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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 

ed minturn's picture
ed minturn

Does anyone have any thoughts on a diabetic wanting to bake bread, pizzas, etc. Are there special recipes or perhaps limits to what one eats or just now do at all. Thanks for any thougths.    ed

ehanner's picture
ehanner


The dough didn't spring all that much in the oven.




This is a light and easy to chew bread with good flavor



Slashed deeply and ready to proof



After 1 hour proof time, ready to bake


MommaT asked about a recipe for a Greek Bread that she had just had while in the Mediterranean on vacation. A common bread sold everywhere and wonderful to the nose and mouth senses. I suspect the view of the beautiful Greek villages with their white stucco buildings and red tile roofs, not to mention the sea air and fine wine might have an impact on the experience of eating a piece of artisan bread dipped in the most fragrant  Greek Olive oil. Ahhh, it takes me back.  So---


When DSnyder suggested a possible recipe after connfering with his Greek DIL, well I hopped right on it. I converted the recipe to weights for the most part, at least where it counts. I used 135g per cup for the flour weight and KA AP flour. My hydration came in at 73% counting the milk and oil as liquids.


I thought the dough to be a bit firm but the recipe does call it a stiff dough. I mixed it as per  suggested but I let it rest for 20 minutes and then folded and kneaded a bit. It was starting to become smooth but not fully delevoped when I shaped it into a round and covered it. About an hour passed annd the dough had doubled nicely and felt like a puff ball. I shaped it into a tight oval, brushed an egg wash over the top and sprinkled a generous topping of toasted sesame seeds over the loaf. I don't usually slash the loaf prior to proofing but that's what was called for so I made a deep slash down the top center as you can see. I covered the loaf with plastic, dusted the plastic with spray oil and flipped the plastic wrap over so as to avoid a mess after proofing.


I had pre heated the oven to 400F and heated a 1/2 C of water for steam. The bread was loaded, in with the water and after 15 minutes lowered the heat to 350F for another 15 minutes. Actually I didn't quite go to the full 30 minutes baking time. I thought I was done enough for the first try at 27 minutes. The bread feels very light and is soft enough on the crust it is just a little hard to slice. Perhaps just just a little more oven time to dry it out.


The aroma is wonderful. Toasting the sesame seeds is always worth while. My daughter approves, saying "this is really good" , that is a pretty tall hurdle. She is a tough critic.


I don't know if this looks or tastes like what MommaT was talking about or even what David's daughter in law Stephanie intended. Perhaps she will see this and comment. Thank you Stephanie and David for your interest in creating this bread. Please let me know what you think.


Here is my contribution to the recipe.


Greek Bread with Sesame Seeds


Luke warm water (80F) 1/2 Cup (118g)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (30g)
5 Tablespoons warm milk (74g)
1 envelope ID Yeast (6g (2-teaspoons))
2-1/4 Cups AP Flour (304g)
1/2 teaspoon Salt (sea salt, fine grind)

1 egg and 2 T milk for washing before seeds are applied
2-4 T Sesame Seeds, toasted


Hydration 73%


Method as called for in Davids post here
Mix, autolyse, knead and ferment till double. Punch down, shape, slash and wash with egg wash, seeds and proof for 45-60 minutes.
Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, reduce temp to 350 for and additional 15 mins.,steam as normal


Eric


 

gcook17's picture
gcook17

I have a niece who is interested in baking and I was going to buy her the King Arthur videos on Artisan Bread and Blitz Puff Pastry.  When I went to their web site I was sad to see that the DVD on Artisan Breads was unavailable.  I don't know if they will make some more and sell them again or if that's the end of it.  I sure hope they continue selling them because it was a really helpful video for me when I was starting the make hearth breads with wet dough.



One of the things I had a hard time with at first was being comfortable with gobs of sticky dough all over my hands.  I'm not such a neatnik (or so I thought), but having goo covered hands just didn't seem right.  Hearing that it was okay to make a sticky mess was one thing, but actually seeing Michael Jubinsky knead the sticky mess by slapping it around on the table and getting everything gummed up really helped me at least partially overcome wetdoughphobia.  He uses a poolish and makes baguettes and boules.  He demonstrates folding, shaping, slashing, and steaming.  This is a really good beginnig video for anyone who wants to start baking artisan-style hearthbread.  I still watch it from time to time when I want to enjoy watching someone else bake for a change.



The other King Arthur video that I have stars Jeffrey Hamelman and he shows how to make blitz puff pastry.  If you haven't tried this, you really should.  It is surprisingly good and it's also amazingly quick and easy to make.  We've tried it out and used it to make tarts similar to those shown in the video.  I'm not such a pastry expert that I can critique the fine points of this dough versus long-process laminated puff pastry, but as Hamelman says, it makes it possible to get up in the morning and say, "I think I'd like to have a puff pastry based desert for lunch or dinner."  I watch this one repeatedly, too...it always makes me hungry.


Here are the tarts my wife and I made after our first viewing:


Plums, almond cream, and blitz puff pastry.



 


Apricots, almond cream, and blitz puff pastry.


 

photojess's picture
photojess

A BIG thanks to Pamela for posting this recipe previously!  I made this yesterday, and it was really good with dinner last night.  The recipe can be found here:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11777/sunny-millet-bread.


If you like wholesome goodness, with 100% whole wheat (I used white) , and added nuts and seeds, this is for you!  It has a nice crunch to it, and my sister even asked it I had started chirping yet!  Anyway, just want to give this nice recipe a little shout out!  The dough did require some additional flour, than what was listed, but it was very nice to work with.


Highly suggest this one.


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