The Fresh Loaf

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Working on formulas

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proth5's picture

Working on formulas

 Panned loaves (to paraphrase) don't get no respect.

It's the crusty, lean, free standing loaves that we tend to think of when we invoke the term "artisan bread."

But, as others have pointed out - it isn't the bread that should receive the term "artisan" - it is the baker.

I did a lot of bread baking during my "childhood" and that time was spent mostly in the 1960's.  It was a different time.  I learned to speak French early in those years, but Paris was an impossible dream.  It had not yet become the place that I know almost better than the city where I live (or at least where I own property) - where I drop by once a year (barring extraordinary circumstances) to do the chocolate shopping (and take in the sights - I haven't become quite that blasé).

Of course, in those years, the taste of a real French baguette was unknown to me - and to the vast majority of the people around me.

What I baked was panned loaves. They were plump and brown like genial friars with a taste as heavenly as the personages they resembled.

I have eaten my share of sour bread, of terrine with crusty loaf, of peanut butter on baguettes, and even fresh Poilâne miche (not completely sure why people pay vast sums to fly it all over the world, but that's me).  Yes, there are pannini and those things you get from vendors in France with a couple of slices of something on a baguette or ficelle with not much else.  But sometimes you just want a "sammich" - on soft bread.  You know you do. You just won't talk about it in front of your foodie friends.

At the end of last year I was visiting family in Southeastern PA - land of my birth - and found myself adrift in the world of mass produced bread.  Apparently a substantial amount of money is exchanged for this stuff, but I really couldn't eat it.  I could have written up a formula for an enriched loaf using the limited range of ingredients and equipment at hand, but after spending quite of bit of effort working on pre ferments/lean loaves/fresh milled I have become interested in the formulas I remember from my youth.  You know those books (well, some of you do) - the ones from the "Ladies Farm Journal" with their tips on pleasing your man (making yeasted pancakes will do it, so I am told) and their enticing promises that this bread "always sells out at bake sales."  The target audience was rural women - whose major charge in life was the daily feeding of a large, physically active family- with limited resources.  They had to know what they were doing.

The formula I ending up using produced some pretty nice bread and as I returned to the wild West I had to wonder what I could do to goose it up a bit.

Since 2011 is my year to change and develop formulas for lean breads, I thought that I might add this to my baking plan.  I tend to be a patient formula developer - tweaking one factor at a time and evaluating the change.  I bake only once a week, so things take some time.  Since there are many recipes for lean loaves n these pages I have similarly decided that my 2011 blogging project will be to chronicle how I work with this old formula and what it eventually becomes. I have also decided to abandon my ill fated attempts at photography.  I have never been interested in taking pictures as my frustrated friends who are constantly saying things like "You spent three months in Malaysia and Thailand and never took any pictures!" could tell you - and I am singularly bad at it.  These are panned loaves.  They will look like a standard panned loaf of bread.  They will have a fine crumb.  I know that in the world of blogging if there are no pictures the blog is somewhat disappointing.  Well, I'm writing this as much for me as for the one or two people who actually read my blogs.  Perhaps if I get some real "show off" loaves I will find someone to help with the photography, but I just don't have it in me to do it myself.  We all have our limits.

The first step was to bake the formula mostly as written and to get the thing converted to weights so that I could analyze the baker's percents.  So here is the first formula with my notes.

2 loaves.

0% of flour pre fermented (I include this because it may change in future iterations)

Ingredient                           Wt                          Baker's Percent

Rolled Oats                       4.5 oz                      20%

Steel Cut Oats                   3 oz                        13% (The original formula called for all rolled oats.  This variation was mine)

Boiling water                      20 oz                      89%

Shortening                          1 oz                        4% (I used leaf lard)

Non Fat Milk Powder            1.2 oz                       5% (The original called for 2 cups of scalded milk.  This is just a substitute for the scalding process)

Salt                                   0.65 oz                     3%

Molasses                             3 oz                       13% (We "Dutchies" love our molasses!)

Instant Yeast                      .25 oz                    1% (Instant yeast was also my variation.  Of course instant yeast was not available when the original formula was written.  It called for Active Dry Yeast dissolved in 4 oz of warm water which I have included above as part of the boiling water)

KA AP flour                         22.5 oz                  100%


Combine the two types of oats, boiling water, milk powder and shortening.  Allow to cool to lukewarm.  (this would be a "soaker" except that it is not hydration neutral - whatever liquid is not absorbed by the oats is very much needed for the hydration of the final dough.  I may rework this in future iterations).

Add the salt, molasses, yeast, and flour.  Mix 5 minutes on the single speed of the spiral mixer. (The original called for adding only "some" of the flour to the oat mixture and beating - by hand - until the mixture was quite elastic.  This is a great technique for getting some gluten development before the kneading process when you don't have a powerful mixer at your disposal and it is what I used when I was away from my toy.  But since I have the big toy - it is a shame not to use it.  Of course, the rest of the flour would be added and the dough kneaded until "smooth and elastic.")

Let rise until doubled - 2 hours at cool room temperature.  One fold.  Let rise again - about 2 hours at cool room temperature.  (The original called for one rise of about an hour at 80F - no fold or punch down.  The fold and the second rise seemed like an obvious change to me, since most of the old formulas I baked called for a punch down and a second rise.)

Shape and place in greased pans.  Proof (1 hour) and bake at 375F for 40 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on a rack.

So easy.  Honestly.  I haven't put that little effort into baking a loaf in awhile.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with this bread.  It had a mildly sweet taste, was soft and moist with a moderately soft crust.  I was a bit concerned that the steel cut oats would be too hard, but they added a soft crunch to the bread and were very nice. The molasses gave a nice color to both the dough and the finished bread.

But naturally, there were things that could be better.

Bearing in mind that this bread had to stand against an assortment of levain based breads when I was tasting, I missed the kind of depth that a levain based pre ferment brings to even commercially yeasted breads.

I also have a lot of milling products (like bran and high extraction flour) that I could incorporate if they would be an improvement.  Although tempted to do cracked wheat as an inclusion, I am going to stay with the steel cut oats, as oats add not only a subtle sweetness but their own share of healthy oat fiber (not that I am baking for health, mind you, but if it can taste good and be healthy, that's win-win) and really the inclusion of oats is the basis for this variant on standard white bread.

The formula does not leverage any ingredients local to the Western US - other than wheat, of course.

I have all that triticale that I was going to mill, but haven't - yet.  I thought it might perform better in panned breads.  Maybe that can be included.

Looking at the formula, the hydration seems high, but it is offset by the oats (now we know why the BBGA wants the soaker to by hydration neutral - so that hydration is more easily understood by looking at a formula.  There is always a reason...) My "guesstimate" is that the hydration is between 58-68% (remember to add in the molasses!) which is well in the region for panned breads, so I won't be playing with that just now.

Same with the fat content - that's pretty standard for a good old loaf of bread.

The salt and yeast seemed high until those troublesome oats were factored in.  Yeast still seems high to me - there is a real candidate for reduction.

My bread testers tell me not to change a thing - they loved it.  But I still think I can make it better.

So I am considering what to do.  Yes, I could make a whole lot of changes at once, but I gotta be me.  My instinct tells me that working some levain into that formula somehow (without making a pure levain based bread) would make a big change without using a lot of ingredients, but I have a week to think about it.  We shall see.


davidg618's picture

First I applaud your bravery: to face the holier-than-thou (referring to the crumb, not the attitude) crowd.

Secondly, I would plead you reconsider, if only ocassionally, your "no photographs" policy. Even a bad photograph is worth 500 words.

Lastly, like many others, I learned bread-baking by osmosis. When I was thirteen, sitting across the kitchen table from my little Welsh grandmother while she kneaded her weekly bread, the last thing I'd have thought of was "I can do that!" let alone, "I want to do that." But that's where many of us hail from.

Reproducing Grandma's panned white bread (orBara Brith) would bring tears to my eyes.

I look forward to your progress posts.

David G

proth5's picture

it the old college try.  Next time - this week's bake is beyond photography.

On a personal note - I used to work at Kodak and actually did some camera testing because they wanted someone who was completely inept with photography to test a product.  It's a skill I do not have.

But really, they look like nice brown little loaves of bread.


LindyD's picture

Interesting road trip in your bread journey, Pat.

I have to agree about the ease of soft bread - I mixed my first batch last night. Hamelman's oatmeal bread.  My SIL isn't overly fond of crisp, chewy crusts and bold bakes, so I made the bread for him.  Got to keep the family Leatherneck happy.

Amazingly easy stuff.  Mix, ferment overnight (with one fold after an hour), divide, shape, proof and bake.   I don't have loaf pans, so I shaped two boules.  No idea what it tastes like since the kids took it with them, but it smelled and looked nice. 

Your formula looks like something he might like.  Looking forward to reading your future tweaks.

You might be an inept photographer, but your words always evoke wonderful images. 

proth5's picture

week's tweak took me into unexpected territory. But the bread was still good.

I've finally gotten my so called "normal" life to the point where I'm having time to have fun baking again.  Last year was most strange.  2011 - the year where just about everything changes.


pmccool's picture

It appears that hanging out with engineers and Marines hasn't rendered your prose entirely prosaic.  Lovely write-up!

Regarding the bread, it sounds like a great many other panned loaves I have made.  Plump and heavenly, indeed!  I tend not to play so much with oatmeal breads, although I do enjoy them. 

Since you are going to use this bread as a springboard for further research, I'll offer a few suggestions. 

Let's start with the flour(s).  The oats are great for flavor and moistness but, as you note, don't bring any gluten to the party.  You might want to reduce the oats slightly and work in some whole wheat flour for part of the white flour.  Maybe even a smidge of rye; not enough to taste rye-y but enough to add some additional color to the flavor palette.  One of my favorite panned breads contains a ratio of 2 parts bread flour to 1 part each of rye and whole wheat.  It's a bit crumbly and you definitely wouldn't want to go that high with the rye while using the oats.

Hard to argue with the molasses as a sweetener, especially in combination with the oats.  About the only suggestion that I would offer is to try a 50/50 blend of honey and molasses.  It may be a shade sweeter than with molasses only but the honey can add a wide range of flavor notes, depending on which type you select.  Much as I like maple syrup, I find I don't especially enjoy it when it is baked in something.  Folks down South may argue for cane syrup in place of the molasses, but that isn't exactly indigenous to your location.

Since good lard is hard to find these days, butter could be an option for you to consider.  Or maybe a mix of the two.  If your doctor makes disapproving faces, you could always go with a vegetable oil but that would detract from the flavor and probably change dough characteristics, too.

Those are probably the biggest contributors to the final loaf's flavor.  You could play around with technique (and I know you will) to extract some additional flavor from the flour; maybe a sponge or some other preferment.  Maybe add an egg?  The KAF Whole Grains Cookbook has a lovely oatmeal bread with a cinnamon swirl option.  Just saying. 

Have fun in your new 'sandbox'.


proth5's picture

I've thought about rye - or it's second cousin triticale (because I have six pounds of it).  Even with all those oats I get pretty good rise. (I'm working with rye in one of my lean formulas, though, so smething to think about.)

My butcher supplies me with beaustiful leaf fat which I render to make lard.  This is an important ingredient in some "family tradition" cookies I make each year and I always have some left over.  It's a shame not to use it, but I do agree that butter could be used.  I have to say 1oz of either distributed over 2 loaves of bread really isn't all that "bad" for you.

I've got a local sweetener that I want to try next time - I'll leave that as a surprize.

Egg.  No.  That's not in character with this type of bread.  See - I can be a curmudgeon.

It takes me awhle to write up these things - but I did make two changes and need to get them written up.



subfuscpersona's picture

I congratulate you for including pan bread in your blog. You have a lot of admiring followers on TFL so I'm hoping that your interest will encourage others.

Do wish you would reverse your decision to avoid photos.

I bet pan bread would be good for using up that triticale you have. I remember your earlier blog post about triticale.

Looking forward to more posts.


proth5's picture

about the pictures, but you must understand that I really hate picking up a camera - all that fuss with aiming and shooting and then it always looks awful.  I'll spin my own yarn and grind my own grain but that whole "taking pictures" thing gets me down.  I don't know what it is.

I'll see if I can do it.  >>sigh<<

Yes, I'm eyeing that triticale...

varda's picture

How can I pass on bread when it's described as genial friars?   I need a break from "crusty, lean, free standing loaves."   So I'm going to follow along and bake as you tweak this formula.   So please don't forget to post!  -Varda