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jl

The original 90% biga loaf recipe was posted a while ago by Abelbreadgallery. I've wanted to try it for quite a while, but realized last week that I now have a working wine cooler and a stand mixer, which is all that's required for it.

The original instructions were sparse, so I didn't pay much attention to details. The only concern was whether there would be lumps in the final dough. Added the rest of the water to the biga first, mixed pretty much full development, then added the rest of the flour and salt and mixed for ~21 min. The dough was very strong at this point, but there were still small softish lumps in it. Briefly considered dumping it in the trash, but decided to still bake to see whether the lumps would be present in the end product. Stopped paying attention to the dough after that. Baked it at some point between watching YouTube videos.

This one burst at the side. Should have let it proof longer, the dough was still nicely domed in the banneton. But the lumps weren't noticeable.

How would this be different from a loaf made with the max amount of poolish? Only one way to find out. Took the method from Hamelman's Pain Rustique, prefermenting 70% of the flour. So exact same flour (12% protein), 70% hydration, 0.2% dry yeast in the poolish.

There were no lumps in the finished dough, but it wasn't nearly as strong as the biga one. Even when it wasn't sticking to the mixing bowl at all, it felt a lot looser. It did feel like it could collapse at any time in the banneton as well. I was pretty certain it would collapse in the oven. Barely scratched the surface to score it. 

 

The bread itself is quite a bit more tender than the biga one. (Although that could be attributed to proofing.) The biga itself was way more aromatic than poolish. You had to bend down to the bowl to smell the latter, while the former filled the whole kitchen with the aroma when the cooler was opened.

I feel like the biga bread was a bit more nuanced in taste, although I'm probably not a reliable judge of that. These were my second and third times making (and consuming) wheat bread this year. 

I definitely need to try the biga version again.

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jl

This is the first recipe in the rye chapter of Hamelman's book. I'd like to bake them all eventually, but I currently don't maintain a wheat starter, so rye it is.

I tried to  follow the instructions as close as possible. He seems to use a relatively stiff (80-83% hydration) rye sourdough for all these breads. It's hard to tell when it's mature and I forgot to taste it. Another new thing to me was the relatively high percentage of rye in the dough (I usually bake whole rye breads or mostly white flour breads) and I was surprised when it actually came together. Mixing it by hand would have been very unpleasant though. 

The dough was surprisingly strong, but I was afraid it would suddenly fall apart and decided to bake it sooner than usual. There's no picture of this bread in the book, but I'm pretty certain it's not supposed to be this dense.

So far, I've only come across caraway in rye breads (which this is most decidedly not, despite the name) and I absolutely hated it (to put it very mildly). It was actually a bit more tolerable in a mostly wheat dough. Figured it could work with something sweet on top, didn't like it one bit with cloudberry jam. And it's absolutely jarring with Earl Grey tea.

There's a fitting passage in Calvel's book about panettone, which he classifies as a regional brioche:

The panettone is a very rich and highly scented type of hearch cake made in Italy. They are little known in France, and to be quite frank, are not greatly esteemed there, even though they are generally of excellent quality. This lack of acceptance is doubtless ecause they seem to many Frenchmen (and women) to be too strongly scented and flavored. It is unfortunate that excessive use of orange flower water, orange essence, and vanilla seem to overpower the delicate flavor notes from alcoholic fermentation and the use of eggs and butter in the formula, but these practices are suited to Italian taste.

I feel the same could be said about Germans (and by extension Americans) and caraway. I want to try this bread without it.

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jl

 

I got a stand mixer recently and the first thing I wanted to try was brioche. There are very detailed instructions in the book, but what's better, he's actually made a video on mixing it (I liked the series a lot and I wish they'd make more episodes):

 

Mixing that does take quite long in a Kitchenaid and I wasn't able to get to full window pane and I noticed later they mix it pretty much to full gluten development before adding butter, which probably shortens the procedure a bit. The dough did come together after a few folds though. After that it was easy. The cold dough wasn't sticky (or greasy) at all:

The weird thing about it was that it felt really strong considering the amount of butter and eggs that went in it. It could have proofed longer, but I was afraid it would collapse later if taken too far:

The instructions for the grande tête said 28 min @ 380 F. This looked ready after 22 min @ 200 C / 392 F:

Looks wrong on the outside, because the proportions are weird, but these are the only cardboard loaf pans I can get. Looks ok on the inside, I think:

I don't know what real brioche is supposed to taste like, but I think I'd like it a tiny bit sweeter. At 12 % sugar it's not very sweet. On the other hand, this way it probably works better in savory applications.   

The next step would be to try the laminated version.

 

 

 

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jl

This is something I've wanted to try for a long while now. What put me off was the fact that it seemed to require quite a bit of effort, because most videos you see on YouTube feature meticulously laminated single-serving-sized pastries. But then I saw a guy from Douarnenez making the authentic version:

I think his name is Thierry Lucas and he can be seen in another YouTube clip:

Turns out it's super simple and can be made with everyday pantry ingredients and there's no need to be particular about lamination.  I even had foil pie plates in the cupboard. (Ended up buying extra salty butter, because I wasn't sure how much salt they put in theirs in Brittany. Finnish extra salty butter is 2% salt.)

The dough was AP flour, 70% water, 2% salt, 1% dry yeast. Lucas' dough looked quite a bit looser. I think it's because he doesn't let it rest between the folds and it's easier to roll out.

500g of dough with 250 g butter and 250 g sugar is enough for cakes baked in 25 cm/10* pie plates:

Forgot to brush with milk and baked both simultaneously ~ 30 min at 220 C. Noticed afterwards someone suggesting in the comments to bake small ones 25 mins at 200 C and large ones 45 min at 200 C. Still, the cakes weren't too doughy on the inside.

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I ate three slices straight away. It's very buttery as one would expect. I still would like to taste the original some day, because for something as simple as this, the devil is most certainly in the details.

 

  

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jl

I came across this recipe in Daniel Leader's Local Breads. He mentions it being one of the most memorable meals on his trip to Altamura. As is customary in the region, it's made from durum flour and the overall formula is pretty simple: 100% durum flour, 82% water, 3% salt. It's topped with porcini mushrooms. Leader suggests using a mix of dried porcinis and fresh cremini mushrooms, because porcinis can be hard to find in the US.

Well, it's mushroom season here in Finland and porcinis seem to be quite abundant.

Most of them are by now too large and gnarly to be useful, but it's still possible to find nice ones. Leader suggests frying them in olive oil with garlic and thyme.

I was absolutely certain I had some durum flour somewhere in the cupboard, but when it was time to mix the leaven, I couldn't find any. There's no way I'm driving around late at night looking for durum flour, so this will have to be plain AP.

The great thing about focaccia is there's no need to worry about oven spring. I usually try to feel the dough as it's fermenting and proofing, but I didn't touch this once apart from a few folds. The only problem was stretching it to fit the baking sheet. It's surprisingly elastic for a soupy dough.

I briefly considered baking it on the steel, but Leader suggests just putting the sheet in the middle rack and baking at 440 F. 

I'm not overly disappointed, but it was a little plain for my taste. I wonder if the real version made with durum would have been tastier.

There's a recipe for potato bread with roasted onions in Hamelman's book. I think I'll try making that with mushrooms next.

 

 

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jl

Found a piece of paper with the formula for whole spelt bread in the kitchen. 100% whole spelt, 86% hydration, 15% pre-fermented flour. It's been super hot here lately, so I pretty much haven't baked anything in over a month. I can't even remember what whole spelt dough is supposed to feel like any more. Perfect opportunity to try something entirely new!

  • 50% whole wheat flour, 50% whole spelt flour
  • 15% pre-fermented flour (stiff starter), 86% hydration
  • 0.5h autolyse
  • mixed in starter
  • 2.5h bulk fermentation, folding every 0.5h. The dough was very slack and sticky the whole time
  • divided and pre-shaped quite tightly in an attempt to gain some structure. The dough tore immediately.
  • ~20 min rest
  • added a whole lot more flour to the bench to combat the stickiness
  • shaped and proofed at ambient temp (30 C in the kitchen at the moment) just under an hour
  • baked 20 min with steam, 40 min without @ 220 C

Not much oven spring. Both loaves look very sad.

 

It's not overproofed, it never had any structure to begin with.

The taste is ... well, it turns out there's absolutely no salt in this bread. That could explain the stickiness. Well, I have some pesto in the fridge, that should cover it up somewhat, but I really wish I had Marmite right now.

I guess the decision to make for the follow-up attempt is whether to reduce the hydration or simply try adding salt to the dough first.

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jl

Durum is something I've wanted to try for a while. The color of the loaves you usually see in pictures is so intense and the flour in itself is not that common, which also makes it fascinating.

There is a recipe for durum bread in Jeffrey Hamelman's book (you all know and love), which is 90% durum and 10% bread flour at 80% hydration. 80% sounded intimidating, so I made a little ball of dough at 70% hydration to see what it would feel like (this is something I learned from a Full Proof Baking video) and maybe add water later to reach 80%. But even at 70% the dough felt really sticky and I thought I would't be able to handle anything higher.

Basically, this is 100% durum at 70% hydration with 20% pre-fermented flour. (Hamelman uses a biga and a liquid levain to pre-ferment 40% of the flour, but I'm a lazy bum with a stiff starter.)

  • 0,5h autolyse
  • mix in starter and salts knead until smooth. Quite surprisingly the dough wasn't sticky at all. Quite elastic though, but not hard to knead.
  • 4 h bulk with folds 0,5h apart. This may have been excessive. Once every hour is probably enough, a dough this elascit doesn't really need structure building. Hamelman likes to describe some doughs as "having muscle". This dough definitely had it (and then some). I think regular AP flour dough would have been ready after 3-3.5h, but this dough didn't really feel soft and puffy even after 4h.
  • divide, pre-shape
  • 0,5h rest (didn't seem to relax or spread at all)
  • roll into something not entirely unlike batards, place in bannetons
  • 1h proof (again, this would have most probably been shorter for other flours)
  • pre-heat oven to 250 C, bake at 220 C with steam for 20 min, ~15 min without steam

Took one loaf to work expecting the taste to be something very distinct. Was somewhat disappointed. Got the crumb shots for both loaves this time though. It was pretty nice with olive oil and balsamic vinegar though. Even if nobody ever brings nice olive oil to break rooms.

 

(Again, the pictures are really flattering. The bread is really quite dense.)

Of course, Jeffrey Hamelman was right all along. 80% hydration would have been more appropriate. That's something to try next.

 

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jl

Reused the previous whole spelt recipe for this one. This dough felt a lot stiffer than spelt, but still the hydration could be lowered a bit.

  • 15% pre-fermented flour (stiff starter), 86% hydration
  • 0.5h autolyse
  • mixed in salt and starter
  • 2.5h bulk fermentation
  • divided and pre-shaped very lightly
  • ~20 min rest
  • shaped and proofed ~45 min
  • baked 20 min with steam, 40 min without @ 220 C

The crumb looks much better in the picture than in real life. This is dense.

I was expecting it to be bitter(ish), but this is actually very tasty.

 

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jl

So far, I haven't managed to bake a successful whole wheat loaf. I've had the dough totally disintegrate a few times and had a fairly tasty (and very crusty) pancake once. Whole wheat ferments very fast and without warning just falls apart. I decided to try spelt, which is supposedly more extensible, but kept the stiff whole wheat starter going, because it's versatile. Lots of recipes contain at least some amount of whole wheat flour, which you can preferment in a stiff starter.

Thus this is basically a whole spelt dough leavened with a whole wheat starter. With a whole spelt starter, the formula would be: 100% whole spelt flour, 86% water, 2% salt with 15% pre-fermented flour. (The amount of whole wheat flour in the starter amounts to 6%.)

Just like wole wheat, this dough ferments very fast too and at 86% hydration gets very messy when it disintegrates, but that doesn't seem to happen as suddenly as with whole wheat. That would take about 3h @ 30 C/86 F with 15% PFF.

I divided it after 2.5h and lightly preshaped the loaves. (Tightening them at all is a very bad idea.) Final shaped after 10 min. Again, it's a bad idea to try to shape them tight. I tore one loaf and it degassed completly. And while it did rise a bit during final proofing it was destined to become break room bread:

This dough proofs very fast, but doesn't seem to much puffier. 700g of dough barely fills a 500g banneton. A 500 g white flour loaf would be way over the top, but this barely reached the rim. It doesn't get much oven spring, either. It just sort of assumes the shape of the banneton and stays that way apart from the crack. And that forms very easily, so there's really no need to score. Barely scratching the surface is enough.

It looks ok in the picture, but the end result is still very dense. Not whole-rye-dense, but still a workout for the jaw. What spelt has going for it though is the taste. I usually don't like warm bread, but this actually tasted very sweet while still warm. With a stiff and active starter there's no perceptible sourness. There's enough acidity to make you want more, but not enough to resister as sour. I absolutely love the taste.

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jl

Technically, he does credit other people for it, but my source for this recipe is his book, so I stand by the title.

This is an interesting recipe, because since the dough hasn't been pre-shaped and isn't proofing in a banneton, there are no other ways to judge the degree of proof than feeling the dough.  

The good bread in less than 3 hours bit is overly optimistic though. Basically with all of the yeasted recipes in the book the bulking and proofing times have been way too short in the home setting. Could it be that larger amount of dough ferment faster? Are the times intentionally shortened to account for dividing and shaping? 

Anyway, I used more yeast and let the dough ferment longer than what the recipe calls for. After 2h (instead of 70 min), the dough felt reasonably puffy and looked like this:

The way to proof it is putting it the good side down onto a floured parchment. Back into the proofer it goes:

And here comes the tricky part. How does one know it's ready to be baked? The dough did rise and spread quite a bit and at some point I got worried it would just flatten out entirely. There were some large bubbles, but also some denser areas. Maybe there would still be enough structure for oven spring:

Maybe it's time to bake it. A somewhat timid slash in the middle and into the oven it goes:

Not too ugly on the outside: 

 A bit dense on the inside:

 

It would have been a good idea to bulk longer and give it one last fold for structure. Needs more practice.

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