The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why does it suck to work?

saumhain's picture

Why does it suck to work?

Well, actually, I do love my new job. It's not as boring as the previous one and so much better than studying @ uni (at least my uni). But it has like two major drawbacks: firstly, we are not allowed to wear jeans in the office, and the second, which is really depressing - I have practically no time to bake bread!!!

I leave to work at 8 in the morning at the latest, and get back at 7 if I am really lucky. Of course, I still can bake yeasted breads, but it's not possible to bake sourdough breads... And it's such a shame, 'cause it took me a while (three failed attempts)  to raise a new starter after I've arrived from Austria, and I baked only 3 or four sourdough breads ever since. I do hope that when it gets a bit colder in our flat my starter won't ripen in 5 hours and I would then prepare pre-ferment early in the morning and bake when I come back home. For now I can bake only during weekend.

Last week I baked Hamelman's 5 Grain Levain. Oh yes one (of many))) precious present from Austria - Hamelman's "Bread", which I have been exploring and studying for 2 months already and continue to do so. I really enjoyed this bread, it was really good and tasty even after a week or so, although it became a bit sour.

The same weekend I tried to bake 40% Rye with Caraway (I was tempted by its variation, which Hamelman suggests - Salzstangerl - delicious salt sticks sprinkled also with bit of caraway, which I bought quite often in Austria). But it was a complete fail. Honestly, I had never failed with sourdough before; this time, however, I followed measurements and instructions precisely, but the dough was... Well, strictly speaking, it was not even dough - it was more like muffin batter, obviously with no sign of gluten. I mixed it, got scared by its consistence and then left it for 20 minutes or so, hoping in vain that the flour will absorb water by this time. But since it never happened and I was feeling completely desperate, I just threw it all away. May be someone had the same issue with this recipe? If not, I'd love to learn what could possibly go wrong, any suggestions are appreciated, since I have absolutely no clue.

This Saturday I baked yet another rye bread by Hamelman, this time with much more success. I have chosen his Flaxseed Rye, published in Modern Baking in March 2009. Both dmsnyder (which measurements I used) and hansjoakim had lovely interpretations of this bread, which I liked a lot. Besides it includes "altus" (bread soaker) and I always wanted to taste bread made with it. So, what can I say? Yet again the dough was wetter that I expected, even though I cut down 44 grams of water from the final dough!!! It was also proving a lot less, since I've told already, it's really hot at my place. The final result was still amazing - despite the relative small percentage of rye, it tastes like a real rye bread, goes well with almost anything. Stores good too. I am really satisfied with the result but I keep on wondering what kind of flour is there in America that Hamelman uses, which requires so much water??



noonesperfect's picture

Hamelman works with King Arthur flours, which have high protein content, even for a US flour.  Protein absorbs something like 20 times as much water as starch, so you end up using significantly more liquid than you would with a softer flour.  Pretty much every all-purpose or bread flour in the US has higher protein levels than you would see in the rest of the world, not because that is necessarily better, but because someone convinced us it was.

You are definitely doing the right thing - let the dough tell you how much liquid it needs.



pmccool's picture

but I'm up at 4:30 a.m., leave the house at 5:15 a.m. and am also lucky to get home before 7:00 p.m.  However, there is time for baking sourdough even when I have to spend 14 hours at the office on a Saturday, as I did last weekend. 

The key seems to be a combination of desire and time management.  I want to bake, far more than I want to do a number of other things that could consume my time.  And I've learned how to stage the builds and the dough and the bakes to fit around the other things that I must, or want, to do during the weekend.  Depending on what else is on the list, I may bake on Saturday or I may bake on Sunday.  Unless I'm out of town, I do bake.

Baking on weeknights is absolutely out, for me.  The late arrival at home, dinner, time with my wife, tending to the mundane but essential tasks, and even relaxing a little chew up all of the 2 to 2.5 hours I have before hitting the hay at 9:30.

Best of luck with the rye.  It is a different thing than wheat, that's for sure.  I've been playing around with 80-100% ryes recently and there is just no comparison to a wheat dough.  The more accurate descriptor would be paste, not dough, in the case of rye.  Still, once you learn how it behaves, it makes wonderfully delicious bread.  If practice makes perfect, I have a lot more practicing to do.


MadAboutB8's picture

I love baking bread. I don't love my job either but at least I don't hate it.

I feel blessed that I've discovered bread baking. It is such a good hobby that gives me satisfaction and make my work even more pleasant as a result of having a fullfilled hobby.

I find that baking sourdough bread can fit in with the working schedule quite nicely. My schedule is usually like this.....

Day 1: AM - making liquid levain before leaving for work

Day 1: PM - mixing the final dough, shape and retard the dough overnight  in the fridge (could take about 3 hrs)

Day 2: either AM or PM - take off the dough from the fridge and let it sit at the room temp for about an hour or two while the oven is getting pre-heated (take about 2 hrs, including baking time).


ericb's picture

I have a similar problem with scheduling. We have so much going on that I cannot justify blocking out hours of my evening to bake bread. So, I borrowed from the "Five Minutes a Day" book and applied their method to sourdough bread. 

The trick is increased hydration, minimal kneading, and extended, low-temperature fermentation. This combination allows you to pull dough from the fridge and bake almost immediately without multiple rises, proofing, etc.

When mixing the final dough, increase the hydration so that the dough is just wet enough that it would be difficult to knead. Cover the dough (I use a plastic bowl with lid) and store it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours (maybe longer!). When you are ready to bake, cut off chunks of dough and form quickly into boules. Place them directly on parchment paper, dust with flour, and cover. Turn on your oven. When the oven reaches temperature, score and load the dough.