The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Practice recipes-how small can I go?

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Practice recipes-how small can I go?

So, I'm learning much from this website and have a steep learning curve right now. But, like Julie on the movie I must watch my beltline and my husband must too. As he said this AM after devouring half of the delicious (30% recipe) loaf of cinnamon raisin swirl bread, "You have to stop, don't make this again, even if I ask for it!!". Last night it was the "excess starter sourdough bread" that came out with the taste and texture of an unbelievable french bread. And the naan, sourdough whole wheat muffins, whole wheat sandwich bread, whole grain seed bread. That's just this past week.

I'm already freezing and giving a majority of it away to my parents and brother. The other side of the family only likes 100% soft white wonderbread style and sweet breads which is probably 10% or less of what I actually bake.

Anyway, how small can I make a recipe? Can I make it down to dinner roll size and just change the cooking time? I need to practice kneading, stretching, folding, the feel of the dough, retarding, all those things that make bread what it is. Learning what recipes I like to make and don't like to make. Learning how to play dough, shape dough, etc. Braiding was a great project with the Finnish Pulla bread that I made because it got my hands into the "feel" of a good workable dough.

Can I make a recipe with 250 total grams, 150 total grams, how small and still not lose the integrity and learning value from a recipe?


flournwater's picture

I share your dilemma.  Thankfully, I have enough family and friends who like just about any type of bread so I don't have to eat it all myself.  My weight increases when I walk through the super market.

I have reduced many formulas by 2/3 and still achieved excellent results.  That's what's so special about bakers percentages and developing a "feel" for the dough.  You make a good point however, in that it becomes critically important to watch the baking time (I always use internal temperature rather than time alone) because a smaller mass will cook more quickly than a full loaf.  Just remember that bulk measuring ingredients to accomplish the "reduced output" of the formula will make it extremely difficult to get it right.  Always weight your ingredients.

inlovewbread's picture

I have halved recipes before and had good results. Any less than half though, I have found you can encounter problems. 

Be aware though that fermentation times may be longer than the formula specifies if you reduce the amount of dough. This is due to the "mass effect". So if you are converting a formula from a larger amount specified to a much smaller amount, remember to watch your dough instead of the fermentation timeline given by the formula.

Happy Baking!

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I didn't know that about the fermentation times. Is this why I have been needing to reduce my yeast amounts to less than the proportional reductions? I thought it was the molds/mildews in the camper. (I've heard that fermentation times can be decreased if the air is full of molds and the RV we are renting is a 1999, probably was sitting on the sale lot for an extended period of time before being rented to us).

Also, is it just me or does everyone in AZ find that you have to add a bit more water despite carefully weighing ingredients? I'm usually pretty close with recipes developed on this website (but still need perhaps a tbsp) but for instance last night I made cinnamon raisin bread and the cinnamons must have sucked down 30% more fluids. Next time I made notes to soak the raisins but then I get less raisins unless I weigh prior to soaking.

I've mostly been baking wholegrains other than lastnight's cinnamon raisin and todays San Joaquin sourdough if that makes a difference. (I'm out of flour and waiting on a big order from flourgirl 51).

I always, always weigh and use a thermometer. Don't know what I'd do without that thermometer. I still can't tell when a bread "sounds hollow". What, take it out of the oven, out of it's pan and tap it, put it all back in the oven if you decide it didn't "sound hollow enough"?

Trying to bake in this mini RV oven and get it right took some doing but I have that part down thanks to a 3" paver brick on the bottom. Now it's just learning/refining my techniques and having fun.

Don't know that I'll ever be able to have the discipline to only practice a few recipes at a time to get it right but I do have a few favorites that I'm "perfecting" as I go forward and try others in-between. I just have to have some variety in my week as well.

I've been cutting my recipes in-half, sometimes in thirds. I've been thinking about cutting even smaller and trying for 150-250 grams of total ingredients, cooking somthing the size of a single hamburger bun or two.

janij's picture

I am the same.  So what I do is just base my formulas on 1 lb of flour.  Sorry I am not sure what that equates to in grams.  Oh wait I have a book, 1 lb is 450g.  This makes anywhere from a 1 1/2 lb loaf to a 2 lb loaf (depending on hydration, soakers, extras, etc.).  I think this is a nice size to handle.  It is small enough to last about 2 days in a small family and it is large enough to knead easily and still get the feel of things.  I am sure you could cut it down to 1/2 lb or 225g of total flour.  But then you might run into the problems stated above.

KenK's picture

I make a couple different breads that only use 13 ounces of flour.  I use that amount (not the same formula) to make 8 bagels for my wife's breakfast or 6 sandwich rolls for my lunch.  They go in the freezer as soon as they are cool and we thaw one a day.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

You can make any amount of dough you like but please consider the use of power. a small amount will use almost as much energy to bake as a large one.

M2's picture

Yes, I have the same dilemma also.  Hence, I always half the recipe.  Sometimes, I do only just 1/4 of the recipe when I try out something new, such as the San Fransciao Sourdough from Crust and Crumb.  (yes it worked ;) )  However, I always follow the same oven temperature and baking time for the small loaf.  Is this the right thing to do?  I don't know...and I have no idea how (if necesary) to make the adjustment.


flournwater's picture

Michelle, I suggest you free yourself of your concerns about "baking times" and focus on the temperature of your bread.  Although it is a good idea to have some feel for the moment when you should check the internal temperature of your bread (a factor of time), the amount of time required to achieve a specific internal temperature can vary considerably. 

In my experience, depending on the type of bread in my oven, bread can be expected to be "done" between 195 and 210 degrees.  Most often, it's done at an internal temperature of 205 - 210 degrees.  A few degrees one way or the other from the 205/210 range isn't going to be catastrophic, but try to keep it as close as possible to the temperture you've elected to use.

I normally begin testing the internal temperature of my loaves at 15 - 20 minutes.  If I bake on a stone, the bread bakes faster than if I bake on a baking sheet.  But it also has a better oven spring.  If I bake in a dutch oven, the baking temperature will rise more sharply than when using the stone but tends to level off once I remove the lid form the vessel to brown the loaf.

M2's picture

By inserting the thermometer in the loaf, will I leave a hole there?  Will the moisture escape through the hole and dry out the bread?  Sorry if these seems to be silly questions.

Feelin Crumby's picture
Feelin Crumby

You have to ask to know, right? Yes, you will leave a hole. And no, you're not going to lose enough moisture for it to matter. I like to take the temperature about 5 minutes before the estimated baking time is up. I just feel better knowing I'm not over-baking. I take the bread out of the oven, close the door, and stick the thermometer up through the bottom if it's a loaf that presentation matters to me. Usually I'm about 10 degrees from my mark, although sometimes the bread is already where I want it to be. If it's low, pop it back in for 5 minutes, and you're probably going to be right on.

Good Luck. Happy Baking. Jim

M2's picture

Will give it a try.