The Fresh Loaf

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breitbaker's picture

My latest bake........and no, I don't usually bake 24/'s just that I had the time and the urge the last few days to bake a slew of breads.. and decided that now, was as good of a time as any, to start a blog, since I would have a smattering of photos to post...Also Mondays tend to be my big bake day for the week..but enough excuses for all the bread:)...I took the advice to bake a bit longer on this one....glad i did.....yum!

add about 25g semolina and 40 grams soaked 7 grain cereal to this one. Remainder of flour was Wheat Montana Natural White Hi-Protein

and here's the crumb shot:

Any helpful questions or comments are appreciated!

 P.S. Yes....this was another big reason why i felt like holing up and baking bread today....can you believe the sight that met our eyes as we peeked out the windows of our cozy lil house this morning? Behold the weather on Oct. 12 ...if you live in N. Wisconsin!!!



breitbaker's picture

last night I pulled these out of the oven...and then headed outside with my husband for a foray into the woods....leaves crunching underfoot and a crisp 38 degrees!  Made it absaloutely wonderful to come back in to the smell of these babies....:)  

I realize that somewhere i must have  crossed over into artisan baking territory, when I consider a recipe like this to be almost "pillsbury pre-made" in its simplicity.........simply because I used commercial yeast!!! :)  

I also think this baby should've stayed in another 5 min. or so to deepen her "tan"..but I was getting impatient to head out into the woods before it got dark, so I skimped just a bit on bake time...

decent crumb.. perhaps a bit more closed than i would prefer, but I tend to get pretty firm with my shaping on these babies, as I despise the spirals separating.....I normally flatten out dough, then spritz with water...sprinkle w/ cinnamon and sugar, spritz again with water...then long as I am firm with my shaping they stay soon as I try a gentler hand, they if  any of you out there in loaf-land have any better methods to keep the spirals from separating, while maintaing the air...let me know...

final shot....

yes, it's made with commercial yeast...and yes...I do love my sourdoughs......but sometimes there's nothin like a good ole slab of cinnamon swirl bread...:)

formula: (mom's recipe, so still in volume....I WILL convert to weights here sometime, as I go mostly by "feel" on this dough, as the formula is very simple. I normally half this for us, making 2 9x5 loaves)

5 cups water

12 cups flour(i use wheat montana unbleached)

3/4 cup butter (very soft)

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 T yeast

2 T salt

*I generally do the following for better flavor:

Whisk together all of water, half of flour, half of the yeast, and 1T of the sugar. Probably about 2 min. til frothy. Do this in a very large bowl or tub. In a seperate bowl whisk together the remaining flour, yeast, and sugar.  Sprinkle over the top of your frothy mixture, just so it is like a blanket.  Let sit for 1 hr at room temps. Then refrigerate for at least 8 hrs.  Take out of refrigerator and dump all of mixture into mixer along with the butter. Mix until rough. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.  Add Salt and knead for  6-8 min. or until dough windowpanes.  Put into greased container and ferment about 1 hr. low 70s or til almost double.  S&F, return to container and press gently down, to even out the dough. Cover and ferment until doubled.  Divide into four portions, if you handle it gently you  can shape immediately..otherwise let relax, then pat out into rectangles, spritz with water, sprinkle with cinnamon and white sugar, and spritz once more with water.  Roll up tightly from short side, and seal ends. Place in 9x5 loaf pans and proof til almost double.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven.  I spritz tops lightly wiht water before loading into oven, and i place them in the lower third of the oven, on top of my baking stones. Bake around 40 minutes.....your house will smell heavenly, too! :)

breitbaker's picture

Hi everyone...I've lurked, listened, and learned for the past 20 some weeks...and now I decided to bite the bullet and actually start a blog. Now that summer is slowing down here (the summer that we never had here in the North this year) I have a little time to introduce and log some bakes...

So here it is, my name is Cathy.

I live in N. Wisconsin where the summers are heavenly and the winters are...well...not warm OR short. 'nuf said.

I love to cook and bake and do so pretty close to every day. Who am I kidding? I live in my kitchen. Occasionally I step outside of it to deal with the 14 acres of beautiful land and gardens that surround our place in the country...where I tend to my gardens and glean the tasty produce  that I take BACK to the kitchen and concoct more lovely things...:)  Like most of you here..Baking is my passion......I've been baking since i was a mother, I am still firmly convinced, can bake the socks off of anybody. And she's one of these "dumper and feelers" no measuring no fancy equipment...I, on the other hand am far too type A for such and love my little Escali with all my heart...:)

I am a homemaker and decorative artist and my husband runs a commercial sign business and is a contractor. Anyway..Enough about me...I'm excited about learning more and posting my baking escapades.... off to the oven......cathy in wi

My latest Sourdough (thanks to susan for the formula..and to all the rest for the helpful comments for further improvement)

proth5's picture

 On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of "Good Eats" I've decide to get my "nerd on" and offer a detailed explanation for a small detail.

 From time to time I read discussions on couches and couche care on these pages and I encounter what I will call "folklore" about the fibers and  fabric care.

I will not wade too deeply into the various controversies, but I do have some small expertise on fibers and fabric care and would really like to share it for those who desire a more complete understanding of this fascinating topic.

 Let's start with linen.  Linen is a bast fiber (other common bast fibers are jute, hemp, and ramie) which means that it comes from the center stalk of a plant.  In the case of linen, it comes from the center stalk of the flax plant.  The fibers that are known as flax before they are spun and linen after they are spun are the long fibrous strands found between the outer "bark" and inner core of the flax plant.  Although the flax plant obligingly provides us with seeds for use in our baking as well as fiber, the culture is different between those plants destined mostly for fiber and those destined mostly for seed.  Plants to be grown for fiber are planted close together so that the plant will grow tall and straight with little branching and fewer flowers.  Plants grown for seed are planted further apart so that they will branch and produce more flowers.  Additionally, different varieties of flax are cultivated commercially for these purposes and to achieve these ends, so while it is a romantic notion to think that the very same plant gives us linen for our couche and seeds for our bread, it is a just a bit invalid here in the early days of the 21st century.

 Because it is a bast fiber, linen is extremely strong.  Also bast fibers do not have any crimp (like a lock of wool or a cotton fiber) and so will not shrink.

 Because of the expense of producing cotton (more later) and its limited growing range, linen was the most commonly used fiber in Europe until the end of the 18th century and continued to be widely used until the invention of the cotton gin.

Flax becomes linen in a multi step process.  After the plant has reached maturity, it is harvested - preferably by pulling it from the ground root and all to maximize the length of the fiber.  It is dried, the seed pods removed, and then retted.  Retting is a process where the flax is kept wet - either by submerging it in water or keeping it on a moist surface (like the dew on grass) until the outer layer partially decomposes exposing the fibers.  Once again it is dried.  The next step is breaking where the outer layer is further broken mechanically.  Scutching comes next - where a knife like device is used to further scrape the outer layer from the fibers.  At this point the fibers are mostly clean, but they are further cleaned and straightened by a process known as hackling.  A flax hackle looks something like a medieval torture device and is a board from which protrude number of sharp iron spikes.  The hackling process will produce long fibers that will be spun into fine linen and short yellow fibers called "tow."  When we look at a blonde child and call her a "tow head" we are comparing the color and texture of her hair to the color and texture of the tow produced by this process.  Tow can also be spun, but it will not be as smooth as fine linen.  After all this, the fibers are spun (after mounting them on a distaff) (oh, and they are usually spun wet to give the smoothest results) and become linen.  This can either be bleached (by the action of chemicals or the sun) or left natural.  Then it is woven and there is one more chance to bleach it. 

 After all it has gone through to become cloth; one really must ponder why we have come to think of this fiber as "delicate."  Yes, it can be finely spun to produce a very fine fabric, but this is a tough fiber indeed.

 I have planted and tended flax, processed it and spun it into linen.  This is one of the reasons why $9 per yard for couche linen does not cause me to flinch.  While I understand that people's economic situations and propensity to spend vary, I consider the number of steps to create that cloth and I can't begrudge anyone the money.

One characteristic of linen is that it absorbs and evaporates moisture quickly.  This makes it particularly suited for use as a couche, since in theory one of the functions of the couche is to pull moisture from the surface of the bread to prepare it for better scoring.  This also means that once a linen couche is used and has absorbed some moisture, it will dry more quickly and so prevent mold.

 New linen couche cloth needs to be washed to rid it of any chemicals used in finishing.  It will ravel somewhat, but well woven linen couche cloth will not ravel excessively.  It can be washed in hot water simply to get it as clean as possible.  There is no need to use hot water to shrink it (for, as mentioned before, it can not shrink).  Mild soap should be used for fine or antique linens, but for a couche as long as you feel good about it rinsing out of the cloth, the linen does just fine with any modern detergent (I routinely launder my linen aprons in regular detergent and they are holding up just fine...).  This being the one of the sturdiest fibers there is (consider that sails were made of linen) there is no need for a gentle cycle for couche cloth.  (Again, fine or antique linens are another diverting topic in and of themselves and are treated differently.)  Linen couche cloth can safely be dried in an automatic dryer.  (Actually, the dryer is the biggest enemy of linen (and cotton) - not because of the heat, but because the tumbling action will cause friction on the fabric and pull off parts of the fiber which we experience as dryer lint.  However, since the couche will not be washed often - have no fear.)  Fabric softeners (liquids or dryer sheets) should not be used as they impact the absorption qualities of the fiber (this also goes for cotton.)  (Won't get involved in the whole "toxic chemicals" debate.)  It might be slightly puckered after washing and drying (and again, this is wrinkling, not shrinkage) but since this is the one and only time you should be washing it, any raveled threads can be trimmed and the cloth is ready.  No need to hem or serge it.  If you wish to iron it, it should be ironed when quite damp.

 Linen contains a wax that when exposed to the heat of an iron will provide the fabric with a luster.  We hardly care about this in our couches, but when dealing with fine linen cloth it is best to iron it on both sides to maximize the luster.

 Cotton requires a warm climate and a long growing season to reach maturity.  When picked from the plant, the cotton contains about 2/3 seeds to 1/3 fiber.  Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, these seeds needed to be picked out by hand or by putting each cotton tuft through a couple of rollers to squeeze out the seeds (either one a labor intensive process.)  When the cotton is dried after harvest, the fiber dries into a flat ribbon shape that corkscrews.  This is the crimp that will cause cotton to shrink.  It also gives cotton more elasticity than linen, so it is less prone to wrinkles.

 Because cotton fibers are relatively short (different varieties of cotton have different fiber lengths, but they are all considered short in relation to wool - and of course linen where the fibers may be 2-3 feet in length), they require a great deal of twist when spinning.  Although cotton is easy to spin, putting in a lot of twist causes spinning to be relatively slow.  In an environment of hand spinning or limited mechanical spinning, cotton is a luxury fiber.  Most folks who live in the US are familiar with the role that the cotton gin played in the American South and how ensuing events lead to conflict.

 I have also planted, grown, harvested, cleaned, and spun my own cotton.  It seems like it should be less effort than processing flax, but harvesting is kind of grueling (yes, the cotton pods are sharp!), and picking out the seeds - although simple - is pretty time consuming.  Also, I could grow flax in Colorado and not cotton.  And I like it here...  In fact, it is this limited growing range that created an important cotton trade.  Flax, on the other hand, was readily grown in many climates and never reached this kind of economic importance.

 Cotton does not have the wicking power of linen so will take longer to dry and "in theory" will not perform as well as linen to pull moisture from dough.  I won't weigh in on the cotton vs. linen couche decision except to say that I like the feel of linen as opposed to cotton.  I like touching it and I try to use it when I can.  (A linen bath towel dries like nothing else, by the way.)  Obsessive perfectionists might want to blow the money to get the absolute perfect fabric for the application (and it is.)  If we look backwards to "the old ways" - especially old European ways - linen would be the fabric of choice as cotton would have been too rare and expensive.  But cotton is just fine.

 Once again, a well woven cotton couche will ravel when washed (and it should be washed to remove finishing chemicals), but not so much as to be a problem.  Since this should be the one and only time the couche is washed, these threads can be trimmed and will not be a problem again.  No need to hem, serge, etc. unless even the smallest amount of raveling (in the past) is something you simply cannot tolerate.  Similarly, since the couche will not be washed again, washing it in hot water will cause it to shrink a bit, but there is really no need to shrink it.  Most cotton that is commercially available has already gone through enough processing so that any major shrinkage has already occurred.

 No matter what fabric you use, the couche should be dry before storage, or stored in such a way that it will dry quickly in storage.  Those of us in dry climates can be a bit careless, while those in humid climates might wish to find a spot to hang couches until they are dry.  Folding any fabric will result - over time - in permanent creases and will eventually cause weak spots in the fabric along those crease lines.  "Over time" is sort of a relative thing.  For a couche which we might be using for ten or twenty years and will not be passed down to the children and grandchildren, this should not be a concern.  Creases will develop, but they will not substantially reduce the functionality of the couche.  For treasured quilts or tablecloths, many experts recommend that they be rolled, or if that is not practical that folds be padded with acid free tissue paper and that periodically they be re folded in a different way.  Personally I can roll my couche and so I do.

 Yes, it's a long winded post with no pictures and I realize that it will fade away as more blogs are created, but I've really done my homework on this and attempted to present facts as opposed to folklore.  Hope it is useful and dispels some myths.

mrosen814's picture

Using the “no-knead” method, popularized by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, I went for a ciabatta this weekend.  There were a few adjustments I made to the recipe:

  1. I used 2/3 bread flour and 1/3 whole wheat flour, instead of 100% bread Flour.

  2. To develop the strength of the dough a bit, I used the “stretch-and-fold” technique several times throughout the 19-hour fermentation period.

Overall, I was pleased with the results.  The crumb had a nice open structure, with uneven holes throughout.  The crust was a bit thinner than I expected, and was hoping for a bit more oven spring. :)


dmsnyder's picture

We were in Portland, OR last week. While I was in meetings, my wife bounced between Powell's (the biggest book store in the US of A) and the Pearl Bakery. I got to taste a number of their breads in sandwiches my wife brought back to the hotel, but I didn't taste their "multigrain roll," which my wife had one day and really liked.

Susan often asks me to make rolls for her lunch sandwiches, so with her description of the Pearl's roll in mind I went looking for a multigrain roll to make. I've made several of Hamelman's multigrain breads and liked them all. I think any of the ones I've made would make good rolls, but I wanted to try something new. Reading through "Bread," I found the "Whole-Wheat Bread with a Multigrain Soaker." (Pg. 126) It is a 50% bread flour/50% whole wheat dough with a soaker of cracked wheat, coarse corn meal, millet and oats. I had all the ingredients but for the millet. I substituted flax seeds.

This is one heavy dough. I added quite a bit of water, which Hamelman says is often needed, to get the consistency I thought was "right." I formed the 4+ lbs of dough into 2 bâtards and a half dozen 3 oz rolls.

Whole-Wheat Bread with Multigrain Soaker bâtard crumb

I baked the rolls at 450ºF for 15 minutes. The bâtards baked at 450ºF with steam for 12 minutes, then at 440ºF for another 15 minutes followed by 7 minutes in the turned off oven with the door ajar.

The crust was crunchy. The crumb was tender but chewy. The flavor is assertively honey whole wheat, mellowed somewhat by the soaker ingredients. It's outstanding with a thin spread of sweet butter.

My wife liked it but says it's nothing like the Pearl Bakery's multigrain rolls. Hee hee. An excuse to bake more rolls.


Submitted to YeastSpotting

txfarmer's picture

I think it worked out well despite all my changes to the recipe:

- I didn't make a preferment, simply used the same porportion of starter directly, adjusted for my 100% starter so the same percentage of flour came from the starter.

- my starter is whole wheat, so the final product has some WW flavor in it.

- I added <1oz of extra water, due to the WW flour I think

- I eliminated the instant yeast, relied on the starter only. Dallas went from summer to fall in one day, so my kitchen went from 80F to barely 70F, fermentation took nearly 5 hours to expand to a little less than double, with a lot of visible bubbles in the dough. Last weekend when I made the seeded sourdough with similar formula, the fermentation was less than 3 hours at 80F, temperature makes such a huge difference for sourdough dough.

- I retarted the dough during proofing, at <40F, for 13 hours. It took 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish proofing, while last weekend the seeded sourdough only took 1 hour, again, I think it's the lower temperature in my kitchen.

Got very good oven spring, and cheese on the surface made lovely blisters

Pretty open crumb, there are melted cheese in those big holes!

It's a very fragrant bread, crust is pretty thick, love the chewy and tasty crumb


dmsnyder's picture

I haven't made my San Joaquin Sourdough for quite a while. It is one of my favorites, so I made a couple loaves today. I used KAF European Artisan Style flour and Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye. The "variation" of note is that I used a bit less rye (5%) and put all the rye flour in the starter feeding. I also decreased the overall dough hydration just a bit to 70%.

The bread had a thin crust and very chewy crumb. It is mildly sour. It's still a really good bread.

You can find the basic formula and method here: San Joaquin Sourdough 1


Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

     When I started baking a few years ago, I was a strict adherent to recipes.  I still do not deviate much as results are then unpredictable.  One area in which I do deviate is in the amount of flour.  I measure (weigh, if possible) all other ingredients, but since flour is the largest single component, and the one most affected by outside influences (humidity, temperature), I find that adding flour by the cup (less as the dough comes together) gives me a much better finished product.  I am not advocating that new bakers do this, but as you see the results differ from batch to batch of a given recipe, you will develop a feel for when the dough has incorporated all of the flour necessary for a great loaf.  This has probably been obvious to everyone else, but I am in the slow learner class.

     As a home baker, I cast envious eyes at the professional's proofing box and its reliable second rise.  I have taken a suggestion I found online and modified it to work for me.  I acquired two clear plastic storage bins (Wally World) a couple of feet deep.  I marked the lower one where the bottom of the other fell and filled the lower one with hot water to the mark.  The second is placed in the first one and breads to be proofed are placed in the (dry) bin.  I also use quarter sheet baking pans for rolls and such.  One goes on the bottom and a wire cooling rack suports another.  This setup will maintain a 78 - 80 degree temperature for up to 45 minutes.  Tme loaves in the top nay be misted and/or rotated as needed and the water may be changed in the lower one if a longer proof is needed.

Susan's picture

Same old recipe, tweaked a little for the seeds.  I keep learning more and more, thanks to everybody here.  This one's named Prescott, as we're up the hill in Arizona for a short while. 

Here's the way I did it. It's only one way, so bake how it suits you and your location, temp, flours, etc.

20g whole flaxseed and 55g warm water, soaked for about 30 minutes before starting dough

50g firm starter

175g water

275g KA Bread Flour

25g whole wheat flour

6g salt

Mix starter and water, add all of flaxseed mixture, then add flours and salt.  Mix minimally by hand just until flour is wet, rest for 30 minutes, one Stretch & Fold, two more S&Fs at 1-hour intervals, let rise to double.  Keep the dough temperature in mid-70'sF during fermentation.  Pre-shape, rest 15 minutes, shape, then overturn into linen-lined basket.  Put in plastic bag, then into fridge for overnight.  Out of fridge for two hours before scoring, loading into oven, and covering. Oven preheated to 480F, then lowered to 440F after 3-5 minutes.  Bake 20 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered, 5 minutes in turned-off oven.

Note:  You can retard this dough in an oiled bowl after folding, if you like, and continue in the morning.


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