The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Just a softie?

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Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Just a softie?

According to Wikipedia, about 90% of the people in the USA live in places where the water is hard or very hard. I know I always have.

 

Now, I've moved to a place where the water is amazingly soft. According to Calvel, soft water prevents dough from having good cohesiveness. And that seems to be the case. My lavash cracker dough at about 55% hydration and a San Francisco Sourdough type dough at about 60% hydration both feel soft to me. How soft? Like 75 to 85% hydration doughs in other areas where I have lived. Even at 60% hydration, and with good dough development, my doughs are too soft to be good free form loaves.

 

Needless to say, it's driving me crazy. (My wife will tell you that I can walk that far.) Regretably, Calvel didn't mention what to do about very soft water.

 

Anyway, are there any bakers here who have coped with soft water? And if so, what did you do?

 

Thanks,

Mike

 

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Is the water naturally soft or does the city soften it?

Rosalie

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It's naturally soft.  Incredibly soft.

 

Normally it runs around 25ppm.  There are some seasonal highs as high as 125 ppm.

 

And seasonal lows as low as 3 ppm.  (So you won't think that's a typo, that's three parts per million.)

 

The water department didn't tell me when the seasonal highs and lows occur.

 

Mike

 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Hi Mike,

A quick web search turned up the following:

"B. SOFT WATER

This is water which is relatively free of the carbonates or sulphates of Calcium or Magnesium. Soft water forms a lather freely with soap. Real soft water used for bread making has a tendency to soften the gluten and result in a soft sticky dough. This condition, while not lessening the activity of the yeast, considerably offsets the usual beneficial effects of the fermentation process in the dough batch, unless more salt is used. The use of Arkady eliminates the undesirable effects of soft water by supplying the necessary mineral salts for optimum gluten development and healthy dough fermentation."

- from http://abrfaq.info/treatise/190

Presumably "Arkady" is Arkady mineral yeast food, a mineral mix commercially available in the UK.  Perhaps it, or something like it, is available in the US.

- Steve

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Arkady may be available from Caravan Ingredients:

http://www.caravaningredients.com/

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I do appreciate your dilligence in searching for that. 

However, I'd already found that.  And the product is available.  Depending on the formulation and vendor (Fleischmann's yeast has a similar product for the trade), it's available in 44 or 50 pound sacks.

 

For a small bakery, that's too much to be practical.  For a home baker, that's just insane.

 

A quick exercise with a spreadsheet suggests the 50 lb sack is enough to adjust the water on about 1.5 million loaves of bread.  At 5 loaves a week..... no, I didn't do that calculation, but I bet it's longer than I'll be alive.

 

So, I'm still searching for another solution.  Maybe I  should write and ask for a sample.... a pound would last me a long, long time.

 

Mike

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And what if you ran your water through a block of limestone, like colonists were known to do with rain water to improve flavor and cool it on tropical islands?  or dissolved some chalk into it?

Mini O

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I've been doing more on-line reasearch and have a question in to the AIB.  Their FAQs suggest adding a bit more salt to the dough.  I've asked how much more salt?

 

Also, brwwers use gypsum to adjust soft water so they can make beers that require hard waters.  So, I've asked the AIB if that's viable in bread making.

 

Limestone has it's charms, but I am afraid getting it consistent could be an issue.  I know some of the hardest water is water that has been filtered through limestone.

 

Thanks,

Mike 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Mini O,

Your limestone suggestion is on the mark.  The project to which I'm currently assigned includes a reverse osmosis system to remove salt from seawater.  The resulting fresh water is so pure that trace amounts of some minerals are actually added back into it so that it isn't objectionably soft.  One of those minerals is calcite, which is a major constituent of limestone. 

 Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

i could actually visualize my water heater being used, just letting the water flow through and the little atoms doing their work.  Ship it to Mike and when he's is done removing all the calcium deposites, re-installing it.  Don't know about transport costs or what I'd do in the meantime, calcify a new boiler maybe? 

I've got hard water and plenty of calcium deposites in my water pipes.  The whole midwest pulls it's water out from under limestone layers, gotta be a source and solution in recycle there.  The 'ol pipe switcheroo trick.   Hey Mike, want some nicely calcified water pipes?  Been 40 years in the making.    What about a boiler filled with limestone chunks and just "go with the flow?"

Mini O

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It sounds great!

 

On board ships, the engineers use water softeners to clean out pipes.  it's too hard to replace them, so they put in a softener, wait a bit, and "WALLAH!" (as a friend types it), the pipes are clean.

 

When we moved here, our tea kettle had some really gross deposits.  A week later, it was  as clean as a whistle!

 

Mike 

Russ's picture
Russ

I'm not sure just how much limestone the water needs to pass through for proper hardening effect, but it strikes me that one could jury-rig a solution using a faucet mounted water filter (the kind made by Pur or Brita). Just crack open (probably with a good saw or a dremel) one of the filter inserts, take out the charcoal and fill it with crushed limestone. Then find some sort of food safe sealant to put the filter cartridge back together and you're good to go. This is of course assuming that that would be enough exposure to the limestone.

Russ

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

of a guy in rec.food.barbecue. He's a tinkerer. He wanted his barbecued meats, which are cooked low and slow, to have a crust on them. He found an infrared broiler unit good for many, many high intensity BTU's. It was a step in the right direction, but not enough.

(Calling Toolman Tim.... calling toolman tim....)

 

So, he got a second unit and mounted it so it was close to, and facing, the first broiler. These units are powered by bottled gas, and he didn't think they were producing quite enough heat.

 

(Has anyone seen toolman tim?)

 

Since there was no room for another broiler unit mounted on a leg of his BBQ pit, he opened the broiler units and enlarged their orifices so more gas could get to the elements. He has over 100,000 BTU's there to put a crust on the bbq'd meat. He says it's OK now. I keep wondering how the neighbors feel about it. "Dang Martha, I think that things gonna take off!"

 

Mike

 

PS - Your idea sounds more workable than the broiler units, though I'd rather use a filter pitcher than a faucet attachment. But I think I'm on the track, see my entry about the interim report, below. Mike

 

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

I never thought soft water was a problem but I've changed over from a concrete rainwater tank to a fibreglass one recently and the dough does feel different and I couldn't figure out why. Maybe this is the reason although I wouldn't think there would be a lot of mineral from the concrete tank. 

Liz

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Isn't lime or limestone used in making concrete?  And that would be soluble and would also add hardness.

 

Here's what the AIB has to say in one of their FAQS about water:

Does water hardness affect yeast-leavened doughs?

Water hardness refers to the calcium and magnesium ions in the water. Levels will vary by locality, and sources such as wells, rivers, or reservoirs. Your local water company should be able to supply you with this information. Yes, hardness will affect yeast-leavened dough. Medium soft water (50 to 100 ppm) is considered to be the desired level of hardness. Soft water (0 to 15 ppm) is undesirable because it tends to soften the gluten and produce slack, sticky doughs and a finished product with a more open grain. The use of mineral yeast food or a slight increase in salt level would supply the hardness necessary to improve the absorption and crumb structure. Some hard waters (200 ppm and higher) are objectionable because they can elevate the pH of the dough, causing a retarding effect on yeast and enzyme activity. This prolongs fermentation and affects machinability of the dough. Additions of lactic acid, acetic acid and monocalcium phosphate are easy corrections for this problem.

 

Still thinkin'

Mike

 

 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Mike,

Of all the things you mentioned, the one that sounds most promising is the brewers and wine makers. Whatever they do is probably available in retail quantities, since there are so many home brewers and wine makers. The products are likely to be safe, too, since the products are designed to go into wine and beer.

http://www.midwestsupplies.com/products/ProdBySubCat.aspx?SubCat=11181

The general approach to water hardening seems to be to add magnesium, calcium, and carbonate in various forms to get a concentration of each that simulates the water hardness and carbonate hardness you want to simulate. On the brewer's site it seemed like that would be accomplished with a combination of gypsum (calcium sulfite), calcium chloride, epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). Maybe bicarbonate of soda is the simple way to add carbonate. All those ions would be in hard water, but maybe you could get away with just using one of the hardener products.

I also saw that something called Nigari is mainly magnesium chloride and used as a coagulant for tofu along with gypsum. You pobably could add nigari and gypsum to harden your water using tofu making supplies.

Bill

Henry's picture
Henry

 

Mike

Didier wrote an article on Water back in 2005.

Aside from the purchase of special equipment or addition of minerals, which you've already mentioned as being not feasible,

he suggests an increase in yeast amount as well as punch and fold.

He does comment that technology has really lowered the chances of having baking problems due to water quality and the baker should first check all the steps to see if the problem lies elsewhere.

http://www.cafemeetingplace.com/archives/food1_apr2005.htm

 

H

 
Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I'm using known good recipes and things just aren't working the way they used to.

 

It's interesting to note that one normally makes breads with lower hydration at higher altititudes, but I am dropping the hydration a lot from the breads I made at higher altitudes.

 

It's also interesting to note that according to one web page I hit around 86% of the homes in the US have hard or very hard water.   So.... Didier's comments could be overwhelmingly true and not apply to my situation.

 

Mike

 

Henry's picture
Henry

 M

Here's a thought.

Why not go into your favourite local bread bakery and ask them

what they do to deal with soft water.

If it's mineral yeast food they add, maybe you can buy a kilo from

them

H

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

However, my favorite bakeries are on different water systems.  They are in Dallas, I'm about 50 miles away.  They're on fairly hard water.

 

I've heard good things about a closer bakery, but I've never been there.. and other people tell me the breads I'm making (that I'm not particularly happy with yet) are WAY better than that bakery's stuff.  I'm about to run some errands, so I guess it's time to visit the bakery in Denton.

 

Mike

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I visited the much talked about bakery in Denton.

Their cakes were very pretty.

Later,

Mike

 

Russ's picture
Russ

Actually got an out loud laugh out of me there.

Russ

dstroy's picture
dstroy

favorite bakeries in Dallas??

I asked this several times here and always got a room full of crickets, or answers that required several hours of driving! My parents are in Dallas and we've had to mail them bread because the bakeries they loved closed! Where are good places to get bread in Dallas?

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I grew up in Dallas, but that wasn't during the current millenium.

 

I've checked out a few that were recommended.  And, overall, I'm pretty disappointed.

 

Village Baking Company makes an excellent product, but they are wholesale only, and you are at the mercy of their resellers.  Sprouts has some of their breads, and they are quite good.

 

Beyond that, I either haven't tried them, or haven't been impressed enough to say anything about them.  The "healthy" breads I've tried from local bakeries have been uniformly dismal.  The much ballyhooed Central Market and Market Street bakeries produce beautiful - but tasteless - breads.  I enjoy bread with stuff in it.  Stuff like olives, cheese, jalapeno peppers, garlic, fruit.  But if the bread isn't good to start with, it doesn't work for me.  So, I try a plain bread.  A simple sourdough, a plain white, a rye.  Too many of the bakeries I've tried use bleached and bromated flours and then compound their sins with more addititves to speed the baking process (haste is the enemy of good bread), and by overmixing.

 

I haven't tried the local Whole Paycheck, but they used to be good. 

 

If you find a good bakery in Dallas, please let me know.  I enjoy eating good bread that I didn't make.

Mike

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You are making me wonder about using my warm water tap to temper the temperature up to 85 or 90F. I have my softener set up to handle all hot water and all the cold in every tap except the kitchen cold water. The more warm the water is the softer it would be.

I guess I'll start warming the cold water in the nuke.

Eric

Russ's picture
Russ

Water heaters are bacterial breeding grounds. AFAIK, you should never consume water from the hot tap.

Russ

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I understand that hot water will dissolve any lead in the pipes and joints.  I say never use water from the hot water tap for cooking or drinking.

Rosalie

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

As dangers go, that one is probably over rated.

 

The hot water mostly stays in the hot water heater, which is glass.

 

When you turn on the hot water, if you're like most folks you let it run until you actually have hot water coming out of the tap.  Which means the clean water in the hot water heater has purged the lines between the hot water heater and your faucet.

 

How much lead is picked up would be a function of the ractivity of the water, the temperature of the water and the length of exposure.  When you turn off the hot water, the pipe is full of hot water and that could leach out lead... but the next time you use the hot water, you'll be purging the lines again. 

Of course, most contemporary plumbing is PVC and there's no lead in the system to leach out in any case.  Whether PVC is safer is another question entirely..... but at my age, I figure the the pVC in my new house won't have time to kill me if it is dangerous.

Mike

 

 

TRK's picture
TRK

Mike,

 

A brewing supply store is definitely a good idea.  It is very common in home brewing to add trace amounts of salts, calcium carbonate, gypsum, etc. to match the water profile of specific reasons where a style of beer originated.  Homebrew stores will sell them in ver small quantities (down to a couple grams of white powder in a little plastic bag).  If you have a local store or can find a local home-brewer s/he will very likely know a lot about the water and what can be done with it-many actually have detailed water analyses done.  

 

Good luck. 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Mike,
Can't you just get a water bubbler tank and get on a service? It wouldn't cost much to have drinking water delivered in 5 Gallon bottles. If the coffee is as bad as you say there must be a big market for such a service.
Eric

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I'll have to look into it.

 

For coffee and tea, we've been using the reverse osmosis water from the water dispenser on our fridge.  Works great.  The water is a bit bland, but that's better than the yucky taste the untreated water has.  However, RO is not an answer for the bread.

 

I'll look into that. 

Mike

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

One of many things brewers use to harden water is epsom salts.  They also use gypsum, which is an ingredient in plaster of paris.  I looked at plaster of paris and decided I didn't like the rest of the ingredients.  So, I bought a pound of epsom salts for 87 cents, plus tax.

 

Our water  is normally 25 to 35 ppm, with dips as low as 3 and peaks as high as 125.  My goal was to get water into the 50 to 100ppm range.  So, adding 50ppm would be about right.

 

A bit of spreadsheet work suggested that about .1 gram for 3 2.5 ;b loaves would be just a little high, but close.

 

The dough has body.  It came together nicely.  However, it is not a recipe I'd made since we moved here, so later today I'll be trying some of those recipes to see how they work with a bit of epsom salts throuwn in.

 

While epsom salts are used to cure constipation, the dose is 6 to 8 teaspoons, so I think I'm OK with the dosage I'm using.

 

Another trip to the spreadsheet and it seems that my 1 lb container is enough for about  136,000 2.5lb loaves.

 

Later,

Mike

 

Russ's picture
Russ

Sounds like a good, simple solution (pun not intended - my intentional puns are much more painful) is in the works.

Once you've verified the effectiveness, all you'll need to do is mix up a small batch at about 100x the dilution needed to keep in the the fridge and then add a bit to the water for each batch of dough. You will of course need to work out just how much, but you seem pretty handy with a spreadsheet.

I'm sure you knew this or already have a similarly simple plan, but this is the one that came to my mind and you hadn't yet said exactly what your plan was.

Russ

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I'm cooling three batches of bread now.  One is a whole wheat sandwich bread from Reinhart's new book.  It looks great!  I made it with home ground flour, and this is the first time I've had a really great rise with home ground flour, and I didn't even use vital wheat gluten.  (Of course, the milk does add protein, and there is butter in the recipe, both of which can help a bread rise.)  The last time I made this, it was with store bought whole wheat flour, so it's not a real test.

 

The next is a sourdough whole wheat that was also made with home ground flour.  It rose nicely, though not as nicely as the yeasted variety.  Time to tinker some more...

 

The third recipe is a white flour straight yeasted dough that I've made a lot lately.  It's the base for some tests of the impact of liquid and solid fats on bread.  It was the fat free loaf, and its given me fits ever since I moved here.  With the addition of the epsom salts, the lean bread rose nicely, has a nice shape, rose more quickly than without the epsom salts, and it browned much more nicely than before.  And this is with about .1 gram in 3 2.5 lb loaves.  It is pretty surprising!

 

When the bread is cool, I'll be cutting into it and tasting it to see how it is.  I doubt that there will be a epsom salt taste since so little was used.

 

As you suspected, I am already thinking about a standard strength solotion of epsom salts and water.  However, the question remains of what to do with breads that have no water in them, just milk.  I suppose I can always just cut the milk a bit and put in some epsom salt laced water...... there would be a net benefit, I think.

 

WOW!  I am *SO* jazzed!  I can hardly wait to eat the breads and see if they live up to their promise.

 

Mike

 

Susan's picture
Susan

Please, so we can be jazzed with you. Sounds like you found a great fix for your water problem.

Susan from San Diego

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

The breads aren't anything special, just test loaves baked in pans.  And they aren't quite where I want them to be yet.  But, dang, they are SO much better than the batches that proceded them!

 

What I am thinking about is doing two test batches side by side, one with epsom salts, one without, and from the same batch of flour.  I'll do that next week and post some pictures then.

 

Mike 

Russ's picture
Russ

Excellent! Sounds like success is found (yes, I know the taste test hasn't been written about yet as I write this, but I fully expect to hear that the breads tasted as good as they looked.

 

I made it with home ground flour, and this is the first time I've had a really great rise with home ground flour, and I didn't even use vital wheat gluten.

 

Someone else here posted a thread about doing some experimentation with home ground flour. If I recall correctly, he (not actually sure of the gender, can't remember enough of the thread's name to search for it to find out - thinking about it, I think it may have been bwraith) said he found, using home ground rye flour, that he got a better rise from flour ground a day or two before than when baking immediately after grinding the flour. I don't have a mill (yet) so can't speak from experience, but have been keeping this in the back of my head in case I do get a mill.

 

However, the question remains of what to do with breads that have no water in them, just milk.

 

Is the milk soft there too? It seems like even if it is, the amount of solution you'd need to add should be so miniscule that you almost shouldn't have to cut the milk down when you add it to the mix. I'm imagining that your solution is probably such that you should get that .1 gram in somewhere between a 1/4 teaspoon and a tablespoon of water. Much more dilute and a premixed batch requires too much storage space, and if much more concentrated it becomes hard to measure acurately (I guess eyedroppers are pretty consistent or they wouldn't use them for medication, so it could be more concentrated if you wanted). However concentrated it may be, I guess my method would be to put the solution into whatever cup I measure milk into then add the milk to fill, so I guess effectively cutting down the milk as you say - but by an amount that almost doesn't count in my mind.

--

By the way, it's a bit off topic in this thread, but I wanted to say, I'm a bit of a baking newbie and, though this is the first we've conversed directly, you're definitely one of the people who've been a great help to me as I've been learning. Both in your posts here and on your sites, your information, experience and helpful manner have been greatly appreciated. Thank you.

There are many others on this site whom I should thank, and I probably won't get posts out to all, so let me say a quick thanks to all who are a part of making this site such a great resource and to Floydm for the site itself as well as his great posts.

Russ

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Rus commented:

Is the milk soft there too? 

 

Thank you.  I'd overlooked the obvious.  I'm not getting the milk from the tap, and it is probably OK thanks to the cows.

 

The bread I was thinking of, which was Reinhart's whole wheat sandwich bread does have some water in the biga, but an all milk bread shouldn't be an issue.

 

Thanks for the kind words too!

 Mike

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

I have reverse osmosis water that I learned early on doesn't work too well with yeast breads.  I switched to spring water, and lately found it giving me the same problems as the reverse osmosis water.  That mystery remains, but switching to (softened) tap water is working.  (I can go out on the deck for the unsoftened-by-my-water-softener-but-I'm-not-sure-about-the-city variety.)

What about maintaining the sourdough starter and prepping it for bread?  Can/should I use the reverse osmosis water?  Or should I switch to the tap water?

Rosalie

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Before I babble too much..... you're happy with the results with your softened water, so go for it! I'll go into more detail now....

There are a number of variables here.

I'd suggest against RO water, it has been scrubbed of minerals, which is not a good thing for bread.  It's a great thing for coffee and tea, as well as tea kettles.

 

Bottled spring water is a bit of a crap shoot, you never know what you're gonna get. Springs are not all the same. Some are hard, some are soft. You could call the bottled water company, or check their web page, to find out if the bottled water is hard or soft. In many cases, the "spring water" is sourced from city water supplies and processed to a greater or lesser extent. So the question becomes, whose city tap water is it, and what did they do to it? The company should be able to tell you what their target values are.

 

Tap water, softened. Since it's working for you, I'd keep using it. Why ask for trouble? If you want more information, I'd ask the people who installed your softener how soft the water is, in parts per million. According to the AIB, soft water is a good thing. You want your water to have between 50 and 100 ppm of hardness. And that is merely soft, not WAY soft like the ultra soft water from hell I'm using here. (My water is supposed to be around 25 to 35 ppm, and it can range as low as 3ppm.)

Tap water, unprocessed. If the softened water is working, I'd stay with the softened water. However, if I was your neighbor and didn't have a softener, I'd probably just use the tap water. I have always used tap water and have always, until I moved here, had good results. Calvel says that the taste of the water doesn't really transfer into the bread, and I have to agree. While ultra soft, our water has a funky taste. While the doughs haven't come together well, the breads have tasted fine. Some people worry about the chlorine in their tap water, but I've never had problems due to chlorine. And plain softeners (and most filters) don't remove chlorine, so your softened water has the same chlorine levels as the tap water.

 

Hope that helps,

Mike

 

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

So, Mike, what you're saying is if it's working for me, stick with it.  Right?  I'm not misunderstanding you, am I?

Rosalie

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Yuppers!

 

(See - I can make a short post!)

Mike

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It was interesting...

 

First the whole wheat breads. I made two batches of whole wheat breads. One was my 100% whole wheat sourdough, the other Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat sandwich bread. While the crumb was good, and they were very good, they were less flavorful than other batches I've made of these breads. However, I had both switched to hardened water and from store bought to home ground flour. Changing two variables is not a good experimental procedure.

 

Now the white bread. I call it "test bread." A truly catchy and romantic name, I know. It's a straight process lean bread. I am using Harvest King, 60% hydration, 2% salt and .68% instant yeast. I am working with this recipe to examine the effects if using no oil, solid oil, and liquid oil on doughs. I started doing this because of some of Emily Buehler's comments in "Bread Science" about different oils in doughs, and her lack of pictures. However, the breads were problematical. I got down to 60% hydration because of how loose the doughs were.

 

What was really interesting was that with the soft water the rise times were very long and the breads hadn't been browning well when baked.

When I added the epsom salt to the soft water, the dough firmed up, the bread rose better and faster, and when baked, the crust browned.

 

Why am I babbling on so long? Why aren't I just getting to the good stuff? How did the bread taste? I'm getting there....

The bread was very good, but different from the un-Epsomed bread. With the longer rise times, the un-Epsomed bread had more fermentation flavor notes. The Epsomed bread had more wheaty flavors. Both were good. I think next time I'll increase the hydration and cut back on the yeast a bit to get more fermentation flavors into the bread.

 

Next week, I'll do a side by side test of Epsomed and un-Epsomed breads and post the results on Sourdoughhome and probably here as well.

Mike

 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I decided to be bold and do a test bake at 70% hydration. And the dough was soup. With and without the epsom salts. So, I've been making phone calls and sending emails.

 

The water company tells me the water is not just soft, it's alkaline too.

 

Tom Lehman aka "The Dough Doctor" at AIB online points out that high pH water casues problems, and that magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) increases the alkalinity. Which is why he suggests calcium sulfate. So, I've been calling around to find some calcium sulfate.

 

In the middle of all this, my sensitive scales died. I'm not sure if its the scales or their batteries (the batteries read way low with my VOM), but all they do is sit there and say "over" as in "overload." So, when I go out to get the calcium sulfate tomorrow, I'll get some new batteries. If I hae to get new scales, it won't be the end of the world - while these scales have been good and accurate, the color scheme on the bezel is hard for my rapidly aging eyes to read.

 

So.... the report on the experiment is deferred.

 

On the other hand, I did spend a little while cleaning out a local walmart of Harvest King flour.  If you haven't done so, it's a good time to stock up on your favorite flour.  I'm cleaning out another Wal-Mart or two tomorrow.

 

Have fun,

Mike

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and better.  Cancium stabilizes pH fluctuations and lowers it.  

"The dough was soup."  Sounds like a deflocculent problem.  (that's the potter in me)  The molecules are ganging up on you!  "Return of the Blob"  ...starring Mike deBaker Avery! 

Good luck shopping.

Mini O

buns of steel's picture
buns of steel

Hi Mike, sounds like you need to get some orchids with that water there. For the bread, just be careful about the epsom salts if you're going to use them on a regular basis. The epsom salts I buy (for other purposes) note some lead content.  Lead 10 mg/kg max.  I would check yours, I don't know how much lead is too much, but my understanding is in general "none" is good.  I have a friend currently suffering with too much lead in her system, it's thought it's from old pipes in a house she used to rent, but she's really not sure what the source is.

 

Some other thoughts for your in your quest, did you know you can buy a TDS meter, to measure hardness (or "total dissolved solids" more accurately), they're not cheap but not crazy expensive either.  (I used to use one for orchids many years back, someone "borrowed" it then moved to China).  I don't know if that would be of any use to you to get the water right, so you could figure out exactly how much to add and not add too much.

 

I was also wondering if a little Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth would be of use.  There is a good quality brand called PermaGuard that has a full lab analysis you could check.  It is often used in things like cake mixes as a de-caking agent ;) , it is the shells of diatoms crushed, and looks just like white flour.  It has various minerals including calcium.  Some people believe it is very healthy to eat in reasonable quantities for a natural source of minerals.  I don't know exactly which minerals the yeasties like, but the food grade DE would give you a natural spectrum I would think. 

 

Good luck. 

KristinKLB's picture
KristinKLB

Have you looked into talking to a serious aquarium/fish shop? They have blends of various salts for fish tanks that replicate various water conditions around the world. Serious fish keepers know water chemistry (dissolved solids of all sorts, Ph, etc.) very, very well and would probably be able to help. It might take a bit of looking around to find the right person, but if anyone in your area is breeding fish (esp. from hard water like the rift lakes), they will know the water and how to change it.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Sorry for the late reply Mike. I use calcium sulphate to harden water for brewing English Ales. It makes quite a difference in the taste, aroma and in the brewing process. I bought a 5 lb. sack many years ago and still have enough for 20 more. Known commonly as gypsum it is sold in varying grades and compositions as plaster. You should be able to order food grade calcium sulphate through your local pharmacy.

Wild-Yeast

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I appreciate the comments, and thought I'd reply to the kind comments.

 

The mineral thing, while not helping, really wasn't the big issue.  The big issue was the pH.  Bread dough likes to be made with neutral to somewhat acidic water.  The water here is WAY alkaline.  Absurdly alkaline.

 

I considered treating the water, and decided that would cause a lot of problems.  Like consistency - the local water changes seasonally so I'd have to keep testing it and adjusting my adjustments.  Also, I teach baking classes (check out http://www.bakewithmike.com for more information) and many of my students are very much into natural breads.  I would hate to tell them to add a teaspoon of glycerine vibrafoam (a Firesign Theatre reference).  Instead, I use bottled water.  Ozarka so far.  Consistency becomes Ozarka's problem, not mine.  If anyone is suspicious of Ozarka, it is a lower level of distrust than me adding wierd powders to the water.

 

So far, so good.  The breads have straightened out, the students are happy, I'm happy.

 

Mike

 

MommaT's picture
MommaT

is to do what I've done lately -- started using bottled (gasp!) spring water for baking.


I found the chlorine in the water (and I'd even let it sit for a while, like you do to de-chlorinate for fish tanks) was having a detrimental effect on my starter and, thusly, my breads.   This weekend I needed to brew up 6 loaves for various functions and went for a cheap 1-gal bottle of spring water from the store.


Seemed to do the trick!  Within a couple feedings, my starter was busily bubbling and the multigrain loaf I usually make looked better/higher/lighter than it has ever been.  


I do admit, though, it adds cost AND goes against the grain (no pun intended) for me to buy water.


MommaT

koolmom's picture
koolmom

I live in Southern NV and get my water from a public water supply that can during the year taste chlorine laced and other not so great tastes.  We get filtered water from a vendor in town.  Using 5 gal jugs.  We drink that as well as bake bread with it.  It works just fine.  It says it has been filtered and uses reverse osmosis.


All my breads from ciabatta to sourdough rye work well.  And our tea and coffee taste perfect.


So just try bottled water and see how it does.