The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

tips and advice

ghazi's picture
ghazi

tips and advice

 


Hello everyone,


 


I have been making bread for the last two years on and off, knew it was something i enjoyed but it wasn't until 4 months ago i took it very seriously and am in love with it. I am very thankful to have found this forum, the only guide i had for the last 4 months was my bread book. I have read some of the topics here and it seems to be just the place, as i'm falling into the need to know more category very sharply. I can bake good basic bread and i have a couple of times, though my consistency is not there. My weakest point would be the shaping process , this is what tends to get me all the time. Sometimes my bread "rises" to the occasion other times it just wants to stay flat and wide like a ciabatta, i have done this a few times and mistakenly came out with a very nice tasting bread similar to ciabatta with the big air holes, but not what i intended to shape. Although i never gave up constantly trying again and again to "feel" my way around the dough. The other thing is my slashes were not opening up fully in the oven at first, but with more tries it got much better, this being that i added the steam factor. Can we really bake Artisan bread like the bakers at home in a normal gas oven? Help would be greatly appreciated. I live in Bahrain and  we lack good bread. Am willing to do anything to set me on the right path to great Artisan bread. I read about Todd and his experiance which i relate to 100% and has given me the courage today to keep going after lots of attempts. Thank you. I love the fact that you opened a micro-bakery with just 3 breads, starting off small and you never know where your passion could lead you.  I would love to do a bread course to get my head straight about the science.  Good to be here, i feel i am finally in a good place now.


Thank you all.


ghazi


 

madruby's picture
madruby

Hi,


I am fairly new to the world of baking but I can confidently say that I have become addicted to it.  I bought Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday and this book is a magnificent piece of work, especially for newbies such as myself.  I have experienced all kinds of frustrations and mishaps throughout the experimental process and yesterday am, I finally baked a PERFECT loaf ( wrote all about in General Discussion and Recipe Exchange:General:Peter Reinharts artisan breads)


So the answer is YES!, one can bake beautiful, amazing and FLAVORFUL artisan breads at home (I have an electric oven though but that goes for gaz ovens as well).  However, in order to achieve this, I have been very keen at using quality ingredients and getting all kinds of kitchen gadgets to help me achieve yesterday's result (but in all honesty, I am still struggling with other features that I also discuss in that posting).


Inexpensive gadgets like an oven thermometer (a tip told me that my oven may be underheated and off in relation to the thermostat and the person was right - my 10$ investment paid off big time); using a scale; producing good steam (see my posting for all the tricks I have used - General Discussion and Recipe Exchange » Artisan Baking;Overproofing and oven spring)


I don't know what are the conditions and the environment like in Bahrein (temperature, access to certain flour, etc...) but I think that with a little bit of patience, CREATIVITY and dedication, one can achieve successful loaves as well.


Good luck.


 

ghazi's picture
ghazi

Hi MadRuby,


 


That is great to hear you have baked a fantastic loaf! i think the satisfaction of that is second to none, you must have been on top of the world! Especailly after all those mishaps. Though that is the joy of getting it right isn't it? I am in the same place and have baked lovely loaves just a couple of weeks ago, now they are starting to rebel. My dough tends to be sticky, it has to be too much water to start. Although i come out with bread that has nice air pockets but flat and wide. Your absolultey right about the small factors, that is what it comes down to and every country will have to adapt to the ennvironment around them. I will take all the advice i can get and am so thankfull to have people like you around me. Thanks for all the tips!


Ghazi

madruby's picture
madruby

One of the things I have learned about baking artisan bread is that it all boils down to CHEMISTRY.  Baking bread is an art and one is a constant artist in the making.  However, one also needs to be a scientist.  Probing, groping, asking, experimenting, challenging, redefining, reformulating....En somme, one needs to be a scientific artist.


I have noticed that one day, I would bake a fabulous loaf and the next, the dough that came from the same batch will yield a different bread. Several variables may have been involved in causing that result.  Until one has achieved the level of a professional baker and can be assured of constant and consistent outcomes (by creating and working in and with a controlled environment), the amateur artisan baker such as you and me will have to accept that the loafs will carry themselves according to their rules and not ours and it is only through trials and errors that we can come to understand those rules.  And the beauty of achieving the status of a "professional" signifies that one has finally learned to manipulate those rules as well (that is the conclusion I get from reading these masters author bakers).


I still have a very long way to go.


Happy baking and cooking.

ghazi's picture
ghazi

That is what i hear all the time. I don't think one can stress that too much, its absolutley down to so many variables. This gives me hope in a way to keep trying and not worry that one loaf turned out better than the other. When do we exactly cut out a piece of old dough to add to next days baking? At the end of last proofing, before shaping? I'm told this gives bread a distinct flavour. Great to hear your thoughts! Thanks for all your advice, much appreciated!


 


Ghazi

madruby's picture
madruby

Ghazi,


I have not graduated to that level yet, and to be honest with you, I don't know that I want to try that kind of method.  I bake from P.R. book ABED as I mentioned above.  He is having us mix a big batch of dough and leave it in the fridge for the long, slow overnight fermentation (there is barely any kneading).  When we are ready to bake a loaf, we take the dough out of the fridge (that may or may not have already been pre-shaped), let it final proof and bake.  That dough can stay in the fridge up to 4 days and can be baked in different small loaves at the time.  They taste great bcuz they ferment over time (without starter, preferment, etc...).  I just baked a baguette this am and Im eating a piece right now.  Sublime.  My baguette shape ain't fantastic though and the oven spring moderate.  The baguette was wider ; not as high and round.  Oh well....I really, really recommend his book abd you seem like someone who may enjoy and benefit from his teachings.


As for your other question, perhaps you can ask it again under a new topic.  I am sure people from this community will be happy to assist.  Cheers.

ghazi's picture
ghazi

Madruby,


That book sounds like a true gem. I almost drove myself crazy kneading all the bread when i started off, up until only a month ago i invested in a dough hook machine to help me at times. There is just something satisfying though when you have used your own hands. Well, i am def going to buy that book, i love the whole leave your bread alone for a few days, the longer the better. Slow cooking at it's best. This book seems to have a whole different approach to bread, which gives you more freedom to plan your day. I will order it tonight. Absolutley great. Ive only been on this site for a few days now and im starting to feel my drive lift. I've got a problem with the shaping also, i guess that will come with time. For now if it tastes good then i'm happy. Thank you for all your help. You've turned on some light in my life. Happy baking!


 

madruby's picture
madruby

After you receive it and bake a loaf or two, please report back.  Want to know how your experience with that book is going.  Im driving everyone around me crazy with all my bread but they sure love eating it.  Cheers

Ford's picture
Ford

Ghazi writes:



Sometimes my bread "rises" to the occasion other times it just wants to stay flat and wide like a ciabatta, i have done this a few times and mistakenly came out with a very nice tasting bread similar to ciabatta with the big air holes, but not what i intended to shape.



I believe the problem here is in not building tension in the "skin" of the dough when shaping it.  Here is a video that illustrates one shaping technique to build the tension into the surface: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2461/video-tutorial-shaping-sandwich-loaf


The same technique applies with the free-standing loaves.


Ford

madruby's picture
madruby

Hi Ford,


Thanks for putting this video.  I too have major problems shaping my dough, especially when it comes to baguettes.  They are usually wider and flatter than the typical round and high (my baguettes look like a very long ciabatta but just taste like  a baguette).


Ciril Hitz has also a very very good video demonstration of how to shape boule, baguette, torpedo and creating that tension.  He has posted it on You Tube as well.  I have tried his technique and I am not very good with it.  It is a fabulous video though and worth the 7-8 min of it.

ghazi's picture
ghazi

Madruby, i will def give you the feedback once i've baked the bread, i cannot wait to get stuck in and digest it all. Realy happy you recommended something, just at the right time when i needed a boost. Cheers!

Ford,

That was a great video, nice and simple. I am going to make some spelt bread today and will try to get the tension around the "skin". Thanks for you help on this issue that has been hovering over me for months.

Ghazi