The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Laurel and Hardy of semolina breads

alfanso's picture

The Laurel and Hardy of semolina breads

Well, it’s a been a bit of time since posting.  Last night I had itchy fingers to go back to a favorite but with a pair of twists.  My most-favored sesame semolina based on Mr. Hamelman’s 125% hydration AP flour version.  However this time I subbed out the levain for my old favorite 75% mixed flour levain.  

As long as I maintain the same percent of preferment flour, switching things around like overall as well as levain hydrations is a breeze.  I also had the urge to make a Brobdignagian baguette/long batard to go along with one normal sized.  What could be normal than that?

1 x 1150g long batard/baguette, 1 x 375g long batard/baguette.

itch scratched!

And on to other recent things

I had a desire to start to learn croissants and laminated dough.  So…many iterations later, I have somewhat cured the itch and figured out many angles to greater success.

Starting with the still edible but quite problematic: poorly laminated with a lot of tearing and leakage, shaping issues, determination of "correct" size to make into the triangles, under-baked bottoms, etc.  And one by one, I started to incorporate a few different methods. With the help of watching a few videos over ad nauseam particularly Bien Manger.

I won't go into too many details here, but settled on T45 pastry flour to cure minor elasticity problems and the T45 dough is also a tad smoother.  Went from 2% milk to powdered milk to whole milk.  Bought an appropriate large maple wood rolling pin 18 inches long.  Misunderstood that the 27 layers were not for the entire dough, but for the butter along, and so I needed to perform one more lamination step to get there.  Baby steps.  Much helped by my wife leaving town for a week so that I could spend a lot of time trying things out and searching for better methods and results.

At this point, if there are two remaining items to check off, the more important would be that I’m still seeing only the initial image of a honeycomb crumb.  The second is that without a sheeter, it is near impossible for me to roll the dough out so that it is consistently smooth and even along the entire length of the dough.  A sheeter would make life all the more easy, but I have neither the space nor desire to get one.  That would be lunacy for an apartment-based home baker.


Here you can see the start of something good.  However the number of laminations are incorrect.


Starting to get the hang of shaping but still have some consistency issues.


Much improvement on the layers of butter, now counting at 27.


These are now full sized and looking pretty good.  Still more work to do!


A  partial run of pain au chocolat.  Shy on the chocolate, I doubled up on the next run.


 I also decided to use the same dough the next time to make pain aux raisins for the first time.  Also a first time for making pastry cream.  Pleased at both for a virgin bake.




isand66's picture

Well your comedy team look great as usual.  I envy your adventures into croissants.  I took a class a few years ago in the basics but have not really done any since I am afraid I will gain 50 pounds eating my mistakes 😬.  What type of butter are you using?  I have found the high fat European butters are the best and really do make a difference.

alfanso's picture

Actually, the earlier efforts got trashed wholesale, so I must have tossed a few dozen over the course of a few weeks after sampling one or two for quality control ;-) .  I know that it's food, but not worthy of doling out, even to those on the dole, and I'm not gonna eat them either.  So I've been limiting myself to "research and development" so to speak.

The more recent and successful batches have made their way to a few neighbors, my wife's dragon boating team, and the building management and maintenance folks.  So far no reports of food poisoning...

I already knew going in that about 82% butter fat content is where I wanted to be, which eliminated virtually all of the American branded butters.  Kerry Gold, Plugra, President are basically what I've seen around.  For no other reason than price (vs. the more expensive Kerry Gold), I've been buying Plugra unsalted.

I found a likable recipe for the pastry cream on the KA site when I googled around.  And it was easier than I'd imagined.  Makes a double batch so I'm obligated to try again tomorrow.

thanks, alan

And congrats on making the TFL marquee.  Long time due, although I think that you made it there there before. 

isand66's picture

Look forward to your continuing adventures.  I don't have enough self control to not sample too many of my bakes so it will be a while before I try them again 😬.  I think we've tried the Pulgra brand and it was very good.

I have had a few of my bakes on the marquee and it's always an honor.

Best regards,


DanAyo's picture

Alan, the croissants and rolls look super promising! 

You’re a bit different. Most of us will diet after the holiday feast. It seems you are getting a jump start on things. Hopefully, you can eat well for the feast, since you are nipping it in the bud now. LOL


alfanso's picture

For me it is sometimes two steps forward, one step back.  At least I'm not stuck on one formula and iterative way of doing it.  I'm willing to get not such great results with further attempts, and when I find something that works, I'll stick with it and go onto the next problem to try and solve.  Sometimes it works and sometimes not, but if I learn how to either do or not do a step, then the effort is worthwhile.  It was that way with me and baguettes too.  But eventually I unlocked the key to success.  

dmsnyder's picture

The pains au raisins are most tempting to me these days, and your SD breads look as delicious as expected.

I made croissants once. It was in 1974 or 75. I used Julia Child's recipe and method (Mastering vol. II, I think). They turned out really well, I thought. Now, my standards are higher and my metabolism is lower. I have enough difficulty keeping weight off without pastries. It's a revoltin' state of affairs! (Anyone else old enough to remember Jimmy Durante?) So, I'll enjoy your pastries vicariously.

Happy Hanukkah! (and baking)


alfanso's picture

I recall William Bendix in TV's Life of Reilly "often" saying "what a revolting development this is".

In 74 or 75 I'm certain that I didn't even know what a croissant was.  And of course thought that those monster boules of "corn bread" were made from corn.  I mean, why not?

I may have kicked the enriched dough habit for a bit, although I did just bring home 10 lbs. of BRM pastry flour (a twofer one), so I know there'll be some more too soon down the road. 

Happy Hanukkah to you too.  Sad, but never heard back from dbm.  Last time around he went AWOL for a few months while he cold-turkeyed from bread, so I hope this is no different.


...wherever you are.