the colder winter months to get a 12 hour retard into the process.  To get more sour in a 1 day (after a 12 hour levain build process), I might use 30% levain (the 240 g line) to speed things along and still keep some of the sour I want.  Here is a chart to use for various levain builds for 800 g of dough using this starter.

 

 

 

First

First

 

2nd

2nd

 

3rd

3rd

 

Dough

 

Build

Build

 

Build

Build

 

Build

Build

 

Weight

Seed

Flour

Water

Total

Flour

Water

Total

Flour

Water

Total

800

3

6

6

15

11

11

37

22

22

81

800

4

8

8

21

17

17

54

33

33

120

800

6

11

11

28

22

22

72

44

44

160

800

7

14

14

34

28

28

90

55

55

200

800

8

17

17

41

33

33

108

66

66

240

The method of the levain build remains the same – (3) 4 hour builds.  If the levain fails to double 4 hours after the 2nd build then toss the 2nd build weights and redo the 2nd feeding.  I usually refrigerate the levain for 24 hours after it rises 75% -100% after the 3rd feeding to bring out more sour and fit my schedule. 

If you mill your own flour and or have a sieve, you might consider sifting the whole grain flour and use the sifted out hard bits to feed the levain.   He levain seems to love these hard bits and getting them wet for a longer period will help to get these hard bits as soft as possible potentially resulting in better spring, bloom and a more open crumb.  I even do this with sprouted, dried and milled whole grain bits but build less levain as these grains are on steroids already and might turn the dough to goo if trying for a 12 hour retard.

For the 3 stage starter and the levain builds it might take 8-12 hours in the summer if your kitchen is a warm as mine and more than 12 hours in the winter if you don’t use a heating pad.   You can make any bread with this starter and levain method by using the flour you want for the levain build.  Use white flours for white breads and various whole grains for bread with whole grains in them.  Any combination of levain flour works -  at least for the more than 100 varieties of bread I have made with it. Without any maintenae of the starter or throwing any starter or levain away.     

Happy SD baking the No Muss No Fuss way!

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