The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Top 10 Questions In My New Baker Head

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Top 10 Questions In My New Baker Head

I predict a variety of replies for this one, but I would rather have the following questions answered by you fine folks than from random Google results:

1. When recipe calls for adding salt to the soaker seed mix, doesn't the salt get absorbed more into the seeds and then not leaving enough to be incorprated into the dough?

2. What is the best surface type to work with slack doughs for less sticking?  Wood bench?  Granite? Etc.

3. When adding in the mix-ins such as seeds, fruits, nuts, etc., at what point is too early or too late to add them in?

4. What would cause more harm/issues to a dough when kneading/handling - using oil on hands/surface, or using flour on hands/surface?

5. Does the method of leaving the oven door ajar with the bread in oven for a short time after baking to dry out the crust work for all types of crusty breads?  Is there a time that it is NOT recommended?

6. Other than preserving, why are there soooo many ingredients in some store bought breads other than flour, water, salt, yeast??  Most of those breads don't even last longer than home baked breads when left on kitchen counter.

7. For those who have read them, if there was one, and only one bread book to purchase, which would it be and why?

8. Can a non-professional really honestly tell the difference between say a King Arthur Bread Flour (or Robin Hood Bread Flour here in Canada) from those high end 'boutique' flours you see in specialty/health stores?

9.What breads are regarded, typically, the most difficult to make and why?

10. Should I seek professional help if I am dreaming of mixing, kneading, baking, and eating bread? :)

yy's picture
yy

Good non-google sources of answers to your questions:

1. the TFL search bar on the top left limits the results to information that has been posted on this website by TFL members, who are often highly knowledgeable and helpful.

2. Good bread books that explain the science and reasoning behind processes in addition to providing formulas (again, conducting a search using the search bar on this site will help answer your question about which books are good ones).

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I understand that yy.  I am contributing to open discussion on here as opposed to relying solely on past topics.  Also hoping that some new answers/ideas will be brought to the table since the old answers were given on past forum topics.

yy's picture
yy

Just pointing it out because it can be easy to miss. Your questions are all good ones, and each on its own merits an extended discussion. All of them together in one list is quite overwhelming :-)

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks yy.  I understand that too.  It was an afterthought on my part about the overwhelming.  I should have done a top 5.  Also, I did not expect anyone to answer all 10 questions or at all.  Only what they had time for and willingness to answer.  I have to thank you for pointing it that out, so now I know for future forum posts.  As a newbie, I guess learning the environment and feel of the site is all part of the process.

John

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

no

it depends

it depends

it depends (try water)

yes/yes

$

it depends

yes

it depends

no

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Ok...kind of regretting posting this topic so far....yikes.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

= = = Ok...kind of regretting posting this topic so far....yikes. = = =

I have to agree - I'm not happy with my fellow Fresh Loavers of many years with their responses to your reasonable beginner questions (some of which are NOT, I'm fairly sure, answerable by search).  To the best of my understanding this forum is intended to be welcoming to all and not a high-tech forum where "RTFM" is thrown out at "newbies".

sPh

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi song of a baker,

I guess your 10 questions take a lot to answer really, but that does not excuse the early answers given.

My answers as best I can:

  1. Salt is added to soakers to retard enzymatic reations, especially amylase.
  2. I like formica, or, steel.   I use a thin coating of oil to prevent the dough sticking to the bench.
  3. Soaked seeds need to be added during the mixing cycle, early on.   I add other seeds, nuts, fruit etc after the dough is mixed and has had a small amount of bulk proof.   I use a Scotch cutter [metal scraper] to cut the ingredients into the dough.
  4. Use oil or water for the bulk proof and use flour for scaling/dividing, shaping
  5. It depends on your production schedule, but if you have a few loaves to bake, then you may need to crank your oven up to load your next loaf, rather than leave the door wedged open and the oven switched off for 10 minutes
  6. Because industrial bread is a rapid process; "time equals money!"   Fermentation is designed purely to produce as much gas as possible, as quickly as possible.   All the other changes which take place in long-fermented doughs [there are many] are induced through the use of chemicals and/or enzymes.   You already seem to have a handle on the preservatives.
  7. "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman   The clue is in the subtitle, and the contents deliver, along with the formula being very reliable.
  8. I don't know; I live in the UK
  9. It depends on your own strengths and weaknesses, and your baking equipment.   But, I think baguettes probably present the most difficult technical challenge
  10. Great teachers inspire; pick one who you are confident will deliver and your hopes and expectations will be met.

Best wishes

Andy

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thank you Andy.  I did not expect anyone to answer all 10 questions, unless they had the time or willingness.  It was just more or less a post to spark up some converstion and various angles of knowledge.  I appreciate the time you took to help and contribute to this forum. :)

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks again Andy.  This was all very helpful. :)

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

1. When recipe calls for adding salt to the soaker seed mix, doesn't the salt get absorbed more into the seeds and then not leaving enough to be incorprated into the dough?  

The salt will equilibrate between the wet seeds and the wet flour (otherwise known as dough).

2. What is the best surface type to work with slack doughs for less sticking?  Wood bench?  Granite? Etc.  

Something non-porous that is durable enough to use a scraper on it.  My current counter-top is some kind of Formica.  The counter-top I grew up with was wood painted with Latex paint.  That was bad.  So was the kitchen table, which was metal covered by contact paper. 

3. When adding in the mix-ins such as seeds, fruits, nuts, etc., at what point is too early or too late to add them in?  

Small seeds that have been soaked can go in during kneading.  All of the rest should be put into the dough at the end of the kneading.  Before that point, large chunks of "stuff" will interfere with the formation of the gluten during kneading.  Kneading in "stuff" after the rising is complete will destroy the effects of the rising.  You can probably put it in after a small amount of rising has taken place, but I wouldn't, myself.

4. What would cause more harm/issues to a dough when kneading/handling - using oil on hands/surface, or using flour on hands/surface?  

Water, oil, or flour are used by different people according to their preferences.  I prefer oil.  My bread has oil in it already so a little more won't hurt.  Doubling it hurts, incidentally.  I just today performed that experiment to satisfy my own curiosity.  Some people prefer either flour or water instead of oil because they want no oil whatsoever in their bread.  The choice of either flour or water seems to depend on whether it is a drier or a wetter dough, but that is just my impression since I use neither.

5. Does the method of leaving the oven door ajar with the bread in oven for a short time after baking to dry out the crust work for all types of crusty breads?  Is there a time that it is NOT recommended?  

Beats me.  I wrap my half-cooled loaves in waxed paper to soften the crusts so I can more easily slice the bread for sandwiches.  I would think you could dry out the bread too much by leaving it in a hot oven after it is done cooking, but I don't know this for certain.

6. Other than preserving, why are there soooo many ingredients in some store bought breads other than flour, water, salt, yeast??  Most of those breads don't even last longer than home baked breads when left on kitchen counter.  

Some store-bought breads are basically manufactured.  Added chemicals enable the dough to be manipulated with machines in a quick fashion while still dependably producing a fluffy loaf of bread.  They also enable the bread to be stored in the refrigerator without becoming much worse than it was to begin with.  When I was a kid, we used to keep Wonder bread for what seems like weeks.  It probably wasn't quite that long, but my home-made bread is only good for a maybe half-a-dozen days so the difference is noticeable.  Putting it in the refrigerator would be a kiss of death for it.

7. For those who have read them, if there was one, and only one bread book to purchase, which would it be and why?  

This one really is a "it depends" question.  The most vital book for me was Emily Buehler's Bread Science, because it provides the science behind baking that was missing in every cookbook and on every website that I visited (not counting Debra Wink's two-part article here).  But no one really buys only one book about something they love, and sooner or later everyone gets to the point where they buy reference books for one or two tips and count it as a good deal.

 8. Can a non-professional really honestly tell the difference between say a King Arthur Bread Flour (or Robin Hood Bread Flour here in Canada) from those high end 'boutique' flours you see in specialty/health stores?  

If the flour is made from hard spring wheat, you can certainly tell the difference between that and the average AP flour.  More gluten equals better rising.

9.What breads are regarded, typically, the most difficult to make and why?  

I've never seen anyone post a 100% whole wheat sourdough bread with really large holes.  Pretty good holes, yes, but not really large ones.  *grin*  Seriously, no bread is really difficult if you have the proper ingredients, equipment, and technique for it.  So if all you have is AP flour, a mixing bowl with a spoon, and an oven with a faulty temperature controller, a lot of breads are going to be difficult for you.  Not impossible, but very difficult.  The wonderful thing about bread is that almost any combination of ingredients, technique,and equipment is going to give a kind of bread.  It just may not be the kind of bread you were intending it to be.

10. Should I seek professional help if I am dreaming of mixing, kneading, baking, and eating bread? :)

Not until your weight exceeds the obesity limit for your height.  *wink*

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Good!  :)

Thanks for all your answers.  I didn't expect you to spend so much time on me, but I really really do appreciate it.

I have a feeling you are right about the 100% WW sourdough.  I have yet to try baguettes, and I hear those are a bit of practice.

Epsilon's picture
Epsilon

I'm just as much of a newbie as you are, if I recall - that said, I've picked up a few thoughts on #4 in your list:

  • Anything you use on the surface is going to end up worked into your dough eventually.
    • Oil (in general) makes a softer-crumbed loaf, but you're probably not using enough of it to affect the dough that much. A cooking spray is probably a relatively safe bet if it actually works for you.
    • Extra flour will lower the hydration marginally (depending on how much you use.)
    • Water will raise the hydration marginally (again, depending on how much you use.)

Oil just plain doesn't work for me when I use it on my hands, but YMMV. I do use it on the bowl to keep the dough from sticking while I've got it in for the first rise.

Flour on the hands works, but if there's a lot of water in the dough, it soaks it up with a quickness - you've got to add enough flour to prevent sticking that it significantly changes the hydration of the dough. The first few loaves I did were high-hydration until I started kneading it - at which point I ended up adding almost a full cup of flour to it.

Water on a high-hydration dough has worked well for me - just keep the sink running (I've got a closet for a kitchen) and water your hands every time stuff starts sticking. Alternatively, if you've got room, keep a bowl around to wet your hands. Don't worry about washing the gummy flour off every time - it actually seems to help prevent sticking. It also seems like it changes the hydration a lot less than using extra flour does.

Also, bench knife. Best thing I ever bought for 10 bucks. Even if it sticks, you just give it a couple of scrapes, and bam - no more stuck. :)

Hope this helps, for what it's worth. ^_^

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

I am an avowed different flours junkie.  Some folks don't seem to notice much flavor difference in different brands of flour.  I do.  I hang out on Stan's www.nybakers.com website and try just about everything he has.  Hubby and I are variety junkies when it comes to bread. 

So, will you notice the difference in flavor of different flours of the same type?  Who knows.  But you might start out by just determining if you feel differently about two grocery store brands, e.g. King Arthur Bread Flour and General Mills Better for Bread.  I prefer the GM.  But that's me.  

You will, as others have said, notice different behaviours in different types of flour.  Italian 00 flour was a revelation to me.  I finally was able to make hard rolls like the ones I grew up with in the northeast.

It's important as well, to learn how different flours behave.  For example, let's say you want to substitute whole wheat in a recipe.  You will probably need to adjust the amount of liquid as well.

Meanwhile, just have fun.  I still occasionally make an unintentional doorstop but it's rarer since I've learned so much, thanks to the many folks that share their knowledge here on The Fresh Loaf.

 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I should have mentioned that I do not and would never expect anyone to answer all 10 questions (especially the 10th, being more of a joke).

If you have time to answer one, answer one...if all, answer all.  Eitherway, I am VERY appreciative of all your answers.  Not only will it help me in my future baking, but it sparks up conversation, which we should all feel like we are contributing to this site.  If I wanted to stay a lurker and just read, I wouldn't have joined up.

For all that have taken the time out to answer, thank you so much and I promise to do the same for you in the future, if I have any knowledge to share.  Hopefully these answers will help others, as I know I will not be the only one with these questions in mind.

John

sphealey's picture
sphealey

If I have to recommend one and only one book to a new bread baker it is always Rose Levy Beranbaum's _The Bread Bible_.  If you follow her instructions step by step, to the letter, you will get the promised result at least 90% of the time - and that confidence building is in my experience critical.  Hamelman's formulas are more professional and Glaser's taste better from the high-end baker viewpoint, but RLB's are best for the beginner.

sPh

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I had never heard of RLB's book so I am glad I asked.  I will surely check this one out.  I am still trying to get a handle on the baker percentages methodology so a book that is geared more towards the avid laymen terms baker is what I need.

John