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Joe Fisher

Whew, it's been a while since my last post! I've been busy opening a brewery,

I went up to Skowhegan, ME for the Kneading Conference this year, in part to learn about using more local grains in my beer, and part to take the home baker's course. It rekindled my fire for bread, and I've been baking up a storm.

Anadama bread came from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and the wheat berry whole wheat loaves are from Bread Alone.

For the Anadama bread, I find that following the formula gives me pancake batter. I had to add a significant amount of extra flour to get the dough just to come to a ball (well over a cup), then a lot more during kneading to get the "definitely not sticky" consistency called for. I had to add more salt to compensate (tasted the dough as I worked). I haven't checked the hydration percentages as written to see if there's a typo, but I'll do that when I have the books in front of me.

As for the loaves themselves, you absolutely must make this if you haven't yet. Almost impossibly soft, just a little sweet, with a cornmeal crunch on the crust.

For the whole wheat bread, I went off the formula a bit. I mixed the dough fairly wet, then did three stretch-and-folds at 30 minute intervals instead of the 15-minute knead called for in the recipe. Since there is a high percentage of wheat, I wanted the best chance for an open, chewy crumb, and I think I nailed it. The texture and flavor of the whole wheat berries in there with the lovely chewy crumb is just delightful. The slashes on the round loaf aren't great, and since I had to bake on the back of a sheet pan the loaves were a smidge misshapen, but that certainly didn't affect the flavor!

Polenta, wheat berries and sifted whole wheat flour came Maine Grains in Skowhegan. White flour was plain old Gold Medal AP flour.

Once I figure out the media library I'll upload more pictures. In the meantime, click here for a full album!

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Joe Fisher

More loaves from the excellent Bread Alone. Click any picture to biggify it.

This time I adulterated the sourdough rye to add whole wheat berries and cracked wheat. I soaked the wheat berries overnight in leftover whey from making ricotta the day before.

First order of business, of course, is feeding my starter the day before to get it ready. Saturday morning I fed it:

By evening it was rarin' to go!

Next I built up the rye starter with coarse rye.

The next morning I put the dough together. It was a lively loaf--kept trying to escape.

Then a bulk ferment and we're ready for dividing and bannetons.

Back into the oven to proof again.

Onto the peel to be slashed and carefully conveyed to the 550F stone.

A short while later, out comes the fruits of our labor. Gorgeous mahogany crust, chewy, delicious interior. A nice way to spend a lazy Sunday!

 Edit: That last link was to the wrong bread!

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Joe Fisher

While cleaning up some of my brewing equipment, I noticed the water getting colder and colder. Out of propane! I called the company, took Monday off to wait for the guy, then decided it'd be a great excuse for some sourdough!

I refreshed my starter with some locally grown and milled whole wheat bread flour. I decided to do the basic Pain au Levain in Bread Alone, with the addition of a bunch of fresh rosemary I had in the fridge.

The dough is about 20% whole wheat. I was going to do baguettes, but I changed my mind and went for one, epic, 4lb miche. A 2.5 hour initial rise, followed by a 2.5 hour proof in a banneton yielded this beautiful thing (click the pictures for bigness). Look at his majesty, filling up that peel!

It came out of the oven and talked to me for a while, the crust crackling and snapping as it cooled. Flavor was excellent. Not super-tangy, but very pleasant. Crumb is nice and soft, crust is good and chewy.

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Joe Fisher

I've been looking to branch out with the grains I use in my breads. Flipping through Bread Alone, I found a recipe for wheat bread with whole wheat berries. A friend just happened to have a jar of wheat berries on hand, so I was in business!

First things first: soak the wheat berries overnight.


Next we prepare the dough. The recipes in Bread Alone are fairly big--this guy weighed in at 4# 4oz! It's right about the limit for my 5.5qt Kitchenaid. You can see the dough trying to escape below. I kneaded for 6 minutes, then finished by hand for some undertermined time. The wheat berries kept trying to escape from the dough, so I had to chase them around the counter as I kneaded. I'm sure it was terribly comical.


After a 2-hour rise, I split the dough in half, formed them into boules, and popped them into my prepared bannetons.


While they were rising, I prepared for hearth baking, with my Fibrament stone on the bottom and a sheet pan for water on top.


After almost 2 hours, it was time to bake. Out of the banneton and onto my Superpeel, then slashed and into the oven. The oven had been heating at 550F for about 45 minutes.


After putting water in the steam pan, I reduced the temp to the 450F the recipe calls for. 15 minutes later I rotated the loaves and reduced the temp to 400F. 15 more minutes, and bread's done!


This recipe is a definite keeper. The inside is soft and chewy, the high whole wheat content lends tons of flavor, and the whole wheat berries add a welcome little crunch and their own flavor to the party.


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Joe Fisher

I helped a good friend plan a New Year's Eve party. We went with a Persian theme. When she suggested lavash, I was excited to give it a try. She broke out Food of Life and we found a recipe. There were two given: one was (heavily) enriched with butter and milk, the other was lean; it's basically French bread dough with sugar. We decided on the lean version.

The dough went together like any other lean dough. I kneaded it about 4 minutes in the Kitchenaid, then a few minutes by hand. Then almost a 2 hour rise and it was time to cook!

I started by cutting a ball off the dough and flattening it out. Next rolled it to about 6", let it rest a few minutes for the gluten to relax, then finished rolling it to about 8-10". After that I stretched it across my hands--a lot like making pizza--by tossing it back and forth.


Then the recipe called for a "baker's cushion". It's a round pillow with a cotton cloth tied over it. The idea is to stretch the dough over the cushion to get it round and correctly-sized. I didn't have a good substitute, so I flipped over a big, stainless bowl and put tea towels over it. Worked perfectly! You can see this is a very serious job.


Now the fun part. The recipe calls for a saj, which is a cast iron griddle that may be flat or domed. Since I didn't have one, the recipe suggested an upside-down wok. I put it over my biggest burner, put the heat on low, and it worked a treat! They only required 1-2 minutes each to cook.


And of course, the finished products. The seed mix is nigella and toasted sesame. The recipe says to sprinkle the seeds on after you put the dough on the saj, but there's no way they'd have sticked. I brushed them with a little melted butter and sprinkled after they were done.

They were delicious on their own, as well as being a vehicle for some wonderful eggplant dip, and being transformed into the magical tahdig at the bottom of the rice pot.


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Joe Fisher

The 100% rye was a completely different animal. Using a combination of white and medium rye flours, the dough was really strange and plastic--more like working with soft modeling clay than bread dough. Being the first time I'd done this, I just trusted the recipe and hoped for the best.

Rises were long, probably owing to the cool temps in the kitchen. The first rise was around 5 hours, the second almost 3. It came out of the brotform still fairly dense and heavy for its size.

I pressed on, slashing it and getting it in the oven for about 35 minutes. I was rewarded with this beauty:

The texture was not the dense, gluey mess I was expecting. It actually has a very pleasing, almost sandwich rye crumb.

And the flavor is just indescribable. It's like a rye punch in the mouth. Delicious, deep, complex. I will most definitely be making this one again!

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Joe Fisher

So I thought I'd test 'em out with some sourdough! You may have seen a previous post I made (which probably should have been a blog post) about getting back into sourdough. I'm going to break this into two posts because of all the pictures.

Both recipes came from Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice - 100% rye and pumpernickel. First order of business was prepping starters for the two recipes, remembering to refresh what's left of my starter. I like to add the water to the starter to break it up and soften it, making it easier to incorporate into the final product.

Next up: bulk rises, then flour up those bannetons! I sprayed them with aerosol oil and used a 50/50 mix of AP and rice flour to fill the gaps. These are big, 10" jobs, so the full 2# batch of dough went right into each.

The pumpernickel went together nicely, the dough handled well. Got a good rise in the banneton, and it rolled right out onto my makeshift peel without incident.

A little slash, 40 minutes in the oven, and oh-my-gosh picture perfect.

Crumb is soft, and surprisingly light. Crust was good and crunchy, and has softened to chewy over the evening. And yes, that heel was the baker's treat, complete with homemade cultured butter.

To be continued...


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Joe Fisher

Nice to be back baking :)

 Here's some challah from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  My first try at challah, they're as tasty as they are nice to look at.  The inside is soft, sweet and light.  Exactly what I think of when I think challah.





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Joe Fisher

I ran myself right out of bread flour today :)

First we have some poppyseed "bloomers." Last time I followed the recipe to make one loaf and it was gigantic! This time I broke it in two.


To bring to dinner at my brother's house today, I made a pile of grissini. These are super easy to make and very tasty, what with the extra virgin olive oil and rosemary in them.


Then, of course, my old stand by. Rheinhart's NY Deli sourdough rye. Always a big favorite with those sautee'd onions and caraway in there. Soft as can be and twice as delicious :)




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Joe Fisher

My sourdough techniques have really come a long way. This weekend's loaf was far and away the best I've made. Delicious, sour, great crumb and texture, it had it all. I used about 25% whole wheat flour.

So what's for dinner? Turkey bacon lightly fried in a skillet then put on top of tangy Greek grilling cheese on my fresh sourdough. The whole sandwich goes back on the skillet and a hot cast iron skillet is put on top to press it down. Some green beans lightly sautee'd with garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and some garlic dill pickles to round it out.

Oh, and a pint of English ale. Who's got it better than me? :)



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