The Fresh Loaf

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hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris.


I consider myself a mostly whole grain kind of person, but occasionally I get this insatiable hunger for lighter loaves. Perhaps it's a seasonable thing - fish, salads, shrimps, cold wine and white loaves in July; Sauerkraut, Bratwurst, aquavit and Roggenbrot in January. Anyways, I've baked mostly rye-centric things the last few weeks, so I wanted to mix it up a little. The thought of a very simple, clean loaf appealed to me - allow the flour and sourdough to take center stage. I browsed the chapter on levain breads in Hamelman's book, and was immediately tempted by the formula for pain au levain with whole wheat. I made it once before, but it never struck me as mindblowing at the time. Hmm. What could I've been thinking? Must've been busy with other stuff. Less important stuff than taking in the intoxicating aroma of this loaf, obviously.


Since Hamelman's formulas are bulletproof, I tried the best I could to follow this one to the letter. The only thing I did differently, was to mix the levain at 50% hydration instead of 60%. I keep my firm starter at 50%, a level that my little trooper finds comfy, so I added the remaining water to the final dough instead to get the overall figure right. The formula really is an excellent exercise in how to develop the dough with a minimal amount of mixing - the effects of autolyse and folds are very clearly illuminated.


I've read comments around here about difficulties incorporating firm levains in the final dough. I've never had any issues with this, as my levain is soft and sticky (like you wouldn't believe) when it's fully ripe. After a 30 min. autolyse, salt is sprinkled over the dough, and then I slather spoon-sized bits of ripe levain on top. It doesn't take more than a few seconds of first speed mixing to get everything completely incorporated afterwards. I mixed the dough on 2nd speed for about 90 seconds, and by that time it was coming away from the sides of the bowl and it looked all set. Miracles of autolyse and insights of Prof. Calvel. Then, two folds spaced by 50 mins. each (performed while watching a movie last night), before shaping and retarding overnight.


I pulled the loaf from the fridge this morning as the baking stone was heating up. I'm not sure why, but as long as the dough is not bordering on overproofing, I like to give it some time to warm up. Probably just me being superstitious, but I like the idea of waking up the yeast gradually before *pouff* - ***hot stone***. Here's the loaf in the oven, just after the cut started to open up and the crust started to colour:


Baking pain au levain


And here's the loaf after a 45 min bake:


Pain au levain


Here's a shot of the crumb:


Pain au levain crumb


And a close-up for the crumb-obsessed:


Pain au levain crumb


This loaf really blew my mind, I was so excited when I saw how nicely it rose in the oven and how the slash opened up. Also, keep in mind that this dough isn't sticky at all. The overall hydration is only 68%, and considering that there's 25% whole flour in there, it's very comfortable to work with. I think it goes to show that it's possible to achieve an aerated crumb without going all overboard with the water. I also think that the firmness of the levain contributed a lot to the profile of the loaf. As Dan and others have pointed out, a liquid starter or a poolish makes the dough more extensible. With European flours probably being weaker than American ones (I can't really be sure before I've tried, though...), I'm definitely going to keep my starter on the firm side. That way I can get a nicely developed dough just by autolyse and two folds, as in this formula.


I bet most of you Hamelman fans have tried this one already, but if you haven't, I'm recommending it from the bottom of  my whole-grain heart. The crust is just crazy, and the flavour of flour and sourdough is exhilarating. Even though my memory is a bit hazy, I believe this is the closest I've been to the loaves I wolfed down while I was in France last year. All I need now is a plane ticket, some €€€ to spare, a slab of French butter and a bottle of cheap wine.

mneidich's picture
mneidich

This is my first post, so before I get into the details, here's a little bit about me. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I took up breadbaking a few years ago when I moved here from the Southeast. The first breads I made were Challahs, and I got pretty good at making them. I'd make pizza, too, but that doesn't really count. After a while, I decided to start my own sourdough starter earlier this year, and after baking every week (except during Passover when I wasn't supposed to), I was starting to get a little annoyed that my breads wouldn't turn out how I wanted them.


Yesterday afternoon, i decided to do some calculations and create a bread that is about 65% hydration. I also knew that I needed to adjust my flour. I like using Bob's Red Mill because it's local, but it only has about an 11.7% gluten content. I adjusted my flour by adding vital wheat gluten to the the flour I used.


So, here are the results: The holes are just right, the crumb is nice and open, and the crust is nice and crusty (duh - it's a crust, right?!). Here are some pictures, and below the pictures are the instructions.






Evening before bake:


Ingredients:



  • 300g Bread flour (13% gluten content)

  • 225 grams lukewarm water

  • 50g highly active firm starter



  1. In a medium-sized ceramic bowl, mix the starter into the water, then add the flour.

  2. Mix until even consistency is achieved (a couple minutes)

  3. Leave mixture in bowl and cover with plastice wrap.

  4. Let sit in kitchen for ~10 hours (overnight)


 


The Day of the Bake:


Ingredients:



  • 450g Bread flour (13% gluten content)

  • 262g water

  • Starter mixture from previous evening.

  • 20g kosher salt

  • 30g olive oil



  1. Mix flour and water in a large bowl.

  2. Separate 50g of starter mixture and store in a jar for a future bake. Add all of the rest of it to the flour and water mixture.

  3. Mix just a little bit, then add oil and salt. Mix again until fairly incorperated.

  4. Turn out onto a clean surface (no flour or oil)

  5. Knead for 10 minutes, until gluten is well-formed.

  6. Form the dough into a ball and roll it in a little flour (to prevent it from sticking to the bowl while fermenting).

  7. Put the dough in a large ceramic bowl and cover with a damp cloth.]

  8. After ~2 hours of fermentation, take the dough out and form it into loaves, The dough probably has not changed much in size at this point.

  9. Put semolina flour into two bannetons to prevent loaves from sticking.

  10. Place formed loaves in bannetons and let proof for 5 hours (until dough doesn't spring back when poked)

  11. While dough is proofing, put baking stone on the second-to-top shelf in oven and heat oven to 550 degrees. Put a metal cookie sheet on the bottom shelf in the oven for steam-creation.

  12. Just before baking, lower temperature to 425 degrees.

  13. Turn loaves out onto a peel, slash them, and put on bread stone.

  14. Pour ~1 cup boiling water into the cake pan to create steam.

  15. Bake for 45 minutes, turning loaves at the half-way mark.

  16. Cool loaves uncovered on wire racks.


Okay, so that's it. If you try the recipe out, let me know how it goes :-)


-Matt

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

Imagine you invested in a piece of art work but shortly after that the artist decided to go into retailing, sales, or anything totally unrelated to art - the value of your investment is down the drain! because there is no continuity in the creative force.  Or, consider a completely different scenario:  for 30 years you've enjoyed an artist, he has accompanied you from when you became a young adult, marriage, career, through till you retired, and has begun your second 50 years of life...  


I was trying to think of an analogy in bread when Peter Reinhart came to mind.   And certainly Jeffrey Hamelman is another great example.  In these masters, I see a continuity.  You follow these masters, and if you are discerning enough and are able to extrapolate the lessens you've learnt along the way, you will see the relationship between your life and bread (or any other serious endeavours).  What you can learn then is beyond bread.   What these masters can teach, then, is beyond bread.  If you are able to find in these masters such continuity and such value, you have transcended beyond the physical.     


In Van Morrison I have found such a master, and value for all my investments in him.  I have found a life evolving, unfolding, deepening, and ever refreshing.   


I wanted to do a bread to pay him tribute.  I am pondering if Spelt would be a good fit as Spelt is an ancient grain and Celtic is an ancient culture.   I went to Dan Lepard's The Homemade Loaf for some help; I thought maybe Dan's proximity to Van Morrison's Irish Celtic roots would give me some hints as to what bread would do him honour.   Under the heading Ireland, all that I can find is Irish Soda Bread which is not a levain bread.  It uses bicarbonate of soda in place of yeast so requires no proofing.  I was told from other sources that the soda bread is a staple of the Irish diet.  It was and still is used as an accompaniment to a meal.    


Why Celtic New Year?  To the Celts, their year begins with the festival of Samhain on 31st October at the end of the harvest season, when nature appears to be dying down ... but "from death and darkness springs life and light."


I have a few months up my sleeve and I am brushing up my skill for a Irish Celtic stew too.  To soak up the Irish stew and Guinness beer, a hearty, somewhat dense, bread is what I need.  


My Guinness soupy starter  



  • 420 g Guinness draught stout (brewed in Ireland by Guinness & Co., St James's Gate,* Dublin)

  • 84 g white flour

  • 100 g starter @ 75% hydration  


*  The only St. James that I know of is Van Morrison's Saint James Infirmary in his album What's Wrong With This Picture, what a monumentally beautiful song.   


I heated up Guinness to 70C (158F) then stirred the flour in.  When it cooled down to 20 C, I added the starter and let it sit covered overnight.   


In constructing my Celtic Sourdough, I took cue for some of my ingredients from Dan's soda bread which has soft wholewheat flour (white wholemeal flour?), fine oatmeal, lard** (I used dripping fat from roasting a leg of lamb last week), butter milk and milk (I steered clear of dairy products), and sugar (I used black strap molasses for that deep color and bitterness).  


** Have you ever heard of a Chinese 50-year old stock pot?  Yes, in Europe or US you have 150-year old starter; in China, there is the 50-year old stock pot.  If you ever see a picture of it, you swear you're never going to get near that stew the shop owner is brewing out in the open.   My stock is, oh, maybe 18-month old (against my husband's knowledge), and it lives safely in my freezer; it gets ever renewed with each new stew or roast I am making.   Can you imagine the deep meaty savoury aroma that comes out of the little bit of lard that I skimmed off from my stock pot and put in the dough (below)?   


My formula  



  • 200 g Guinness starter from above (hydration about 328%)

  • 280 g organic spelt flour

  • 120 g organic stone-ground wholemeal flour

  • 50 g fine oatmeal

  • 30 g dripping fat from a roast ** as above

  • 20 g organic black strap molasses

  • 167 g water  

  • 10 g salt 

  • Rolled oats and oatmeal for dusting


The dough hydration from above (74%) may seem high but it is not at all; the dough feels more like a 65 - 68% dough because of the fat and molasses which are not exactly liquid, and also because oatmeal soaks up a lot of water.  I was in two minds about whether I score or don't score.  The ancient Celts, if they ever made breads, would they score like the French village bakers?  I left it untouched.  On hindsight, a score would have helped it bloom.      Anyway, here is my rustic Celtic Sourdough:    


 


   


    Celtic Sourdough


                         


                         a Celtic banquet?


The crumb may look heavy, but, gee, it is not heavy at all, it is soft and tender made possible by the Guinness soupy dough and fat; you can clearly smell the lamb fat.  The crust is extra crispy also because of the fat.


       


 


                               


                                befitting to Celtic hospitality?


A few years back there was a new Van Morrison biography by the English Australian composer and writer, Andrew Ford, Speaking in Tongues, that was released; I placed an order, but my friendly neighbourhood book shop never rang me back about my order and I just left it there.  So I don't know much about Van Morrison the person.  And I don't know if my Celtic Sourdough would suit his tastes if at all; doesn't matter, at the end of the day, it's me, not him.     


In the end, it is you that matters, not the masters.     


Polly our dog is pacing restlessly up and down the hallway.  I sang out, do you want to go OUT?  As soon as she heard that word, she hopped deliriously, so the answer is YES.  Out, she went; she hit her nose against the security door in excitement as she always does ... into the backyard ... into the winter afternoon sun and Australian sky ....


                  


                                              


Shiao-Ping  


p.s.  Van Morrison: some of the albums I love:  


Into the Music


Poetic Champions Compose


Inarticulate Speech of the Heart


Wavelength


The Philosopher's Stones


Hymns to the Silence, and


Moondance


 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I used my 2 day old biga on the loaf that is sliced.  The other boule is still a Scali experiment in the works!  Scali has become one of our favorite everyday breads.  The flavor is so delicious.   What the olive oil does to the crumb is so pretty and seems like you are eating buttery pastry and the sesame seeds just add more nutty toasty flavor...I don't know how else to discribe it.  Now I know why this is such a popular bread in New England Italian baking!  It's traditionally a 3 rope braid.  I like the shape boule's give for sliced bread so I did a round 4 strand boule braid.  If you haven't tried this bread yet you are missing out on a simply delicious italian loaf.  The recipe can be found on the http://www.kingarthurflour.com recipes section under yeast breads- Scali bread.  This bread was baked in beautiful loaves by weavershouse and posted the other day in her blog..she has the bug too! : )






I used a little different mixing method on this loaf and adding a little more King Arthur All Purpose flour.


Sylvia


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink


Yes, that's right... baking powder. I'll bet you've never given it much thought before. I know I hadn't. I mean, I know there are basically two kinds---aluminum-based (I call that "regular") and aluminum-free, right? I assumed all aluminum-based baking powders were pretty much the same, and all non-aluminum powders the same. But it turns out that I was wrong on both counts. My recent foray into biscuit-making and quest for cloud-like loftiness, inspired me to do a little informal research into the science of chemical leavening.


It all started with the Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits I baked one night to go with a big pot of homemade vegetable beef stew. I was still on the hunt for a biscuit recipe that I could be happy with, so I turned to the mini library of Cooks Illustrated hard-bound annuals housed in my living room bookcase. CI has several biscuit recipes to choose from, but since I had never laminated them before, I thought the flaky type might be worth a shot.


The only real decision to make was which baking powder to use. Being an avid baker, I keep a selection in my pantry---aluminum-based for when a strong rise really counts, and aluminum-free for when the taste would otherwise overpower. I decided on Clabber Girl, because I can't really remember what's in the glass jar. I think it is Bakewell Cream Baking Powder, which would have been a good choice, except that has a relatively short shelf life and its age is questionable. Rumford is my favorite for cakes, but not much else. So, Clabber Girl it was.


I was both thrilled and impressed with the recipe, for its high rise and many layers. But I was disappointed in the flavor, which closely resembled "biscuits-in-a-can." In other words, a very strong baking powder taste, owing of course, to the full tablespoon of baking powder called for in the recipe. I thought, no problem, I'll just use half Clabber Girl and half Rumford next time. I do that for some things, to get the best of both. But the rise was only mediocre by comparison. Rumford is aluminum-free and gives me great results in butter cakes, but it seems to fizzle too soon in some of my quickbreads, and wears itself out in the mixing bowl---especially when buttermilk is in the mix.


Left: Clabber Girl
Right: Rumford-Clabber Girl combo



At this point, I started wondering about (Original) Bakewell Cream, which is billed in The Baker's Catalog as the "secret ingredient" for biscuits. I checked around a bit on the Internet, and it does indeed receive very high marks by the New England biscuit makers in its limited distribution area. If this is really THE biscuit leavener, then really... don't I need to try it? So, I bit the bullet and placed an order.


While waiting for the Bakewell Cream to arrive, I turned my attention to Calumet. This is the one I grew up with. Once widely available, it is getting harder and harder to find around here. I searched four stores before finally scoring myself some. It gave my biscuits better flavor than the Clabber Girl, but the rise was not much better than the half-and-half Clabber Girl-Rumford combination. Perhaps that's a clue as to its formulation.


But the exciting thing was, that while on my mission to find Calumet, I stumbled upon a new baking powder. Well, it's new around here anyway, and I had never seen or heard of it before (plus, it says "New!" right on the label). I'm talking about Argo Baking Powder; have you seen it? Yep, it's the same people who make the cornstarch. What's so exciting about this baking powder, is that it has the same active ingredient as the Bakewell Cream, and unlike Rumford, it is a true double-acting, aluminum-free baking powder.


What does that mean? What makes all these baking powders different, you're wondering? Well, the basic equation is the same for all: baking soda + acid = lift. In the presence of moisture, baking soda reacts chemically with the acid, and CO2 bubbles released in the process make a batter or dough rise. Baking soda is the constant, but there are an array of acids to choose from, which can be sorted into two distinct categories---fast-acting, and slow-acting.


Fast-acting are acids that work at room temperature. They react in the mixing bowl when dry and liquid ingredients are combined, to give "bench rise." A good example is cream of tartar, which was used in the first commercial baking powders, and is still used in homemade preparations. The fast-acting acid ingredient preferred in commercial baking powders today is monocalcium phosphate (MCP).


Slow-acting acids don't react right away. They require heat to get going, and don't start reacting until the batter or dough reaches at least 120 degrees F. This is called "oven rise." Slow-acting acids include: sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP) and sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP).


A baking powder is said to be single-acting if it contains only one acid. If the acid is fast-acting, then the baker will need to get the batter mixed and into the oven very quickly---before it loses its bubbles or it won't bake as high. A double-acting baking powder includes both fast- and slow-acting acids. These are designed to create carbon dioxide gas more slowly, and over a longer period of time. Some bench rise during mixing is advantageous in creating bubble structure, for things like butter cakes, pancakes and waffles. However, a strong oven rise appears to be more important for things like biscuits and cornbread.


Here is a breakdown of the baking powders I tested, and a couple others that aren't available to me locally:


If you've stuck with me this far, you probably want to know how the Bakewell Cream measured up against Argo and the rest of the powders. I have to say that Bakewell Cream's lift rivaled that of Clabber Girl, but the flavor was a whole lot better. You have to combine Bakewell Cream---which is just an acid---with your own baking soda, to create the baking powder effect. Some may find the extra measuring a nuisance, but the advantage is that, unmixed, it keeps indefinitely. Baking powders, on the other hand, have a limited shelf life of about a year.


The Argo biscuits baked up just as light as the Bakewell Cream, so I almost had to declare this one a tie. But Argo eked out the win based on flavor (and the fact that I don't have to mail-order it---not that I wouldn't for something that is truly better). The flavor thing was such a close call, though. I really thought they would taste the same, and had I not had the opportunity to have them side-by-side, I wouldn't have noticed the very slight difference. That's how close it was. So for the lightest, best-tasting biscuits, I would say, opt for something with sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP) in the ingredient list. If there is a secret ingredient, that would be it.   -Debra Wink


Left: Argo biscuits, baking
Right: Bakewell Cream biscuits, cooling


Salome's picture
Salome

I've actually never been much into white bread. I still like to bake it occasionally, to mix up my diet and to have new challenges in my baking, the breads I'm the most fond of though are definitely breads which include some whole grain, some seeds . . . which are overall somewhat nutritious. This is the kind of bread which I like the best as an everyday bread.


I think, the bread I'm about to introduce here, definitely falls into this category. It is a German Bread called the "Herbstsonne" (eng: autumn sun) because of its tipical scoring. I had again some problems with the bread's height, I made a very wet dough (therefore I adjusted the amount of water in the recipe below) and wasn't able to shape it well. I let it proof well, so when I scored it it deflated to much after my taste and didn't get an extraordinary oven spring. Next time, I'd probably bake it as it is or just score a cross in the middle.


Herbstsonne


 


liquid levain


30 g mature culture


165 g rye flour (I used a medium rye, something inbetween white and whole grain rye)


165 g water


soaker


33 g oats


33 g sunflower seeds


23 g flaxseeds


90 g water


10 g salt


 


final dough


all but 30 grams of the liquid levain


all of the soaker


166 g rye flour


66 g whole-grain rye flour


80 g water (adjust amount as required)


flaxseeds and oats



  1. 1. mix the ingredients for the liquid levain, set aside until it's ripe

  2. at the same time, mix the ingredients for the soaker, put in the fridge

  3. Mix the soaker, the liquid levain and the remaining flour and water together, knead in a mixer three minutes on low speed, then three minutes on somewhat higher speed.

  4. let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

  5. shape into a round boule (it's sticky!), if required, wet the dough a little bit so that the flaxseeds and oats can "glue" to the boule (roll the boule in the flaxseeds/oats mixture). Put the boule into a floured proofing basket.

  6. let the dough proof - I retarded it in the fridge: I kept it in the fridge for about twelve hours, and let it finish proofing at air temperature for about another two hours. I poked the dough and it reacted slowly.

  7. I dropped the dough gently on a baking sheet and scored it like a sun. (What I wouldn't do the next time, because it deflated the dough to much in my opinion.)

  8. Baking: 20 min at 230°C, another 25 minutes at 210°C, then I turned the oven off, opened the door and let the bread in there for another 10 minutes.

  9. Let cool overnight.


There's a lot of flavor in this bread! It's very moist, of course it's not airy like a white bread, but that's not what I was looking for anyway. I remember that it had a very good keeping quality the last time I baked it, which isn't surprising because of the soaker.


 



I used some slices for a sandwich today, which I stuffed with lettuce and a home made cottage-cheese-dried-tomato-spread. Yumm! (the spread is very easy. Take some spoonfulls of cottage cheese, cut some tomatoes (the kind in the oil) into pieces, add some salt and pepper, some basil if you've got it on hand, and a tiny bit of honey and mix it briefly. tadaa!)



Salome

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

I saw a picture in Aime Pouly's Le Pain of a twisted baguette, which reminds me of the Japanese sourdough "wave" loaf that I made. I thought James MacGuire's formula would be great for me to try Pouly's baguette fashion. I incorporated the following additions:



  • French starter, which I got from Teresa's Northwest Sourdough website.

  • Chinese (to be exact, Cantonese) style of sausage for one of the three baguettes (below). Canton is the south-eastern province of China where Hong Kong used to be a part of until the latter's cession to Britain for 99 years to 1997. The dialect spoken in Canton Province is Cantonese, which is also the dialect in Hong Kong, naturally, as well as many overseas Chinese whose ancestors were from Canton.

  • I reduced the instant dry yeast by half to 1/3 teaspoon (ie, 1 gram).


Here are the pictures of my three baguettes.


 


   


 


              


 


I have never gotten such a creamy crumb before. The flour I used is Laucke's Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour (protein 11.9%). They are a South Australia based company. During our kids' school holiday last year, we went very close to the heart of the base of German and Italian immigrants in Australia where Laucke is located. We ate at the famous Stefano de Pieri's restaurant in South Australia.


 


    


 


   


                                             


 


By now you probably know that I mostly eat my baguette with my eyes.  This is my supper.


 


                                 


 


Shiao-Ping

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Folliwing Dan DiMuzio's guidance (and others) re creating a more sour levain I prepared a 500g, 50% hydration levain, and then fed it every 12 hours for two and a half days. I maintained it at 55°F, in our wine closet, thoroughout. Subsequently, I used DiMuzio's Pain au Levain (firm starter: 480g, 60%) formula with two changes. 1. The aforementioned 50% hydrated levain vs. the formula's 60% levain; and, 2. I encreased the whole-wheat flour percentage to 20% vs. the formula's 10%. Yes, I knew the increased whole wheat flour content would alter the flavor, but I reasoned the whole-wheat alteration wouldn't effect the sour component of the finished bread. My objectives were threefold. Maintain the same excellent ovenspring with the stiffer levain as I've been experiencing with the 60% hydrated levain. Increase the perceived sourness in the flavor profile. Finally, I wanted to practice batard shaping and scoring, a shape I haven't made very often. Except for the batard shaping, as nearly as possible, I replicated all the mixing, bulk fementation, final proof, and baking steps I've used before baking the basic formula.


Just for fun, while the stiff levain was fermenting after its final feeding, I used the 250g of levain that would otherwise been discarded to make a single, all white flower batard.


The results of both bakes are shown in the photos.


As hoped for, the pain au levain is distinctively sour, but not to the extent of many of the commercial San Francisco sourdoughs I've tasted. The ovenspring was preserved, and I'm satisfied with my batard shaping and scoring.



The leftover starter loaf.



and its crumb--closed more than usual.



David G

Shiao-Ping's picture
Shiao-Ping

My husband text me from China and said his boss told him over pre-dinner drinks that he is a sucker of sourdough!   Immediately I was thinking what would I bake if he ever makes a trip to Australia, not that I've been forewarned of any near-term possibility, but I was just entertaining hypothetical visits.  Somehow, I know it's not MacGuire's that I've been making lately even with all those lovely big holey crumbs that I've been getting.  The flavors of all those MacGuire breads/sourdoughs are not the best of all breads/sourdoughs that I've made.   Indulge me with this explanation: the flavors of all those super-hydrated (and the resulting super-holey) crumbs are not deeply alluring for me to want to come back and have another slice once chewing is done.


I was out doing a bit of gardening and enjoying the gorgeous sunshine of Australian winter.   It hit me that my husband left a bottle of Irish ale in our bar fridge.  There is a Dan Lepard's recipe that uses ale (as one would expect) in his "The Handmade Loaf" that I've been wanting to try.  It's called "Barm bread."  For most of you out there there will be no difficulty guessing what a barm bread might be, but I've never heard of this word, barm.  My Wiktionary says it is an old English term referring to the foam rising upon beer or other malt liquors, when fermenting, and used as leaven in making bread (and in brewing).  So, that's it - a barm bread is like a sourdough bread.


 


To make a quick barm


250 g ale (or bottle-conditioned beer)


50 g white bread flour


4 tsp white leaven (Dan's starter is 80% hydration; as the amount used is so little, it would not matter if your is not 80%.)  


Heat up the ale or beer in a saucepan to 70C (158F), then remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the flour.  Transfer to a bowl, leave to cool down to 20C (68F), then stir in the leaven.  Cover with a plastic wrap and leave overnight to ferment.  (My barm took 36 hours to be bubbly.)  Use as you would a leaven (but adjust your recipe water as the barm is quite liquid).    


                               


          the ale and the barm freshly made up                              the barm is ready


Dan Lepard says this is a perfect replica of the complex barm of olden times for the home bakers.


Now, the above formula is really curious to me.  Recently a TFL user Bruce (Frrogg1son) asked me about a Chinese "65C soupy dough" and when I Googled it a whole string of Hongkonese and Taiwanese bread recipes ran up; many of these breads are on the sweet side with milk powder, butter and sugar, almost like French brioche breads.  I see these type of sweet white breads in Japan a lot too.  


The curious thing is that the ratio of water to flour in this "65C soupy dough" is the same as Dan's ale to flour ratio; ie, 5 to 1, and it is heated up to 65 C, closed to Dan's 70 C.  Bruce told me that the science behind this soupy dough is that "when the flour particles reach about 65C, they burst, releasing starch molecules, which have the capacity to absorb very large amounts of water.  It is like gelatinization."  What this does to a dough is that it improves the moistness of the crumb and keeping quality of the bread.   He first discovered it on the internet as a natural way to extend the moistness of some doughs.   How interesting.  I imagined what this does is similar to what potato does for some sourdoughs - very most crumbs and good keeping quality.


That said, I felt a sense of auspicious foreboding coming for this barm bread.  Dan's book (page 41) says the Barm bread is the traditional wheaten bread of England.  Wow.


 


The formula


150 g barm from above (the rest can keep in the fridge for a week)


250 g water (adjust your water temp to achieve a dough temp of around 21C / 70F)


500 g strong white flour (or a flour mix of rye and wholewheat, or even soaked grains, but I used white flour only)


10 g salt (or 1& 1/2 tsp)


*  Note: This is a 68% hydration dough; but I added 20 g extra water to bring it to 72%. 


Schedule in hours and minutes 


0 :00    In a large bowl, whisk the barm with the water.  Add the flour and salt, and stir until you have a sticky mass.  Cover.  Autolyse. The dough temp should be about 21C (70F).


0 :10    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 - 15 seconds.  Return the dough to the bowl.  Cover.  (I gave the dough 7 - 8 folds inside the bowl, which  lasted 15 seconds, much the same way as dough is folded in James MacGuire's pain de tradition here that I recently posted.) 


0 :20    Knead again as above.  (I folded the dough again in the bowl.)  The room temp should be about 20C (68F), if not, you may need to place your dough in the fridge for part of the time to keep the dough temp down.


0 :30    Knead again as above.  (I folded again.) 


1 :00    Knead again as above.  (I folded again.)


2 :00    Knead again as above.  (I folded again.)


3 :00    Knead again as above.  (I folded again.)


5 :00    Turn the dough out and divide it into two pieces of 450 g each (I left mine as whole).  Pre-shape each into a ball.  Cover.


5 :15    Shape dough into boule and place into floured linen-lined baskets or bowls.  Cover.   Leave at room temp of around 20C (68F) for a bit longer than 4 hours or until dough almost doubled.


8 :30    Turn on your oven to 220C/425F (if it takes one hour to pre-heat).


9 :30    Bake with steam for 50 - 70 minutes.


 


Phew!  This schedule may look like a bread making marathon to you but in truth my dough was not ready until after 12 hours!  I started mixing my dough at 7am yesterday, and it was only ready to bake at 8 pm!  Possible reasons are that my room temp was only around 18C (64F) and/or my barm was very slow.   And this is it:


 


  


   Dan Lepard's Barm Bread 


                  


 


What a beautiful barm bread; the taste is most amazing, richly flavored from the ale-based barm, which has a slight bitterness and sweetness from the ale.  I am most impressed by Dan's formula.  The crumb is sweetly fragrant.  It has a very deep aroma, and allure.  Now, this is something that I would come back to have more.   


 


                 


 


                          


 


It's been years since I ate past 8pm but last night I literally had 1/3 of the loaf on my own!  Any of you ladies out there, don't do what I do. 


I have not recommended any breads to people up until now because most of my breads are frivolous experiments and for my eyes only, but I do commend this one.   Whether your guests are experienced connoisseurs or no foodies at all, there would be no qualms about this superb sourdough.  (I am blowing my own trumpet.)


Thank you, Dan. 


It's time Polly our dog go out for a rumple-trot in our yard; I sang out her name and she stirred from behind my couch.  Out she went through the hallway door to enjoy the green and the afternoon sun.   And me?  I am having my afternoon tea with this bread!


                                                                                                    


             


 


Shiao-Ping 


 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

This is yet another sourdough version of the Pain De Tradition.  I baked this in my La Cloche bell for 15 minutes covered starting at a 450 oven and then turning it down to 350F at the start of the bake for one hour total convection bake time.


The taste is very nice and I can taste a hint of the extra organic white wheat that was added.  






Early oven shot  later after removing Bell cover!  The La Cloche was pre-heated with oven.


Sylvia 

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