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Floydm's blog

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I've been baking a bit the past few weeks.  Above is a 20% whole wheat sourdough I baked a week or so ago.  The crumb:

For our Christmas dinner I whipped up something like the Buttermilk Cluster:

It was indeed rather tasteless compared to what I usually bake, but it still was quite decorative and more than adequate for mopping up everything else.

What else?  Cinnamon Rolls from a few days ago:

And a 75% hydration sourdough with 10% whole wheat and 10% spelt flour I baked yesterday:

These ones got a real long, slow ferment thanks to the cool weather we've been having.  Nothing like those of you in the Midwest or the East of either the US or Canada have been having, mind you! Still cool enough that the beaches and the forests are frosty...

 ...and the sourdoughs are extra tangy.

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I can't believe it has been nearly a month since I've posted.  This time of year things get so busy, don't they?  Our youngest also has a birthday between Thanksgiving in the States and Christmas, so it seems like we have about a month solid of travels, dinners and parties to attend, as well as all the school and community activities.  It certainly keeps you on your toes.

I have been baking though.  Mostly just standards like the white sourdough loaves above or the Struan bread below.


Another sourdough I did with about 20% whole wheat.  My starter was really sluggish, perhaps because of the cold, but in the end it really erupted in the oven.

I haven't had a chance to do any holiday baking yet, which is unfortunate because there isn't a lot of time left!

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I picked up the little mill attachment for my new mixer and have been experimenting with it my last couple bakes.

My first batch used 40% fresh milled flour (hard red wheat), my second about 25%.  The flavour seems really nice, though I've got a bit of the cold and thus don't have the most nuanced sense of taste right now.

I have much to learn if I decide this is something I want to pursue.  For now I'm just having fun tinkering with a new toy, and the response from everyone who can taste has been quite good.

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I spotted a news story yesterday reporting that Dave of Dave's Killer Bread is in a bit of trouble again.

If you are unfamiliar with Dave's Killer Bread, you can check out the profile I did on him a couple of years back.  Since then the company has continued to grow, with distribution all up and down the West Coast.  It is good stuff.

First off, I hope the injured police officers involved are alright, then I hope that Dave and his family are able to take care of whatever it was that set him off this time.  He is a talented guy with his heart in the right place, but clearly he also a few problems that he needs help dealing with.

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So yesterday around 11am we decided on a meal that a loaf of fresh bread would be good with.  I didn't have a refreshed starter or preferment going, but I quickly mixed up a cup of AP flour, a cup of luke warm water, and about a third of a teaspoon of yeast and let it sit while I figured out what I wanted to do with it.

About two hours later I took a look.  It wasn't even close to ripe and had just a few bubbles, but it was better than nothing, so I mixed it is with around 600 more grams AP flour, 400 or so grams water, and 15 grams kosher salt.  Oh yeah, and another 2/3 teaspoon yeast.  Mixed it up real well until I could see good gluten development and then let it sit.

Folded an hour or so later, around 2pm, then again around 3pm.  I split and shaped it around 4 and baked it around 5.

It came out really nice.  The crumb is lovely, I think, about as nice as I've ever gotten from a dough without a meaningful preferment and with such a short rise time.  I guess that is the sign of the better gluten development?

The flavour is a bit plain, as one would expect, but not bad at all.  It is also staling slower than I typically expect a straight dough to stale.  I'm not sure what to make of that, but I'll have to try this again.

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The first was with chanterelle mushrooms on a white sauce.  My wife's all time favourite.

The second BBQ chicken with red onion and cilantro. The kids got to it before I got my camera out.

The third chicken, red onion, and pesto.

All came out well.  I was playing with Reinhart's American style pizza dough.  It is good too and makes a thicker, stiffer slice than his neo-Neapolitan dough does, one that is easier to pick up with your fingers rather than eat with a fork and knife.  It is a good option to consider for a setting where you want people to be able to grab a slice and wander off. 

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I baked for many years without using a mixer or any special gear. I really enjoy mixing and kneading by hand, and think it is a great way to get to know about dough.

But after a while it became clear a mixer would be helpful.  Not so much because there were things I couldn't do without a mixer, but because I could do much more of it with the help of a mixer.  Three or four batches of bread in an afternoon barehanded is exhausting; with a decent mixer it just becomes challenging to schedule everything so that it is ready to go into the oven at the right time.  A good mixer is a tremendous labour saver.

My first mixer was an entry level KitchenAid, something like this.  I found it on super duper sale and was very pleased with it.  I've put a lot of mileage on it and never had a breakdown, though there definitely were times I had to divide a batch or take a break from mixing because I could tell I was putting too much strain on it.

Last spring I decided it was time for an upgrade.  I think it was the Milk Bread with Tangzhong that finally did it: that dough was so sticky it would climb up the hook and get into the head of the mixer in a matter of seconds.  For every second spent mixing, I think I spent five scraping down the dough.  I'd had it.

After much research, including reading many of your threads here, I set my sights on an Ankarsrum Original mixer (aka Assistent, DLX, Electrolux, Verona, or Magic Mill).  It is a pricy machine, but given the amount of time and energy I spend baking, it seemed like a worthy investment that would pay off over the years. 

I've been using this mixer since September and really enjoying it.  Super sturdy build with a much larger capacity.   My KitchenAid used to walk all over the counter when it was mixing and I always had to stop it and scrape the dough back down into the bowl, whereas this thing barely moves and rarely does the dough get stuck on hook. This is the most I've ever seen it budge:

The mixer on the countertop

So while it has a bigger footprint than my KitchenAid, I don't have to give it as much clearance since it isn't whipping all over the place and bumping around like my old machine was. 

I'm still getting adjusted to using a spiral mixer -- meaning the bowl spins and the hook stays still -- rather than a planetary mixer where the hook moves and the bowl is stationary.  My preliminary impression is that while it takes a bit longer to knead the doughs in the spiral mixer with the dough hook, it does a better job, something much more akin to a hand kneading than the serious beating that my dough would get in the KitchenAid.  

Also, it may be completely irrational but I've always been scared of getting injured by a planetary mixer. I saw a colleague of mine get his hand caught in a large planetary mixer the first week I worked at a bakery.  That was a much more powerful and dangerous machine than my little countertop mixer, for certain.  But I like that my new mixer has a large, open bowl that makes it easy to watch the dough develop or poke it while the mixer is running (which I'm certain the instructions tell you never to do) without fear of having the hook swing around and catch a finger. Make of that what you will.

What else?  Yes, I actually feel like I am learning a lot more about dough development since it so easy to watch it now.  That's a pretty big deal, actually. 

The two attachments I use a lot are this heavy beater thing for getting ingredients incorporated:

Mixing a dough

And then the dough hook once my dough is together:

Mixing a dough

There also is a plastic bowl and attachments that allow you to use this as a standard mixer/beater, which we've used to beat eggs, make whipping cream and cake with.   See?

The beater mix-y thingie

My favourite accessory that comes with it?  Very silly, but the plastic lid that fits the bowl just so.  For things like autolyze it is so handy to have.  I'm sure you can buy something similar for a KitchenAid, but I never did.

I've been in touch with both the US Ankarsrum distributor and the Canadian Ankarsrum distributor. They seem like good folks who thoroughly believe in the quality of these mixers.  

This mixer is a huge step forward for me.  I think is both going to make baking easier (and less frustrating) for me and, ultimately, make me a better baker, which is a very good thing!  :)

I know some other folks have been considering getting one and asking questions about them.  Let me know if there are any questions I can answer or particular features you want me to demo.  I should note though that I've never used the Bosch mixer or a higher end KitchenAid so I don't think I can offer a meaningful comparison.

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My other experiment yesterday was a Roasted Garlic Sourdough with about 30% whole wheat flour.

I didn't time this one quite right.  First it was going to fast and I had to leave the house, so I folded it and set it outside, where I guess it was a little cooler than I thought.  That really showed down the fermentation and I wanted it out of the oven by dinner, so I ended up switching the order of my bakes (hence the really hot oven for the White Chocolate Apricot Sourdough, which I'd planned on baking second once I'd cooled the oven a bit).  So the crumb is tighter that I wanted, but still perfectly acceptable. 

It's pretty good.  There is a strong garlic flavour even in the slices without cloves in them.  Fairly heavy in that you  don't need to eat much to fill up.  I'm not sure I'll make it again unless I have an occasion when I know I'll have folks around to share with, but I'm glad I tried.


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I made two experimental doughs yesterday.  The winner by a landslide was the White Chocolate Apricot Sourdough.

I really loaded it down with white chocolate chunks and chopped dried apricots.  I was afraid it was going to come out too heavy, but it rose quite nicely.

The only fault was that I had the oven too hot for a sweet bread, so the bottoms of the loaves came out a bit blackened.

Still, this one is a huge winner.

I know I've seen someone else use the white chocolate and apricot pairing somewhere, but I can't find it on the site or in any of the baking books I have easy access to (some are in storage), but still... a hat tip to my unknown inspiration.  This one is delicious!

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I started a dough last night that was somewhere between Ken Forkish's Poolish Pizza Dough and Peter Reinhart's Neo-Neopolitian Dough

Not bad.  Using AP flour, it was nice and extensible, but I'm not getting as much crunch on the crust as I was when I used a stronger flour.  I'm not sure if there is much I can do about that, but I'll keep tinkering.


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