The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Books & Grain Mill arrived together... excited but worried about schedule

SydneyGirl's picture

Books & Grain Mill arrived together... excited but worried about schedule

So, on a mad impulse I bought a bread mill, the Schnitzer Pico, and it arrived at the same time as Hamelman's "Bread", Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" and Leader's "Local Breads" (I think I might have overdone it on the books). Sourdough is fermenting, a mother starter is in the making and I ate my a whole lot more soaked bran in my first home-ground muesli concoction (oats, wheat bran sifted from the flour that fed the sourdough and amaranth/quinoa) this morning (delicious- no more horrible bitter whole wheat aftertaste). 

I've made bread before but really became obsessed over the last month, particularly since joining this site. Now I'm wondering whether I'm cut out for serious bread baking. How daunting. 

In the past couple of weeks I've made a nice Jewish Rye (per Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe), a no-recipe cobbled together malty dark rye and white Austrian rolls which all tasted lovely, even though the oven let me down most terribly. Did I really need all those book? Yet, I find the science behind the baking fascinating, and learning why stuff works is always great. 

I do feel a little daunted by Reinhart. It's not the recipes or my ability to follow them but scheduling. It would have been nice if he had mapped out a more specific timetable for each bread, one that allows for me to be away from home for 10-14 hours at a stretch while I earn the money to buy more bread books and grain! Will all my weekends be taken up with squeezing in dinners, movies & theatre, shopping, etc etc in between bread making steps?

Will I have to start kneading at 8pm and then get up periodically through the night to stretch dough at intervals? Exhausting just thinking about it. How do other people manage a regular bread making schedule? 

It just dawned on me that I've never thought about the fact that my mother, who bakes a load of sourdough loaves every week, generally doesn't get out much on Saturdays. Hm, how could I have missed that? 



inlovewbread's picture

You can never have too many bread books! They are all great for different reasons, and I think each will shed light on separate areas of bread baking. I have all the books you listed, plus some- and still refer to each for different things.

My advice would be to read them all, gain a little knowledge on how you can change formulas and scheduling to fit your needs. If you look in Whole Grain Breads, you'll notice that most of the breads in there involve mixing a biga (or refreshing sourdough) and a soaker the night before, and simply mixing and proofing the next day. This usually works into a busy schedule easily.

There are tons of other methods/techniques out there that you could use to fit into your day. Take a look around on this site (dmsnyder's san joaquin sourdough comes to mind as I just made it) and a lot of others that use a long cold retardation- allowing you to leave the dough for large chunks of time. 

Good luck, don't feel intimidated- for me the learning/ the science behind bread baking was the fun part. Then you get to put your newfound knowledge into practice! I see you just read my post about not having so much luck with my latest breads, but then you really come through on others. It's all part of the process I guess, but it caused me to wonder if I "was cut out for bread baking"- but if it interests you, and you have a passion for it- then I think you're meant to do it.

SydneyGirl's picture

Thanks for being an enabler for my obsessive book buying. I'm afraid I have a history of going overboard when I start delving more seriously into a new hobby (as evidence I present a library of books on quilting, cooking, silver jewellery making, document design etc). And then there is all the special equipment....

But I am reading all those baking books and am on track to convert all the US measurements in Hamelman's book with metric ones (and halving his home recipes, which seem too large for my consumption). 

I'm on my way to making one of Reinhart's wheat/rye breads with my first home-milled flour. Starter and soaker will be ready to be worked on tonight. Wish me luck. 

Have to say that your photos set the bar fairly high - might be a while before I post any pics of my breads. 

dmsnyder's picture

Will all my weekends be taken up with squeezing in dinners, movies & theatre, shopping, etc etc in between bread making steps?

The short answer is "yes," but, if you plan your time well, you can do it. There are times when I need to split up errands so they fit between my "stretch and folds" at 50 minute intervals, etc.  If I have other plans, I time my bread making to fit them. 

Julia Child, who first inspired a lot of us to tackle "real French bread" baking in the '60's and '70's, said that, if other activities needed to be squeezed into your bread baking day, just stick the dough in the fridge. We debate the stage at which this can be done - in bulk fermentation, after forming the loaves, with or without partial proofing - but Julia said do it whenever you have to. 

Once you know your dough, you have a lot more latitude in procedures without compromising quality. You also learn to use pre-ferments  (including sourdough) and retardation to make it work for you. You learn which types of breads are most amenable to schedule juggling.

You will bake a few bricks along the way, but it's all good experience if you learn from your mistakes. (Most of your "mistakes" are still edible, anyway.)

So, welcome to TFL and happy baking!