The Fresh Loaf

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from a bread newbie : long autolyse + cold and long fermentation makes a killer bread !!!

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sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

from a bread newbie : long autolyse + cold and long fermentation makes a killer bread !!!

Hi to all of you guys and girls, and thanks a million for this precious website.


I'm french, and pretty new to making bread even though i've always dreamed to. I just love bread and, unfortunately, the bread you can find nowadays in french bakeries is pretty much unedible nine times out of ten. Tasteless, chewless and essentially stale only a couple hours after you bought it, not even mentioning the price which, sincerely, gets just about scandalous these days...


Fortunately enough, i bought myself a good, reliable and sturdy oven about six months ago, which at last allowed me to try my luck and find out if i could ever get good at making a decent bread. So i browsed on the internet for quite a while, finding an awful lot —even though often contradictory— of infos on how to elaborate and cook a nice loaf.


After a couple months of researching and discriminating, i finally ramped up for production, bought the best ingredients i could find and, as a typically french expression litterally puts it, threw myself off into cold water...


The first tries ended up in a total mess : my loaves looked, felt and tasted just like a log, even though i followed the instructions i found as closely as i could and, frankly, i was just about to give it up altogether. After thinking it over for a while, i decided i would try and figure out what, chemically and dynamically speaking, was occuring during the bread making process. And frankly, that was the key to success.


I won't insist on the chemical process too much, since lots of you guys have already explained it in detail on this very site, but here's a few hints which may help another newbie, just like the one i was a couple months ago. Those may seem pretty empirical to most of you but, once again, i'm essentially writing this for total noobs, who don't have the slightest hint about how to actually proceed. So, here's my two cents contribution.


- The autolyse step seems just about essential to me, especially for a beginner. When one wants to work with a highly hydrated dough, in particular, one often gets puzzled by how liquid it initially is, wondering how the hell anyone could be able to later knead it. Well, autolyse fixes it all. I read —here and there— that a 30 mns autolyse was good enough to express most of the dough's gluten. I actually noticed that a 4 or 5 hours autolyse in the bottom of the fridge was working better, still. Because no matter how hydrated your dough may look at the beginning of the process, the fact is after that a few hours of autolyse followed by six or nine folds, the dough gets practically workable.


- Then, the fermentation process. I tried various lengths and temperatures, but the best results i got came from a cold and lengthy fermentation process, only interrupted by a few foldings here and there. Obviously, the process begins after the autolyse has fully happened. I usually start it at mid day. I add my yeast (dry instant SAF yeast, as a matter of fact) and salt, knead it for a short while (10 or 15 folds) and put it back in the fridge overnite, where the yeast will slowly but surely digest all of good part those delicious sugars. On next morning, i take the dough out of the fridge, and leave it on the counter for about an hour, in order for it to get back to a decent room temperature. Once the temperature has gotten back to normal, i give my dough another 10 or 15 folds, before putting it back in the fridge for another night of yeast banquet.


- So here we are on the following morning, about 48 hours after the autolyse process has actually begun. While it may seem quite lengthy to some of you, i sincerely found out it makes a whole world of difference. My dough is now strong, way strong, very elastic, it does not stick anymore and develops a nice, sweet and slightly acid smell which presumes for the best. I give it another 4 or 5 folds straight out of the fridge, and let it rest for about 15 minutes on the counter before entering the preshaping step. I turn my oven on, max temperature (about 300 C°, which is about 570 F°), just to make sure my baking stone will accumulate enough heat for later. This single process will take at least an hour. I then split the dough as needed, and preshape my wannabe-loaves in order to put the dough in tension, kinda, then let them rest for another half an hour on the counter, covered with a cloth.


- Before entering the last shaping stage, i turn the temperature down to 260 C° (500 F°), throw a couple glasses of water at the bottom of the oven, and repeat this process every ten minutes or so until it actually gets saturated with steam. In the meanwhile, i give my loaves their final shape, very carefully and tightly seaming them once their shape and internal tension is satisfying enough. I then let them sit on the counter for another half hour for their final proofing, score them mercylessly —not too deep, though— and put them delicately but rapidly enough on the baking stone, before adding a couple more glasses of water at the bottom of the oven. Close the oven, turn the temperature down to 240 C° (460 F°) and, if everything went swell, watch your loaves slowly spring up 'til they gain between 50 and 100 % in volume, depending on how carefully —or lucky— you are. That should take another 10 minutes or so. Open the door, quickly steam your oven up again, close the door, and turn the temperature down to 220 C° (420-430 F°).


- Let your loaves cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, depending on their size and weight and, once done, turn your oven off, open the door slightly and let the bread sit on the stone while the oven cools down, for another 15 minutes or so. Take your bread out and let it fully cool down before even trying to cut a slice of it, you'd otherwise risk making a real mess of a beautiful piece of art


Last, but not least, i would like to add that what overall seemed  just essential to me is the delicacy you treat your dough with. As i read here before, you need an iron hand in a velvet glove. Your gestures need to be fast, precise, and delicate. Don't mistreat your dough, it's alive and, unfortunately, very, very easy to kill.


So just remember you're working on live stock, kinda, and everything will be allright.


Voilà, i hope this can help well intentioned noobs, just like the one i was barely a few weeks ago.


Best regards to you all, and keep up with the great work.


 


Seb


 


 

phxdog's picture
phxdog

Seb,


Great post! Like so many of us on this site, I think you are hooked on the quest for great bread. I would rather prep & bake than sleep (and often do).


Regarding your 48 autolyse, seems like I read somewhere that the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco takes that much time with their sourdoughs . . . I may have dreamed that fact.


Anyway, keep that new oven crankin'.


Scott (Phxdog)

Ford's picture
Ford

Hello Seb,



Your narration seems to be a great one for anyone just starting, and for some experienced ones too.  You have many useful tips there.  I'll save it for others to read.  Your use of the English language makes it difficult to believe it is not your first language.


Ford

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

First, I'd like to sincerely thank Scott and Ford for their warm welcome, since entering a forum as a new member is always a pretty daunting moment.


Then, i wanna say that this forum is from far and without a doubt the most exhaustive and well informed source I have found during the two months i spent parsing the web about some coherent and rational info on bread making.


I've been on the internet for quite a while now, and have been able to learn tons of invaluable things from it, including some pretty technical stuff about LEDs, kites, Arduinos, quantum physics and, in this latter case, bread.


This just to say that i really and sincerely believe that the web is probably the best and most efficient way to share some knowledge nowadays and that, hence, not sharing it as widely as possible seems kind of criminal to me.


So, if you guys have any questions on LEDs or kites, i'll be more than happy to try and answer them. As for quantum physics, i'll be a bit less affirmative since, to me, it looks barely less frightening than baking the perfect loaf, hehe...


@Scott : i got the long autolyse and the slowed fermentation process idea from raw observation, since up to a certain point, every loaf i baked was interesting in some way or another, but not satisfying altogether. My bread would either not spring up, or the crust would stay dull, or the inner bubbles would remain tiny, or...


I mean that, for as elemental as it may seem, it looks like making bread is both a quite sophisticated alchemy and a delicate process which involve an awful lot of precision, patience and rigor. There are so many factors to it that can ruin days of work and tons of hopes in just a few minutes...


@Ford : thanks a million for the compliment, i'm very flattered indeed, both about the contents of my post and my use of the english language. Just wanted to add english actually isn't my first language, i truly am a french man, for as risky as such an assertion may seem ;-) But i must admit that listening to a lot of Frank Zappa when i was a kid helped a lot, since not fully understanding what the guy was saying was just driving me nuts.


Anyway, thanks again for welcoming me so warmly, i realy mean it, and talk to you guys soon, i'll try to post some bread porn as soon as i can put a hand on my digital camera.


 


Seb


 


 


 


 

rolls's picture
rolls

would love to see some pics

cherylmathew's picture
cherylmathew

I'm a newbie too! but not as good as you! Your description of the bread alone is mouth-watering. Can you please share some pic of the loaves and crumb.


Thanks


Cheryl

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I found it very interesting and would like to try some of your techniques.

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Thanks for the warm welcome.


About the pics, i just made a pretty sexy batch, but still couldn't find my camera... I'll try and borraow my son's asap...


 


Seb

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

Like the others I find your post very useful and echo the comments of others!


I have retarded overnight and have gotten better results than not both in flavor, color and spring.  I also like a more sour style like some of the German breads so your 48 hour cold retard approach will be used on my next bake!


Question: can you share the flour types that you use?  I usually add 30-50% whole grain (whole wheat and rye under various combinations) - and that understandably tends to result in a flatter loaf than say purely using white flour.  My holy grail is to get the kind of 50%-100% oven spring that you reference using at least a decent amount of whole grains as I like the flavor and texture that they impart. 


Thank you and welcome to the forum!

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Hi, and thanks for your post !!


I'll gladly share my recipe since, afterall, that's the whole point of hanging round her : sharing !


But you'll have to be a bit more patient : i haven't fully documented it yet which, hopefully, will be done by tonite.


Best regards,


 


Seb

serenityhill's picture
serenityhill

Seb, I still consider myself a noob, having only just achieved a good sandwich bread from here. No great oven just now...


I consider Zappa an excellent starter to an english language yeastiness, but did you know that he also had a bread fascination?  Gail said that his favorite food was pancakes.  He continually brought back examples, not realizing that cold, old pancakes never reveal their secrets.  This was the inspiration for St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast.


Then there was the Utility Muffin Research Kitchens ;<)


TFL is, without a doubt, a trove of bread treasure and the most supportive place I've found for bread education.


the crux of the biscuit, is the Apostrophe...

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Well your post had a very pleasant result, ya know, it just installed a big and wide smile over my face and i'm truly happy to have found another FZ supporter !!


You're right, Frankie was obviously a bread addict if we refer to the numerous hints he disclosed in his songs.


BTW, Apostrophe is without a doubt one of my fav albums, the other one being Bongo Fury, of which i recently found a twin brother, still a live album but twice as long : Bongo Fury in El Paso, i think. If you can't find it, steal it, and if you feel too old to steal it, i'll be more than happy to upload it for ya !


Seb

serenityhill's picture
serenityhill

On the hill, not over it-- I'm sure I'll find BF in EP soon.


Time to go make yeasty goodness!  Thanks for letting me know about BF in EP.


 


the crux of the biscuit, is the Apostrophe...

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

OMG, i just found out what the crux ITB meant and hence, the whole meaning of the album's title, thanks to those guys


http://www.arf.ru/Notes/Apostro/stfoot.html


Had actually been wondering for about 30 years with no luck... Guess i still have to work on both FZ and the american culture for a while before fully appreciating it. Could it be that, afterall, just as for making bread, it's a neverending journey to happiness, hehe...


Seb


 

serenityhill's picture
serenityhill

I just followed your link, probably further than I wanted, just confirms that FZ was a very twisted mind <<ggg>>


I had always thought he was using another definition for the word, copied here from merriam-webster.com (the dictionary):


: the addressing of a usually absent person or a usually personified thing rhetorically <Carlyle's “O Liberty, what things are done in thy name!” is an example of apostrophe>


as in, personifying Phydeaux?


BTW, the CD is here, gotta go into admin mode to install the unpack software.


Later.

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

As i was parsing around for some more pancakes occurences in FZ's eternal opus, i found this link which i thought you may find interesting....


http://www.science.uva.nl/~robbert/zappa/quote/phrases


Seb


 


"There is no hell. There is only France."
erlinda100's picture
erlinda100

Seb,   Would like to try your method.  Would you mind giving me your recipe with the weights of the ingredients you used for your bread?  I have 2 loaves under my belt so far, both were made with a sourdough starter. The 2nd loaf came out better than the first.  I would like to try your method for a baguette.   Also how do you think your method of long fermentation would work with sourdough starter?  Any thoughts?


PS I agree this site is a Godsend


Thanks Erlinda

erlinda100's picture
erlinda100

 

Seb,   Would like to try your method.  Would you mind giving me your recipe with the weights of the ingredients you used for your bread?    I would like to try your method for a baguette.   Also how do you think your method of long fermentation would work with sourdough starter?  Any thoughts?

Thanks Erlinda

 

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Dear Erllnda,


Thanks a million for your kind commentary.


Unfortunately, and until now, i haven't kept a detailed journal of what i exactly did (this i remember, kinda), or which precise quantities were involved... To be quite honest, and except for the very fact that i used 2 Kgs of semi-whole flour (110 gauge, under the french standards), it'd be damn hard form me to tell you how much water, yeast or salt i actually added.


So, i just decided i'd try and repent.


Tonite's the nite, got no more more bread in the freezer, and it reaaaally looks like its time for another batch, huh ? (Can you hear the chords in the background ?)


Since it looks like the right time for a new start, i thought it might be a better idea to try out a new idea which, iMHO, deserves a new thread in itself


Not from scratch, i mean, i'd hate to just throw down what i just learned, but, for as adventurous as it may seem, i thought i might throw myself into poolish.


This time, though i'm gonna try and fully document it, hoping i can put a hand on this damn digital camera of mine before i get done with the oven part.


This new thread is gonna be entitled "Why does it hurt when i knead ?", as a special dedication to my new bread buddy, Serenityhill


Since, as Ian Curtis once stated, "a new dawn fades"...


Sweet dreams, and thanks again for your interest,


 


Seb


 

erlinda100's picture
erlinda100

Seb,  Thank you for getting back to me,  I am trying BBA's  formula which uses a pate fermentee, I'm also using 10% white whole wheat flour with the rest 1/2 AP flour, and bread flour.  Not bad but I want it better. My problem is getting the right amount of water.  One loaf spread out too much.  I started baking about a month ago after getting some fresh sourdough starter.  Today I made a Poilane-style Miche which I just cut into. It tastes great. I'll try include pic's not sure how to add the photo's though.  Appears I'm not download the pic's correctly.  I clicked on the pic icon above which asks you to insert the pic.  i'll try to figure it out.


BTW did you ever get the formula written down?  I am going to buy some of the french flour from KAF's site and try the baguettes again


Cheers, ErlindaPoilane-style MichePoilane-style Miche

erlinda100's picture
erlinda100

Here are the photo's I tooktn_0.jpegtn.jpeg

lello's picture
lello

I also started baking bread recently, and this is also my first post on the blog.


I am really impressed by the process you developed in just a few months. However, I have some doubt on your sequence,  or at least I guess that the instructions can be applied only to a certain type of bread with a certain hydration (probably huge) and so on.


I agree with the long autolyse process. It can help a lot for high hydration breads.


I have some doubt about your folding process. You seem to fold the dough about 40 times!  Do you knead it befor folding? I have not really clear what you mean for folding. If it is the "standard" technique used by many authors (see Hamelman) the I'd say that 40 folding are a really huge number. Never heard of that, apart for some no-knead breads. Would you explain better your foldings?  As you say after your process your dough is very strong (maybe too strong?) and "elastic". However, elasticity is not always good , estensiblity is also fundamental. 


Lello

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Hi Lello, and thanks for commenting on this thread,


the sequence i described hereabove was essentially inspired by numerous other comments, techniques and processing descriptions i found on various bread dedicated web sites. As a matter of fact, it's more an empirical —even though pretty much thought over— compilation of the various infos i had collected before getting down to the real thing.


Being an empirical process, the successful attempt i describe here does not pretend to be either extensive, nor exact. For instance, i certainly cannot guarantee that 40 folds is the right amount to apply to your dough. The thing is that, having some kind of a cartesian mind, i decided i'd push the process as far as i could, both in terms of autolyse, cold fermentation or folding, just to see if it would make a noticeable difference compared to my first attempts, which were mostly dictated by impatience and newbie enthusiasm.


The fact is i did see a difference. The cold and lengthy autolyse does add quite a bit of strength to your initial flour & water mix, making it both way easier to work with once you've added the yeast & salt, especially when working on a highly hydrated mix, and giving it what i would qualify as some more intimate cohesion.


In a similar manner, the long fermentation process (i went up to 4 days in the fridge, but i'm pretty sure i could double it) bring up a lot of taste, complex aromas i could not observe before, as well as a real difference in texture, may it be before or after baking.


Concerning the number of folds, yes, it's more or less the Hammelman's technique, even though it's made inside of the container and not on the counter. And, yes, it seems like an awful lot, even though when you consider doing those folds on a 4 days period, it only gets down to ten folds a day.


Seems like the shaping process also gets easier, my shaped loaves keep their integrity for longer without flattening, which allows me for a longer proofing.


I also noticed that the oven spring is waaayyyy more efficient, even on a poorly shaped Boule, which saw its thickness get down to about this of a pancake after i scored it and waited too long to put it in the oven.


So, and as for building up on your remarks, i must admit i do not precisely know which of those various factors actually influenced my success the most. If i were to reproduce this experiment in a more scientific manner, i'd have to isolate each and everyone of them and try 'em out individually, just to check out which does what.


Once again, i'm a bread newbie and, if i happen to have the slightest talent, it would probably be somekind of an an inherent capacity to localize, isolate and aggregate different infos and technical elements from different authorized sources, in order to reduce the noob error factor as much as possible. I'm a journalist, see, and that's probably what i do best. But otherwise, i certainly wouldn't pretend my recipe stands for anything else than a fairly successful first try at making a good, aerated and tasty home bread.


Best regards


Seb

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

As the title suggests, you may enjoy this video, in which the chef gives his dough about 600 folds on a 20 mns period, which tends, IMHO, to confirm the importance of an energic and exhaustive folding process..


Seb

lello's picture
lello

Ehm...which video?


thanks for the reply. The point you describe are indeed all of extreme importance. In the future I'd like to here more about your experience with such very long fermentation.

sebasto06's picture
sebasto06

Oki, sorry Lello, i just forgot the link, so here it is,


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvdtUR-XTG0and thanks again for your kind comments,


 


best regards,


Seb

lello's picture
lello

Thanks,


I know this kind of technique, and I have used it several times  for my baba-savarin.  As a short comment I can say  that it is used to develop a strong gluten. However, it is generally used in the case in which the dough is mixed only for a very short time. Or kneaded just a bit. It is basically a way to "knead" the dough and it can develop a very strong gluten. Using a stand mixer, even just for 2-3 minutes is similar to performing a lot of "stretch and fold", although the mixer might not be so effective. So 2-3 minute of mixing can save a lot of folding, without oxidizing the dough too much. But this is just my point of view.


As I understand your 40 S&F are done on the "shaggy mass" not a well mixed dough.


Anyway, good luck.