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My new favorite bread and other matters

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varda's picture
varda

My new favorite bread and other matters

Lately I have been spending a lot of time baking - a lot of time trying to execute well and less time thinking about new breads.   But last week as my daughter was helping me at the Cambridge farmer's market, she jolted me out of my complacency by saying that she didn't like my pain au levain and that it was boring and I should rethink it.   Aren't kids wonderful?  So that sent me off browsing and thinking in the few moments when I wasn't baking, and I landed on Maggie Glezer's Thom Leonard's Country French Bread.   I had no intention of making the huge loaves that she describes, and finding her formula presentation confusing, I took the general idea and put together my own formula. 

This bread calls for High Extraction flour, which in the past I've found daunting.  But this time around, I realized it was pretty simple.   Just sift out some of the bran from whole wheat flour.   In the past I tried this, but didn't realize there is a big difference between home milled whole wheat and massive machine milled whole wheat.   All it took to make some very passable high extraction flour was to run some GM Stone Ground Fine Whole Wheat through a drum sieve once.   It took less than five minutes.   The resulting flour with bran removed weighing 16% of total (so we'll call it 84% extraction) looked almost white with golden undertones.

and some bran left over:

The resulting bread was very pleasant with a rich warm flavor and really not boring.  

The Cambridge market has been keeping me very busy but added to that is a three day a week delivery to a local restaurant.   This is a brand new restaurant less than a mile from me, very high quality, and I must say the chef has good taste in bread :-)  He has been ordering Durum Levain and Flaxseed Rye for the dinner bread basket, and Multigrain Cranberry Sourdough for I wasn't sure what until last night.   My husband and I ate there and ordered Charcuterie as an appetizer.   It came with very thinly sliced toasted wedges of my Cranberry Levain.   Nice!  

So my day on Friday  started with the flaxseed rye scald at 7:30 am.    I finished the restaurant bake ten minutes before my 4 pm deadline and made the delivery, and then got started on finishing my bake for the market the next day, wrapping up around 11 pm.  

I love this Durum Levain - apparently the restaurant guests like it too, but I can't sell it at the Cambridge market.   Go figure.

Almost ready to go - just have to finish the Cranberries:

Finally they are all out - just a few minutes to cool before they get shipped down the hill.

The definite favorite for the Cambridge market is Multigrain Sunflower Levain.   I make twelve loaves and no place to put the dough until I got this nice Cambro box:

The finished product:

I also wanted to share my new favorite - Country French Sourdough:

Now thank goodness the Cambridge market is over and I have a few weeks before the next market (much bigger) starts.   

Since it was too inefficient, I shut down my little bake to order business, and now I am looking for retail outlets that will sell some of my bread.   Starting some samples tonight. 

A couple questions.   I find myself doing a lot of hand mixing - not because I love it but for convenience to avoid moving one dough to machine mix another.   What is the best way to incorporate water and flour together by hand?    I haven't been satisfied with my approach.   Second - if you were going to get a 20 qt mixer which could mix say 15K of dough which one would you get?   There are Chinese models out for under $1000.   Any good?

 

Comments

golgi70's picture
golgi70

Wow your bread looks stellar.  Trying to fine tune your "standards" is by no means complacency and it shows.  The new bread reminds me of a miche crumb.  I bet it improves with age.  Make a big fat miche for your high end restaurant and explain it will improve or better yet evolve over the course of a few days and I'll bet he'd bite.  

What is the oven you are using there?  Do you use stones?  

I've been hand mixing 10KG batches or so lately and the best way to do the autolyse for me has been the claw.  I squeeze through it all.  I've found lower hydration doughs to be quite tough to incorporate evenly without lumps.  This must be why bread from long ago was wetter.  

No good suggestion on mixer but I'd go with a quality company so you know parts and such will exist for years to come.  

Cheers and Nice Baking

Josh

varda's picture
varda

Hi Josh,  

It has been a big adjustment for me going from running from one bread to the next to hunkering down and trying to really master production of a few breads.  The complacency was just in thinking that I had made all the right bread choices already.   The Thom Leonard bread is a miche in all but name.   I made it a few years ago, just blindly following the recipe and was stunned by what a big loaf I got.  

I think the chef is trying to do the same thing as I am which is master a routine at his new restaurant, so probably not a good time to push new loaves his way.   Perhaps later.

I am using a Cadco Convection Oven with a thick steel plate fitted to the oven as the bottom shelf.    With Janet's help I learned to turn the oven off after a minute of steaming for 6 minutes so that the fan doesn't dry the loaf too much before it can expand.   Before I put in the steel plate, it would lose too much heat when turned off, but with the plate, it works like a charm.   Of course it took me a couple worried months before I figured all this out.   This particular oven has very limited height, so stones were a non-starter.   I was very happy when I found that Cadco sells a fitted steel plate which I think is around 3/8 inch thick.  

Mixing 10K of dough by hand is a challenge.   Do you do it on the counter or in some sort of tub?   I get what you are saying about clawing.   That's what I have been doing, but it's hard on the hands.  (Maybe just mine, as they are a bit small for the job.)  

Thanks so much for commenting.

Varda

 

golgi70's picture
golgi70

I'm getting tired of it taking so long to bake so little.  As for the mixing.  I use either bus tubs or something similar to the container you have in the picture for mixing.  I keep a small container of warmish water nearby and use a slightly wet hand and to keep the strain down I get both hands dirty by alternating.  Most of my breads fall in the higher percentile of hydration so it's not too bad.  But I've done a few lower (low 70's high 60s%) and find it much more strenuous.  I suppose I avoid lower hydration dough because I'm hand mixing.  But I also use a lot of whole grain and like someone once said "would you cook a cup of rice in 1/2 cup of water?".  I also save a lot of the dough development in the folding.  This has required me to decrease pre-fermented flour and increase the bulk ferment to give time for this.  It has worked pretty well so far.  I need to do what you did and pick a set of formulas to fine tune.  

Cheers and Keep on Keepin on

Josh

varda's picture
varda

This oven definitely bakes faster.   Generally I do 1 minute steam (using the "humidity" feature of the Cadco which requires a water hookup) 6 minutes off, 20 minutes more - so total of 27 minutes.   Compared to 40-45 minutes in my gas home oven.   And because of the convection they all bake perfectly evenly.   Sometimes the oven does fail to heat up and then recovers.   I'm not sure what is going on.   I haven't had any failures this way though.   I just bake a little longer.   You lose a lot of heat out of the door so you have to preheat to make sure the steel is heat saturated and go higher so that when you lose the heat opening the door you are around in the right place.   I know that many bakers think that convection is just wrong for bread.    But you have to be flexible when you are trying to bake a lot of bread out of your house, and this seems pretty right to me despite the need to work around.   Nowadays even if I am baking one loaf of bread I'll use the oven because it bakes so much better than my other one.   A waste I guess but I can't bear to go back to it.  

Thanks for the tips on hand mixing. 

Varda

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Wow... I can almost imagine the aroma emanating from your breads. Like heaven, it must be.

By the way, it's nice to get an update on yourself and your bakery. I was wondering where you were, but I can see that you were busy. And you have a client! Can't blame the chef. Your breads are probably the best in town.

I'm also interested in easing the hand mixing process, so I'll stick around and read ongoing comments. I've a couple of restaurants and a 4 star hotel lined up for my products. I still haven't bothered to get a mixer, and I'm not too keen in getting one. I'm too much of a traditionalist, and if I could build and use a wood-fired oven, I would.

Anyway, best of luck. I've no doubt that your bakery will be a major success. :)

Zita

varda's picture
varda

Hi Zita,  Sounds like you have been selling a lot.   I'm glad I have this break in my market schedule as that is what I need to do too.   I love machines, particularly good mixers, but it can be hard to keep up with volume.   My Ankarsrum was too big when I got it, now way too small.    Thanks so much for your good wishes, and back at you.  -Varda

yozzause's picture
yozzause

wow Varda,  you are a busy lady and it looks like the oven is working really well for you.

Chinese products are getting better and better all the time, i would have no worry about choosing value for money, my daughter has a chinese tractor. We got a lot more tractor  and younger than anything else on the market and it works very well rugged and strong.

kindest regards Derek  

varda's picture
varda

Derek, I remember thinking back in hobby days that I would never do this as it is too much work.   It is too much work, and yet I'm doing it anyhow.   Ah well.   I love the Cadco.   A lot of oven for the price and small enough to fit in my workspace.   Thanks for the encouragement!  -Varda

Mebake's picture
Mebake

 

Great efforts, Varda! 

Love that Inspiring energy you have; you are busy! The bread look gorgeous, and they must taste fabulous. I'm glad that you, Zita, Josh are quickly gaining the confidence of top restuarants and clients. I have one regular client and i now bake her for a second time ,on order. I gotta have that larger oven soon, or better yet, a small bakery space. 

As to the hand mixing, i echo Josh's tip on his "claw" approach. Also, there is this video i've seen on vimeo of a lady hand mixing dough in a wooden trough; you might be interested in her technique. http://vimeo.com/m/34325967

best wishes,

Khalid

varda's picture
varda

Thank you for the link Khalid.  I will study it.  I'm always thinking about the health inspector who owes me a return visit before too long.   Could I sanitize a wooden trough to his specifications?   Maybe so if it doesn't mind bleach.   And what would he think about a couche?   Glad to hear you are getting orders, and I'm sure many more to come.   -Varda

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Hi, Varda

Not necessarily a trough, you could source a large plastic tub from a hotel supplies store and do a the mixing there! 

I roll up my floured couche and refrigerate it  between bakes to avoid it being attacked by tiny flour bugs. 

Khalid

 

isand66's picture
isand66

Just beautiful Varda!  All your loaves look exceptional and I would certainly want to buy them.  I'm happy it sounds like you have a good plan going forward and I look forward to hearing about your success.

I really love your cranberry levain bread.

Hopefully we can do another bread get-together this summer.

Regards,

ian

varda's picture
varda

Hey,   the cranberry is a direct descendant of that bread get together.   I forget his name, but the inventor brought a multigrain seeded levain to the meeting. It was wonderful, but he didn't have anything written down (not that kind of baker) and so I tried to recreate it.   That lead me eventually to my multigrain sunflower seed levain, and on the way I forked off and did the cranberry.   These have both morphed, so while they were once almost identical now they are not.  Bread evolution.   And I'm sure nothing like his.   I'd love to have another get-together, but it would have to be at the farmer's market, as that's where I'll be.   Thanks so much for commenting.  -Varda

ml's picture
ml

Hi Varda,

Congratulations on your success!

The film that Khalid referred to is so much fun, but it also reminded me of the set up MC's Gerard uses. A similar box, but his pours the dough out onto the table. I love how the lady in the film does the S&F in batches & then puts it all back together. 

 

varda's picture
varda

ml,  Gerard being the french baker in Vermont whom MC wrote about?   I'll study it carefully.  Good technique may save me some of my strength.   Thanks so much.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

Wow, I can't believe how busy you are!  You have really done an impressive job in building up your business during the past winter months. Don't know how you juggle it all especially with the volume you are working with.

On mixers.  I love my new spiral (Haussler) but it is not a 20qt though PGH does have LARGER Hausslers too.  Way bigger than what I need.  I know mine works like a dream but I also know my experience with mixers - especially commercial ones - is extremely limited.  You might want to PM Mark Sinclair and Andy/ananda and pick their brains.  I know Mark has a planetary mixer (old Hobart) and he is very satisfied with it.  Not sure what Andy works with.  I know Karin/hanseata has a Hobart too and is pleased with it.  

One thing I do know is that with some mixers the bowl and the hooks do not come off so cleaning is a challenge.  Those 'little' details that you don't know until it arrives :O  Always something new to learn and mostly it comes through experience and learning from our mistakes…I know that each person's situation is different too so what works for someone else in their kitchen might be terrible in yours….

You might want to PM proth5 because she did have a less expensive spiral before purchasing her Haussler and I know she was not at all happy with it for a number of reasons.  She is a home baker and has a lot of experience under her belt so she may have some sage 'advice' to offer too.

Your loaves all look delicious and so nicely 'cared' for.  Love the Tom Leonard loaf too though I do not sift out any of the bran….Her Essential's Country French is wonderful too as is her Finnish Rye. ( I mix them all to my routine too.  Figure that is what she did too so if she can so can I :)  In a couple of weeks I am trying her rendition of Monkey Bread.  Not the usual formula so I am curious and must satiate my curiosity *^)

Thanks for the update.  I really enjoy reading about your 'adventures'.

Take Care,

Janet

P.S.  On offspring and their honesty.  These past months I have been sewing my summer wardrobe.  One simple pattern that I found 20+ years ago that works great so it is the only one I use anymore.  Well, this year while perusing the aisles of fabric at my local Joanns, I got a bright idea to try something 'different'….so I veered off of my usual conservative choices and picked a couple of loud bolts of fabric and headed to the cutting tables.  

After almost completing one of the dresses I was having serious doubts about my prior choice so I sought out my 17 year old son for his opinion before I went any further with its construction.  He took one look and without hesitation stated, " That is the ugliest piece of clothing I have ever seen.  Do not expect me to be seen with you in public when you wear it."  He does not mince words and he hit the nail on the head because it was/is indeed very ugly.  We had a good laugh though I think he was a bit surprised that I could laugh with him.

The other experimental pieces of fabric will probably never make it into dress form.   

 

varda's picture
varda

Hi Janet, 

I really need to be careful on price, as I'm actually trying to make some money with this little business, so I think that rules out the Haussler.   I didn't know that Mark had an old Hobart.   Andy does too IIRC.   There was one on Craigslist the other day - a refitted model from the 70s.   But the guy didn't answer my query.   Someone else must have snapped it up.   Nowadays Hobart sells a model that they say is the same as the old one, but from what I've read, it isn't.   And if an old one breaks down, I'm sure it would be as hard to find parts as it would be for a newfangled Chinese model.

Wow you have a huge repertoire.   Just about any loaf I say, you have made.   And more besides.   And all in whole grains.   Awesome.

Thanks Janet,

Varda

varda's picture
varda

that's what family is good for - telling us the hard truth ;)  Gotta love those kids.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Varda.  Well Done.  It is better to have a few retail outlets for your bread to keep the  number of different breads to a minimum and the volume up as wellas cnsistant.  Better than than the private baking going on - one bread on to the next.    Don't ever do a big nice miche in the WFO as a treat and gift  for the chef - He might really like it and want it all the time too! 

Well Done and Happy Baking Varda 

varda's picture
varda

I offered him the durum levain and when he took me up on it I was kicking myself because it's finicky and temperamental, and I was wishing I'd suggested something easier.    Now that I'm making it all the time, I haven't had a bit of trouble with it, although I was making 4 yesterday, and somehow came up 100 grams short, and yet it came out exactly the same as always.   So what did I leave out?   (Scratching my head here.)   For my BTO business, I'd offer five things, and get five orders one of each.   Enough of that.   With limited capacity, I have to be more efficient.   Thanks DA!  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

With my new Nutrimill, 500 g of whole grains, enough to feed the levain the sifted out portion and the remainder use for the bread. Sifting it one time through my only sieve.. I too get exactly 85%, near a tenth or two, extraction flour.   The best flour of all time in my book and this 85%  makes fantastic bread.  The levain and starter don't mind eating the 15% sifted out hard bits at all, it fact the wee beasties love it and these hard bits aren't so hard if wet the longest and when nearly consumed by the beasts  :-)  Makes for sour too,

Happy Baking.

varda's picture
varda

must mill a lot finer than the komo then.  Is that all you feed your starter?   A bran diet?   Doesn't it get hungry?   -Varda

Syd's picture
Syd

Varda, your loaves are outstanding.  I would so love to have seen a crumb shot of those durum levains and the multigrain sunflowers, but I understand you can't go selling half cut loaves of bread to your customers!  Your breads all look so good and you have achieved such high level of consistency.  Congratulations.  I am really proud of you.   What? No borrowmathinkys?  I like the sound of your new loaf.  

Wishing you all the best Varda,

Syd :)

 

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for your kind words.   I'm just slogging along here, hardly putting my head up.   As for the Borodinsky, I brought that every other week to the Cambridge market.   On weeks where I didn't, I got chastised by disappointed customers.   One fellow marched up to the table and picked up a loaf without asking any questions.   I told him what it was and he said yes, I know, I'm about to buy some borscht.   He certainly wasn't Russian so I was scratching my head.   At the previous market, a guy with a Russian accent was asking me about the Borodinsky.   When I told him he got a look of disgust on his face and said, oh yeah I remember that, and then turned on his heel and marched away.   Guess it wasn't his favorite thing.   People are funny.  -Varda

ananda's picture
ananda

Very quickly, as I am on my way to work, Varda.

Don't buy a cheap planetary mixer, it won't last any length of time.   If you need to mix by hand, my best tip is that flour mixes into water much easier than water into flour.   Use a plastic scraper with one hand and rotate your bowl with the other for as long as possible to keep your hands clean until the dough forms.   Then finish it off with your hands.

I bought a Fimar Italian spiral to add to my Hobart 20 quart.   https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=fimar+dough+mixer&rlz=1C1CHFX_en-GBGB555GB555&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&imgil=D0avBCVGLzirPM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fen... It's almost brand new but I got a great price for it.   It's ideal for plain doughs, and mixes the Gilchesters' dough great as it is single speed only.   But I still use the Hobart [20 quart from 1957] for all rye work and for seeded and grain doughs.   Oh, and I have a 2 deck oven now, and a bakery....but that's another story!   Will post when I can.

Just wanting to note that your bread looks really great; and how hard you are working!   That remains a constant of course in the world of real bread baking.

Very best wishes

Andy

ananda's picture
ananda

Headline and no text; thought that was fixed!

Sorry, Varda, I wrote a long reply but it didn't appear.   Got to go to work now in my new bakery!   Will post more on that soon.

Just to say, very lovely bread!

All good wishes

Andy

varda's picture
varda

Hi Andy, 

For some reason the text of your missing comment came through in the email notification, so I saw that your mixer is an Italian 20L Fimar.   I looked it up and it doesn't appear in any websites on this side of the Atlantic but I'll research further.   So I'm gathering that your Hobart is the stronger mixer which is why you continue to use it for the rye.  

I'm so happy to hear about your new bakery.   You must be extremely busy right now (and always due to the normal workload in this line of work) but I hope at some point you'll have a moment to tell us more.   Thanks for the tips on hand mixing.   I have not been adding water first, and I'll try it.   And thanks in general for your help. 

Varda

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Varda,

Saw the comment by Andy and your response about Fimar vs Hobart.  He has more experience and hopefully, when he has time, he can comment from that experience.

In the mean time I will let you know what I have discovered…

I have no experience with a Hobart, minimal with the Haussler and more with the DLX so take what I write with many grains of salt.

When I was researching mixers prior to purchasing the Haussler I was told that the difference between them is not the strength but the mixing action.  A spiral is for BREAD and really nothing else whereas a Hobart, which is a 'universal' mixer, handles other types of doughs for different types of baked goods.  Think large KA mixer with all of it's various attachments.  Very simplified explanation and hopefully someone with more knowledge can expound.

I am slowly learning how the Haussler handles different types of dough.  Unlearning the DLX routine….One thing I have noted is how enriched doughs mix differently than lean ones do.  The dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl and slowly incorporates into the mass on the hook.  While it looks as though nothing is happening it is indeed slowly begin picked up as the bowl rotates and gradually becomes a thin sheath of dough until finally there is one mass of dough on the hook.  Lean doughs mix more quickly which is also true with the DLX.  Just a different action.

When adding nuts, fruits etc to the mix I find that I have to add them when the dough is about 2/3rds developed or else they don't get incorporated evenly.  With the DLX I can develop the gluten much further and add-ins are easy to blend in when using the hook.

I do find that the gluten development with the spiral is stronger than what I get with the DLX.  I have also over kneaded a 30 − 40% rye dough using the spiral which I have never managed with the DLX which shows the power it has in comparison.  It had mixed less that 10 minutes so I wasn't looking watching closely because that dough always mixed quite a bit longer in my DLX.  Now I am more cautious *^)

Hope this helps a bit in your search and doesn't add to confusion….

Janet

varda's picture
varda

Hi Janet,   Thanks for sharing your observations.   Always a learning curve with a new machine.  Very interesting.   Have to figure this out soon before the Waltham Market starts.   -Varda

ml's picture
ml

I just saw Richard Miscovich demonstrate mixing dough by cutting off small pieces,(maybe the size of a deck of cards) piling them up, & repeating. He said this is good if you have any hand issues. Ends up the same as pinching by hand, but you do it with your scraper.

 
varda's picture
varda

Hi,  I'm assuming that the flour and water are already incorporated before this cutting.   That for me is the hard part.   Afterward you can develop the dough any number of ways by hand.   Or am I misunderstanding what he was doing?   Thanks.  -Varda