The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dan Leader's Ricotta Bread - a débacle and a couple of questions

ThreeToedSlothLuke's picture

Dan Leader's Ricotta Bread - a débacle and a couple of questions


I decided to make this bread today. I had already purchased the ricotta so I had everything on hand.

First off, when I opened the ricotta tub I found mold between the lid and the plastic paper covering the cheese. The lid had cracked at some point; whether before I bought it or after I don't know but had I been at all superstitious (which, touch wood, I am not) I would not have continued. But I cleaned off the mold and replaced the paper with cling film and continued.


The kneading took me much longer than the book (Local Breads - I should have mentioned that before) but that may be more my technique than the book. I tend to take it slowly especially with wet doughs and this seemed wetter than the baker's percentage would indicate but that's almost certainly the ricotta.


Anyway, bulk fermentation went rather quickly which leads in to my first question. The recipe calls for 20 grams of yeast - 4% by baker's percentage - or, in volume, one tablespoon. Well my SAF Red Label Instant took way more than a tablespoon to make the 20 grams. Is that yeast weight correct? (The book converts it to 0.7 ounce which is what 20 grams converted to on my scale.) 


So I divided the dough into two roughly equal portions, rounded them, covered them, left them to proof and set the oven for 400 deg. F. I heard the beeps that told me the oven had reached the temperature but the proofing needed some more time. Finally it's time to load the loaves and here's my next question. The book says, in effect, to flip the loaves over onto their 'tops' before putting them in the oven. I did that and was rather horrified to see them sort of deflate and get ripples in the dough. Dan Leader doesn't explain why this is done so is there a reason?


Finally, boom! I live in northeast Connecticut and we've been having a winter storm since yesterday morning. About 7 inches of snow. Not a big deal around here but the wind has been very strong. And this was the point at which we lost power. So out I go to the generator, fire it up, back into the house, flip the switch from utility company to generator and, presto magiko, we have power. I forgot that the oven turns off when the power goes out - it's gas but has electronic controls - so when the power came back and I'd reset everything I checked the loaves. Ooops. I turned it back on and more or less timed the baking but really I just waited until the crust was a golden brown and the internal temp was 200 deg. They're cooling right now so I'll try a slice later.


So that's my probably rather low-grade baking débacle but if anyone can answer those two questions I'd appreciate it.




Trialer70's picture

This sounds almost as bad as a friend of mine who moved into a little homesteader's cabin (900 square feet including an outside porch) in the desert and decided she'd bake to celebrate the move.  The repairs that had to be done by her and her partner were extensive to make the little cabin liveable.  She fired up the oven (it worked) and loaded it, shut the door and about ten minutes later, began to smell roasted meat.  She was baking, not making a roast.  Smoke began to funnel out of the oven; she yanked it open and a smoking (dead) woodrat was cooking away in the middle of the baked goods.  No bread that day...

LindyD's picture

There are errors in some of the Leader formulas.  Read through the 2007 thread which discusses some of the problems.   I'm not aware of any published errata correcting the printing mistakes.

I looked at the instructions in the book and it could be that he wants the rounds flipped and baked seam side up for the visual effect.  Hansjokamin does this and it produces a beautiful boule.

As to the deflation, you may have overproofed your dough as it should not have deflated much.  Baguettes and bâtards are often proofed seam side up, then flipped over so they can be moved to the peel and scored.  If the bread hasn't been overproofed, it will hold its shape quite nicely.

That snow that's been dumped on you looks like the wet, heavy stuff.  Not easy to deal with, and especially difficult for folks who aren't accustomed to moving it or driving in it.  Hope it melts soon.

ThreeToedSlothLuke's picture


"As to the deflation, you may have overproofed your dough as it should not have deflated much"


That was my thinking. I wonder if the 20 grams was meant to be 2% by baker's and therefore 10 grams of yeast which would be more realistic. I checked the link you provided but didn't see any reference to this particular bread but as my bread came out tasting rather well, next time I'll try just 2% for the yeast and see how it comes out.



Kspb's picture

I make this bread in large batches (6 loaves) on a weekly basis. It comes out great, but I make long loaves, not rounds. It's a wonderful bread. I always adjust the water to flour ratio according to our weather conditions. Mostly more, but not too much and the amount extra stays pretty consistent. I do see a bit of deflating at times, but it's usually when it accidentally gets over proofed. It's delicate as well so the littlest bump will also cause a deflation. If it's too wet I see issues as well. But I seem to have it down now. I also use perforated larger baguette pans that hold two loaves at a time. Dan's recipes are on the wetter side overall so I'm always having to compensate somewhat.