The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Agony of Defeat and the Thrill of Victory

wally's picture
wally

The Agony of Defeat and the Thrill of Victory

Bread baking really is a lot like the Wide World of Sports.  A really nice bake that lulls you into thinking you've 'conquered' a particular bread is often followed by a rude reality slap when a bake goes awry, leaving me, at any rate, wondering whether the former was just a lucky fluke or the latter a bad day.


Rarely do I experience both the high and low in a single day, but today's bakes managed to fill the bill. 


I began with an attempt at Hamelman's Three-Stage 90 Percent Sourdough Rye.  I've only been baking ryes for a little over a month, and I've been dutifully working up from fairly low percentage ryes to progressively higher ones.  This one was the second Detmolder method rye I've attempted (the first being a 50% rye which turned out quite nicely).  Everything had gone well through the various builds, until the final mix.  Then, I found (retrospectively), I had misread his final dough amount of medium rye - 1 lb, .7oz (that's point 7 oz) as 1 lb, 7 oz!  Not good.  (Should I mention that I'm waiting on a new pair of reading glasses?). 


I should have known immediately when I began the mix that the dough was way too dry for a rye.  But I continued the mix, and only after did I go back and redo all my calculations, eventually leading me to discover that it wasn't my math that was faulty, but my eyesight.  In desperation, I put the finished dough back in the mixer, and added the appropriate amount of water to compensate, mixed briefly on speed 1 and then proofed as per recipe.


Meantime, I had also mixed Hamelman's Pain au Levain with 5% rye, which I love for its subtle but distinct flavor.  I've slightly downsized his home recipe to make two 1.5 lb loaves.  I find that the finished product is about 11" long, weighs about 1 lb, 4 oz after baking, and is a perfect size (to me!).  The two bâtards were comfortably resting en couche, but it was now obvious to me that they would reach near-full proof too early given that the rye needed to go into the oven first but was now seriously behind schedule given my disastrous mishap.


I decided to retard the pain au levain in the refrigerator and hope that I wouldn't end up with an over-proofed product.


The rye went into the oven, after docking, for a 50 minute bake.  As you can see, I might be able to sell the finished product to a sporting goods store as an 'organic discus'.  



Ah the agony of defeat.


This left me with two loaves of pain au levain to bake and hopes for some kind of redemption.  The retarding, which I haven't tried with this bread before (Hamelman discourages overnight  retarding, and I've never tried short-time retarding) I think helped the scoring markedly.  But the proof of the pudding came 40 minutes later when I pulled the two loaves from the oven.  These had the best oven spring by far that I've ever achieved with this bread, as is evidenced by the gringes (also the best I've managed with it)!



And - to top it all off - the crust after a couple minutes out of the oven began to crackle and continued to do so for the next hour!  Ah, the thrill of victory!



All in a day's baking.  So I again wonder, how much luck, how much misfortune, how much skill?  Something to reflect on over a nice piece of freshly baked bread!


Larry


Nearly forgot: the crumb shot from the pain au levain -


Comments

ZD's picture
ZD

Larry, beautiful pain au levain. How do you get the cracks? I think my new oven has too tight of a seal and holds too much moisture. 


Greg R

wally's picture
wally

Thanks Greg!  I wish I could answer your question, but truth is, sometimes they happen and most of the time they do not.  I associate them with especially thin-crusted breads, which again, sometimes happen and most of the time do not.


I bake with a gas oven, so venting isn't my problem - creating and holding sufficient steam is!  I think today was a fortunate happenstance - the retarding happened at the right time in the proofing, the refrigeration faciliated my cuts (my day job is as an apprentice baker, so I do a lot of slashing, but have poor results at home - gas ovens make it difficult), and my steaming worked well enough.


Lot of luck, some skill.


One suggestion would be to find a way to vent your oven for the last 10 -15 minutes of your bake (longer if you're baking ryes).  Maybe you can crack the door a bit, or just open it at intervals to allow moisture to escape.  That should allow for better drying of your crusts.  Good luck!


Larry

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Even the rye. Have you tried it yet? How did it taste?


The gringes on your pain au levain are something to hope for.


I admire your honesty in admitting that a lot of time it's luck and sometimes it's skill. I agree. We can say "I did this or that" but a lot of time we're lucky. Personally, I don't think it matters if one uses a scale or measures ingredients with a hand, it all still has to be adjusted according to weather and brands of flour etc., etc. and sometimes it's just a good day to make bread. In the end it's almost always delicious and as home bakers that's what counts.


Great job, as usual Larry

wally's picture
wally

Thanks so much.  I'm waiting another day (48 hrs. in all) for the rye to set up sufficiently and then we'll see whether my rescue attempts were successful.


I do think that its important to weigh/measure ingredients if you are looking for consistent results.  Otherwise too many variables are at play at any one time and you really don't know what you may have done right or wrong.  That said, I completely agree with you that there are still factors you can't completely control and they can be the difference between a great bake and one that's so-so. 


Larry

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Your first paragraph brought to mind Jeffrey Hamelman's comments on p 86 under the Artist or Artisan? section, where he writes:  "When it all goes just right (which it rarely does)...."


It all went very right with those absolutely stunning pain au levain loaves, Larry.  And actually, the rye doesn't look all that bad.  

wally's picture
wally

Thanks Lindy. Yes, his words are fitting and remind me always to be pleasantly surprised when things do go according to plans.  I'll post a shot of the rye crumb when it's had another day to set up.


Larry

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Larry.


That's a 90% rye, for goodness sake! It looks pretty good  - like a 90% rye. If you said it were a baguette, I'd say "You've got a problem."


Be sure to let it rest for 24-72 hours before slicing, then you'll be able to judge it.


Get back to us on this.


David

wally's picture
wally

David - I think the picture actually flatters (not flattens) the bread.  I have it wrapped and resting in a towel.  Tomorrow I will probably cut into it and share a shot of the crumb.  Thanks.


Larry

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I like the looks of it too!  And the looks of the two!  Beautiful!


Mini

wally's picture
wally

That is comforting, coming from the queen of rye!  I'll post pics when I cut it tomorrow.


Larry

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I will be looking forward to your discus-report... :-)   Who knows, maybe it will taste great, and actually, I agree with David, for a 90% rye, it doesn't look that bad


 


The slashing on your loaves was a masterpiece!  And the crumb too...


 


I think bread baking also goes hand in hand with Tale of Two Cities:  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... "   ;-)

wally's picture
wally

Yes Sally, that great opening line from Dickens works so well with baking!  Thanks for your complement.  Tomorrow will bring the grand opening of the weightly loaf.


Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Your Rye looks great for a high percentage rye. My first few in the category were pretty sad, yours looks wonderful. Can't wait to see the crumb.


Eric

ananda's picture
ananda

I'm with these other good people Larry,


Your breads look great, and you really cannot be allowed to refer to your rye loaf as a discus; that is a massive % of rye in there.


Here's a thought from a mischievous Brit.   Clearly you refer yourself to the importance of weighing materials.   Have you ever thought about going metric?   It's so much easier to work out your recipe from a formula when using 10s, 100s and 1000s as multipliers/dividers.


I'm waiting with Eric et. al. to see the crumb shot of your lovely rye bread


Best wishes


Andy

wally's picture
wally

Andy- Thanks for your comments.  Actually, Hamelman lists all his large production scale quantities in kg, but his one concession to home bakers (and we lump-headed Americans who insist on sticking to our feet and yards and pounds and ounces) is to list ingredients for small quantity bakes in pounds, ounces and teaspoons.


I translated his home quantity into grams, and then halved everything since I was baking only one loaf and not the two loaves that the home recipe calls for.


Unfortunately, that really cost me once I looked at the final dough mix and realized something was wrong, because I ended up  having to go through the entire formula and check all my calculations (translate everything into ounces, divide by 2, and then multiply by 28.35 to convert to grams - all this on my cell phone's calculator since my trusty 25 yr. old Texas Instruments calculator recently gave up the ghost).  And of course, it wasn't until I got to the final mix measurements that my squinty eyes realized my mistake.


Anyhow, I'm about to post up the pics, so please weight in.


Larry

wally's picture
wally

Thanks Eric!  I'm about to post up some pics now.  Am looking forward to critiques.


Larry

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Larry, how long did you retard the pain au levain?  Your loaves were so lovely I decided to bake the bread and take it with me to Easter dinner.


Am just curious just in case I need a plan "B" today, as I have bagels retarding and a poolish waiting to be mixed for rolls.

wally's picture
wally

Lindy-


I did a final fermentation of 2 hrs. and 15 minutes, and then retarded the pain au levain for approximately 1 hour.  Good luck with your bake today!


Larry

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Thanks, Larry.  This is the first time I've attempted that recipe, as well as the baguettes with poolish, which I'm using for the rolls, so at least I have a plan "B."


Hopefully things will go better as I forgot to close my bottom cupboard door, a timer went off and when I went to turn it off, I walked into the door, ripping it off the frame.  My photo today will be for the blooper thread.


BTW, your rye looks mighty fine to me.  

wally's picture
wally

I'm not sure baking is supposed to be a contact sport!  BTW - at work we use the poolish dough for rolls as well and they turn out quite well.  Very light and airy.  The crust is thin and crisp out of the oven, but will soften after a couple hours.  They'll keep for a day or so - longer than the baguettes.


Larry

wally's picture
wally

All-


It's now 48 hours since my bake of Hamelman's 3-stage 90% sourdough rye.  I recalculated the TFW based on my boo-boo, and this is actually about a 92% rye.


Anyhow, below are the crumb shots.  I'd really appreciate feedback - especially from the rye experts (Mini, David, etc).  I'm not sure at all what the crumb should look like on a rye like this.


As for flavor, it's got a nice sourness, and the crumb is quite moist except around the edges where it meets the crust, and there it's a little on the dry side.


I will definitely bake this again, forgoing my faux pas next time around, but I'm eager for some constructive criticism.


Thanks!


Larry


dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Looks good to me, and the profile looks good too. 


David

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Larry,


yes your description sounds great.   You should find that the sourness will help to keep the moisture bound in for several days.   It may dry out at the edge, but cut away a thin slice, and it will be just about as moist as now.


Volume really is excellent for 92%.


For a different type of rye, I've just posted on pumpernickel here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/17254/horst-bandel039s-balck-pumpernickel


I was taught metric in school, back in 1970.   For all that the old imperial system remains common currency over here, some 40 years later!   I've learnt to use both, but only to accomodate some people's inability to go metric.


Hey, good for you


Best wishes


Andy   

wally's picture
wally

Andy - That is the recipe I'm working up to!  It looks wonderful - and not a little daunting.  The shots of your breads are gorgeous!


Larry

wally's picture
wally

Thanks David; I needed a reality check so I know what to shoot for next bake!


Larry

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Now you have to take back all the 'organic discus' jokes!  Keep it wrapped in plastic to remoisten the crust.   Happy Easter!


Mini

wally's picture
wally

Ah, thanks Mini!  I wasn't sure how best to preserve ryes, but I suspected they should be treated differently than my usual white dough breads. I'm wrapping the rest up.


It is lovely with goat cheese!


Larry