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Today I baked a traditional (i.e. round) Challah for the new year's celebration.

Round Holiday ChallahRound Holiday Challah

Certainly not my best ever, but it'll do!


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I got the book last week, so today, my regular baking day, I wanted to make some. As luck would have it, after having started baking in April, I had finally decided to create a sourdough starter, but had to delay until recently due to my vacation. Last week I started creating Maggie Glezer's firm french style starter (as well as a whole wheat and rye version). The composition of that starter is identical to Leader's stiff levain (although the feeding formula is slightly different), so I used this in the recipe.

Leader's Pain au levainLeader's Pain au levain

Leader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancettaLeader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancetta 

I refreshed the starter shortly before midnight last night and it was good and ready this morning at 8:30. Both recipes use the same stiff levain, and use the exact same formula to create the levain starter (with some whole wheat added), so I made this as a single batch. I used KA AP flour (I discovered that my local Whole Foods sells Guisto's type 55 in bulk, but have not gotten it yet). I mixed the dough for the baguette about an hour later than that for the levain (scheduling reasons). I pretty much followed the rest of the instructions. Did one fold after 1 hour. Bulk fermentation took about 3.5-4 hours. I did insert a 10 minute bench rest before shaping. Proof took about one hour and 45 minutes. I did use a linnen couche so there was some additional work and care needed to transfer to the peel.


One thing I noticed is that in this book I finally found the correspondence between mixing settings describe as low/medium and the corresponding numeric setting on the KA mixer I have. That, combined with the 8-9 minutes mixing time seemed to make a far better dough than I've had before (I never mixed that fast, or that long). Could also be the starter though. I'll find out next time I make a non-sourdough.


The Pain au levain was scored in two different ways: one long slash, and several smaller and diagonal slashes. The dough took the slashes quite well. Steamed in cast iron pan with hot water and ice, and used a 3/4 in baking stone preheated for 1 hour. Oven spring was unbelievable! The crust did not quite turn out as nice and brown as I expected from pictures, but cutting and testing proofed this to be a non-issue. The crust was crackling during cooling and was superb when I finally ate the bread.

 crumbLeader's Pain au levain: crumb

The baquettes were pretty much a similar story, except that I used pancetta instead of bacon, and I did not retard the shaped loaves overnight. They just had their almost 2 hour proof. I made them just too long for my oven, causing the tips to be squashed against back of the oven and door. Slashes worked out ok, but no ears. Crust and texture on the baguettes was fabulous. The pancetta is not as strong as bacon, and there was no overnight retardation to absorb flavors, so this was mild, but still very good!

 crumbLeader's Auvergne Rye Baguette with pancetta: crumb 

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Today we're having a party and I figured (yesterday), I'd make some ciabatta. I never made it before and decided to make Reinhart's (BBA) recipe based on biga. I did scale it up a little to make slightly more. In the process of doing the calculations, I think I discovered some errors in the percentages and corrected them. I made the bread using the corrected recipe (I'll post on that seperately). For the final dough, I used buttermilk instead of water, and I did add about 70% of the optional olive oil.Reinhart's Ciabatta (Biga)

Reinhart's Ciabatta (Biga)

Ciabatta, excellent holes and crumb

Ciabatta, excellent holes and crumb

The dough came together as described, mixing in a KA, 4 minutes with paddle, and another 3 with the dough hook, adding just a little flour. While the rest of the baking proceeded as written, I noticed that my dough was actually rising a lot more than I expected. Now, I have to note that the weather is really warm right now (90F+) and my air-conditioning is set at 78F. I let it happen while I remembered some people had had issues with these recipes, so I looked up these old posts. Biggest problem people had was not a good open crumb, so I started to worry...

When I cut the dough in three pieces for placing in the couche it definitely collapsed some, but I decide to just let it rise again. It did. Then I baked, as described, and the result, as far as I am concerned, was just wonderful in shape, texture, crumb.

I will report in a separate post about some of the observations and my thoughts as to why this worked out so well. 

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Received the book finally 2 days ago. I had pre-ordered from Amazon and they kept claiming it wouldn't ship to me until October. I complained with customer service as others were receiving it, and when I placed a new order, it said it would ship immediately (I cancelled that one of course). That caused them to send it right away.Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread 

So, I just had to try something and since I had not built a starter yet, and need basic sandwhich bread for my family's daily needs, went for the 100% WW sandwich bread. I followed the biga based recipe and it worked out beautifully. I needed none of the extra flour, although a little got used during hand kneading.

Result shown in the picture, and taste and crust were great.

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Today we had a large barbeque party with our various neighbors and their children and dogs (it was our dog's 10th birthday). So, I just had to make Hamburger buns and hot dog rolls.

Hamburger BunsHamburger Buns

On Friday, when my other baking was going on, I did a quick trial run with Hamelman's recipe. They were OK, but for the production run I made two changes:

  • Upped the butter to 15% (from 8%)
  • Used a wash from one egg and some milk to glaze

I made 4.3 lb of dough, and used 3 oz per bun, making 22 buns. The original recipe calls for shaping by rolling out a preshaped (mini) boule. That hadn't worked out so well for me, so for production I made nice tight mini boules, and flattened them a little (but not all the way). I used the milk/egg wash, added some sesame seeds, and baked for 15 minutes at 400F. For the hot dog buns I shaped like mini baguettes, except rolled them a little so they were even. Both were a great success.

Buns, cutBuns, cut

Since I was baking again, and my guests on Saturday ate all my Spinach Cheese Boule, I made another one today as well. Used a 4 sided cross cut slashing which worked out much better. Again, half is gone already!


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Many a Sunday my wife and son buy a boule at the local farmer's market which they call Spinach Cheese Bread, even though it has lots of other veggie stuff in it too. They like it, so for last week's baking session I decided to try and make my own.

First problem was no recipe available on the Internet that seemed to make what I wanted. So I had to make my own. I decided to use frozen chopped spinach, mild gouda cheese (what else to expect from a Dutchman), and I also wanted to have a portion of whole wheat flour in it. I've made whole wheat bread before and using a poolish did wonders for my schedule as well as for the dough and overall taste. So, I decided this one was to use a poolish too!

I've also been working on a spreadsheet the allows me to do all baker percentage calculations (helps with recipe scaling and design). While I was at it, I added an ingredient database to it with cost information, hydration information and specific gravity for ingredients so I can correctly convert weight measurements to volumes for those we like to bake that way. You'll find a PDF of this recipe here.

A few words about the spreadsheet

The spreadsheet's yellow cells is where you input your desired values (this includes ingredients). A "Y" in the "Pre" column indicates an ingredient that is part of a preferment. A "P" indicates an ingredient that is a separately created preferment. Although there are different options for baker's percentages when using preferments, I have chosen to express everything as percentages of dough in the overall recipe. Note that tap water temperature, mixer friction and baking loss are specific to my situation (and an estimate I am still refining for each type of bread for the loss, mostly evaporation, and friction).

The component temperatures are to be entered on the bottom, if you want to be precise with final dough temperature. If necessary it will calculate how much ice to add to the water if it needs cooling (rarely the case in my home baking). The spreadsheet automatically adjusts for the number of components that have a temperature specified so if you do not enter a value for the preferment (presumably because you are not using one), the factor will be 3 instead of 4.

Some measurements in the "US Weight" column are given in tablespoons etc. The spreadsheet does this if the actual value as a weight becomes so small that, with most scales, you can not accurately measure. Since I have (pretty accurate) specific gravity values for the ingredients, I can quite reliably (subject to all the fallacies of measuring volumes: packed, spooned, shifted) give the volume. I use a scale accurate to 1 gram myself, but for these small amounts, a small measuring spoon workds great (I have a set for dashes, smidgens, and pinches as well).

Hydration is calculated by computing the water content of all ingredients that are composed 50% or more of water and adding them up. That catches water, milk, eggs etc., but does not count water content in dough. Cost is based on a home baker buying pretty regular ingredients in a super market. The exception is that I use KA prices for my flour as I will not use the cheap stuff.

The recipe

Making the poolish is straightforward. I make it the night before and leave it on the counter (about 68F), and it'll be close enough to ready the next morning around 11AM. The amount of final dough in this recipe is about right for an 8" banneton (scaled up from what I used to make the one in the picture above, which got misshaped whe inverting onto the peel). Nevertheless, it is borderline not enough to knead properly in my KitchenAid so I finish with manual labor.

In the last minute or two of kneading I add the cheese (room temperature, cubed in 1/4" pieces), and spinach. I made the mistake of not squeezing enough water out of the thawed spinach, so my dough got too wet and I had to add flour (not represented in the recipe because you should squeeze it out).

Next bulk ferment, about 90 minutes in my case. I did a fold about half way through. Next degas and preshape. Twenty minutes relaxing and final shaping.

I preheated oven at 500F, with water for pre-steam added in a baking pan in the last few minutes. Invert the bread out of the banneton onto parchment paper on the peel. Scored in a \ | / pattern, a sprayed with water. Into the over on baking stone, more water in the pan for steaming. Spray oven walls with water twice, 30 seconds apart after putting loaf in the oven. Then reduce to 475F.

Baked for a total of 35 minutes, oven vented for last 10. Here was the result.



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