The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Breaducation of a rookie

RobertS's picture
RobertS

Breaducation of a rookie

First of all, kudos to everyone who has worked to make this such a wonderful, educational site. I am looking forward to participating in the fun here on Fresh Loaf.


I have been baking from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and the BBA, for several months now, but have had no other experience of bread-making during my 69 years of life. I thought that Artisan Bread stripped things to their esentials until I came across Lahey/Bittman bread on You Tube. Made a pot yesterday, and must say the first time was a charm.  The crumb and crust are obviously excellent looking (though the crumb may well be too thick for some people), but I found the taste a little disappointing, after the long --- 19-hour ---- ferment. It was good, but not nearly so good as some Ancienne baguettes I made recently following BBA religiously. With those loaves, I died and went to heaven.


I have two questions: (1) does maxiumum taste seem to be an issue with this manner of baking? (2) if the fault was mine, does anyone have any suggestions re getting superior taste when using this method?

Comments

RobertS's picture
RobertS

Correction: I meant to say the crust may be too thick for some palates. Also sent a picture that was too small. Here is a better-sized image.


 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Interesting questions.  There are a lot of things that can result in more flavor.  Sometimes it comes down to the type of flour.  Certainly it is an advantage to make an easy loaf that with a small adjustment on the baker's part, can pair with salty foods, robust stews, mild cheeses or simply stand on it's own.  Maximum taste is not always desired but it is fun trying to coax it out of a particular recipe.


Behind each bread is somewhere a story or stories why it came into existance.  This goes a long way in understanding the intended cultural flavor of that particular bread recipe.  What is it served with?  How can I make the best use of this particular flavor?  These and other questions come to mind when I taste a new bread.  How do I serve it?  What do I like with it?  What's the best way to cut and present it.  One eats with the eyes just as much if not perhaps more than with taste buds.   


Some breads just don't appeal to one person as much as another.  Experiment, go in the directions of your taste buds.  Each of us knows what he prefers.  Make what you like and how you like it.  Take pictures and share if you can.  We get excited about bread.


I tend to write a lot in my cookbooks.  The days are gone of knuckle slapping.  I write a date, conversions, substitutions and if I like a recipe or not and why.  I think you can write that the bread is impressive, dark crust, very airy crumb and rather bland for a long ferment.   Did you want more flavor?  What would happen if you added some whole wheat, seeds, rye or oats?  Substituted Potato water for the liquids or used spices or herbs?  Or rolled the dough in sesame seeds or added a flavored oil to the dough?


It looks good the way you cut it, like a scoop.  I could go with a hardy hunter stew of assorted forest mushrooms with a creamy sauce, snipped fresh parsley & chives to top and thick wedges of your beautiful loaf! 


I love a well browned crust.  If you want to soften it, just wrap tightly in plastic or sealed inside a container overnight.  The moisture will move to the crust from inside the loaf.


Welcome to TFL


Mini


 

RobertS's picture
RobertS

I am grateful you took the time to give me a well-considered answer to my question, an answer that came in from several directions. I was pleasantly startled into realizing that maximum taste isn't necessarily king; that we have to put each bread we make into the context of the other foods we consume along with it, and sometimes less taste can be a plus. Wow! I will never forget this advice, I promise you. I could almost visualize those mushrooms claiming top billing, riding a hefty chunk of great LOOKING bread, which is happily content to play a supporting, not a starring role. Flavours not competing, but complementing.


As for using additional ingredients to enhance taste, thank you for the varied list of examples, which I will feed into the recipe to continue experimenting. And that's the other thing I learned from your letter: if you're not happy, sometimes it's not the recipe's fault, it's just that your own expectations can't be met by that recipe, so change the recipe, dammit.


I used a hard white unbleached flour of uncertain origin (I picked it up at our local farmer's market) for the first time, in this Lahey Bread recipe. I will have to experiment further to see if I like it or not.


Meanwhile, Mini, I think I answered my own question about whether the pot-cooking method, per se, might be a taste-robber. Below is another pot bread I made yesterday afternoon, using the Deli Rye recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Not only did my uber-heavy cast-iron-cored enamel pot suffice, it delivered the best-tasting caraway rye I have ever produced, by a country mile. Again, died and gone to heaven -- a phrase which I hope to use again, so will acronymize it to "DAGTH". 


 


amauer's picture
amauer

My first breads that lacked in taste, I just upped the salt a bit and it made a big difference. Nice crumb on your loaf and I love that kind of crust. The next step in improving my breads was when I started a sourdough sponge. Last week I used a recipe posted here for a whole wheat sourdough, and it had the most wonderful flavor.


Andrea

RobertS's picture
RobertS

Grazi for your letter, Andrea, and your compliments. Salt makes sense, because immediately after taking my first chomp of this bread, I reached for the salt shaker and shook a bit on it ---- really I did.


On the second slice I spread lots of (salted) butter, and felt much happier with this bread.


As a complete rookie, I have trembled at the thought of getting into starters and especially sourdough sponges, but your note encouraged me to get off my duff and take that next step. So thank you for that suggestion, and for taking the time to help me.

RobertS's picture
RobertS

This is a follow-up re your suggestions and comments, for which, once more, I thank you.


I made another batch of Lahey bread --- ie, 3 cups flour, 1.5 cups water, 1/4 tsp yeast (active dry), and 1.25 tsp salt. Andrea, I kept the same salt amount as last time, to do a controlled experiment on the flour. Checking my notes, I see that the first time I actually used a bleached bread flour from Robin Hood called Homestyle White Best for Bread, a flour widely found on supermarket shelves in Canada. So this time around I made sure I used the Hard White Unbleached flour puchased at our famous St. Lawrence Farmers' Market in lovely downtown Toronto.


I won't bother showing you a picture of the result, because it looked exactly like the first Lahey pot bread, except the crumb was a very pale yellow this time.


And this time, the flavour was exceptionally good! Panis angelicus! So Mini, as you say, it may have been the flour that was the problem last time.  But it also may have been the five hours extra ferment time --- I gave it 24, rather than 19 hours this time around --- that was partially responsible for the mighty flavour boost. Darn, I should have held that time-variable constant. Hopefully that won't happen again. I should have known better. Of course, the great thing about "pot" bread is that you can very easily keep control of humidity. Working with lava rocks and spray bottles, and several door openings, etc., the poor home baker is hard-pressed to keep all the reins in his hands.


Just wanted to add a note about the Deli Light Rye bread I mentioned and pictured earlier, and which turned out so wonderfully. I kept the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe in the fridge for three days, then gave it a 3.5-hour warming up in my 73 degree kitchen. Then I turned it out on the countertop and folded it over from all four sides exactly as prescribed in the Bittman/Lahey video. This took a bit of flour, and a fast pastry scraper action, because the dough was quite wet. Then a 20 minute rest, and then into the hot pot. No shaping at all.


Best wishes to all you bread fanatics out there.  I am devouring as much as I can of the content on this site, and am amazed at what a fabulous Everest of information you people have amassed. And technically, the site works smoothly and is pleasing to the eye. What a labour of love the Fresh Loaf is.


And Andrea, following on your suggestion, I started a starter today! Lost my virginity. Going to use it to modify the Lahey Pot bread recipe to see if I can squeeze still more flavour out of it. And Mini: served the pot bread to company yesterday as accompaniment to a spicy hummus and a Cobb salad. Nothing but raves for the bread.


Of course, making Lahey bread takes no more skill or brain power than a six-year-old. A successful Lahey bread provides  absolutely zero evidence for the proposition that the baker is any good. But rookies have to start somewhere, and from a psychological point of view, success  can help build the confidence one needs to meet difficult challenges. I'm looking forward to growing my skills, and I am thankful I have found The Fresh Loaf to help along the way.

amauer's picture
amauer

I am new at this type of bread too. We have had a lot of tornados lately around home (Southern Minnesota). Some spooky evenings of late. I have been spared. Many homes lost and today I took my sourdoughs (one wheat and one white) to my son's house, as he was giving a dinner to people who helped him clean up downed trees in his yard (no other damage). He's a chef. so am interested in his feedback. He was going to throw them on the grill to reheat and get crusty again. They turned out looking very nice, but I will hear about the taste. I have been only working on mine for about 2 months, so each week is a new adventure and new things to get better at, such as now I have to focus on my crumb, not nearly as open as I'd like...Andrea

RobertS's picture
RobertS

Very sorry to hear about the lost homes in your region. I was caught in a tornado in Kansas in 1969, and hope to never have that experience again.


Always something to look forward to when you're on a learning curve, eh? That's the great thing I like about being a fresh-faced bread rookie. In that spirit, I am eagerly making pilgrimages to my starter bottle every few hours to observe its progress, and to further my education. I'll let you know how my first sourdough saga ends up.


Meanwhile, here's hoping your brother has cleared all the fallen trees up, and loved your loaves of sourdough, Andrea.