The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New Bread Book by Ken Forkish: Flour Water Salt Yeast

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

New Bread Book by Ken Forkish: Flour Water Salt Yeast

I ordered this book from the library, and I believe I'm the first person to check out this particular volume.  The author, Ken Forkish, had left an unsatisfying career in the Silicon Valley, chucking it all for artisan baking.  He opened Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon, in 2001.

Checking a bread book out from the library is a different experience from buying it.  I read it more carefully than I read the books that I buy because I only had three weeks.  When I decided I wanted to try out his techniques, I had to take extra pains to keep it clean because it was not my book and it was so new.

He gives the book his own slant, trying to keep home kitchens in mind.  Everything is done by hand, no electric mixers., lots of wetting of the hands.  The ingredients are pretty basic, as suggested by the title: Flour Water Salt Yeast.  He's particular about temperatures.  And he likes the Dutch Oven approach.

But he is perhaps of the supersize generation.  The recipes use 1000 grams of flour (mostly white, with up to 75% whole wheat).  This is, according to his accommodation, about 7 3/4 cups flour, making 2 loaves, each about 1 1/2 pounds.  I was especially shocked that his recipe for making a starter begins with 500 grams (almost 4 cups) ww flour (and 500 grams water); on day two, you toss 3/4 of this mix and add in another 500 grams each ww flour and water; and so on.  He mentions somewhere under maintenance that you can scale this down, but is this really practical for the home kitchen?

There is a section on pizzas, tying in with Ken's Artisan Pizza, which he opened in 2006 in conjunction with his bakery.  He gives recipes for pizza doughs, based on his other recipes, and focaccias.  He also gives real pizza recipes.  Looks good.

I was intrigued by his technique descriptions, especially folding and shaping.  So I tried one of his recipes, adapting it to 100% whole wheat (and 82% hydration, per his suggestion).  I think I need practice, especially on the shaping and the use of the Dutch Oven.

My impression is that, try as he might to be populist, he'll probably scare off beginners, especially with his quantities.

Has anyone else seen the book?  What are your impressions?

Rosalie

foodslut's picture
foodslut

.... but I also noticed the "honkin'" quantities of dough he promotes preparing, and wondered if it might scare off beginner home bakers.  I bake ~10-13 lbs of dough each weekend, and my fridge doesn't have room for the 12 qt. container he recommends for mixing/fermenting dough, and my oven doesn't have room for 2 x Dutch ovens.

He also recommends storing bread in plastic bags - a bit against the flow there, no?

I do like how he shows "same day" and "overnight" options for bakers to fit into their schedule.

bananaman's picture
bananaman

A few comments on this: as mentioned by others, the 12 qt container never does go in the fridge. Usually it is shaped loaves in the baskets that refrigerate overnight. Also Ken has provided instructions for using just one Dutch oven (there's a brief re-heat between baking.) I believe Ken is right about storing in plastic - - all the other solutions I have tried have always failed and ended up in staleness. This way you can just reheat or toast the bread and the crumb and crust is just right. Finally, there has been reference to the amounts of starter (levain) that get tossed. Ken has addressed this as well if you read to the end of the levain process - - just cut the proportions for the feedings in half. Sure, you still use about 250g of flour at each feeding, but that's a whole lot better than 500g a throw. Do note that there are some recipies that require more levain (I just did one with 364g) so you won't have a whole bunch left over if you cut down the feeding size.

Finally, almost all recipes are designed to produce two 500g (just over one pound) loaves. If you only want one loaf, you can cut the recipe in half. I always make two and freeze one if I don't use it immediately.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

A neighbor of mine who worked in Ken's bakery for a few years described it as being an extremely intense enviroment, so it doesn't surprise me to hear that the book is a wee bit intimidating.  That said, it is probably awesome if you don't get scared off.  His breads are wonderful.

I've ordered Flour Water Salt Yeast but haven't seen it yet.  I'm  looking forward to checking it out.

Update: Guess what arrived in the mail today?  :)

-Floyd

wildman's picture
wildman

 

I got it when it was released as an anniversary present. This is an excellent new good book with complete coverage of what you need to do to make outstanding bread in a home kitchen. Very good explanation of bread making allowing the reader to understand how, why and when to do the steps not just the how. Much better design and layout, a more complete better considered book for the home bread baker than the Tartine Bread book. Ken even gives you times and schedules that allow the baker at a glance to understand when and what to do to pull off the recipes! Ken also gives you a very good recipe he learned from Chad that is not in the Tartine Bread book which BTW is really very good if a bit more time consuming. 

Don't be scared off by the volume it can all be scaled down to suit your own kitchen and needs just as the author wrote. But if you share the bread you bake you will need the large size Cambros he suggests as people will be begging you to bake these breads for them. Of particular interest are the double fed sweet levain (Chad's recipe), pain de campagne (use rye flour!), the same day breads, 80% biga white bread and the field blend breads, delicious! I have not made any of the late chapter pizza or focaccia doughs but they look just as good as the breads I have baked out of this book already. 

HTH!

alb123's picture
alb123

I want to try his receipts in an outside wood fired oven, without the Dutch oven. Any thoughts about temperature or other adjustments ? Now where in the book he explains the wood fired oven approach. 

Thanks, 

alex

 

wildman's picture
wildman

 

If you have read the book description or why he undertook writting the book you would know that the book was written exclusively for the home baker using a Dutch oven. 

 

bananaman's picture
bananaman

There's nothing in Ken's recipes that would need to be changed to work in a wood fired oven. However, there is the issue of moisture. The entire benefit of using the Dutch oven method (which Ken acknowledges he is borrowing from earlier recipes) is that it allows a home baker to get (by retaining) the moisture needed in the initial baking of the bread so you end up with the crust you want. In commercial bakeries they can inject as much steam for as long as they want. I am not sure what your options are in a wood fired oven, and you want to be careful to not do something that might crack tiles because of too great a temperature differential (for instance, water should be boiling.) I do know that I have achieved OK if not outstanding results by using Peter Reinhart's method in a conventional stove: heat up a cast iron pan on a second shelf (usually lower) in the oven all the way from cold to baking temp (usually 550 degrees.) Put in bread and then add one cup of BOILING water to the pan and close the door. Don't add a cold pan to a hot oven - - even cast iron can crack from temperature extremes. Something similar might work in a wood oven. However, the results may not be quite as fine as the Dutch oven method, because the moisture will get dissipated fairly rapidly in most wood ovens.

san diego baker's picture
san diego baker

I checked this book out from library prior to ordering on Amazon.

Yes, he uses the 12 qt Cambro tubs (the polycarbonate ones with BPA; I selected the poly ones instead) but it doesn't need to fit in your fridge!  For example his 80% biga is left out overnight but some of the breads are proofed overnight in the fridge in proofing baskets or you could use bowls of an appropriate size.

All of the recipes are for two loaves which for me is fine as he gives recipes to use half the dough for pizza or focaccia; or if you can only fit one dutch oven or only have one dutch oven, how to bake them in sequence rather than at the same time.

There is a series of youtube videos and as to the levain, the parts that are tossed are spent fuel from the yeasts . . . but he also gives the option of maintaining only 50 grams of levain which can be better for some folks.

Overall, after making 4 of the recipes, I am quite pleased.  In terms of a just a straight-forward recipe with less commitment I would recommend Cook's Illustrated recipe for Almost No-knead Bread; it can be faster and makes only one loaf but it doesn't have the richness of Ken's recipes.

BTW: yes, he is specific and most likely a person that could be difficult to work for.

 

NCbaker's picture
NCbaker

I have recently started to bake reciepies from Ken's book.  So far very impressed with flavor.  I am not using Dutch Ovens but my existing stone and steam methods along with my temps and time.

However, I find that my AP flour is too weak to hold shape.  For Hamelman's receipies I always used Bread Flour and find it easier to work with.  Am  I missing some gluten development with AP?  I am using Ken's pincer and fold method in these reciepies.

 

 

 

wildman's picture
wildman

As I recall Ken's FWSY book is based on using KAF flours and a Dutch oven in the home environment. KAF AP has nearly as much protein as most national brands of bread flour. KAF bread flour has 1 percent more protein than their AP. You can try using KAF bread flour but in my testing of various KAF flours I found that KAF AP is better for most of the reciepes in the book where white flour is used. For the pure levain bread recipes we found KAF's bread flour better for the slightly better crust and crumb with these high hydration doughs.

HTH! 

NCbaker's picture
NCbaker

Interesting. I was using WholeFoods AP - Organic.  Will try KAF AP next time.  Flavor was excellent.  I also did a pizza with levain overnight and used part of it for a small loave.  Nice and sour.

san diego baker's picture
san diego baker

Yes, I recommend KAF and use the whole wheat!  I have also used the white whole wheat KAF for Ken's recipes and again great results. I sometimes will substitute and the results are different!  Edible but different!  I have used Gold Medal and other "supermarket" flours and frankly the result doesn't seem as great as with KAF.

Here in San Diego a loaf of Bread and Cie (local bakery) offers  most artisan loaves at $5 so even if I pay $5 for 5 pounds I am spending less dough. 

Ken Forkish does offer ways to work his recipes into working schedules, baking on weekend, holding the levain in fridge to use only occassionally and so on.  I have found that when I am baking a couple times a week that the bread is simply better--all those wonderful yeasts in the air creating a better result.

I also order from Azure Standard and the flours that they offer seem to be on par with KAF.  They offer both hard wheat and soft wheat, red hard wheat, and so on.  

Yes, Ken is a bit anal but Tassajara Bread Book offers a more organic approach which if balanced with Ken's approach allows you to be more flexible.

The 80% biga made a great loaf but I couldn't say it was so much better than the Cook's Illustrated No-Knead Recipe that I would stop using the CI recipe.  It's only for one loaf, it's super easy to set up at night or morning to bake 8-18 hours later; results great. CI recently provided an update to the recipe and indicated that the loaf could be put in cold oven/cold Dutch oven and brought up to 475 degrees with the same quality results.  Why?  Because the moisture creates the same steam that creates a great crust with great crumb on the inside.

Happy Baking!

suave's picture
suave

I have used Gold Medal and other "supermarket" flours and frankly the result doesn't seem as great as with KAF.

Funny you should say that, since I am of exactly opposite opinion, I think Gold Medal flours are wonderful.   In particular, their regular whole wheat puts KAF traditional to shame.

wildman's picture
wildman

seem to be different mixtures of different wheat flours based on region and regional useage. KAF flours are the same no matter where you buy them. Buy KAF flours in a local grocery store, in a different state or online and you will get the same flour and the same consistent finished baked goods no matter where you are. This a MAJOR advantage for someone who travels and cooks or write books about bread. KAF is the only national brand flour you can buy and use no matter where you are and have the baked loaves reliably bake like they do at home or from Ken's book. I usually buy my KAF flours from KAF when the shipping is free or if I have a coupon. I also frequently buy KAF flours from several different grocery stores all with consistently excellent results. This is not the case with GM or Pilsbury flours which vary protein content by region and even season within a region. 

HTH!

 

suave's picture
suave

KAF flours are the same no matter where you buy them

Isn't this also the reason McDonalds has a sign "100,000,000,000 served" by the arches? 

wildman's picture
wildman

Consistency is a good thing for flour when baking bread, for use as a thickener it is not as important.

HTH! 

 

suave's picture
suave

Consistency may a good thing if one want the same bread time and again, it is however a terrible thing for skill development.

wildman's picture
wildman

You must mean character development. Creativity with flavors, skill in preparation, execution and presentation bring people in. Consistency with your core dish/style competency is what brings people back. As guy from a family with a long tradition and history of cooking both at home and in our restaurant I can tell you that consistency is what puts butts in seats year in year out. Character is what happens when your dish fails to work as expected. 

 

suave's picture
suave

Personally, I have always thought that what brings people is friendship and good conversation.  And why are we suddenly talking about restaurant kitchens?

wildman's picture
wildman

in my home kitchen. We got here when you mentioned that inconsistent flour builds skill. I said I thought inconsistent flour builds character. My chain of thought was that character is built when having to explain that by trying to save a few pennies a boule or pastery on flour I now don't have any quality baked goods to plate. I think this is true for both commercial and home kitchens known for serving great food. 

 

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

Should the definition of  skills include the ability  to produce excellent results with any flour  and under different conditions?   If so,   this type of exposure is considered to be desirable.    Playing it safe with predictable  components all the time hardly affords this opportunity. 

suave's picture
suave

Is it really what I said?   I don't think so.  I think I said that to develop as a baker, to be any good, one should learn to use every type of flour that's available.   It's ok, I guess, to stick with the safety of KA, but I remember that 5 years ago I paid $2.52 for a bag of KABF.  Now $4 is considered to be a good deal.  What happens when it's $6?  Or goes the way of Pillsbury? 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

I would hazard that this "regional variability" is not the case with GM Better for Bread flour(GMBF), which is really what one should be using for making most types of bread(if using retail GM flours) imo. I live in the southeastern US(home of "soft" flours) and have been using GMBF almost exclusively for the last 2 years, to bake all of my breads. I probably use an average of just under 2 x 5# bags per month. Never, ever noticed any variability.

This regional variability may very well be case for GM AP, which in my experience and opinion(and location?), has a slightly better taste than their BF, but just is not as nearly suitable in making a wide range of well risen breads as, say, KAAP.

suave's picture
suave

Yes, and there is a good reason for that, since BFB is a flour milled for commercial bakers, and any variability there is undesirable. I love it and I consider it superior to KAAP in every way, but I still prefer weaker AP flours for most of my everyday baking.  Of course I have never lived in the South so I don't have firsthand experience with flours down there , but here in the Midwest AP flours seem to be both strong enough, and very similar - I've just gone through four different bags, one GM and three generics, and did not notice any difference in behavior or outcome.

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

So you compare BFB to KAAP, not KABF? 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Yes. BFB is identical to the GM Harvest King(mainly marketed to instutions/professionals), which has 12% protein.

KAAP has 11.7% protein. KABF has 12.7%.

KABF is a little too strong, many think, as an all purpose bread flour. Probably about 95% of the hundreds of yeast bread recipes at KAF website specify KAAP.

suave's picture
suave

Most certainly.  BFB is much closer to KAAP than to KABF which really is in the class of its own when it comes to flours.  KAAP and BFB are similar in protein content, 11.7 and 12.0% correspondingly, whereas KABF is much stronger at 12.7%, both are milled from winter wheat, KABF is spring wheat.  Bust most importantly, they behave similarly and produce comparable loaves.

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

Thank you guys,

Wasn't very familiar with BFB, but KAAP always seemed to be little too strong for some AP recipes ...

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Yeast bread recipes?

Or are you referring to other type recipes(quick breads, muffins, biscuits and such)? I would understand in that case, though I have never used KAAP or BFB for those purposes.

Donkey_hot's picture
Donkey_hot

It works fine for me with the yeasted preferments, but for a sourdough we like something softer.   Purely a matter of personal preference.

wildman's picture
wildman

I have tried to bake using national and regional flours I find when traveling and the national brands never seem to bake exactly the same way. This has been the case for decades and anecdotal evidence from people who cook but move around the country frequently have told me the same thing. Flour is the most variable bread and pastery ingredient region to region. Like I said I can't prove it but many people I know and have both cooked for and have cooked for me have made the similar comments about national branded flours when used for baking. Cooks Illustrated seems to have seen something like this in testing flours too over the years. I have not tried GMBF as I have not seen it around here very regularly at my local grocery stores, Costco or Smart & Final but I to be honest at $4 for 5lbs. delivered to my door the reliability of KAF AP and WW for baking use makes me not look too hard for alternatives. For general cooking I am willing to use the bulk organic flours I find at Costco and S&F for virtually nothing per pound. 

aloomis's picture
aloomis

I have trouble bringing myself to pay twice as much for KAF, but $4/5lbs isn't bad.

- Amy

wildman's picture
wildman

Seem to be variable depending on where you are buying them. I'm in the Los Angeles area and the local Pasadena Whole Foods sells KAF flours for the same prices as on the KAF website. Some of the local gourmet grocery stores sell KAF AP for over $6.50/5lb. bag. Check the KAF website, they have KAF AP at $1lb. in 5lb. bags or $0.85lb. in 25lb. bags. If you wait for the free shipping sale and stock up on the 25lb. bags like we do it comes to about $4/5lb. bag. I can also sometimes find a coupon or KAF sends me a coupon for $10 off so that is like free shipping for one 25lb. bag. Sorry if I misled you but I do buy KAF AP for basically $4/5lb. bag delivered to my door but I may tend to buy a little bit more flour than some folks do. 

HTH!

 

aloomis's picture
aloomis

I almost exclusively use whole wheat.  Sadly, they don't offer that in 25lb bags.  I could probably convince one of my local stores with a bulk section to order me a 50lb bag of it, but that's a bit much.  I use a lot of flour, but not that much.

- Amy

proth5's picture
proth5

the national brands have very few mills.  These are immense facilities and ship a lot of flour out to a lot of places.

Wheat is bought to spec.

Flours need to be milled to spec.  If there is a mill that consistently mills on the low end of the spec - I can't imagine that the miller in charge would not try to correct to somewhere nearer the middle - although the quality of management would determine how long this took.  The logistics of producing a deliberately different flour to be put in the indentical bag as other mills use to be specifically shipped to a region yet preserve the ability to ship it elswhere (which they would want to do) is a nightmare.  Really.  I don't do milling for a living, but I do supply chain.  If a national company told me that they wanted to do this - I would give them my best professional advice - which is - I can't support this with any kind of planning (or inventory) software I know - and trust me - they aren't using paper and pencil to plan this stuff.

But if the spec is loose - this week you might find a bag of flour on the way low end and next week you might find a bag on the way high end - and this would be enough to make a difference in how the flour performs.  You may have chanced into this as you traveled.  And then you have an anecdote.  If you send out someone with test equipment to make one test you may chance into the same thing.  Then you have an anecdote.  If over a long period of time, you do tests on every batch of flour and you find that in one city the flour is consistently at the the low or high end of the spec - you have a some reason to believe that the mill that primarily supplies that city has some fairly sloppy milling practices.  That takes more dedication than even ATK can muster.

Also, there is another big variable for bread while traveling and this is water.  But this isn't the topic at hand.

Regional brands - you are on your own.  They also mill to spec, but are often less transparent about what that is and do have the flexibility to mill to a regionally acceptable spec - since they have limited distribution.

King Arthur mills no flour.  They buy the same flour that that is milled in the big mills over the country - they just have a tighter spec.  They don't buy or put the flour in their packages unless it lies within their tighter tolerances.  That same flour that they rejected may find itself in another brand's bag or a store brand bag or a bulk bin.  This means that you won't see enough variability batch to batch to create an anecdote about how the KA flour in this city is different.  I love 'em, but the only difference in the actual flour is the spec.

proth5's picture
proth5

What is true is that King Arthur flours have tighter specs than most flours.  This means that if they specify an 11.5% protien - the amount of variability from batch to batch of the flour will be smaller.  (Same with falling number, starch damage, ash content, etc, etc).

Other flours may vary more from batch to batch and this may translate to "from region to region."  In general it isn't worthwhile for a flour company to deliberately mill and select flours differently from region to region.  Supply chain planning nightmare... 

KA uses the same wheat and just about the same mills as everyone else, the tight specs  (and frankly the tons of baking outreach - and the company's management philosophy) are what make their flours special.

I've been cheating on King Arthur with Central Milling and I'm still getting good results - for now. However even though Central Milling is a great flour company, every time I get a little blip in my baking, I question if it is the flour.  Wish I could afford that flour testing lab!

Hope this helps.

baybakin's picture
baybakin

If I lived on the east coast, I think I would use KA for most everything, but as I'm here in california, Central Milling is my go-to.  Which flour have you been using that had variability?  I admit that the only CM flours I've used are the type 70 malted (gone through so many bags of this one), the Baker's craft (apparently the one Acme uses), and the type 00 flours, and have found nearly no difference between batches.

proth5's picture
proth5

I'm just being paranoid - because I am cheatin' on my main flour - KA.  Without testing equipment, I can't tell if the flour is variable or if it is me.  Unfortunately I can only find the All Purpose in my area - but that is actually performing better for some of my breads than I thought it would.  Would love to try the Baker's craft some day.

I've been happy with my Central Milling flour - it's my cheatin' heart making me feel guilty.  :>) 

suave's picture
suave

I often wish flour had labelling requirements similar to those for dairy, as I always ache to know just where exactly my flour came from.  With brand flours it's often not hard to figure out, but with private labels - be it Target or KA - next to impossible.

wildman's picture
wildman

Is prety consistent and reliable which is why I like it for baking. I think Chad used to use Central Milling for bakery Tartine. I have wanted to try CM flours but cannot seem to buy any. Where or how does a civilian buy the stuff? 

No I think it is cheaper for a flour supplier to buy what they can find regionally and market that product within the region. The cost to transport bulky low price materials like flour would have to be an issue given the low cost per pound at retail for flour and the high cost of diesel fuel per pound. Currently I think flour is a lot like salt used to be a few hundred years ago, economic forces tending to favor regional production and consumption. Unfortunately for flour unless energy costs get much lower (not likely) or there is an order of magnitude increase in per acre wheat yields there is no technological event on the horizon that will change the economic forces any time soon like there was for salt 100 years or so ago. 

HTH

 

baybakin's picture
baybakin

Chad throughout the "Tartine Bread" book used Gustio's flours (you can see the bags in various pictures).  Later pictures you can see the Central Milling bags (in some interviews too I think).  Nicky Gustio was unhappy with how Gustio's was going from what I have heard, so started Central Milling, many of the bakeries have switched to him as a result.  Acme currently uses their flour as well as a few others. 

As far as getting the flour as a consumer, I made contact with a small bakery that uses their flour, and they piggy-back my order onto theirs, I pick it up from their warehouse (actually a bakery) in San Fransisco.  I know if you call them (or send an e-mail) they can arrange shipping 10 pound bags of their flours, I really suggest trying out some of the high-extraction flours, type 70/80/85.  The fancy durum is pretty nifty as well.

proth5's picture
proth5

you feel strongly about this regional varation.

Specs are devilishly difficult to get for flours that are marketed to home bakers - but I give you some food for thought.  Here are the pro baker specs for General Mills flours

http://www.professionalbakingsolutions.com/flour/brand/general-mills-harvest-king

Play around a bit and you may see that while some flours are only available on the East Coast (and curiously they are mostly bleached)  - a lot of flours are national and they have one set of specs.  At least King Arthur - and I am sure other flour companies  - will package some of their pro flours as consumer flours so I've tried to find something that might be like that.  The General Mills Gold Medal hotel flour has a spec of 10.7% protein, plus or minus 1.3%  That means that bag you buy might be 12% or 9.4% - a big difference and one that a baker would notice.  But you will notice, they don't call out a different spec for specific regions.  Additionally, they don't even call out an ash spec - which is an important determinant of the quality of the protein in the flour.

You might also want to look at the Central Milling website.  Click on the "Inspiration" button - you will eventually find a map that shows where they get their wheat.  Even the small amount of wheat they get from California gets transported to Logan, Utah, milled, and transported back to Petaluma.  They are not a giant like General Mills.

Also check out the King Arthur flour specs (and trust me, they aren't growing that wheat anywhere near their store) here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/specifications-conventional-bakery-flour.html  the Sir Galahad is what you are buying in the red bags - 11.7% protein plus or minus .2%  hmmmm - also distributed nationally.

I have sort of a "thing" about this because people don't realize the miles and miles and the sheer technology that goes into their food.  As of now, economic forces for the majority of food production in the USA favor very large farms, high mechanization, and great logistics.  Good or bad, I will not judge, but there is much more going on than the price of flour and the price of diesel fuel.  Maybe it is different in small pockets, but when you start looking at the giant brands and the great flyover zone (where I live), things are not always what the marketers will tell you.

The wheat that we use for bread is grown on that vast belt in the middle of the country.  If you have the occaision, drive across the Eastern plains of Colorado into Kansas and take in the vastness of these farms.  It is an eye opening experience.

Have fun playing with the flour specs and

Peace.

PeterS's picture
PeterS

the regional retail blends, sold mostly by the major millers & flour vendors (i.e. Gold Medal, Pillsbury, etc) are largely a thing of the past. For obvious reasons, they are using the same specs for the entire US. Although, as you point out some of them are large enough to probably allow for regional variation in grain.

I live in Chicagoland and have used a variety of retail and some commercial products. IM-limited-O, GM Better for bread is as good as KA Bread Flour (both are unbleached). Pillsbury Bread flour is also widely available, bleached and has added ascorbic acid; it bakes fine, but is not a first choice for me. A flour that I really like is ADM's Golden Hawk artisan bread flour--although it is not available to the home baker. Interestingly, its protein spec (which I've never checked until now) is +/- 0.3%--as are ADM's other US wheat flours (with one or two exceptions). http://www.adm.com/en-US/Milling/Documents/ADM-Milling-Flours.pdf.

I know of a very well known artisan bakery in NYC that uses General Mills Harvest King unbleached flour in many of its breads. It's another T-50 type with slightly higher protein and tight spec (12.0 +/- 0.3%). A casual, but not exhaustive search of other General Mills wheat flours shows many with tight protein specs.

I have to think that General Mills's commercial sales are far greater than their retail flour sales. It seems to me that it would be easier and more cost effective for them to make a limited number of grades with specs to meet their largest customers demands and divert some of this production into retail sales.

Retail flour probably sits around longer, sometimes much longer, than commercial products. I'd expect flours on the older side of their shelf lives to behave differently than those on the younger side. I've seen a range of best by dates on my local shelves for a particular product. One grocer runs some pretty good sales this time of year and I noticed that one major brand white flour had a May or June 2013 best by date while regular priced flour of different brand was early 2014...

 

 

Yogachic's picture
Yogachic

Hi all,

I'm brand new to this site, and new to baking bread as of September. Ken Forkish's book was the first book I ever purchased on baking bread. (My only other foray into the art was one or two loaves of Heidi Swanson's Rye Soda Bread, but that hardly counts...) I lived in France for 2 years, and since moving back to the States have languished over the fact that you can hardly buy good bread anywhere, and have been dying to learn how to bake my own.

I must say that I LOVE this book, and truly every single loaf I've baked thus far (about 15-20 by now) have come out perfectly, looking exactly like his photographs. 

Now, I know I am not as experienced as many people on this site, but I found the book totally approachable for beginners. Here is how I went about learning through is method:

I started by reading the first few chapters and introduction at least 3 or 4 times to get a full understanding of the process, so I wasn't reading and doing at the same time (disaster!) I sat with the book just reading it for a good 2 weeks. I even practiced his folding motions in the air. I'm not kidding. And boy did it help.

I ordered everything he has listed in the book - it really wasn't expensive on amazon and I already had some of the things.

The first loaf was so delicious, and so easy (Saturday White Loaf) that I made it again the next day. I've worked through all of his "Straight Dough" recipes, and have tried 2 of his pre-ferments so far. They have all been amazing. 

Also, the pizza recipes are to DIE for. I've used 500 grams of dough for 3 pizza doughs, cooked in a cast iron skillet in the oven. I also followed the recipe for his smooth pizza sauce, and my boyfriend and I both agreed that the pizza was above and beyond any pizza we've had out to dinner. Truly. 

I can't recommend this book enough. I am thinking ahead however to when I get more comfortable and when I will want to open my horizons to other methods of bread baking besides Ken Forkish's...any recommendations for the next step!? What about baking without a dutch oven? 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Yogachic,  glad you liked the book.  I checked it out from the library and read it pretty thoroughly and thought it was pretty well written.  I am not a big fan of his pincer method and large Cambro containers, but other than that , I did try a few of his recipes.   Some may say the next step is a big jump, but I suggest Bread by Hamelman  http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Book-Techniques-Recipes/dp/1118132718   .  It is one of the few books I have purchased, and am glad I did.  The current version is the second edition.   There were some issues with the first edition, but they are cleared up in this one.   BTW, i use the dutch oven method a lot, but others have suggested, and my results agree, that it works just fine with a room temp dutch oven, and much less risk of a burn than loading a preheated DO.    I also use free form loaves - under an inverted roaster pan with a few squirts of steam from a hand steamer and that works for me.

-  

JennyD05's picture
JennyD05

I am new to this site, although not new to baking bread.  I checked the Forkish book out of the library and read it through, but when I came to the part where he remarks (paraphrase) that 'some breads may have only a 10-15 minute window' for proofing, I thought, "This book is not for me." and set it aside.  I am not in any way, shape or from professional baker, and with three little kids underfoot, any bread that demands that sort of precision timing is just not happening around here.  

However, before returning the book to the library, I thought I should at least try a couple of recipes, and wow!  Even with the aforementioned timing issues, as well as my somewhat casual approach to water temperature  -- oh, and the fact that I have halved almost every recipe I've tried -- these loaves are coming out just great.  I can only imagine how good they would be if I could actually follow his directions to the letter :)  But as it is, I've never made such high-rising artisan bread, and the flavor is just excellent.  Field Blend #2 is the new favorite around here.

 

I should further note that I do not have a 12 qt container and would really prefer not to buy (and store) one.  So far I've either been halving the recipes (and mixing in a 6qt container) or just mixing in a big mixing bowl.  I have been letting the loaves rise overnight in towel-lined mixing bowls (also no bannetons) and then baking in a Dutch oven.  My family dislikes dark crusted bread so I have been baking the loaves for about 35-40 minutes, covered the whole time, as opposed to his recommendation of 30 minutes covered, then 15 uncovered.  

 

I ultimately returned the book to the library and bought my own copy.  A surprise keeper!

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

I've been using FWSY - working my way through to biga using mostly KAFs and Bob's Red Mills.

The only thing I have not done is preheated my Dutch Oven - so far!

Although I now get a great rise, my proofed dough tends to collapse when I invert the banneton and place the dough - very carefully - into my Dutch Oven.

Is it that:

  1. I need to be more dextrous/careful; or
  2. the structural strength still is innately poor - I'm still experimenting with the length and frequency of folding?

Thanks for any advice!

bnom's picture
bnom

Since it's such a wet dough, I would expect a little spread when you load it into the dutch oven but it it's really a collapse...and it doesn't achieve the oven spring you expect... then it could be overproofed. 

How does the dough respond when you are shaping?  Does it  hold it's shaped during the final proof? If these elements are not an issue, than I think you probably have the structural strength you need. 

If you find the business of loading the loaves into dutch ovens awkward, you might want to employ parchment paper.  You essentially make a sling of the paper:  two criss-crossed strips - wide enough to hold the loaf and long enough to give you handles which you can use to lower the loaf into the pot.

Btw, back when I had double ovens, I did a side-by-side experiment with pre-heated vs non-heated dutch ovens. The loaf that went into the pre-heated dutch oven was noticeably better.

Good luck!

 

 

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

bnom,

Thanks so much: your suggestions are really helpful!

It is a wet dough, Yes. But it comes out of the banneton pretty taught and formed. (It rises there well too.)

It very much holds shape during the final proof, which is supposed to be 60-75 minutes; that's what I've been giving it. It definitely does not collapse in the least at that stage.

If I use parchment paper slings, I have a feeling that would help; thanks.

That would also mean lack of wicker contact in those four places (vertical strips) inside the banneton, wouldn't it. But that seems like a really good way to manage it.

It (the dough) just seems so fragile. I was thinking that, if I were more careful with the folds during bulk fermentation, it might withstand handling.

Thanks, too, for the advice on pre-heating. I was nervous of pre-heating an enameled Lodge Dutch Oven.

But I have now bought a plain cast iron one. That ought to be safe, oughtn't it?

dosco's picture
dosco

Quote:
That would also mean lack of wicker contact in those four places (vertical strips) inside the banneton, wouldn't it. But that seems like a really good way to manage it.

I thought the dough went into the banneton seam-side-up, and when ready for baking, was placed seam-side-down on the peel (and stone)...? For me this has made a significant difference with regards to my bloom and ear (although you might not think that if you saw my most recent bakes ... new recipes that were under-hydrated).

Back to the point ... I would think that you would make a criss-cross of parchment on your working surface, then "dump" your dough from the banneton onto the parchment, then place the dough in the DO using the "parchment handles and sling" ...?

Regards-
Dave

 

Mark Sealey's picture
Mark Sealey

(The friendliness and helpfulness of folk here continues to be such a lift! Thank you…)

Yes, I'm putting the fermented and folded dough into the banneton seam up, trying to invert (that's usually when it decides to flatten itself somewhat) so it's baking seam down in the DO.

I imagined a criss-cross parchment 'sling' placed under the proofing dough in the banneton - before it begins its final rise.

Really, I doubt that something an inch wide (or less?) would be too detrimental to the pattern on the baked loaf. But I do like it!

I'm thinking that the less handling I can do once the final proofing has begun the better?

Hence my imagining the sling in place (cradling the dough) from before when the dough goes into the banneton until after it's been released gently from it inside the DO.

My query is really, I suppose: Is it possible to make a dough so robust that it doesn't need such gentle handling?