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Elagins's picture

I'm on the Board of a local charitable organization, and last night (Oct 17), we had our annual gala, which includes a silent auction. As I do every year, I donated a bread basket (which, I'm happy to report, fetched a very good price).

Getting there was quite a challenge, since the basket, which was Jewish bakery themed this year, included a challah, a deli rye, a dozen bagels, a dozen bialys, a dozen onion rolls, and a Russian coffee cake -- six breads, six different formulas, one KA stand mixer and two GE electric home ovens.

It was exhausting -- and also gave me a look into the life of a baker. The first thing was to figure out my logistics, since my resources are limited and my output (twice the basket quantity so I could cherry-pick). To do that, I set up an Excel spreadsheet, with each bread on a separate line and columns representing 15-minute segments, like this:

Of course, things didn't work out that way, but the exercise helped me manage my time and work flow.

Thursday night was the easy part: I started my rye sour, assembled the onion-poppyseed-salt-oil bialy/onionroll topping, and mixed and shaped the bagels, then left them in my wine cooler to retard until I had time to boil and bake them on Friday.

So Friday morning started out at 7:30 as I expected, with the bialy dough, which I mix with ice water for a long, slow ferment, and a refresh of my rye sour, which at that point had doubled nicely.  At that point, I gave myself the luxury of an hour's rest, wherein I did all the other stuff that I wouldn't be able to do later.

I got started again at around 9, with the challah dough, using Nancy Silverton's recipe, but since I wasn't using preferment, I simply included her flour and water quantities into the main mix and increased the yeast (active dry) to 1% of flour weight, which gave me a nice, silky, low-hydration dough -- around 57%, inlcuding the effects of the eggs and oil. OK, mix the dough, knead for 8 or 9 minutes and then set aside to ferment. Three doughs down, three to go.

At that point -- around 9:30, I saw that my bialy dough had more than doubled, so it was time to divide them into 3-oz boules and let them proof, which I did on parchment-lined baking sheets. However, since my baking sheets and counter space are limited, I mistakenly packed them too close together, so that when they proofed, I was unable to separate them -- but of that, more later.

It was 10am and time to turn the ovens on: top one at 375 for breads, bottom one at 460 for rolls, and eventually the rye bread.

OK, so now the challah dough had more than doubled -- beautiful, silky, elastic dough, very easy to work with. Punch it down, divide it into 12 boules (two six-strand challahs) and let it rest for 20 minutes to relax the gluten. Clean up the clutter that's rapidly filling the kitchen, wash out mixing bowls, clean up mixer now spattered with dough and flour-littered counter.Then back to the challah: roll the boules into 18-inch long tapered strands, braid the challahs -- mess up the first one and get the second one right. Mix egg and a little bit of water for the glaze and brush the challahs. Check the bialys, which are nowhere near three-quarter proof.

Meanwhile, the onion roll dough beckons, so I mix that. Of course, here's where I have a mishap: while adding the oil and egg, I dropped the small porcelain bowl I was using into my mixer, smashing it to bits and scarring my mixing paddle. So dump the dough into the sink, fish out the broken shards and consign the rest to the garbage disposal, re-scale ingredients, and re-mix the dough. The challah are at about half-proof. Re-brush them with egg glaze. Check the bialys, which are now approaching three-quarters proof and are shoulder to shoulder on the cookie sheets.

So now it's 11 and the bialys nearly ready. Use Mimi Sheraton's technique (see "The Bialy Eaters") and press the centers down with the base of a 2" diameter juice glass, then fill them with the onion mixture. Let them stand for another 15 minutes.  Challah now fat and expanded at 3/4 proof, one more brushing with egg then into my 375 oven for 35 minutes.

Bialys are at full proof, so they go  into 460 oven for 14 minutes. A hot bialy, right out of the oven, slathered with sweet butter is my lunch -- unimaginably good.Check the challahs after 20 min, give them a final brushing and turn them to brown evenly for another 15 minutes.Wash out mixing/fermenting bowls. Move bialys into the dining room where they're not in the way.

One pm and I have to be done by 4:00. Onion roll dough is fully fermented. Divide, rest, flatten them hard in a saucer covered with onion mix, set them on parchment for their proof. Pull the challah out of the oven, gorgeous glossy golden brown loaves.The Russian Coffeecake is a rich, sweet, complex dough that ferments in two stages -- 40% of the flour, equal weight (100%) of the water, and 5% yeast to fight against all the fat in the finished dough.

Now the rye, which is a quick ferment and even quicker proof and an easy mix -- sour, bread flour (okay, so I cheated) salt, caraway and a touch of yeast. Set it aside to ferment.

Onion rolls are ready, first dozen into the oven, 13 minutes at 460. Back to the coffee cake: Nuke 1/2 pound of butter, grind cardamom and mix it with sugar, measure extracts, separate the eggs (4 yolks, two whole eggs). By now the sponge nearly fills the mixer bowl -- fortunately, it's mainly CO2 and collapses like a tired balloon when I drop the bowl onto the counter. Assemble the dough and knead under the hook for about 10 minutes. Dough is unbelievably slack, glossy, golden yellow from the egg yolks, with little dark specks of cardamom -- the fragrance of baking onion rolls, vanilla, and sweet cardamom fill the kitchen. Wash some more bowls, check the rye, which is now fermented and ready for shaping. Move the coffeecake dough into a bowl for fermentation.

Onion rolls out and onto the cooling rack. Still have two dozen bagels retarding in the wine cooler. Punch down the rye -- god, I love working with rye, so challenging and so rewarding when you get it right -- shape into two fat batards, set them on cornmeal-dusted parchment, mist with water and sprinkle with more caraway.

The coffeecake dough has risen incredibly fast and has become much smoother and more elastic -- still challenging to work with. Turn out about 1/4 onto my flour-dusted silpat, roll it thin with a silicone rolling pin and line the baking pans. Take half of the remainder, roll it thin, brush it with more butter, cover generously with sugar, cinnamon and fat black raisins, then roll it up into an 18" long sausage. Divide it in three and lay them on top of the buttered and cinnamoned dough in the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the cakes with more butter, more cinnamon and sugar, and a heavy sprinkling of chopped walnuts. Let them proof.

So now it's bagel time. Boil the water, add a tablespoon of food-grade lye water. When the water boils, take the first dozen out of the cooler, boil'em and arrange them on my bagel boards. 3 minutes on burlap, flip, and another 14 on the stone. Move the cool onion rolls into the dining room.  Check the rye. Do the second dozen of bagels. Coffe cake is proofing nicely, still a ways to go.

The rye is at 3/4 proof: my finger leaves an indentation when i press the dough. So big question: how will I slash the loaves? One of them is nice and high, so I'll cut that crosswise. The other is kinda flattish -- I guess I didn't draw the dough tight enough when I formed the batard -- so that one I slash lengthwise. Beauty contest: whichever one looks better goes to charity. Throw a cup of water onto the floor of the bottom oven, which I've now turned down to 350, but is still over 425 (a good thing when you're doing rye). Let the steam develop for a couple of minutes and then peel the loaves in. Boil some water and dissolve cornstarch for the glaze, let it cool. Wash more bowls. Check the coffee cake -- 3/4 proof, time to partially cut the logs crosswise so uneven oven spring doesn't throw the whole cake out of whack.

My wife comes home: she's picked up two different baskets and some really nice clear gift bags for bagging the breads.  We start judging the beauty contest and pick the best breads for the basket. Bag and tie.

By now, the Russian coffee cake is fully proofed.  Into the top oven, now dialed down to 350, for 40 minutes. The smells are unbelievable -- a mixture of caraway, cardamom, vanilla, citrus ...

4:00pm. The coffeecakes come out, beautiful, dark, rich. Hard to choose between them, so eeny-meeny-miny-mo. The rye needs another 10 minutes. Aesthetic decisions about how to arrange the basket.

Finally, at 4:15, the rye breads come out and get brushed with the cornstarch glaze. The cross-slashed loaf is clearly the winner; the lengthwise slash gets to stay home.

I sit down with a cup of tea. My back and feet hurt and I can barely see straight. The counters are invisible underneath layers of baking stuff, a light dusting of flour has settled everywhere. Despite my best efforts, the sinks -- both of 'em -- are piled high with pots, pans and bowls. My kneading board needs a good scraping. But I'm done.

This is what the winning bidder got:

Jewish Bakery Baskett
And this is what we kept:

The breads were a hit at the gala. I treated myself to a martini.

Kuret's picture

Here is some of my recent baking, two of the batches are from the SFBI book and both are really good like alla formulas from that book. The first batch pictured is the whole grain bread with sesame- ,sunflower- and flaxsseds and also some oats. This bread is a really tasty hearthy whole grain bread wich I think should be made a bit larger than the ones pictured, they are about 2-2½" across and weights 450g each as suggested in the book. I do however think that a 2# loaf of this bread baked for a bit longer in the oven whould be perfect for making hearthy sandwiches. The crumb is rather dense as you whoud suspect with this kind of seeded whole grain bread but over all pleasurabe to eat.

The other formula I tried was the one for carrot rolls, I decided to top most of them with cornmeal doing it the same way as floyds kaiser rolls ie. proofing them seam side down on cornmeal and then inverting them. Some of them I also topped with anise and caraway seeds, great flavor! The dough was very slack and contained an good amount of seeds/grains, the formula instructs you to use 10 grain cereal mix but I used bulgur. The high ratio of seeds makes for a very slack dough but after good mixing and folding it turns out a great feeling dough.

The cornmeal looks more yellow in person but lack of natural lighting made me use the flash, he crumb is also yellow and lovely!

Last weekend I made this, a swedish take on Erics Rye with anise, fennel and caraway flavoring, great recipe that is going to become standard repertoire, maybe.. after ALL other formulas I have are tested.

holds99's picture

After a number of attempts and a good bit of reseach I think I am close to making a decent Pain de Beaucaire.  It's a challenge that's ranks right up there with the baguette.  This was my third attempt.  It's a really good loaf of bread and has very good flavor.  I will continue to experiment with this dough and the special technique required for cutting and shaping and also requires the use of bran flakes sandwiched between the two layers of dough, placed one on top of the other, in order to produce the open effect seen in the photo below, where the loaf appears to be split.  The split is part of the character of the loaf.  I have also included a little history of this bread, which was the predecessor to the baguette.


Pain de BeaucairePain de Beaucaire

Description from: Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michel Suas. “Named after Beaucaire, a region in Southeastern France, the Pain de Beaucaire is one of the first breads to be made “free form”, or not formally shaped.  The bread is produced by placing two (2) layers of dough on top of each other and then cutting with a Recle a Beaucaire, strips of dough that are baked side by side, giving this bread its unique appearance.  Pain de Beaucaire was very popular until people started to prefer the lighter and crunchier baguette.  However, this authentic regional bread is currently enjoying resurgence as a new generation discovers its many appealing characteristics.”Note: Michel Suas gives no details on mixing or shaping Pain de Beaucaire and no photographs.

The following description is taken from the website: “Pain de Beaucaire: It’s a sourdough bread which requires a very particular shaping and which gives him [it] a very alveolus [a little cavity, pit or cell, as a cell of a honeycomb] crumb.  The pain de Beaucaire has been transmitted for the XV century whereas the town of Beaucaire was the site of the second fair of Europe.”  Note: this quoted description is taken verbatim from the website.  Bracketed words were added for clarity. 

viragoea's picture

My Mother gave me a Swedish cookbook in the late 70s.  It had a colorful shiny color photo on the front of herring in a jar.  It also had the best cardamon bread recipe in it.  The recipes were written in metrics.  Does anyone happen to have this book or the recipe from this book?

thank, Enid

Traci's picture

This is my first try at a sandwich loaf. I have only made no-knead bread so far.

The recipe I'm using is White Bread - Variation 2 from BBA. I *meant* to make 1 loaf and so was halving the recipe in my mind, but realized I'd added the full amount of liquids accidently so I had more dough than I expected.

Hence, I tried 1 sandwich loaf, and then 3 long rolls, hoping those would be like a hoagie, and 1 round roll.

Here's the rolls. The long ones deflated when I moved them to the baking pan from where they were resting. I didn't get any surface tension in them I am guessing, so they just wilted when moved. The round roll fared better. I'm going to have to practice the batard/hoagie method he describes a ton I think.


Hah, they are right for Halloween they're so deformed. All they need are some fangs and googly eyes!


The sandwich loaf stayed inflated a bit better so I had some hope. Sadly, those were dashed as it didn't rise above where it is now.

sandwich loaf


Well, lots to learn! Back to the drawing board and thank goodness for no-knead!



fredsambo's picture


OK so I decided to try this recipe from The Village Baker, which was the real reason I made plain ol' baguettes the other day. It calls for either whole wheat or rye flour or both in the recipe, but I had some KA organic whole wheat lying around so I just used that.

Pain De Campagne


So I first got the yeast going and then I cut my piece of old dough up into little chunks.




I mixed the two together and then added the flour and put it on the mixer. After a 20 minute autolyse I added the salt and mixed it for about 8 minutes, then I rolled it out and folded it on the bench for a while followed by an hour first rising, then a punch, then another hour. Here it is after the second rising.

Bowl 1


Then I flattened out all of the air and shaped it into a boule!




I have no round baskets, so I improvised as I do so often when baking at home. This is just a small mixing bowl with dinner napkin liner.

not a basket


After two hours of proof time we were finally ready to go!



In my ongoing quest to keep my crappy oven hot, I preheated the big pot that I use as a cover along with the oven. I kept it pegged at 550 degrees for an hour before I put the bread in. This is a very hot oven temperature to be working with in a conventional kitchen, if you try these methods, please be careful! I quickly off loaded the boule onto the stone and then gently put the cover on. Then I closed the oven quickly, turned it down to 450; after ten minutes I removed the cover and finished it off.



Once it was at the desired color I shut the oven off and let the boule sit in there for five minutes to crisp up a bit.



And now for the glamour shots. The taste was just lovely, overall I am quite happy with my two day adventure!





I guess I'll make some sourdough next!


Happy Baking!!!


ejm's picture

seed and grain bread

Our multigrain bread recipe has a fair amount of rye flour in it. I still haven't found reasonably priced rye flour so decided to replace the rye flour with wheat flour and some corn flour. This is the great thing about bread recipes. They are pretty forgiving and substitutions can be made fairly easily.

The dough was somewhat slacker than it is when it's made with rye flour. But it still rose well. Ha. Almost a little too well.

After mixing it, I left it to rest for about an hour rather than the 20 minutes I thought I was going to leave it. It had risen considerably and only required about 5 minutes of kneading instead of the 10 to 15 I would have given it.

I did manage to shape it in time though. It was just starting to approach the top of the rising bowl - pretty much perfect amount of rising. Okay, maybe a little bit over-risen....

Too bad I saw dmsnyder's post entitled The effect of scoring on loaf shape AFTER the bread was already in the oven!

I almost didn't score it at all - it was on the verge of being over-risen (cough). I was going to score it crosswise but then decided I like the look of the length-wise score. However, if I'd known it would cause the bread to flatten, I would have gone with the crosswise slash - or herring bone. Next time....

Still, in spite of being allowed to overproof, the bread turned out beautifully! It was so pleasing that we decided to use it as cinnamon toast for dessert (after wonderful chicken and vegetable soup made from the carcass of our Thanksgiving roast chicken). When we sliced into it, the aroma was fabulous. I will definitely be making this variation again.

seed and grain bread
mcs's picture

Most of us make more bread than we can eat.  And hey, why not when it's takes just as long to clean up after making 2 loaves as it does after making 4 loaves.  Anyway, for those of you who give away (or sell) your extras, these bags might be of interest.  I use them for our bakery packaging because they keep things crisp and allow me to package the loaves while they're still warm.  Plus, as you can see, they enable the customer to pick up the loaves and see them from top to bottom.   I print the labels on a single color laser printer (no smudging), which makes them easy to edit.  The ingredient labels on the back are standard name tag size, the main labels on the front are slightly larger.  I use brown ones for the bread and silver ones for the pastries.  

bag closeupbag closeup

assorted bagsassorted bags



fredsambo's picture

So it has been a while since my last post, I guess it was a busy summer, LOL.


I made some simple baguettes today. I did a 4 hour poolish and then mixed up an ordinary french bread recipe (water, salt, flour, poolish). I then put the dough in the refrigerator, since I wanted to go to bed (9pm). My wife took it out at five this morning and this is what it looked like at seven, when I got up:


First Rising


I cut the dough into four somewhat equal pieces and shaped them into logs; I set aside the fourth piece for my next batch.



Then I let them sit on the "bench" for an hour.

Covered with a dish towel.


After pacing around drinking coffee for the longest hour ever, I flattened out all of the air...



...and rolled them into baguettes.



Now, I usually cover my french bread with a big pot, to emulate steam injection, but alas, these baguettes were too long! My solution was to start off at 550 degrees preheated for an hour and then carefully pour 1/2 cup of water into a small cast iron skillet, closing the door quickly. I think the key is keeping the oven above 450 degrees the whole time, since the evaporated water will make the temp drop dramatically. My water never stopped boiling and the steam cloud upon opening the door was impressive. CAUTION: A lot of steam comes out of the oven when first opened up, don't go sticking your face down there!



After proofing for another hour I scored and then brushed them with plenty of water. Once they hit the stone I turned the temperature down to 500 degrees for four minutes, then removed the skillet and turned the temp down to 450 for the remaining time.

Ready to go!


I am pretty happy with the results, although they could be darker, but they taste wonderful!



I am making a country style next, with the old dough I saved from this batch!


Happy Baking!

AnnieT's picture

I know very well not to place 2 loaves close to each other or they will "burst" on the adjacent sides. So why in the world did I line up 4 pans of discard bread across the oven shelf? They were almost touching, and yup, each one burst open. I had 4 cups of starter and made the dough a little softer than usual - and the crumb is light and tender. I also decided to bake them from cold and the bottom crusts are very dark  Hopefully the neighbors won't be too critical. My only excuse is a rotten cough and cold which must have affected my thinking, A.


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