The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Some early success, and huge thanks to...

IceDemeter's picture

Some early success, and huge thanks to... many of you here, for your inspiration, your patience and detail in answering questions, and your generosity in sharing your formulas and instructions in enough detail that even a rank newbie like me can start off with some success! 

After a working career traveling and eating in restaurants, I finally started learning to cook late in my 5th decade of life, and now am starting to learn about baking bread to start out my 6th decade.  My initial reason for starting to look into the idea was the inability to find a bakery within 1000 km that actually made a Westphalian-style Pumpernickel rye bread, as well as a deep dislike of the amount of sugar that the majority of local bakeries think should be an ingredient in their breads.  This site (thank you, Floyd M!) and all of you gave me the encouragement to believe that I could take on the delicate engineering / chemistry balance that is the science of bread and have some fun making some tasty real food.  I started out with building my first starter in the beginning of February, and have been trying two or three loaves (different recipe each time) per week, based around building levains on Tuesday, mixing / fermenting on Wednesday, and baking on Thursday.

I'm even less of a photographer than I am a baker, but hopefully these will do some justice to the delicious end product.

Last week I tried out Danni3ll3's wonderfully conceived recipe for "Oats Four Ways", but had to tweak a bit due to not having kamut (I used fresh milled soft white wheat instead) or yogurt (I used dried milk powder and increased water to suit).  I was too impatient to wait until it had cooled enough, so the crumb looks a bit more moist / dense than it should, and my proofing basket isn't really round (I tried to round it out a bit more with a towel but didn't quite make it), but the lacks in appearance don't have any effect on a truly wonderful tasting loaf:

I have also been thoroughly enjoying my first success with a 100% rye loaf (loaded up with white rye malt, red rye malt, chocolate rye malt, and a "bread spice" mix of caraway, fennel, coriander, and cardamom).  I used Mini Oven's magic ratio for rye breads, along with her instructions, and came out with this fabulous treat (which is almost gone, long before I thought about taking a photo):

While I'm still creating my share of "battle bread" (delicious cricket bats and hockey pucks), I'm gradually increasing my skills and having a lot of fun. 

My happy little starter (George) is a 100% rye version based on dabrownman's NMNF starter - and I am loving both the ease of upkeep and especially that little bit of extra tang that I'm getting each week.

I've still got a long ways to go to develop my dough handling skills and get to a level of somewhat consistent success, but I am thrilled with the level of success that you all have helped with to so far.  Thank you!


Danni3ll3's picture

You are a quick learner! I love both breads!

By the way, the yogurt in the Oats Four Ways recipe is not necessary. I have been adding yogurt in the recipes because I like the tenderness it seems to give to the crumb and the crust. You can replace it with a bit less water if you wish or do exactly what you did.

And you can also use any combo of flour as you figured out. I use the same base recipe and just vary the ingredients in it. As to water, I have a basic idea on what is needed but I tend to err on the side of a bit less and then when I mix in the starter and the salt, I adjust there if needed.

I am really looking forward to more of your posts! Well done!

IceDemeter's picture

Sorry for the late reply - I've been avoiding screens thanks to a pressure migraine (nothing like spring and chinooks for frequent wild pressure swings!)

It was obvious that you'd hit on a winning formula, that allows tons of room for tweaks based on what's in the pantry and what flavour and texture you want.  I gave the base formula / method another shot this week (went 50% whole grain, no soaker / porridge, but added in some malts and toasted wheat germ).  It's too early to slice in to yet, but the outside looks great so I have high hopes for the crumb.

I have a feeling that your basic formula / method is going to be the base for my own "daily bread" since it feels really natural and comfortable.  Really nice work on developing that!


Bread1965's picture

It took me until my fifth decade to realize I couldn't follow every dream I had.. but that didn't mean I couldn't follow a few more before I punch out the clock... like making great bread. I find few things in life as rewarding.. enjoy the journey, keep a log for yourself, keep baking forward.. it's humbling and gratifying all at the same time.. most of all, it's all good.. even the burnt crusty bits.. bake happy.. !!

IceDemeter's picture

You are darned tootin' that it's never too late!

For me, getting in to the cooking and baking thing at this stage of my life has made it a far more enjoyable hobby than it would have been if it had been just a required chore earlier on.  I look at it that I'm old enough to not care about anyone else's opinion, and can thoroughly enjoy just coming up with methods and results that suit my preferences and make me happy.

I've taken your advice and started a log of all of my bakes, with notes on timing and environment (among other things), so that I can learn to adjust as needed.  Right now it's all a big, fun experiment, so notes are necessary so I know what worked and what didn't.

As for the burnt crusty bits - I'll have you know that BCB's (burnt crunchy bits) are a required food group around here!  Just so long as I keep it to the "deeply caramelized" side and not the "charcoal" side, then I actually love what it adds to the flavour.  It's deliberate, I tell you - deliberate!

Thanks again, and keep baking happy!

dabrownman's picture

restaurants and I was in the food business too so I got to eat the best made by the best.  Now I'm a closet chef that likes to make bread:-)   Westphalian rye is one of my favorites and I have made about a dozen different kinds to learn they are all great:-)  Your SD baking has t-started out on a a fine path and only ood tasting bread will result.  Very well done and

Happy baking 

IceDemeter's picture

I didn't have quite as much opportunity as you did to sample the "best made by the best" (I was electrical tech sales, so the folks I dealt with thought that "food" is comprised of greasy chicken wings and beer), but did seek out the local top chefs whenever I had the chance.  What I learned from them was that we each have our own opinion of "best", and that there is the most joy in being able to create and cater to our own preferences to make our own "best".

Since I'm not exactly highly skilled at cooking or baking, it is incredibly fortunate that my preferences for the "best" are usually along the lines of the most simple preparation possible --- for me to just get out of the way and let the ingredients shine on their own.  The whole SD thing goes really well with that - not a lot of additions or fancy prep work, just let the natural grains and leaven create what I think is the "best" bread ever!

As for the Westphalian ryes --- well, definitely all great!  I'm sure that Lucy had some influence on your appreciation of the style ;)

Thanks for your encouragement and inspiration, and

Happy baking!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I especially like the zoom in on the crusty bits... :)   What a delight to see your post after my walk about camp early this morning.  (Heavy dew, birds at their best, clear sweetly scented air with a touch of spring.)   Steep learning curve you got there, the journey is the fun part...  and enjoying the crusty bits.  Simple pleasures.   


IceDemeter's picture

You are totally correct that the journey is the fun part --- and that enjoying the results (including BCB's) is all part of the journey!

Your camp sounds incredible, but I can't say that I envy you having to deal with those temps and humidity.  I'm a desert / foothills type of gal (temperate zone, please and thank you), and can't even imagine trying to learn how to survive (never mind bake) in such a different climate! 

Your "magic formula" for rye is one of my favourite lessons so far --- and have to say that your mentions of it sent me in search of the meaning and usage of "altus".  Well.  THAT is a concept that makes my frugal little heart sing --- and the delicious mistaken "battle breads" that I've created thus far will be recycled as "altus".  Seriously - wastage bothers me and knowing that there is a legitimate use for the not-so-good results really felt like a weight lifted off of me.  I feel a lot more free to experiment now since I'm not so worried about it not turning out well.

Thanks again, and much joy to you in all of the simple pleasures!