The Fresh Loaf

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caribbaker's picture
caribbaker

I recently moved to a very small island in the Caribbean called Nevis.  I am a professional pastry chef by trade however am only working two days a week as we really moved here for my husbands job (a chef also).  I bake bread several times a week at home as well as at work.  When I moved here and tried to bake bread like I was used to I was quite dismayed.  There really are no alternatives to AP flour and even that I kind of weak.  Sometimes we get whole wheat flour but nothing like the choices I had at my local co-op in the states where I moved from.  To top that off, sometimes the flour had an off taste from sitting on the shelves too long or from the boat it came over on, also there seems to be only instant yeast here.  Sounds bad for a baker huh? 

 I almost gave up until one day I decided to try a recipe from Julia Childs book "Baking with Julia" for a pain de campagne which directs you to make a levain without using yeast.  Attempting to catch wild yeast got my excitement level going again for making bread.  I made the chef in the bread area of my pastry kitchen where bread has been baked for about 20 years figuring there had to be some wild yeast there.  The book says that after 2 days you might get a little rise and it will smell somewhat yeasty.  When I walked into work the two days later I was shocked to see my little pint container full of bubbly yeasty wonderful stuff!  Now we are talking!  As I followed her recipe, my little starter became more and more healthy and robust to the point of, on the day I made the first loaf it was kind of crazy tangy.  Now, I know that I only have to leave the starter out a few hours when I feed it and it is a lovely sucessful starter.  I have decided that the climate here being warm and humid is just wonderful for a sourdough.  I divided my start and keep some at home also for everyday baking.  

A sour dough is not really a dough that the Nevisians take to all that much (they like soft and sweeter bread) however the guests at the Inn seem happy.  I did give a taste of my first loaf to the morning bread baker who is from here and she tasted it and said that she had tasted something like it long ago.  "The old people used to make it." she said.  This made me very happy because it tells me that a starter is probably how it was once done, even here, and in a way I am bringing something back.  Needless to say, I am jazzed about bread baking again even with my all purpose flour!

caribbaker

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

I got home this morning from work and decided to refresh my wet starter in preparation for making some more bread.  I had 140 gms of starter in the refrigerator that I mixed with 150 gms of water and 150 gms of organic white flour after letting it warm up.  Popped it into the closed oven with the light on and 6 hours later I had a nicely bubbled starter.  Divided that to do 2 different breads.  I am doing the Vermont Sourdough with added whole grains (rye flour) from Hamelmann's book and am trying the Pane Siciliano again.  My first attempt there was less than successful so this time I am going to try to be more diligent with it.  I now have good semolina flour as well as the organic white flour.  I have both preferments in the closed oven right now.  Last I looked the temp was about 78-82 degrees.  The Pate fermente' is rising nicely and the Vermont sourdough is just beginning to bubble.  I plan to retard the sourdough to bake late  tomorrow in the evening.  I think it will also be that way with the Siciliano but with a bake earlier in the day.  I will have to check the temperature in my laundry room.  It is very cold outside (18 degrees here in Delaware) and supposed to get into the single digit temps so my laundry room may be just right to retard the dough tonight. 

I will try to remember to get pictures along the way with these loaves.  I don't go back to work until Wednesday at 7pm so I should have lots of time to get these loaves done.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Super Bowl parties are a great excuse for trying new recipes.  They also require lots of snack foods.  So, when I was asked to bring some chips, I happily agreed.  I was a good guest and took exactly what the hostess requested and then, well, then I improvised a little.

 

My wife is out of town for a week (hence no pictures with the post, since she has the camera with her), which left me with some additional time to putter around.  It occurred to me that I hadn't made pretzels for years and that they would be just the ticket for the party.  After rummaging around through cookbooks and recipe files, I came up with one recipe for whole-wheat crisp pretzels (in a Sunset publication, I think) and another for soft pretzels from the King Arthur 200th Anniversary cook book.  The soft pretzel recipe included directions for boiling the pretzels in a baking soda and water solution prior to baking.  Remembering the threads here about boiling versus not boiling and lye vs. baking soda, it seemed like a good opportunity to try the technique.

 

The whole-wheat version was almost entirely whole-wheat flour and water, with minimal amounts of yeast, honey, shortening and salt.  The recipe measurements were volumetric, but the scales still got a workout when I portioned out the dough for the pretzels.  They were very simple to make; just mix everything together, let ferment, scale, shape, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with salt and bake.  At the same time, they were very tedious--the recipe yields 8 dozen small (about 2-2.5 inch) pretzels.  If nothing else, all that practice certainly improved my shaping technique.  The first couple of dozen that I made had a certain Impressionistic quality.  You could tell that they were pretzels, but they were anything but uniform.  I perservered, though, and slowly got better and, just as slowly, got finished.  They baked to a pleasing shade of brown.  The directions called for piling them onto a couple of clean baking sheets and putting them back into the (turned off) oven to dry for at least 2-3 hours, using the oven's residual heat to drive off the moisture.  That didn't work quite so well as promised.  The next morning they were not nearly crisp but way past soft and not at all enjoyable.  So, I used the oven's drying cycle for the first time ever.  After a couple of hours of 180F temperature with the convection fan running and the door propped open slightly, they were bone dry and crisp as could be.

 

The soft pretzels from the KA recipe were pretty much the same as other soft pretzels that I have made, except for the boiling-in-soda-and-water step.  Boiling affects both the texture and the flavor.  The finished pretzel is moister than those that have not been boiled and, I think, somewhat chewier.  I'm a bit stumped about how to describe the flavor change.  There is something else besides the "typical" pretzel flavor.  Not bitterness, exactly.  Astringent, perhaps?  It's a subtle difference, but noticeable.  I should probably have baked one or two dry, for comparison purposes.  One of the people at the party asked if they had been boiled, but we were interrupted and I didn't get to ask her what it was about them that triggered her question.

 

Both varieties were a hit with the adults and the kids.  And if the kids are eating something that is almost entirely whole-wheat and liking it, it must be good.

Kevin tuckett's picture
Kevin tuckett

HI folks, I read a blog that someone had a hand crank bread mixer...If there is a company who has parts or is selling hand crank mixers for bread dough let me know. One of my friends who runs the Colorado river lost his dough hook for his hand crank mixer...any info would be great. Thanks for all the knowledge on breads I have been in the bakery business since I was 5 years old. My Dad loves to tinker in the kitchen even though he has been retired now for 5 years. He made a whole wheat angel food cake that came to the top of the angel food pan...incredible. His favorite breads to make now are the multi grain...veggie...I am going to introduce him to this site and get him involved...

801-471-8983 Cell

Kevin Tuckett

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I've been absent from the site for the past week or so for a number of reasons. First we were out of town at a place with a not terribly good internet connection. Then we got back and the whole family got leveled by a nasty cold. We're finally recovering, but I still can't taste much of anything. Even the tablespoon of Sriracha I put in my coconut chicken soup last night was hard to taste.

To top it all off, I accepted a new job this week. Begining in March, I am going to work for Mercy Corps, a company that does good work all over the globe. Disaster relief, fighting poverty, microfinance, truly a noble company that works hard to help the least fortunate and forgotten. I'm honored to have a chance to use my technical skills to make a difference in the world.

What does that mean for The Fresh Loaf? That means that in February I'll try to spend a couple of days getting the upgrades that I've mentioned recently done and get the site to a better place. It probably means that in March, at least while I'm ramping up at the new job, I'll be less active here. I'm certainly not abandoning the site, but I may not be able to spend as much time during the week working on this site and responding to questions as I typically do. The community has been doing a great job keeping discussion going here and helping each other out (hats off in particular to JMonkey, who has been particularly helpful... mountaindog has made some great posts too). I hope we'll be able to keep that kind of momentum and community spirit going here even if I disappear for a few weeks.

kap's picture
kap

I use starter recipe of 1 cup warm water, 1 pkg yeast, 3 T potato flakes, 3/4 c sugar and feed every 3 to 5 days with 1 c warm water, 3 T potato flakes, 3/4 c sugar. but it produces bread that is dense and heavy on the bottom. What am I doing wrong.

Wayne's picture
Wayne

Going through my bread book library last night and discovered that I had two Laurel's Kitchen books.  If anyone out there needs one,  you can have one of mine for the cost of shipping...no charge for the book.  Seem's like someone was looking for a copy awhile back. If you are interested,  you can email me at

wforge@bellsouth.net.

 Think the cost of shipping would be around 4 bucks.

Wayne

beanfromex's picture
beanfromex

One of the grocery stores here in southern mexico has just brought in REAL hershey's chips in milk and semi sweet.

I thought this was an excellent time to try the Silpat (tm) cookie sheet liners I received from my sister for christmas. I had heard of Martha Stewart endorsing them along with several others,

My oven here is gas and very unstable when it comings to holding a temperature without fluctuating. The end result in cookies always seemed to be a slightly to moderately scorched bottom.

The result, no scorching but a stange consistency. Slightly dry, and almost crumbley as opposed to soft and chewy. I took the recipe right off the package, so the results should have been the same.

 I am hoping it was something to do with the flour, hope in this case NOT being the "thing of feathers" but the desire that my sister did not waste her money buying me something I do not like.

The bread news in Tabasco, is that it is almost non existant.  I only baked a couple of times in January. 

I tried a "beer bread" recipe...absolutely ghastly. I expected something not quite "bread like" as per my definition. but the end results were so far below my expectations that I considered the entire experiment a waste of time.  A dinner party guest had spoken about this procedure...different strokes for different bakers I guess....

One of the friends I introduce to the NYT methods ended up buying a fish poacher to make her bread in. I did not see her first results, but she was happy with it. She wanted a long loaf so the fish poacher was perfect. Though the price of a cheap enamel from the market is 20 US and she spent 90 US in the expensive anchor store here.  

That is all for now,

Hasta luego. 

 

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

Here is my second attempt at NK bread, but the first that was successful.  I did it in my mini baker from Pampered Chef that was like a La Cloche.  It gave a decent crumb and flavor.  I used my starter instead of yeast with this loaf. 

The last picture is the yield of the day on Jan 25, 2007.  I baked in preparation of going to see both of my sisters and taking them fresh bread.  The NK was split between my kids so I did not get to taste a lot of that one.  The rye is Hamelmann's 66% sourdough rye.  It was a pretty compact but moist loaf.  I think I need to get my starter better for that loaf.  But in a few weeks I will be taking his Rye bread class and will learn from him how he does his loaves. I am sure my results will improve.

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

These are my first attempt at bagels.  They were a little cakey at first but after they set for 24 hours they got that chewy texture. My daughter really enjoyed them.  Next time I will not use as many sesame seeds and will maybe try an everything bagel eventually.

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