The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

JonJ's blog

JonJ's picture

Last week Natalya Syanova of Natasha's Baking posted a short video of a babka with a cream cheese filling that I just had to make. The filling she used was made with cream cheese, an egg yolk,  sugar and vanilla, so you can imagine the resulting flavour, and she also use a brioche base for it to ensure a super soft and pillowy texture.

Instead of using her brioche recipe though, I used a Tangzhong one from Bread by Elise.

The resulting bread is delicious and so soft, although my guilt-o-meter is off the charts when I think of the cholesterol in it.

The crumb is super soft and shreddable with small pieces of cream cheese fat embedded in it and only the very thinnest layer of filling visible in the final bread. I might be inclined to use a more conventional babka dough if I was to repeat as the brioche dough kind of collapsed a little under its own weight while cooling.

And next time I'll chill the cream cheese filling so that it doesn't ooze out during the roll up step of the babka shaping!

JonJ's picture

Benny's 100% wholewheat Hokkaido recipe is the recipe that just keeps on giving, and I keep on seeing miraculous loaves coming from the oven even as the recipe is tweaked and stretched which really surprises someone like me who is used to the experience of failed experiments when things are pushed too far.

One thing about this recipe that you need to be warned about is to not try and bake it late at night because the smell of the loaves as they are baking is so intense that if you're like me you'll want to then stay awake for long enough to let it cool enough to try a slice.

Previously I'd made a dairy free version of the recipe but wanted to stretch it further to see if I could make it without eggs while still making a nice bread. Also, the previous bread used a 'plant butter' that was really just a margarine with good marketing and I wanted to try something better.

In this bread, 14g ground linseeds plus an additional 42g of almond milk were used to replace the 56g of egg that was originally in the recipe. And, this time around I had quite a nice 'vegan butter' which was much less like a factory margarine (see pic, the ingredients were listed as olive oil, coconut oil, soy milk, apple cider vinegar, salt and lecithin).

But the most special ingredient was this bag of Manitoba wholemeal flour that was milled in Israel and baked in South Africa:

A truly international bread.

The one downside to leaving out eggs is that I couldn't get the topping to stick properly. I tried painting the top with melted vegan butter and then sticking the seeds on, which sort of worked, but eggs or something like whey would have given much better stickiness.

I'm not a vegan myself, so tried out slices with the vegan spread and with butter. I must tell you, you can't really beat butter can you, but at least I had something to offer my vegan friend!

The bread itself turned out lovely. I certainly preferred it flavour and texture wise to my previous dairy-free one, but I'm not sure if this was because the vegan butter I used was superior to marge. To be fair, I've only ever made these wholewheat Hokkaido breads with a certain local type of flour, so a large part of what makes this one special is the flour used which seemed to also be finely milled never mind the high protein and great flavour, and I need to try make a bread with this flour that includes all of the dairy and eggs while I still have some left!

JonJ's picture

Maurizio Leo has quite a nice "Stout country recipe" on his web site, although he has promised an improved version for some years (as he did note that the bread could be better with more beer in the recipe).

I've tried making a few beer breads, with say an IPA or a weiss, did make one too with a local stout but I've always found that beer brings a tightness to the crumb and the flavour has been underwhelming although the stout one wasn't too bad. There was a standing joke with a friend that you'd have to prise my Guiness from my dead hands before I used it in a bread, and yet - here I am, still breathing, writing about using Guiness in a bread.

For these breads I used an entire large (440ml) can of Guiness, and since the can included the famous widget, perhaps the extra froth from nitrogen made a difference, or who knows fermentation is just better with nitrogen. The formula listed is based on using more beer, just as Maurizio suggested, and it worked out nicely.

The boule got 40 more minutes final proof at room temp (stopped the bâtard earlier because the banneton was already at the top, not the best reason for stopping earlier I guess).

These are larger than my normal loaves since it had - 1kg flour plus 250g levain for the two loaves. And baked the bâtard a little darker than I would have liked (was engrossed in a work meeting at the time).

Method wise it was a bit of a mixture of methods. I stuck to the quantities from The Perfect Loaf, more or less, with adjustments for the extra beer of the full can. However, the method used was a little different, mostly because the recipes from The Perfect Loaf have a LOT of stretch and folds, and I usually don't manage them all, but did manage 5 here over the first 3 hours. Also, it had an all in one initial mix with both the starter and salt being added up front. Both loaves were pre-shaped. The bâtard only had linseeds for the topping, but for the boule I was more generous with linseeds, sun flower seeds and black sesame.

Overall these were lovelier breads than I expected. The flavours were lovely, the loaves were larger than my usual and a pleasure to eat.

JonJ's picture

This was an experiment to see what happens if Benny's 100% WW Hokkaido is done without dairy. The method was fairly faithful to the original recipe with a direct substitution of 'plant butter' for the butter and commercial almond milk in place of milk, even in the tangzhong.

Egg was still retained, I need to give some thought of what I'd replace the egg with (aquafaba?) if this bread is to be made completely vegan. Will probably try another experiment without egg one day, any egg substitution recommendations?

It's interesting, it made a good bread. The taste is a little sweeter, with more of a vanilla edge to it, this probably comes from the almond milk that I used. In fact, I think I prefer the flavour, it goes better with the wholewheat and scent of the wholewheat.

However, somewhat unsurprisingly, the texture of this bread made with butter was better, it didn't 'ball up' in my mouth in the same way, although this difference is still somewhat minor and I only noticed it because I was looking for it. The 'plant butter' that I used is really a fancy margarine, with good marketing, and although suitable for baking, it didn't contain as much avocado (1%), olive (1%) and coconut fat (6.5%) as the pictures on the packaging suggest. In fact, I'm also thinking of trying this one as well with one of the new breed of vegan butters I've seen around lately, those that are high in coconut oil and that include a large amount of nuts like cashew.


JonJ's picture

Kefir yoghurt has been a supplement to my breakfast for many years now, but I wasn't aware that the kefir culture could be used to leaven bread until Abe mentioned it in a comment here. I don't make a typical kefir, as what I make is very thick and like a yoghurt, I use a lot of "grains" (really gelatinous colonies of microorganisms and casein) and leave it in the milk at room temperature until the curd and whey separate (about 3 days at this time of the year) before straining the yoghurt out. What I make is more like a Finnish viili with a texture somewhat similar to 'slimy or perhaps velvety' commercial yoghurt.

The yoghurt is acidic and makes your mouth pucker, but I'm so used to eating it now that regular yoghurt now tastes unusual.

To make the levain I simply mixed bread flour and strained kefir in equal parts, and left it out overnight in a container:

Disappointingly, it didn't show noticeable bubbles or growth after only one night. Then it went back into the fridge. And got another night out on the counter the following night. This is what it looked like before using and after having spent two nights out on the counter - some bubbles, but not as dramatic as the yeast water preferments, so in the final dough it was used together with some of my stiff desem starter that I had available, as I wanted to ensure the bake would leaven. Next time though, I will trust the kefir levain more and use it as the sole levain.

The complete dough (barring salt) was mixed and left to sit for 30 minutes, then mixed on slow with the dough hook for 10 minutes, then given a 30 minute rest, and finally the salt was added with some bassinage water bringing the hydration to around 70% (assuming yoghurt is about 85% water). It was then given a lamination and placed in the proofer.

With the two preferments, the fermentation was very rapid. I assume the rapidity means that the kefir levain was raising the dough in concert with the regular sourdough levain. After lamination, it took only a further 30 minutes before it had risen by about a third, so it was immediately shaped and then baked an hour and a half later. At the time of baking the aliquot had reached about 200% - so triple the original volume!

The bread got a little stuck in the banneton and getting it from the banneton to the dutch oven was challenging, which explains the irregular shape!

There was an interesting yoghurt-like aroma in the air while it was baking; and the sour tang from the kefir itself is noticeable in the taste of the final bread.

What is most interesting about this bread is the very unusual crumb texture, soft and a little silky or like a tangzhong bread and spongy mouth feel to it. I am wondering if it is from the fats in the bread (it is different to the breads I've made with buttermilk or oil or milk), or if this is something similar to what the CLAS people get.

The salt flavour was more noticeable too, although the usual amount of salt was used.

Definitely will make it again as I liked the bread, but I also want to see how repeatable this bake is and want to find out what it will be like when the kefir levain is the only levain.


JonJ's picture

Should have made this one sooner. Benny has hit on something really lovely here with 100% WW Hokkaido milk breads, and the recipe is simply superb.

This bake was done by following his 2.0 version of the recipe as his later versions seemed to show that a small amount vital wheat gluten was a good thing.

As always there are some deviations. Obviously my flour was different. I used a 'sprouted' hard-white wholemeal flour for this bread. Normally that flour is a little bland and doesn't make much of a crust, but it actually was perfect for this recipe and is actually the locally grown flour with the highest protein that I can find.

Another thing is that my usual sourdough starter seems to be a little bit of a delayed bloomer sometimes on sugary doughs. When I looked at the sweet stiff levain there was growth after 12 or 13 hours, but nothing like Benny showed in his pics:

So, I got a little nervous that this one would just take forever and did substitute 10g of the full-cream milk with some yeast water to act as insurance (taken from the sediment at the bottom of the jar, which I believe to be more potent). I did also keep back 20g of the milk as per the recommendation. I do think that culturing a sweet stiff levain for a few days before the next bake might be prudent for getting a starter that is already acclimatized to enriched doughs.

The other thing is that most of the common loaf pans in my part of the world are broad and flat rather than the classical "Pullman" shape. I do have a Zenker pan which is a little like the Pullman, but that is one huge pan! So, I opted for one of my medium sized pans that is a little broader and fatter - 24cm X 7cm X 13cm, just a touch smaller in volume than Benny's recipe, but I didn't scale down the recipe and kept it the same.

The new video from Benny with the shaping is what finally planted the idea in my mind that I need to make the bread. Shaping was fun, although I did struggle to make 4 identical rolls, as usual could get 3 the same, but the 4th, well, there is always one. And maybe with some experience I'll eventually be able to roll them up so that the centres of the rolls don't stick out on the ends. But the rolls were super tight and strong and could feel that they were ready to give good oven spring when they went into the pan.

When it came to the final proof, I did find that the bread was looking quite ready for baking at about 4 hours after shaping, judging by the aliquot jar:


I could have gone an extra hour (to 5 hours), as the aliquot jar after baking looked like this after baking, but was worried about overflowing the pan spectacularly and still got great oven spring:

There's a chance that the YW gave this a speedier ferment, also, I think using a sprouted flour might have given some boost.

The amazing thing about this bread is I couldn't believe it was 100% whole grain, it is super soft and doesn't have that astringent whole wheat taste that you can sometimes get. Using a hard white flour was a good choice, it turned out, although I probably will throw in some red wheat next time, or try another wholewheat altogether just to see the difference. The smell after baking was particularly intoxicating and the kids and I just hovered near the kitchen waiting long enough for it to cool down to taste. Super bread and super recipe, highly recommended.


JonJ's picture

Dan's recent questions, and all of the recent discussions about yeast water have made me think of ways of making it more reliable.

With a double build preferment, as was done in the Swiss Farmhouse community bake, yeast water breads can be reliable. We end up waiting to see if the first build of preferments starts to increase in size and show all the signs of active yeast fermentation and then use that to start another preferment which is used for the final bread. It works reliably once we know the first preferment works and because of the high amount of preferment in the final dough the bread bulks and proofs rapidly. The trouble is that it involves advanced planning!

A single build preferment, while not as reliable does work too (however, occasionally it fails to grow, and it is hard to gauge visually if the fizzy yeast water in the fridge has enough active yeast).

But what if we could drop the preferments altogether and just work with the liquid yeast water directly in the final dough? Other bakers, like Caroline seem to be able to get this to work. Maybe they just use a large amount of yeast water; or there is confidence that it is fresh and was fed recently. When I've tried it, it has been haphazard with the occasional 20 hour plus fermentation time, so not reliable for me yet.

The recent experiments with the sediment at the bottom of the yeast water jars for me indicated that it might be possible to use that as a form of 'concentrated' yeast water. It worked well at a high bakers percentage in that basic test - 20g of sediment/slurry had strong raising power.

How would it work as the sole leavening source for a bread? What I like about malt yeast water is that it propagates rapidly and there is no requirement to strain fruit pieces.

For this bread then, I cultured 56g of existing malt yeast water with 71g of malt extract syrup and 710g of water (so a ratio of 1:10 malt extract to water). After 24 hours, even with the jar kept exclusively at fridge temperatures, which I prefer to do, there already seemed to be a large build up of sediment. Wasn't ready to bake then so used it a day later when it was 45 hours from the initial feeding. After siphoning off the top I could get 41g of the concentrated sediment that was settled at the bottom of the jar. It was surprising that it was only 41g - thought it looked like more and maybe I should have left it in the fridge for more that 45 hours to get more sediment.

After siphoning carefully

This 41g was used to make a bread with 400g of flour (so the concentrate was at a baker's percentage of 10.25%). It performed a bit like a slow sourdough, and took 6 hours at 26°C(79°F) before the dough was at about 55% volume increase when it could be shaped and cold retarded overnight. A lot slower than the initial basic test, but the amount used was much lower.

Here's the bread after baking the next day:

(What makes the bottom lift like this on the baking steel? Baked at 230C for the initial part of the bake when it lifted like this; it almost looks like it is hovering on the breadboard!)

The lazy part of me is questioning if this method is worth doing when it is very easy to go and buy a sachet of instant yeast which would have a similar effect. I guess the bread itself, because this is yeast water might be more acidic than with commercial yeast, but don't yet have a pH meter to confirm that! It was certainly nice enough to eat, see the pic for yourself.

I think this approach might be more successful with faster fermentation, and for that would probably need a larger amount of the concentrate and to try it at a baker's percentage of say 20% or higher (but would also have to make sure that the non-diastatic malt added in wouldn't get too high!).


JonJ's picture

Weet-bix (in South Africa and Australia, or Weetabix in the UK, apparently available in the US too...) is a breakfast cereal of 'biscuits' of wholegrain wheat biscuits. The usual way we eat it in my family is with a sprinkle of sugar on top and then allow it to soak up the milk. It can really soak up the milk. It's quite a comfort food, and would be a great way to increase dietary fibre and be fairly healthy too (if it wasn't for the aforementioned sugar).

Because of the comfort food thing, thought it might be great in bread. I know it is used in biscuit and rusk recipes here. I found this recipe from Australia for a bread made with self-raising flour which gave me some ideas how to create a sourdough bread recipe.

That recipe allowed the weet-bix to soak up the milk overnight and then used that in the dough the next day, so I followed along with the idea making an overnight soaker with some sugar and the raisins too. The soaker had already soaked up all the milk even before it went into the fridge. If I was to rework the recipe I'd use the dry biscuits in the initial dough mix instead. The problem with adding an ingredient that soaks up moisture is similar to the oat porridge recipes, you end up crafting a recipe with a high nominal hydration, or the final dough is of such a low hydration to compensate for the wet soaker that will be eventually added that it is pretty stiff and it is difficult to combine the components together.

This is what happened here, my final dough was pretty stiff, even after it was mixed with the levain. The Weet-bix soaker was added to that and my poor mixer struggled to combine with the stiff dough. I had made a yeast water preferment to act as insurance in case I needed it, so that was also included to try and loosen up the dough mixture.The raisins, walnuts and cinnamon were added at the end to the mixer.  Mixed for a total of 20 minutes.

The resultant dough had a horrid texture, unlike anything I've ever worked with before. From the mixer it went into a Pyrex dish in the proofer, but trying to coil fold it was a nightmare. There was lots of gluten visible, sheeting of the dough, but trying to lift and stretch it didn't work - it was more like working with a rye dough that fails to 'stretch' or show cohesiveness. Someone who was visiting called it a primordial gloop bread.

In a moment of temporary insanity of struggling with the gloop I threw it into the large loaf pan (a 30cm Zenker) which was a mistake as the pan was too large, so I ended up with a flat bread. It was baked for 60 minutes in the pan at 200°C(392°F), covered for the first 20 minutes with foil.

The bread itself is really interesting. In some ways it is like a giant Weet-bix. The crust crackles when you bite it, and the texture of the interior is a little like a creamy weet-bix biscuit that has been allowed to soak up all the milk. Being flat isn't such a bad thing, as it has given me more crust per slice. I do like eating the bread, but on the other hand a whole loaf of it may be a bit much so most of the loaf has now been sliced and frozen. I'll have toast made with it when I need a comfort food snack.


JonJ's picture

I had all of the best intentions of sticking to the recipe on this one but diverged. Caroline's "39% WW triple levain w/ Holy Trinity add ins Pullman Loaf" intrigued me and I had every intention to make one exactly the same, but then I thought.... well I've got some spelt sprouts growing, why don't I use those instead of the wholewheat? And when it came time to adding the ingredients I realized we'd run out of honey! And my homemade buttermilk, while lovely didn't have a sour taste, it was more like a yoghurt.

Spelt sprouts

2 day old spelt sprouts


Home made buttermilk

The home made buttermilk curds used had the texture and taste of yoghurt rather than the sour buttermilk taste.

So technique: the starter used was my desem starter, revived from being semi-desiccated. I used that to make two levains - white bread flour and rye. Only had 125g of spelt sprout pulp which was added to the initial mix together with 200g of bread flour (instead of the 335g Rouge de Bordeaux fresh milled). And when it came to adding bread flour later 415g of bread flour was used (instead of the 335g of T65). I've got confidence now that sprouted wheat works well in bread, but still am working on how to translate a mass of pulped sprouts into an equivalent mass of wholewheat flour when it comes to calculations. Since we were just out of honey I used 20g of golden syrup to make up for the lack of simple sugars that the 42g of honey would have given. Played it safe though as didn't know if this was a good idea, so only 20g. With hindsight, I should probably have used treacle. The dough went straight from the mixer to the loaf pan, it didn't go into a bowl first, all of the bulking happened in the pan.

Bake time was 55 minutes at 190°C (374°F) followed by an additional 5 minutes out of pan. I did cover it with foil towards the end so that the top wouldn't get too dark.

This was a very nice bread. It was lovely fresh and really nice warm with spreads. Got a bit more sour tasting after a few days. It didn't have much of a wholewheat or spelt taste. I did notice the semolina crunch when I toasted slices of it. All in all, a very easy way to make lots of tasty bread especially if you're the kind who freezes slices. The recipe did remind me a little bit of Maurizio's sandwich bread with tangzhong which has olive oil and honey in it.


JonJ's picture

David Snyder has previously posted a magnificent recipe for a Buttermilk-Spelt sourdough bread (originally by Cecilia Agni Hadiyanto). This is a tweak of David's recipe to accommodate a large preferment, mostly because I've lately been wanting shorter bulk and proof times on my breads. Since my sourdough starter hadn't been fed for a week in the fridge when I did this one, I also added in a yeast water preferment as an insurance that the bread would rise.

Both preferments were used when they were 8.5 hours old. The formula adjustments that I needed to make to the recipe meant that I used less buttermilk than David did (in order to feed the sourdough preferment with water rather than buttermilk).

Unusually, the sourdough levain had great bubble development and was already 'pourable' after 8.5 hours old whereas the apple yeast water build looked fairly young with poorer bubble development. Probably this was because the apple yeast water from the fridge wasn't as active as the visual fizz seemed to suggest.

I've had a few problems in the past with spelt overextending and spreading, even turning into a dough 'soup', so was a little extra cautious, I added in 10g of VWG to be increase the chance of success, and actually ended up using 30g less of the buttermilk than I intended because I had held some back.

Even so, there were a few minutes when I was watching the mixer worrying that it wouldn't come together, but after 8 minutes on the dough hook it started to look like it would clean the bowl and the salt was added only at that point which tightened the gluten noticeably. I gave it 9.5 minutes on the dough hook in total and tried to do good gluten development upfront because of the speedy ferment.

This bread had 2 hours of bulk ferment at 27°C/80°F (with a single fairly tight fold about halfway through), and a further 40 minutes for final proof (on the wine-bottle couche) before immediately baking. The aliquot jar showed around 55% volume increase at the time of shaping and 105% when it went into the oven, where I baked on a baking steel.

The bread came out quite dark, even though I only baked it for 38 minutes. There was nice oven spring and an even crumb.

David is right, this bread makes for exceptional eating and I can see myself making it again and again. The buttermilk made it a bit sour and the ~40% wholemeal spelt (a bit lower in this version) gave it a bit of nuttiness. In fact, it tasted a lot like a rye. My personal jury is out if I prefer it over Caroline's holy trio of Olive-oil/buttermilk/honey which tastes just a wee bit similar, although sweeter, so I guess I'll have to repeat this exercise again but with some olive oil and honey!


Subscribe to RSS - JonJ's blog