The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

foodslut's blog

foodslut's picture

Haven't posted in a while, but need some advice, so sharing this over a number of forums for advice.

I've been finding my pan loaves are coming out tacky & sticky in the middle.  I don't encounter this problem with my free-form loaves.

Did a batch of my house bread (formula below), mixing a soupy "sponge" with some of the flour & placing the rest on top like a blanket.  I left it to ferment for about 3-4 hours at 18-20C/64-69F until the flour blanket started showing cracks from the sponge poking thru.  Mixed the dough & kneaded it for a few minutes, then left it @ room temp overnight (14-18C/57-64F).


After the ferment, I shaped the loaf and placed it in a heavy loaf pan to proof (~60 minutes @ 20-22C/68-72F) until it was about level with the top of the pan -- no, I didn't do the poke test :)

Into the oven at 450F for 55 minutes, where it's at 200F internal temp.  The sides of the bread felt a bit soft, so I took the loaf out of the pan, and left it in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Below are the results -- darkish crust (which I don't mind) and what the thermometer says is done, but still a tad sticky in the middle after cooling for 7 hours at room temperature.

Sticky Loaf Bread Crumb 1

Had this happen to a previous pan loaf, so I thought I'd bake it a bit longer to make sure it was cooked.  This loaf is better, but tackiness inside not down to zero.

All input appreciated - thanks in advance!

foodslut's picture

It's been a while since my last blog post, but this one, I wanted to share.

I was on a bit of a roll making chapatis for Indian food my sweetie has been making, so I bought some atta flour.  The smallest bag I could find (Golden Temple Wheat Atta) was 10 lbs. - that's a LOT of chapatis, so I tried to figure out what else I could do with this flour.

I was curious about what kind of bread it would make, given that it appears to be reasonably finely-ground whole wheat.  I like using stone-ground local whole wheat, but it's sandier and gives me a denser, toothier texture to my breads.

I made a 70% hydration dough (fllour, water, 2% salt & 0.5% instant yeast), with a 33% poolish (6 hours poolish ferment).  Given my work schedule, I tried something quite radical for me:  After mixing the poolish, making the dough, letting it autolyse and kneading it a bit (noticeably smoother than my regular stone-ground), I let it run through one room-temp ferment overnight (~11 hours), then did a couple of folds and another room-temp ferment during the day (another 11 hours or so).

When I was shaping the batards, the dough felt slacker than I was used to, and a bit harder to shape tightly.  I formed the batards and proofed them in a canvas couche for an hour @ room temp.  I slashed the loaves & loaded them into a pre-heated 505F oven, sprayed steam off & on for 8 minutes, then 40 minutes @ 405F.

One of the loaves sprung well in the oven, the other not quite as much.

My biggest surprise was the crumb - this is the most open crumb I've ever achieved in any of my breads, and with a whole wheat flour, no less.

I think I'll be trying more variations on the atta theme after this - enjoy!

foodslut's picture

My oven has been out of commission for a few days, and the front-panel computer gizmo needed to make it bake when you hit bake (instead of broil until the "too hot" alarm goes off) is on order. 

I have back-up plans if I really start jones-ing to bake (use friend's oven, and leave some hot bread behind as "payment"), but I've decided - after a couple of less-than-sterling attempts here and here) to use my baking down time to try to make a sourdough culture.

Why?  I feel I have the time, and a taste of bread from this local bakery (first bread I've purchased since starting baking in 2007) got me thinking I'd like to get bread with a touch of sour as well.

After reading all sorts of literature out there (including here at TFL), I've decided to try the Real Bread guy Andrew Whitley's approach to sourdough as preached in his book "Do Sourdough: Slow Bread for Busy Lives".

I'm also trying a 200% hydration liquid levain (using locally grown and stone milled whole wheat flour) instead of the 100% because I think I can aerate it a bit more easily during the build & maintenance.

Day 1 today, 16 minutes in:

As usual, all input/advice welcome.

More, as it happens ....

foodslut's picture

So, how'd I do on last year's list I posted?

1)  I will continue to share home-made bread.  Did that pretty well -- my end of year total for dough produced was over 324 kilograms (more than 714 lbs), with (my guess) more than 80% of that gifted.

2)  I will move more.  Haven't done enough of that.

3)  I will do more of what I want.  Still trying.

4)  I will cull and simplify (a bit).  Will be more specific this year.

So, here goes for 2015:

1)  I'll keep sharing home-made bread.  That's an easy one.

2)  I will get rid of at least one item I no longer use or enjoy every day.  A bit more specific from last year's #4.

3)  I'll do more of what I want (including moving more).  Here's hoping.

Here's hoping your 2015 is even better than your 2014.

foodslut's picture

In the interest of increasing the odds of my following said resolutions, here's this year's short & sweet list:

1)  I will continue to share home-made bread.  This one is a biggie for me because I realize this is how I make an impact on people, limited as it might be, while feeding a personal passion.  For the record, last year, I managed to produce a total of about 700 lbs of dough out of our home kitchen - and I took a month off of baking to visit family in Italy - with (I'm guessing) more than 80% of that going to neighbours, friends and as "thank you's" for a job well done.

2)  I will move more.  Trying to get a grip on my weight, so I'll start with that.

3)  I will do more of what I want.  The death of several folks near and dear to me in 2013 reminds me that life is short.

4)  I will cull and simplify (a bit).  In light of how short life is, I may as well trim a bit and keep my life as simple to manage as possible, clearing up time/energy for other things I want to do (still working on that list).  That said, I say "a bit" because I don't see myself going as far as living in a one-room Thoreau-esque cabin in the woods living on nothing but what I grow.  All things in moderation, including moderation.

Have a great 2014 everyone!

foodslut's picture

I'm seeing more people, for various reasons, take up gluten-free (GF) eating.  I've always been hesitant about trying GF loaves because of head-scratching over the various gums needed to replace the gluten that's not there due to no wheat being used.


In the latest edition of the "Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" series, there's a new chapter on GF baking.  Based on how much I like the Francois/Hertzberg techniques in general, I thought I'd give this one a try.

First off, the formula I calculated for the gluten-free crusty boule, based on the weights presented in the book:

                             baker's %
Brown rice flour  24.2
Tapioca flour       58.3
Potato flour         17.4
Yeast                     3.0
Salt                        2.6
Xanthan gum*       2.3
Water                103.0
Eggs                   34.1
Oil                       17.4

* - And what, exactly, is xanthan gum?  Bob's Red Mill has the most accessible definition:

Xanthan Gum is a plant-based thickening and stabilizing agent. It is named for the bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris, which plays a crucial role in this description. Technically speaking, xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, which is just a fancy way to say "a string of multiple sugars." To create xanthan gum, the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium is allowed to ferment on a sugar. The result is a gel that is then dried and milled to create the powder substance.

I tried an 800 gram (28.2 ounce) boule as a test.

Brown rice flour  73.9
Tapioca flour     177.8
Potato flour         53.1
Yeast                     9.2
Salt                        7.8
Xantham gum       6.9
Water                314.1
Eggs                 103.9
Oil*                      53.1

* - I used canola oil.

Here's how it looked post-mix ....

.... and post-two-hour proof ....

"Dough", in the conventional sense, it ain't - think more a dense, almost marshmallowy batter instead of a dough.

Here's what it looked like, shaped on parchment, ready for a one-hour proof (you mould it more like clay - or dense meringue - instead of stretch and form like regular wheat-based dough):

Into a preheated 450 degree oven onto a baking stone for 45 minutes, and here's what came out:

It had the feel of a dense meringue, but still crusty. The most unusual aspect was that instead of a wheaty baked-bread smell, you can smell more of a nutty - almost peanut buttery  or roasted peanut - scent.  Different, but still pleasant.

After fully cooled, here's what the crumb looked like:

The crumb is VERY soft and delicate, almost a cross between cake and marshmallow.  The taste was a touch salty, but that's likely because I used a bit more salt than in most of my formulas.   Also, the more delicate flavour of the different flours used here wouldn't mask the taste.  

It's not a white wheat-flour boule, by any means, but compared to some frozen GF products I've seen, it's not a bad bread-esque experience.  Would I eat it day to day?  Occasionally, now that I'm not scared about making it anymore.  And if I couldn't eat wheat bread ever again?  It would be OK.

If you bake wheat bread, and have loved ones or friends who can't eat gluten, this one is worth a try and yields a reasonably good result.  Just remember this is a bit of an analogue, not a replica, of bread.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who's tried this, especially re:  how it stands up to freezing and toasting.

foodslut's picture

I was reading online this week about baking bread in slow cookers (more here and here), so I decided to make a 3.2 kg (~7 lbs) batch of my house loaf - here's the formula ....

.... and bake three 800 gram (~28 ounce) boules in the oven, and one in our trusty old slow cooker/crock pot.

Whipped up the dough, fermented it overnight in the fridge, shaped up the boules and proofed them (three in cane bannetons, one in the slow cooker ceramic insert lined in parchment paper) for about 90 minutes at coolish room temp. 

I baked the oven boules on a stone, 500 degrees for 9 minutes with steam followed by 45 minutes at 400.  I baked the proofed crock pot boule at "high" for two hours.  In both cases, the internal temp of the bread ended up ~200 degrees. Here's what the slow cooker version looked like out of the pot:









After removing the crock pot loaf, I crusted up the top for 3-4 minutes under a high broil.

Here's a compare and contrast shot, with the boule trio on top, and the crock pot loaf down front.











The boules came out with the usual nice crust.  The crock pot loaf came out VERY soft - when I first poked it after the two hours, it didn't feel quite done.  Checked the internal temp, though, and it was up to 200.

The crumbs?  Not a gross amount of difference ....

Both tasted about the same, with the oven version (not surprisingly) having a much nicer crust to chew on, and the slow cooker version being moister overall (again, not surprisingly, given its cooking in a steam environment).

Bottom line? 

Yes, you can bake bread in a slow cooker using artisan formulas, and it comes out like a nice, soft sandwich loaf - probably close to how I imagine it might come out in a bread-making machine. 

No, the crust won't be anywhere near as nice as doing it in a hotter oven.

That said, it might make an interesting "steam bread" tool, or could be a last resort for someone truly desperate for some home-made bread without access to an oven.

foodslut's picture

I've been hemming and hawing for a while about trying the Lahey technique, but when I managed to find an interesting ceramic cooking vessel for $7 at a thrift store ....

.... I thought it was time to give it a go.

Used an 80% hydration dough, with a pain de campagne combination of flours (88% unbleached white, 6% whole wheat, 6% dark whole wheat rye) in a 475 degree oven, 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.

The top-of-post shot shows the crust I got - very happy with that.

Here's what the crumb ended up looking like:

Very nice crust, but I was hoping for a bit more more of an open crumb.  Still a damned tasty loaf (to be the starch side for a fresh tomato salad), but any advice re:  getting a more open crumb would be appreciated.

foodslut's picture

After coming across this post here at TFL while looking for something else, I thought I'd give baking with spent grains a try.

We have a local microbrewery - Sleeping Giant Brewing Company - here where I live, so I brashly e-mailed the brew-meister asking if I could take some spent grain off his hands to experiment with in exchange for bread.  He quickly agreed.  I picked up a small pail of spent grain from a batch of Skull Rock Stout, and bought some of the stout, to use for a locally-sourced whole-wheat spent-grain bread. 

My local flour is Brule Creek Farms, grown and stone ground less than 20 minutes drive from here (I pick mine up at the weekly farmer's market).  I used 75% whole wheat and 25% partially sifted in my test formula.

I also used some locally-sourced honey I picked up at the farmer's market in the mix.

Based on this recipe (I'm still waiting for Reinhart's WGB), here's the formula I developed for a 1000g/35 oz. loaf (I made two):

So, based on this formula, we're talking a 98.3% local product by end weight (only salt and yeast was non-local).

I was thinking about using all stout as the liquid component, but when I tasted the rich, dense, almost chocolately brew, I decided to be a touch conservative for the first test batch and go 1/2 stout, 1/2 water.  I used all the stout for the soaker, and all the water for the biga.

Also, the yeast looked a touch too much for even whole grain bread, so I used a bit less - maybe closer to 0.8-1 %, and extended the fermenting times a bit.  I prepared the soaker Thursday night (sitting in the fridge ~10C/50F), the biga Friday night (again, in the fridge), and assembled/baked Saturday morning/afternoon.   A couple of things jumped out at me prior to baking:

1)  the dough (which I mixed by hand) was LOADS softer, looser and more pliable, especially after a brief autolyse while I quickly did the dishes, than other +70% whole wheats I usually do using a straight dough process.

2)  THE AROMA!  There were hints of meat and chocolate in the mix, but the closest I could come to with a description of the overall smell was "Marmite light" - zesty, Marmite-y, with anchovy undertones, but without the tang of the Marmite.  Am I making sense?  This led me to expect great things!

Since I had to drive out of town to pick up some things, I fermented the mixed dough in the fridge for ~2 hours, and then at room temp until it doubled - total:  ~3 hours.  I then shaped & proofed at room temp (18C/64F) for about an hour, then into the oven for a total of 60 minutes until the internal temp was 93C/200F.

Here's what the loaves looked like (excuse the "Soviet satellite photo" quality, but my better half has the good cam for doing research overseas for the next few weeks):

The result?

This is by far the softest, moistest whole wheat I've ever made.  The smell?  Nice and rich without smelling beery. 

The taste?  Here's my surprise:  I was hoping for rich, wheaty, umami flavours, but it was actually a touch bland.  My first question to myself:  could I have used a touch more salt?   Was there something in the process I mucked up/changed toooooo much?

I'm going to taste some more later today to see if it's just my tastebuds that need to wake up a bit (it's going on 9am here, and I've been up a couple of hours), but any input/insights on this would be VERY greatly appreciated.  I don't mind going through all the steps, but I was hoping for a lot more of a flavour zap than I got.

foodslut's picture

Tried a batch of croissants a la Bertinet "Crust" formula, with one change - replaced 1/3 of the white flour with stone-ground whole wheat to make them a weeeee bit more healthy.

Found the dough just a bit harder to roll out, but I was quite pleased with the results

Maybe it's the cooler weather, but this is also the first batch I've made where there was ZERO butter leakage from the croissants during baking.

Not any noticeable change in the flakiness, and they taste good, so I'm going to count this one as a success.

Gotta work on keeping more of the chocolat in the pain, though - any ideas on that one very much welcome.


Subscribe to RSS - foodslut's blog