The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

DesigningWoman's blog

DesigningWoman's picture

Dan has organized another community extravaganza and already, there are some beautiful loaves posted.

First build Thursday night; had lots of 100% hydration rye starter, so used that, which most certainly affected the finished loaves. Fed 12g at 1:2:2.

Friday morning, realized that I was out of bulgur/buckwheat, which I'd meant to use in place of the cracked rye, which I can't find here (matter of fact, finding "cracked" anything is a bit of a challenge). So did the second build (1:1:1) and retarded it until I could get the marketing done.

Made the soaker out of bulgur, flax and sunflower seeds and toasted multi-grain flakes (oat, barley, wheat, rye and rice). Didn't toast and/or grind any of the seeds. Measured out and whisked together flours and salt, measured out water (as usual, because of the difference between North American and French flours, 10% of the dough water was set aside), trying to organize a tidy mise en place. Did the final build of the levain (topping it up to get 340g of 125% BF levain). It was extremely soupy and a little nervous-making, despite what Alfanso's admonishments.

After dinner, time to mix. Having read Dan mention wet dough and others talk about the diffiiculty of incorporating the soaker into the dough, I did something totally off the wall: dumped the soaker into the dry flour/salt mix, tossed that around and then added the levain, smooshed that around and then added the water.

Dough was pretty stiff and I wound up adding, little by little, all of the reserved water.

Tried to do SLAFs to make sure everything was well incorporated, but it felt like trying to slap and fold a roast beef. So resorted to pincering and folding as best I could, wetting my hands and bench all the while, because the dough felt really stiff.

Over the course of the next two hours, did three or four STAFs on the bench -- dough was extremely stretchy but not at all elastic. Towards the end of the two hours, the dough began to feel almost workable, so into the fridge it went.

The next day, got off to a later start than intended. Took the dough out of the fridge to warm up for a couple of hours then did a pre-shape, bench rest and shape (the recipe doesn't mention the first two -- were we supposed to go straight to shaping?) I made one loaf slightly smaller (by 30g) than the other. I did remember to pull off a bit to put into a small jar to keep an eye on the rise.

To keep life interesting, I decided to try a new technique for the pumpkin seed coating. Rather than go through the business of rolling the loaves on a wet towel and dipping the loaves in a plateful of seeds, I tried just mildly spritzing above -- not at -- the loaves (anyone who's seen a hairdresser with a can of laquer will know what I mean), then carefully picking up the loaf with both hands and lowering the wet side down onto the seeds that were simply sprinkled onto the bench. Worked quite well!

Oddly enough, the loaves rose pretty well in their baskets, but the bit in the jar didn't, and I was beginning to get antsy because I had a bird to roast and was going to need the oven. In retrospect, I could have stuck the loaves back into the fridge until the bird was done, but didn't think to do so at the time. So I scored and baked.

Same old demon with lack of rise, but Danni and Kat have since brought up the fact that extravagant rise with this many seeds wouldn't have been possible anyway.

The smaller, double-scored loaf rose rounder and higher than the single-score brother. Once again, I can't say if it's the scoring or the shaping that would account for that difference.

Crust is thin and crisp, crumb is moist and soft and absolutely tasty. So, will be taking another shot at this soon, perhaps doing the whole shebang in one day.

This is such a great place, so glad to have found it.


DesigningWoman's picture

I'd mentioned to Abe that I was thinking of rosemary and onion for my next bake (working on shaping and scoring) and he came back with a suggestion for this lovely recipe for tomato bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou.

Of course, why not?

The first surprising thing was the quantity of levain: 300g of 100% levain for 400g of flour! And since I wanted two 700g-ish loaves, I found myself building 450g of levain over the course of two days, after which I left it to retard in the fridge.

And a loaf with no whole grain (except the rye culture)? Eek.

The next disconcerting thing was giving up my recently adopted "best" practices: adding a soake;, overnight cold bulk; preshape and bench rest.

But Abe encouraged me to follow the recipe as written, at least the first time out, before I started in with my sometimes ill-advised tweaking. So I did. Most of the way.

I did, however, have to cheat the bulk fermentation slightly. Being the star of time management that I am, I found myself in the position of either shortening the bulk by 15 minutes or letting it go until after dinner, which would have been way too long, unless I stuck the dough in the fridge early enough. Which I didn't, since the aim was to follow the recipe to the letter.

Since there was neither pre-shape nor bench rest, the shaping of the slightly underfermented dough was a tad on the sticky side, but nothing unmanageable. Thanks to the "small, clear, straight-sided container" with a wad of dough in it, I did let the loaves proof longer thann I would have done if I were just relying on the poke test.

Baked as per the recipe, and the kitchen smelled wonderful. I should also mention that the dough took on the most beautiful color from the tomato paste.

Loaves are flatter than I hoped (so what else is new?); whether that's due to the shortened bulk or the not-tight-enough shaping (or the relationship between them) will be tested out on the next bake.

The taste is wonderful; we had it with some fresh goat cheese, and I just got home from work and ate a slice toasted, with nothing on it. Crumb is soft, crust is crisp, color is so much fun to wake up to!


I'll definitely make this one again, although I will want to ramp up the proportion of nigella seeds -- and do the pre-shape and bench rest.

Thank you, Abe

We did bake this one "together", and of course your loaf looks so much nicer, with that lovely round cross section and yummy crumb. Thanks again for pointing me in the direction of this loaf.


DesigningWoman's picture

Having successfully followed Abe's advice and restricted the cold retard to just the bulk fermentation, the next step seemed to figure out the best way to score for optimal rise/bloom/oven spring.

This was basically a rerun of the previous bake, except that the add-ins were ground dried clementine peel and poppy seeds, as well as the multi-grain scald.

I started off by blowing the pre-shape, rolled them into logs, rather than boules, which was my intent.

Anyway, what is it about the shaping on the first loaf that just doesn't seem to go right? I know I'm not supposed to, but the first batard didn't feel like it had enough tension, so I patted it back out and did it over.  Having rectified my error, I let the two boules bench rest for 30 minutes.

And, I finally remembered to hunt down a "small, clear, straight-sided container" so I could really try judge the final proof, rather than just winging it. I deliberately set it out on the bench before dividing and weighing so I would make sure to take some off and stuff it in the container. Well, obviously it was so clear, that I forgot it -- just didn't see it, didn't even remember until after I'd scored the loaves. Mmmph. Next time.

I got the impression that the "letter-folded" loaves rose more uniformly than the "backward crossant" one, so this time I shaped both in the letter-fold fashion and scored them differently.

So, the loaf on the left was the first one -- bungled pre-shape, twice-shaped and scored with two parallel cuts along the axis of the loaf. The second one was scored on the diagonal, possibly not as deeply as the first one -- I'm still having trouble judging the depth as I cut.

Well, is the mess on the left-hand loaf from bad shaping, or did I score too deeply and too far towards the end of the loaf? I guess the only way is to shape and score the next two loaves in exactly the same fashion, and see if I get exactly the same results. I'm willing to bet I won't :-D

Update: crumb shot

Thoughtfully provided (with a little prompting from granny) by grandson. This is the loaf on the left, with bad pre-shape and wonky scores, but the cross-section looks okay to me. Crumb isn't too dense, for which I'm thankful.

The saga continues…

DesigningWoman's picture

Still very much liking Wendy (Lazy Loafer)'s 1:2.8:4 formula, I've been trying to come up with a way to bake during the week, and I think we're getting close.

These are a 50/50 mix of T65/T110 (I believe T110 is roughly equivalent to first-clear flour), with 150g of rolled-grain scald (1:2 flakes:water) and a small handful of miscellaneous seeds (poppy and fennel, mostly). And some improvised bread spice.

Day 1 (very) late: Made the first stage of the levain, left it to ferment at room temperature until morning. Made the scald.

Day 2 morning: built the second stage of the levain, left at room temperature. Went to the office.

Day 2 late afternoon: stirred down the lovely, bubbly levain, whisked together flours, sprinkled salt over the bread spice so I wouldn't forget it. Then went about dinner prep.

Day 2 after dinner and clean-up: mixed levain and flours and let rest for about 30 minutes. Added the scald, spices and salt, and mixed using about 150 SLAFs with a 20-minute rest about halfway through. Rested 30-40 minutes, then two sets of letter folds on the bench about half an hour apart. Then into the fridge, with freezer packs beneath and atop the dough tub, since our fridge takes its time to cool things down.

Day 3 morning: removed dough from fridge. The freezer packs seemed to have worked a treat; the dough, while only slightly bigger than the previous night, was nowhere near as proofy-looking as the previous bake. I let it warm up slightly and gave it a set of folds, then back into the fridge -- without the freezer packs -- and off to the office.

Day 3 late afternoon: removed dough from fridge, let it warm up about 90 minutes, divided, preshaped, rested, shaped and proved for about 90 minutes. The dough felt nice; airy, mildly tacky, soft. I had thought the proof time would be longer than that, but the loaves had grown by about 25% and the dough was feeling "ready". Baked together in my improvised roaster.

I tried two different shaping methods (if you could call it that): the loaf on the left was rolled up "backward croissant" style (starting with a triangle and rolling from the point to the base). The other was an attempt at a more "traditional" approach (start with a rectangle, fold one third toward the middle, then the other third toward the middle, seal each time, and then fold the thing in half and seal it). I scored each one differently, so I could tell them apart after baking. It would seem that the more "orthodox" way does give a more disciplined looking loaf, but that may also be the scoring, since it looks like the cuts opened better on the lumpy loaf. So the next step would be to shape them both the same way, but score each one differently, I guess.

Unfortunately there may not be a crumb shot, since the plan was to give these away. But that may change :-D

So, while these are not as beautiful as so many other loaves here, I'm pretty happy with this bake, and especially thrilled that I seem to be working out a process that accommodates time away from home. Wish I could taste these.

Update: Crumb shot!

Well, grandsons couldn't decide if they were coming or going, so one loaf was given away and the other, "disciplined" loaf was finally cut open. Here are the first couple of slices:

Still a long way from the lovely, glistening crumb that more talented bakers get, but I'm happy with the progress. Crust is thin and crisp. I need to calm down on the fennel and maybe up the other bread spices, which didn't come through too much (maybe a tsp for 680g of flour and 50g rolled grains).

There's always the next bake!

DesigningWoman's picture

It must have been a good year! T65, which passes for bread flour here, has usually maxed out at around 11% protein. A few months ago, I found a bag at 12% and felt as though I'd struck gold. Well, I must have hit the mother lode, because this new T65 organic flour clocks in at 13%! So I bought a 2.5-kilo bag of it and have been happy as a clam.

Another recent find was heritage/heirloom stone-ground T80. I believe that T80 would pass for "high extraction" flour in the States; at any rate, it's got 11% protein. It has a lovely color and perfume.

So, those are the two new flours.

Over the holidays, I found toasted multi-grain flakes, which I started to use for a soaker/scald, and it's been making the most lovely, moist and keepable crumb. So I think that's just going to be part of my mix from here on in.

There was the soaker.

Using Wendy's (LazyLoafer) basic white formula, I made up a dough of 50/50 T65 and T80, added about 80g of scald and a couple of handfuls of bag-end seeds.

The plan was to make up the dough in the evening, retard until after work the next day, then shape, proof and bake.

Does stone-ground flour move faster than roller-milled?

When I checked on the dough 12 hours later, it was already large and proofy, bordering on wobbly. (The advantage to being self-employed is that you can just decide you'll go in to the office an hour later than planned.) So, rather than let the dough over-ferment, I preshaped, rested and shaped the loaves, then put them in the fridge until later that day.

After work, took the loaves out of the fridge; they'd grown a bit. I gave them a gentle poke, decided they were feeling too dense and let them hang out at room temperature for about an hour or so. After which time they definitely were taking their time springing back after a wee poke. They weren't as jiggly as loaves I've baked before, but I thought maybe baking them slightly underproofed was better than the opposite.

Baked these together for about 22 minutes covered, 20 minutes topless and then another 10 minutes with the oven off and the door cracked open.

I think I wimped out; I wonder if the loaf wouldn't have a bit more loft if I'd let the proof at room temperature go another half hour? The scores barely opened, but the taste is great and the crumb is good.

So that's the new year's resolution: try to figure out when to bake.

Happy new year to all of you, and keep on baking!

DesigningWoman's picture

Something about the holiday season and the general prettiness of them gave me a hankering to try my hand at challah bread. Mind you, I don't think I've had it since childhood, but I remember a golden, shreddable crumb under a toothsome crust.

TFL is loaded with all kinds of challah recipes and I finally decided upon zolablue's sourdough spin on Maggie Glezer's recipe, which seemed accessible enough for a relatively new baker and an absolute beginner when it comes to challah.

Starting the morning before, 8g of my 100% rye starter got transformed into 35g of stiff white starter. Early that evening, the 200g of stiff levain got made. Never made a stiff levain before, it was extremely neat and tidy. It was supposed to ferment at room temperature overnight, but knowing that I needed to be out in the morning, I left it out until about 3:00am and then stuck it in the fridge to slow things down. Possibly mistake number one.

The next morning, the levain was taken out of the fridge to continue at room temperature while I went about my business. When I came back to it in the early afternoon, it had about tripled and was full of bubbles, so I mixed up the dough.

Except, never one to leave well enough alone, I decided that I wanted to add in some grated orange zest and ground coriander. And that, while I was at it, to use orange juice in place of the water. Probably mistake number two.

The recipe says to knead the dough for no more than 10 minutes. Tu parles! I had a shaggy, wet, sticky (but very fragrant) mass that needed about an hour of SLAFs to come together. Not a happy puppy.

Well, it did finally -- sort of -- come together, and I let it rest for a couple of hours.

Came the time to shape, dividing the dough in two, then each half into six pieces and rolling them out to ropes. I don't think I found a "best way" to do them until about the sixth rope, by which time I was beginning to worry about the remaining dough drying out, despite the cloth covering them. So the next batch of rope was of a slightly fatter caliber (in retrospect, that made for a plumper loaf, which I preferred). Braiding was the easiest (and thus my favorite) part.

Egg wash and rest. Recipe called for five hours, till tripled. Well, it was already 10:00 pm. Five hours would have meant baking at 3:00 and probably not getting to bed before 4. Hmm. I dithered about it briefly and was too nervous about retarding the loaves, since I have no idea what an enriched dough does when it's put to sleep. So I stuck it out, waited four and a half hours, gave the braids a poke and decided to preheat the oven. They hadn't tripled, but they weren't bouncing back at all quickly, so I thought it would be better to bake them under- rather than over-proofed.

More egg wash, sprinkle on poppy seeds, into the oven for about half an hour. They smelled wonderful, and as I peered through the oven door, I was relieved to see that none of the braiding had torn.

And out of the oven they came. Not as zaftig as I'd hoped, but not the puddle I had feared, either.

I cut it open this morning and was surprised by the crumb.

Not shreddable, not golden! Harrumph. But wonderful as toast, with a taste of childhood. I will most definitely be trying this again, especially if I can avoid the sticky, wet phase that this bake went through.

So, some questions:

  • did I set myself up for trouble by using orange juice in place of dough water? Is that what gave me the stickies?
  • could the braided loaves indeed have been refrigerated overnight?
  • is the loaf overbaked?
  • should challah have a more open crumb than this?
  • can any bread be braided? can I take a favorite lean loaf and bypass all the preshape/shape/score angst and just braid? If so, how should the buk/proof timings or methods change?

Any and all feedback are welcome, as always.

Happy Hannukah!


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