The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

hello! I'm noob but completely infatuated with bread

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fishy's picture
fishy

hello! I'm noob but completely infatuated with bread

I've been baking breads for about a year, ever since getting a bread machine, a grinder and a bucket of wheat. Mostly have been trying to perfect whole wheat bread but it's different every time and only occasionally is better than a brick. That probably has something to do with my lack of adequate measuring devises, especially regarding freshly ground wheat. Someday I'll amend that problem but for now I want to branch out and try new methods as well.
Went to the bookstore and read the first part, all before recipes, of "A Bread Baker's Apprentice" because of the mentions from here. It completely changed how I view baking bread. Not sure whether or not I can go back to the bread machine. I'm attempting to apply his methods to a loaf right now and have some questions. I'll put that in a different section, though.

This site is awesome! I hope to learn a lot and thanks for all your help so far.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Before you do anything else, go out and get a scale.  You want a digital scale that measures in both ounces and grams and has a Tare function which allows you to zero out the scale to add a new ingredient to the bowl.  It should be capable of measuring to the gram or 1/8 oz and should have a maximum weight limit of at least 7 lbs.


You can get an entry level scale for about $25 - $30, spend more for a more accurate  scale, but you don't need a lot of bells and whistles.  A common brand in that price range for a basic entry level scale is Primo Escali.  You can find it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Amazon, Sur le Table, to name a few. 


That alone will give you some more consistency.   You should also learn about "Baker's Math" also known as "bread percentages" so you understand how to use your scale to best advantage.  Do a search here on TFL. 


And, if you don't have an instant read thermometer (about $5 or $6), get one of those, too.  With these two simple items, a whole new world will open up to you. 

fishy's picture
fishy

Thanks for the info! I knew I should have a scale but didn't know what specs were necessary. Would you trust any used or from ebay?
I first learned about baker's math from "BBA" and can't wait to get to use it properly.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I agree that you absolutely should get a scale. It is critical to learning through experimentation.  The thermometer is also very helpful, but not on the same level as the scale.  I would almost suggest a oven thermometer over a probe thermometer, as I have had more issues with figuring out my oven temp than knowing when my bread is done (tapping for hollow sound and visual inspection are very important).


The one tool I just picked up which I HIGHLY recommend is a bowl scraper.  Costs $1, and sounds innocent enough, but it is one of my best purchases of the year.  Makes cleanup and mixing techniques SO much easier.


Good luck with your bread making.


Take care,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

SteveB's picture
SteveB

An instant-read thermometer is indispensible for measuring mix water temperatures.  This is quite important as one needs to adjust the mix water temperature so that the desired dough temperature is achieved.


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com


  

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

Hi SteveB,


I have not been taking the temperature of my water or dough, even though I have often seen suggestions to do so. I don't even normally think about how hot the water is, although I'd say I normally probably use luke warm or cold water.  Most (but I suppose not all) of my breads ferment and proof for well over 12 hours, so I had just assumed that the temperatures would even out to room temp quick enough.


Can you share any experiences you've had with different water temperatures making a difference in bread?  In general I suppose you want to use warmer water with quicker rising breads? Or when your starter is less active than normal? Colder water on hotter days?


Thanks for any info.


Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

fishy's picture
fishy

Are there dual oven/probe thermometers out there? Can I put a probe thermometer in the oven, paperclip it to a rack or something? I have one though it's not instant-read and still has to be calibrated. There's no knob to adjust it though.

How is a bowl scraper different from a regular flat scraper or a spatula?

Thank you!

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

In general, you will need a seperate thermometer for each task.  My probe thermometer doesn't go much past 250, so it can't record oven temps. My oven thermometer doesn't go below 100F, so it can't record room temps.  The thermometers I use don't have calibrations, which is something I need to fix, as I notice that different probe thermometers will give slightly different readings.


A bowl scraper is similar to a spatula, but to me the difference has been huge.  It easily cleans out the majority of dough on round bowls, which the spatula could not really do.  It picks up almost all the dough of the counter in just a few passes, meanwhile the spatula always took a ton of scraping and never quite did the job.  Finally, it can be used to pick up the dough and stretch it out or fold it over on itself.  It really is a fine piece of equipment.


Hope this helps.


Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

If you watch any videos on stretch and fold techniques, you will see how indispensable a bowl scraper can be.  It's like a third hand!


The instant read thermometer and the the bowl scraper are very important as you branch out to doughs with higher levels of hydration.  With all due respect to a previous poster, when you are making higher hydration breads the hollow sound when you tap your bread does not always tell you if it's done in the center. I've learned that the hard way!  There are other external signs, but in the beginning the thermometer is the most reliable way--eventually you may not need it any more.


And while an oven thermometer is useful, if your oven is off by not too much, it doesn't really matter.  Bread is done when it's done, not when the timer says it's done.  So if your oven is too hot or too cool (within reason, I'm not talking about 75 degree differences) you will still have good bread if you are paying attention to smell, appearance, and temperature. 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I, too, found the Bread Baker's Apprentice to be very inspiring, even just the concept of having your space in some kind of order I found inspiring.  Welcome to the site.


:-Paul