The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My Combo Cooker Experiment

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

My Combo Cooker Experiment

The only way for me to make any relivent decisions about how best to use my new combo cooker is to bake the same basic formula repetedly, making procedural changes and noting the change in outcomes. So, this bake is another in a series of the Basic Country Bread from Tartine. I did make one small change in the formula to suit my personal prefrence in flavor. I really like the flavor of a French style bread with around 5% rye in an otherwise white bread flour mix. When you get the ferment right there is a great nutty after taste that is IMHO the essence of that great full flavor French bread.


My levain was made from 50g of AP and 50g of whole rye mixed with 100g of warm water. Left to ferment at 78F for 12 hours, it had a fruity fragrance and had just peaked I believe.


The dough was made with 950g of bread flour, 50g of whole rye, 700+50g of warm (80f) water and 22g of salt. The salt number is a reflection of taking into account the 100g of flour in the levain which Robertson forgot about.


I have been adding the salt to the last 50g of warm water but honestly, I find it hard to get it all out of the cup when I dump the water in as it isn't completely dissolved. I think I'm going to go back to adding the salt dry and pouring the water in over it.


The stretching and folding has become more relaxed as I get more comfortable with this process. I mix the dough well with my fingers cutting the last 50g of water and salt in. It looks and feels like I'm damaging the strands as the dough becomes a disorganized and chopped up mess. But 30-40 minutes when I do the first stretch, the dough has become connected and cohesive as a mass. I have been trying to stretch and fold in the container every 30-40 minutes with the exception that at 4 hours of fermenting when the dough is well aerated, I pour it out on a lightly oiled counter and do a standard tri fold both directions. I think the letter fold is less damaging to the structure and it gives me a chance to give it a good stretch and feel the development. Then after another 30 minutes or so, I divide and shape using a linen lined dusted basket.


The suggestion of the author is to pre heat the cast iron cooker at 500F. The oven is set at 450F after loading the dough. While it may be easier to load the dough in a cold cooker, I have found I like the crust and spring better using Robertsons suggestion of preheating. The change I made to the suggested procedure this time was to shorten the amount of time the top is on and baking covered. Robertson says 20 minutes covered and 20-25 minutes open baking at 450. My bakes have produced thin crusts using those times. This time I removed the cover at 15 minutes and for the second loaf, 12 minutes and open for 25 and 28 minutes respectively. At the end of the bake I opened the door a crack to help dry out the crust some.


My conclusion is that the 20 minutes of covered baking is to long for this high hydration dough. The crust is so thin and soft after the bread has cooled, slicing is difficult. You can see in my image taken when I removed the cover at 12 minutes, the dough is just starting to take on color and has started forming a crust after expanding. The crust then is more substantial having been exposed to dry heat for a longer time, making a crust that is still crisp in the morning after baking.


The oven spring was so great that the dough crested in the top of the cooker. You can see the flour marks in the cover where the top of the loaf kissed the iron top. Remarkable spring if I do say so.


My next effort will be to make a similar sized loaf but at a lower hydration.


Eric





Uncovered after 12 minutes. The spring hit the cover!





This is what it's all about. Just perfect!

Comments

happylina's picture
happylina

Hi Eric

So beautiful boule! And you only cover 12 minutes.  I heat the bread 1 hour for get brown color. lower  hydration maybe a good idea!

And now I thinking maybe my score have problem.

Thanks for your so detailed description. I know more from your post. 

Happylina

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Happylina, you just gave me an idea. I think my bread is just barely  baked enough. The center of the boule is so moist I think it could have baked longer. The color is nice and golden brown however. Perhaps I should lower the heat for a longer bake. More like your bake.


Thank you for your comments.


Eric

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Beautiful loaves, Eric.  

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks Floyd.

ramat123's picture
ramat123

Where I can see and buy the combo u're using?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Here is the Amazon link. It has free shipping at the moment. I bought mine from Ace Hardware for about the same money. Anyone who carries the full line of Lodge Logic cast iron cookware will likely have it. It's the LCC3 model you want. For our use, the shallow part holds the dough on the bottom. They come pre seasoned but I always do it again to get a good coat. After washing and drying, A good coat of solid Crisco and into the oven at 375 for an hour and a half, upside down (bottoms up).


Eric

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I would have loved to seen more of your crumb ; ) sure it was very delicious!  Great looking bake and nicely written. 


Do you recall what your finished loaves weighed?   


I think we have the same feelings about the pot being short on height, otherwise it works beautifully.  I also feel I get better results from pre-heating.  I don't add any pre-heating time, just until the oven reaches 500F convection..which takes only a few minutes and times easy enough with the proofed loaves.   12 minutes removing the lid and you have color starting!  That seems fast!  Do you bake with the convection setting on?  Convection heat is a hotter temp. than a regular bake, and some ovens are set with the convection varying several degrees.   Mine is set about 10-15 degrees hotter than the regular oven, but doesn't seem to affect my crust or lid removal timing. 


Sylvia   

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You know, I completely forgot to weigh the finished loaves and I meant to. Old age creeping in on me. I don't have convection heat. I have read that some people use convection to heat the oven up, especially with a stone in place.  I put the pan in when I turned the oven on and when the bread proofed checked with my floured finger, I loaded it. That was about 30 minutes later and it was Hot Hot at 500F. I don't think the 500f is necessary at all. The second loaf got a 5 minute preheat at 450F to bring the cover up to temp and they look identical.


For this formula, maybe 50g less dough weight would be enough less to not be bumping off the lid. The profile of the finished bread is pretty round. Then the scoring amplifies the vertical aspect I think.


Eric

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I pre-heat and leave the convection setting on, since I'm using covered baking..but the heat is definately below 500, because the oven is opened, loaded and heat reduced, so I know there is a lot of heat loss, just in those few seconds..but that's what I want..450F -480F baking temp.  I always forget to weigh my loaves too, but pretty much know they are usually 2 lb ea. for my regular  two sourdough boule's...I can bake four 1 lb..but they are so small...I like them for soup/chili bowls.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Superb loaves Eric!  I just love your "studies" because I always learn so much from them.  Thank you.


OldWoodenSpoon

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks OWS!

plevee's picture
plevee

Many thanks for all your experiments and suggestions.


I baked in a cool start Lodge DO yesterday - 20mins covered, 20mins open - & got great oven spring but the crust, tho' beautiful and crisp was so thin that the cooled loaf squashed when I sliced it - and this was a barley/rye combination that usually has a ggod thick crust.


Handling a very hot DO makes me very nervous and I have had several minor burns (but I'm left handed, dyslexic and clumsy!) My experience is that the cold container start is very comparable and doesn't scare me as much.


I had been looking for more information on timing; your post came at just the right moment!


Patsy

plevee's picture
plevee

Many thanks for all your experiments and suggestions.


I baked in a cool start Lodge DO yesterday - 20mins covered, 20mins open - & got great oven spring but the crust, tho' beautiful and crisp was so thin that the cooled loaf squashed when I sliced it - and this was a barley/rye combination that usually has a ggod thick crust.


Handling a very hot DO makes me very nervous and I have had several minor burns (but I'm left handed, dyslexic and clumsy!) My experience is that the cold container start is very comparable and doesn't scare me as much.


I had been looking for more information on timing; your post came at just the right moment!


Patsy

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The boules are beautiful.


I like your suggestions for modifying the baking procedures. I too prefer a thicker, crunchy crust on this type of bread.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

They look great if a little thin skinned. When you do your Wharf bread and SJ SD, do you want a moist crumb at the center? Mine is pretty moist. It isn't gummy quite but cool and moist today. It should keep well I suppose and it tastes great with the rye. I'm thinking it would benefit from a longer, lower bake.


Eric

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

With higher hydration breads, I expect (and like) a moist crumb with a cool mouth feel.  I've found the Basic Country Bread to keep well and stay moist for several days. San Francisco-style SD is generally lower hydration (65-68%) and has a drier crumb.


There is a Country Rye bread in "Tartine Bread," and it's good. I do prefer the Basic Country Bread to it. These days, I'm making the SJ SD with 5% rye and WW each and like the flavor.


As you may recall, I'm off next week to the SFBI Artisan II workshop which is on sourdough baking. I'm eager to see what they have us baking. Stay tuned!


David

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Eric,


I thought your last bake of the Tartine was a good one but these are better still. Great jump you got on them, and I think the colouring is much better as well. It looks very similar to the photos in the book . As for the crumb??? If I could see through the melted butter to that bitty little sample your showing I might be able to comment. Seriously though, what I can see looks really good.


I asked David this same question: did you get any dark or almost scorched colouring on the bottom of the loaf? This has been a (small) problem for me with my aluminum DO so I'm just asking around to see if the Lodge has a similar problem.


Re: salt - I had the same problem getting all the salt out of the measure as well, so the next time I mixed a dough I took the held back water, added the salt and nuked it for a minute or less and stirred till it dissolved. By the time I was ready to add the salt the solution had cooled down to luke warm and it mixed in easily to the dough.


I haven't had the problem you noted with the thin crust after 20 minutes covered. Mine was good and crusty so I wonder if it may have to do with differences in flour milled from spring vs winter wheat. I've never used US flour so I can't speak from personal experience but from what I've read Canadian bread flour tends to be a little harder than US. The bread flour I typically use runs around 13.3% protein content.


Give the Country Rye a try, it's really just a pan de campagne in my estimation and I prefer it over the Country Bread because of the texture and flavour the rye adds to the crumb.


Anyhow...your loaves look excellent and it's interesting to see all this experimentation going on by various members with the Tartine breads and using the dutch oven. Interesting post as usual from you Eric.


All the best,


Franko

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I do get a little scorching if I don't use enough buffering meal in the bottom of the pan. I have been using grits since I'm out of course corn meal at the moment. I think oat or wheat bran would work as well. Just toss a hand full in the bottom before you load the dough and it buffers the heat. It will get golden but not scorched. I add additional for the second loaf.


I'll have to try the country rye. Thanks.


Eric

louie brown's picture
louie brown

for these variations and observations. I appreciate your diligence and curiosity. It is to the benefit of all of us.


 


Fwiw, I share your preference for the addition of a small amount of whole grain, and I agree that the best breads improve their flavor with time.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I appreciate your comments.


Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to the group of comments that touched all bases.  I can't add much other than to say...  "WOW!"   Great bake! 


The snow is coming down again, this time from the NW.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks Mini. Yea, I surprised myself with this one. I'm getting close to the everyday boules Susan used to do. Progress.


From what I've been reading, the winter in Europe and especially in your neck of the woods is going to be exceptionally cold. More snow for better skiing!


Eric

Susan's picture
Susan

Thank you.


Susan from San Diego

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you Susan. You are my mentor and inspiration!


Eric

paulwendy's picture
paulwendy

Your tweaking idea sounds great. I'm always looking for that ultimate crust and  I will try your reduced cover time.


But I'm also very lazy. Doing the math your loaves are about 2lbs. each. I like to bake 3 to 4lb. loaves. I've been using the larger Lodge oven (5quart) for quite some time. The larger loaves require longer covered baking. I usually keep the pot covered for about 30mins. I will try reducing that. Maybe about 20mins. and see what happens.


After uncovering I completly remove the loaf and place it directly on the stone to finish. I tend to get more even browning that way. It also allows me to remove the parchment that I use to lower it into the hot pot.


Crust is very crisp but not as thick as I would like. I believe it would benefit from your reduced covered time. Thanks for the great idea. It's all about experimenting that makes it so much fun, isn't it?


Thanks


Paul

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have a large DO I use now and then for larger loaves. I haven't removed the loaf after removing the cover but that sounds like a good idea. I think the thin crust is made more fragile by the high hydration dough that provides moisture to soften the crust while cooling also. I'd be curious how yours works out.


Eric

Peasant Baker's picture
Peasant Baker

I feel the same way about baking in the combo cooker, I've been making basic country at least once a week. The tempature technique I use is 500 degree preheat for 20 minutes, load, slash, and cover boule. Return cooker to the oven and let steam at 500 for ten minutes, then turn the heat down to 450 for another ten. After 20 minutes of steam, uncover then bake at 450 until loaf passes the tap and weight test (about another 10-20 minutes depending on how my oven wants bake.) Crust stays crisp enough to cut, color is a deep caramelized brown and crumb very moist.

wally's picture
wally

Eric!  Thanks for sharing your experimentations with the combo cooker.  I'm taking notes and I'll be using your increasing knowledge base once my 'gift' arrives.  I particularly like your comments about covered baking time and the quality of the crust.


But bottom line: just beautiful looking bread!


Larry

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks Larry,


I think you will like the results. I like the presentation quality of the loaf. They look great if you like bold bakes. There are a few variables that can be controlled but I like the radiant heat that the Iron gives off. I've used lots of different types of covered combination's and they all have a personality on their own. If you have a gas oven, this is great. No venting problems.


For as good of a baker as you are, I'm looking forward to seeing your inspired creations.


Eric

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Eric - lovely boules.  


How high are the sides on the bottom portion of the CC?  It looks like a standard Lodge fry pan.


I have a 10 1/4 inch Lodge fry pan and the bottom of my five-quart Lodge DO fits perfectly over the fry pan.  I had used the DO when I tried the Tartine technique last weekend - lowering the dough using a parchment sling.  Had terrific oven spring but I  wasn't all that impressed with the bread.  No fault of the formula - I didn't retard the dough and found the taste lifeless.


I want to try again, hopefully this weekend, but change the formulation to use some rye and an overnight retard.  I don't mind handling hot pots - my OveGloves are perfect for that chore -  but I thought placing the proofed dough in a smaller metal container might make getting it into the preheated  pan easier.  I found an eight-inch metal cake pan at the local dollar store and plan to use that.


Do you think the metal cake pan will heat up quickly enough?  I'd like to skip the parchment sling but can't quite visualize getting the proofed dough out of the banneton and into the preheated cast iron pan without creating some type of havoc.


How did you move your dough?

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Lindy, I don't think the shallow half of the Combo-Cooker is like anything else in the line of products. There is a ridge around the inside diameter that holds the deeper cover in place and assures a reasonable seal that holds the moisture in. The lower shallow pan is 9-5/8 on the inside by 1-1/4 inches deep. The sides are about square with a rounded corner. The deeper cover is 10 inches diameter by 3 inches deep.


Another detail is there is no wire handle getting in the way on the deeper pot. Both sides have a handle and a helper handle grip on the opposite side that makes it easy to handle when hot.


As far as using a metal cake pan, I don't know if it would be the same. The thing I am seeing is that the radiant heat that is directed at the dough is so effective, and the seal works so well that I get very good oven spring. The cast iron heats up quickly and provides even heat.


The shallow pan is so low that I don't have any trouble when I flip the banetton over with my last 3 fingers holding the dough in place. If I don't get it exactly centered, I just nudge it over. You can see the goofy shape on one of my loaves from my artful nudge.:>) You do need to be careful, it IS very hot but it can be done.


No need for parchment. I have been using course ground grits to buffer the heat and prevent scorching and it works great. I think any course ground grain would work.


The times I have used a 5 quart DO to bake in, I did use a parchment paper to sling the dough into the deep pan.I didn't use the stone so I left the bread in the pot after the cover came off. I hope that answers your questions.


Eric

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Appreciate the info about the ridge on the combo.  While my DO has cast iron handles, they are short and even with the top of the pot.  I can see that the longer handle on the combo makes handling it a lot easier.


I'm really tempted, but think I'll play around with the Tartine technique a bit first using the equipment I have on hand, to see if this is a bread I think I'll make often. While I returned the book to the library, I did order it from Amazon.


Thanks for sharing your opinions and experience.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Beautiful results!


I just got my combo cooker and it feels awfully tight (small). I have a feeling a lot of my loaves will top out. 


There is a similar item in the Lodge catalog which is the same diameter but a bit taller - the Double Dutch Oven is a 5 quart (versus 3 qt) DO with a fitted lid that appears to be flat on top like the Combo Cooker but has loop handles instead of frying pan handles on one side and a loop on the other.


I will be traveling this weekend but will fire it up next week and do a comparison with my Cloches.


Thanks!


Jay

ehanner's picture
ehanner

If you look at my last boules, they are just about as high as you would want for that diameter. I really don't think that it's much of an issue. Also, the higher the cover piece is, the harder it is to get it off smoothly while in the oven. You could slide the shelf out but that's hard in my oven. A 2 Lb loaf is perfect.


Eric

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I'm beginning to wish I had shares in Lodge! I wonder how many TFL members have bought one since the Tartine craze hit? Sorry to be a grinch but my little cast iron skillet - 6" at the base, 8" at the top edge - did a fine job on a cookie sheet with a roasting pan cover. As I posted in my blog, I proofed the loaf in the skillet and put it into the 500* oven, cold. Got fantastic oven spring, open crumb and singing crust. This was the Almost No Knead loaf using 15oz. of KA all purpose flour. A.


Edit: the oven was 500*, the skillet was cold. .

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Fabulous looking loaves, huge oven spring, lovely crust..., Eric!


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I am liking the covered method these days. I baked the country rye last night and despite my falling asleep during the ferment and the dough escaping out of the container, it was wonderful.


Eric

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

Thank you Eric, you inspired me to order the combi cooker the other day after reading your post - it arrived yesterday, two days after ordering and free shipping. 


It experienced similar results re soft crust.  I tried a formula using 72% hydration 50% white, 10% rye, 5% oat Bran and 35% whole wheat.  Three stage build with overnight fermentation on stage 2, then in the morning adding the rest followed by few hours of stretch and folds followed by 8 hours in fridge in benneton.


I took first loaf out when internal was 200 degrees, soft crust.  Turned the oven off on the second when it hit 200 degrees then left in with door cracked for 10 minutes.  Internal was 210 degrees when I pulled it out and crust was far superior.  However I think 210 a bit too much as I like a moist interior.  Next bake: shut oven when internal is 195 degrees, then leave in oven until 200 internal, which should be about 10 minutes and thus hopefully achieving the kind of crust you describe. 


Thanks for the inspiration!!!


PS, I do have an older 5 qt dutch oven with the handle that fits the bottom perfectly, but as you point out above, don't think it is worth the hassle as it is possible but difficult to fit that on and to your point, the width/height of a 2 pound loaf should not hit the top...


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I enjoyed reading about your trials and changes. It seems to me there is a conflict with timing and crust. I usually make dough for at least 2 loaves so I want to get the second loaf in soon after the first is out. That makes me want to rush the process and not wait with the oven off while the first loaf gets crispy. Your point is well made that being patient with the first bake will reap rewards. Besides, the oven and DO will quickly re heat for the second round. I'll be watching for your next attempt.


Eric

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I enjoyed reading about your trials and changes. It seems to me there is a conflict with timing and crust. I usually make dough for at least 2 loaves so I want to get the second loaf in soon after the first is out. That makes me want to rush the process and not wait with the oven off while the first loaf gets crispy. Your point is well made that being patient with the first bake will reap rewards. Besides, the oven and DO will quickly re heat for the second round. I'll be watching for your next attempt.


Eric

Joe MacBu's picture
Joe MacBu

The maximum solubility of salt is about 22 grams in 62ml of room temperature water. Even with boiling water, you need 56ml to dissolve 22 grams of salt. So you could try holding back an extra tablespoon of water to get all the salt into solution.

SLKIRK's picture
SLKIRK

IF I READ YOUR BLOG CORRECTLY YOU DO NOT USE ANY SOURDOUGH STARTER IN MAKING LEVAIN OR DID I MISS SOMETHING?


THANKS FOR YOUR HELP ---


 


SLKIRK

ehanner's picture
ehanner

First, please turn your caps lock key off. It's seen as yelling when you type in all caps and I'm sure you don't intend to yell.


I have used the Combo-Cooker for both natural levain and commercial yeast. I first heard about the Lodge Combo-Cooker from reading Chad Robertson's new book "Tartine" where he shows how to create a starter designed to produce mild sourdough breads and bake them in a cast iron Dutch Oven. His choice of the Combo Cooker is driven by the design of the upper and lower half sizes. It's much easier to load the dough in the shallow side of the cooker. Hope this answers your question.


Eric

SLKIRK's picture
SLKIRK

ERIC,


 


I AM NOT SHOUTING BUT I PREFER TO TYPE IN ALL CAPITALS ---NO OFFENSE INTENDED BUT I WILL CONTINUE TO TYPE IN ALL CAPITALS AS I FIND IT EASIER TO READ  AND IS MUCH EASIER FOR MY TYPING ---


 


THANKS,


TONYK

SLKIRK's picture
SLKIRK

Eric,


Do you retard the dough overnight as the author of TARTINE does or you let rise in the bannetons and then bake the same day?


 


Thanks,


TONYK

SLKIRK's picture
SLKIRK

Eric,

Do you retard the dough overnight as the author of TARTINE does or you let rise in the bannetons and then bake the same day?

 

Thanks,

TONYK

SLKIRK's picture
SLKIRK

 

Eric,

Do you retard the dough overnight as the author of TARTINE does or you let rise in the bannetons and then bake the same day?

 

Thanks,

TONYK

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have done it both ways. Works fine either way.


Eric