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wally's blog

wally's picture

It has been a long time since I have posted anything on The Fresh Loaf.  Having become more deeply entrenched as a professional baker has left me less time to bake at leisure.  And having helped to launch a new restaurant in Washington, DC has entailed too many days of continuous work to allow the time to bake for myself and share the joys and tribulations on this forum. 

But after a couple months since our opening I found myself one early morning placing wheat-rye sourdough boules onto the loader and shaking my head at how pathetic they looked after nearly a day in refrigeration, yet confident that they would not disappoint.

So as I journeyman baker I share these thoughts:

Bread is magical, but also a form of magic.  Like Penn & Teller, but instead of applauding you get to eat the magic. 

The photo above is a good demonstration of the magic of bread.  While I'm a professional baker and help perform the magic each day - Teller to the dough's Penn - I never cease to be amazed at the magic which bakers call "oven spring."  It is a phenomenon which occurs within the first 15 minutes of a loaf's bake, and when successful, it beats sawing a pretty lady in a box in half hands down.

If you look at the piece of dough on the right, you cannot help but be struck at how much it resembles nothing so much as a frisbee.  And yet, if the baker and the dough have worked their magic well, in 45 minutes the flatish frisbee has sprung up to become the beautiful round loaf (called a boule) you see on the left.

Not only is this magic, it is a performance conducted daily without a net:  By which I mean, if for some reason the baker and the dough have not worked together well, the result is not a beautiful tall boule but a barely risen loaf.  And because of that, every day when I load dough into our oven, I tremble looking at how flat and deflated my boules look, and hope that the result will be magical and not a disappointment.

Ok, the hope is actually an expectation.  But I am working with a living organism. This is a relationship. Miscommunication can occur. You and the dough may not be on the same page for any number of reasons.  And so, you never have certainty that the resulting bake will meet or exceed your expectations.  "Hope" is a good way of putting the feeling I experience when I load these loaves each day. 

There are, of course, technical, scientific explanations for oven spring and how it is that a seemingly defeated, deflated round of dough can and will rise into a mountain of a loaf.  But they are not nearly as wonderous as witnessing the event first hand.  And in the end, they take none of the wonder away from this truly magical event.

Some other pictures of this and other loaves as they transformed themselves into beautiful wheat-rye sourdough boules over a long bake in a deck oven.

For starters, freshly formed boules placed on a floured board before being retarded:

 Loaves being baked and cooling on racks after baking:

We call this a "bold" bake, and the sweetness of the bread's crumb contrasts nicely with the slight char on the surface of the boule's crust.

And finally, the interior crumb that magic and a successful bake produced:

This is what gets me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning.

And protects me against the cynicism which can easily come with age.

Because as long as I can bake bread, I'll believe in magic.

Best regards to all,


wally's picture

Ok, I'm officially a lurker these days, reading and soaking in others' bread adventures but mostly too busy to contribute or respond.

But here I grant myself an exception because I've come across a sandwich bread which is worth sharing IMHO.

I spent last Mother's Day with Mom (extra points here!) outside of Clearwater, Florida.  We had a wonderful week together which included revelling in good food.  The high point of that was a visit to William Dean Chocolates, a home to artisan chocolates that makes calories melt away in insufficiency to the joy of truly great chocolate.

One day we had simple ham and turkey sandwiches on an onion rye bread Mom had found at the local supermarket.  The bread was wonderful!  Not too much onion and a smattering of poppy seed.  It made our sandwich and I decided to recreate it once I returned from vacation.

I've experimented with this recipe and tweaked it a couple times and I'm now happy with it and ready to offer it up to all comers.

It is, I think, a fabulous sandwich bread (unless you and onions aren't copasetic).

Here is the recipe:

I've made this with a small addition of yeast, as found above, and also as a wholly levain bread (without the IDY) retarded for about 21 hours.  The latter achieves a slightly more sour flavor than that which has the IDY and is baked the same day.  But both are delicious!

This produces two 1.5# loaves or one large 3# bâtard which is pictured.

The levain and sour are mixed and allowed to stand for 12-14 hours until ripe.  At the same time mix dried, chopped onions with beer - my favorite is a dark beer, Negro Modelo - and allow to stand overnight.  (I suspect that fresh onions, or caramelized onions would impart wonderful flavors as well, but I have a large jar of dried onions so I elected to use them and console myself with the need to rehydrate them in beer.  In any case, if using fresh onions, adjustsments - downward - of hydration will be necessary).

For the final dough, mix levains, rehydrated onions and water to disperse the levains, and then add the flours, salt and yeast (if not retarding).  I mix about 3 minutes on speed one and then crank up my Hamilton Beach to speed 3 for about 5 minutes.  You should aim for a moderate gluten development - not windowpane but partially there. 

Primary fermentation is about 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 minute intervals.  After that, divide, pre-shape and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes, then shape into bâtards. Final proof is about 1 - 1.5 hours.  (If retarding, I proof for 1.5 hours and then refrigerate.  NOTE:  My downstairs refrigerator is old and holds a temp (whatever I attempt) of 40-42 degrees.  So, with respect to sourdough, that effectively shuts down fermentation.  If retarding in a hotter environment then you want to probably aim for a final proof of 80%-90% before retarding and then bake right out the retarder).

The bake for 1.5 # loaves with instant dry yeast is at 440° F for 35-40 minutes with steam for the first 15 minutes.  For fully levain bread I preheat the oven for 1 hour to 475°, during which I allow the refrigerated loaves to finish proofing.  In this case, I bake at 475° for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 420° and bake for another 20-25 minutes (you may want to tent the bread during the last 15 minutes if the color becomes too dark).

The pics are of a 3# loaf I baked for a local restaurant, so baking times and temps were varied.  But the result is the same - an enjoyable sandwich bread. 

Add a little mustard, a little mayo and your favorite sandwich meats and you have sandwich satisfaction.

Larry aka Baker Bob

NOTE: Whoops!  Just noticed I fat fingered by bread flour percentage in the formula: It should read 79.46%, bringing the overall percentage to 178.62.  The rest of the figures are correct.  Apologies.


wally's picture

Ok, rye and rut do start with the same letter,  and I'm probably in a rye rut, but it's a tasty place to be so I'll live with it awhile longer.

I was so pleased with the openness of my last loaf that I decided to repeat it with a few variations to see if I could still obtain a fairly open crumb structure.  Here's the recipe:

Although this is, like the previous loaf, a 72% rye with 100% hydration, I decided to omit the hot rye soaker.  In its place I substituted a cold soaker for the seeds on the morning of the bake - so a soaker for about an hour.

The rye sour was prepared the previous evening, and because our temps are starting to fall, it took a full 14 hours until I deemed it sufficiently domed and ready for use.  In the meantime, I prepared the seed soaker using sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and all the remaining water that would go into the final dough.

Rye sour and soaker were mixed together on Speed 1, and while they incorporated I mixed the high gluten flour, rye flour and salt.  These were added and mixed on Speed 1 for 10 minutes.  Like the former loaf, there is no discernable gluten development - what you have is a pudding.

The primary fermentation was allowed to go for 50 minutes until I saw a good increase in volume.  I then gently scraped the dough into an oiled bread pan, degassing it slightly, but trying to retain as much of the gas as possible.  The final proof was a full hour until the dough had increased about 50% in volume.

The bread was baked with steam for 75 minutes, starting at 460° F, and stepping the temp down by 25 degree increments every 15 minutes.

As with the previous loaf, when it had cooled I wrapped it in linen for two days before cutting.

Here's the result:


I'm again very pleased with the openness of the crumb given the relatively high rye content.  The seeds provide a nice added  flavor, and this time the inclusion of more sunflower seeds than sesame by weight gives the bread a noticeable crunch that I like.  Lightly toasted, the flavor of the seeds is even more pronounced.

While I'll probably start playing with 80 and 90% ryes next, this one at 72% is a real keeper that just doesn't disappoint.



wally's picture

It's been a long time since I've participated in TFL.  It seems that baking for a living has become nearly all-consuming, and while I lurk around here looking at the wonderful breads being baked, I haven't had the time or inclination to even comment on what I see.

Back in April our bakery, located in a restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC ,was flooded when the Potomac River overtopped a levee that had (for reasons no one has yet explained) been only partially raised.  The results were devastating: our restaurant and two others were destroyed.  At the time we were supplying bread for our restaurant, a sister restaurant and one of the restaurants on the waterfront that was flooded.  We were working with close to 700 lbs of dough a day when the disaster struck.

In the aftermath, our sister restaurant - Founding Farmers - was forced to purchase nearly all their breads for several months.  The exception was the production of English muffins, which a couple of us did from midnight until 6am each morning in the cramped kitchen at Founding Farmers which was simultaneously being cleaned and awash in water and suds.  It was an unpleasant couple months, but we were lucky to still have jobs, so that trumped our discomfort.

Eventually we were able to lease space at a commercial cake bakery while a new bakery is constructed for us.  Life has returned to normal - I now begin my day at 4am (bankers hours by bakers' standards), and we work in a well-equipped kitchen with  a 4 deck hearth oven and double stack of convection ovens.  Below is a rack of freshly baked ciabatta awaiting delivery to Founding Farmers.

During this time I've continued my own baking adventures at home, mainly involving pain au levain, ryes and a memorable fougasse consumed on the lawn at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts while listening to kd lang.

But lately, I've focused more on ryes, and last week I returned to a favorite of mine: a 72% rye with a rye soaker and seeds.  It's a 100% hydration dough, due to the seeds (in this case, equal weights of sesame and sunflower), which means that you pretty much pour the dough/batter into pans.  There is no shaping or bench resting with this dough.

Below is the formula I constructed.  This produces 3 x 1.5# loaves.

I mix the dough for about 10 minutes on speed 1.  What makes this dough particularly interesting,  I think, is that there is no water in the final mix: All the water is used in the levain and the rye soaker.

This dough has a short fermentation period and only slightly longer proof before it is baked.  I fermented it for 35 minutes, and then poured it into the pans, where it proofed for 55 minutes.  I docked the tops of the loaves using a fork.


They went into a pre-steamed oven at 475 ° F oven.  After 15 minutes I reduced the temperature by 25 °, and continued to do so until the loaves had baked for 75 minutes (so the final bake temp was 375 ° ).

Loaves were cooled on wire racks, and once cooled wrapped in linen for 48 hours before I cut into them.

I'm quite happy with the result.  The crumb has a nice openness for a high percentage rye, and the combination of the seeds enhances the flavor - especially if the bread is lightly toasted.

Still being a goat cheese aficiando, I enjoy it with this tasty rye in the afternoon - often with a nice glass of rye whiskey!



wally's picture


Today was a much needed day off from work. I love the new job, but we're pushing out about 650# of dough per day with an average of 3.4 bakers, and as our production is increasing we're going from comfortably busy to close to overwhelmed.

Anyway, a day to sleep in and generally relax, and of course, do some baking.

I fired up my white and rye starters last night, not certain what use I would put them to.  This morning I came downstairs and decided I wanted some good multigrain sandwich bread and turned to Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain.  Of course, I had neglected to make a soaker using the seeds the previous night, but I went ahead and mixed about a cup and a half of the following: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and rolled oats, and poured about 240g of boiling water over them.  Lidded the container and let it sit for about 40 minutes.

From that point I pretty much followed Hamelman's recipe, with the exceptions that I used my rye starter to supplement my regular levain, and also in place of the cracked rye he uses as one of the five grains.  I also added a small portion of sunflower seeds and rolled oats not used in the soaker directly into the dough which was quite wet.

Bulk fermentation was 1 1/2 hours, with a fold at 45 minutes.  By that time, a very slack dough had firmed up considerably due to the thirsty seeds.

I divided the dough, preshaped, rested and made on boule and one bâtard.  Fnal proof was just a little over 1 1/2 hours. 

The breads were baked at 450 degrees F for 40 minutes.  I didn't get a whole lot of oven spring because I really pushed the proof, but as the bâtard clearly shows that the cuts opened nicely, so the dough had a bit of final push in it.

As Hamelman comments, this is a lovely table bread.  The flavors of the grains, seeds and mixed levains are pleasant and complementary, and the crumb is wonderfully light and moist.  Hamelman comments on the fact that the 98% hydration of the dough is not a misprint, but testament to the capacity of the grains and seeds to absorb moisture. 

Even so, the texture of the crumb is light and fluffy.


A perfect sandwich bread!  And tomorrow (and another day off), I'll be piling cold cuts high on it.


wally's picture

I've been out of the loop for sometime now, and indeed, this may be a brief 'coming up for air.'  I have a new job baking at a restaurant which provides the breads for itself, its sister restaurant, and another adjacent restaurant.  Right now we mix and bake about 600 - 800 lbs of dough per day, but that will increase as summer nears.  In addition, our restaurant group is planning on opening two new locations in the area between now and September, so our production requirements will increase substantially in the coming months.

Our major doughs are ciabatta (we'll bake 250- 300 lbs of 1 lb loaves per day, plus a couple hundred small 'ciabattinis'); pain au lait which is used for hamburger, slider and lobster rolls; English muffins; loaf breads (rye, white, multigrain), and a line of hearth breads we're just in the process of rolling out for retail sale at the restaurant.  And then there's homemade biscuits and cinnamon buns for Sunday brunch.

So I'm finding myself both overjoyed at the opportunity (we may be getting our own bakery built toward year's end) and overwhelmed by all that's happening.

Today, on my day off I practiced a bake of a new biscuit recipe.  And then decided to keep some long-neglected promises to provide croissants and pain au chocolat to my doctor's office (which has, over many years, provided 'no charge' treatment and advice on occasion) and the head chef at my local pub who provided my last 50# of KA Sir Galahad gratis.  It is a good thing to repay debts - particularly debts of kindness.

The recipe I used can be found here.  It's an adaptation of Dan DiMuzio's in his excellent textbook (as opposed to cookbook), Bread Baking. My only deviation was to up the butter content by 5% (it was convenience, not conviction).

The dough I made last night, and this morning I incorporated the butter block.  I gave the dough two series of single-folds, followed by a double-fold.  It was refrigerated for 20 minutes between the butter block incorporation, two-single folds and double (book) fold.  I then placed it in the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill well, before my final manipulation.

After 3 hours I removed the dough, which measured about 7"x 16" and cut it in two unequal parts, leaving me with one piece 7" x 10" long and one 7" x 6" approximately.  One I returned the the fridge and the other I proceeded to roll out to a rectangle about 14" high by 21" long.  After lightly flouring the surface I folded the dough top to bottom, to form a rectangle 7" x 21".  From this I cut out triangles of 4 1/2" width. 

The first batch of dough yielded 14 croissants.  The second piece I rolled out to a height of 8" and a length of 18".  I again folded it width-wise and cut in into 3 1/2" lengths, yielding 10 rectangles for the pain au chocolat.


Proofing was 3 1/2 hours, which is fairly lengthy, but my house temperature was at about 70 degrees F, so I allowed it to proceed at its own pace.  I covered the croissants and pain au chocolats with plastic wrap during final proof, but did not apply eggwash until just before placing them in the oven.

Bake was, following DonD's recommendation, 15 minutes: 5 min at 425F, 5 min at 400F, and 5 min at 375F.


In future bakes, I want to up the recipe amount: I think my current dough yields croissants that are a wee bit smaller than I'd like them to be.

Ok, bedtime at 8pm for risetime at 3am.

Best to all-



wally's picture

Sharon (fishers) posted this video series originally and we both felt it should be easily available to TFL members.  The series, entitled Formes de pains covers a variety of breads, either baguette- or batard-shaped originally, and demonstrates how to decoratively slash them as well.  It's a gold mine of both familiar and less familiar breads you would run across in a French market.



wally's picture

One of the things I love about baguettes is that with just a little manipulation once they are proofed, you can take the "stick" and create an array of dinner rolls that are barely linked: the épi de blé is the obvious example.  But recently, after watching a video series called Formes de pains that a TFL member posted (and I can't recall who, so please shout out if you're reading this), I became fascinated with another forme using a baguette shape as the starting point: la margueritte.

So I decided to have a little fun, and instead of just creating my usual two or three baguettes, to play with them a bit.

The impetus was my attempt to arrive at a dough weight that I am happy with for the home baguette; something, in my case, that is maximum 16 - 17 inches long.  I've always made 10oz (283.5 g) baguettes, but I'm not altogether pleased.  Their girth is more appropriate to a sub roll than a classic baguette.  So I decided to go with 8oz (227.8 g) dough weight to see if that produced a slightly more lithe baguette - a ficelle, actually.

Because I wanted to play with the dough more than anything else, I decided to make a straight baguette, essentially using Hamelman's French Bread recipe, but decreasing the hydration to 69% and doing a hand, rather than machine, mix.  Bulk fermentation was a little over 3 hours, and folding was done in the container though sets of 8 folds at a time.  The initial fold was done 10 minutes after mixing, and then 2 additional folds were made at hour intervals.  The dough was divided and preshaped into 3 pieces with a 25 minute bench rest.

When it came time to roll out the baguettes, it was evident that the amount of folding had really increased the elasticity of the dough, even though I had done nothing more than a quick minute-and-a-half mix of the ingredients by hand.  So it was necessary to roll them out partially, let them stand another 5 minutes and then finish the shaping.

They were couched for 1 1/2 hours while I preheated the oven to 500 F.

I decided to place them on parchment paper on my peel to make loading more easy, and to construct la margueritte right on the parchment.

As you can see from the picture below, it is essentially a baguette with the tips of each end cut off (they are used to make the little dough ball in the middle which acts like a glue for the structure).  It is then cut diagonally into 6 more or less equal pieces, and they are place in a circle with the dough ball in the center.  The video for this can be found here.  It's quite easy to make and once formed the top is lightly dusted with flour and then each 'ear' is lightly slashed.


The epi, below, is of course simply the baguette shape cut diagonally with scissors with pieces then turned right and then left (or left and then right) and also dusted with flour.  


The oven was presteamed using SylviaH's method, and hot water was added to my lava rocks when I loaded the bread and then twice more in the initial 2 minutes.  The bake was at 475 F for 21 minutes, and I rotated the breads after 10 minutes to get even browning (made easier by the parchment paper they baked on).

Both la margueritte and the epi create, in effect, separate dinner rolls that are lightly conjoined.  It just seems such a unique and conversation-generating way to present rolls that otherwise would be placed in a basket and just passed around a table.  The videos present several other interesting ways of manipulating baguettes to create new formes de pains.

The ficelle turned out nicely as well, with its grignes opening up well.  Crumb shots below as well.



Methinks a tomato-basil bisque would be a wonderful sop for these!



wally's picture


This week I found time to come up for air and play with some of my Christmas toys, so I tried a little experimentation where I haven't been before, and also revisited familiar places where my skills can always improve.  The result is an interesting, but somewhat perplexing, apple-walnut sourdough, and more practice with croissants and my favorite poolish baguettes.

I've wanted to try an apple-walnut bread for some time, but frankly, I'm too lazy to either dry apples or buy dried apples.  So, my thought was this: why not puree an apple, make allowances for its hydration, and see what would result.  I used Hamelman's Vermont sourdough as my 'base' recipe.  To this I added a pureed Macintosh apple.  Now, according to my Google explorations, apples are about 85% water. Armed with this information, I adjusted the flour and water weights and mixed the dough, having built my levain over a 12 hour period.  The first thing I found is that even pureed, the apple has not released all of its water during the mix, so I ended up adding a small additional amount of water to reach a dough that felt right (Hamelman's Vermont sourdough is at 65% hydration, so I figure I upped it to about 68% - no big deal).

I mixed all ingredients except salt, did a 40 minute autolyse, and then added the salt and mixed for 3 minutes on speed 3 of my Hamilton Beach.  After, I added chopped walnuts and mixed on speed 1 for an additional minute.  Bulk fermentation was for 2 1/2 hours with two folds at 50 minute intervals.

The initial thing I noticed about this dough was that it was very slow in rising during the bulk fermentation.  After dividing and shaping, I left it for final proof downstairs where the temperature is a chilly 60 degrees F.  After 5 hours I was not satisfied with its progress and brought it upstairs to a more hospitable 68 degrees where it proofed for an additional 2 hours before baking.

Now, if this were simply Hamelman's Vermont sourdough both the fermentation and final proof would have been accomplished much sooner (unless I opted to retard overnight).  But with the addition of the apple and walnuts, the levain worked much, much more slowly.

The bake was fine - there was noticeable though not spectacular oven spring.  The profile, as you can see, is not bad, but not what I am used to when baking this recipe without additions.


Good things: instead of pieces of apple in the finished product, there are flecks of the peel and a nice, but not overwhelming flavor of apple, with some additional sweetness it brings.  The walnuts are a perfect complement.  The bread is surprisingly moist and has stayed fresh much longer than a straight sourdough.

I do wonder if there is something in the pureed apple that inhibits the levain (cue for anyone to offer opinions, or better yet, definitive answers).

Following the sourdough experiment I decided that, it being wintry and cold - outside and in my kitchen - it was a good time to revisit croissants.  Lately I've spent some time with our pastry bakers at work rolling out croissants, so I've developed some confidence in my shaping and overall in the feel, texture and thickness of the dough.  The results, shown below, were accomplished using a recipe adapted from Dan DiMuzio's excellent textbook, Bread Baking.  I laminated the dough using two single-folds and one double (book) fold.  I'm pretty pleased with the outcome and the crumb.  As with everything in baking, I'm finding that the 'secret' is pretty simple: practice, practice, practice.


Finally, I wanted to bake something for my friends at my local pub (which also supplies me with Sir Galahad flour in 50# bags), so I did a bake of poolish baguettes taken from Hamelman's recipe.  I've tweaked his to up the 68% hydration slightly via the poolish, but when I did the poolish mix last night, his recipe was closer to me than my spreadsheet, so this is straight from Bread.  I like it particularly because it demonstrates the openness of crumb that's attainable with a hydration that is not overly high.

I'm including a picture below of the ripened poolish for the benefit of anyone who is not familiar with what this should look like.  What I'd like to call attention to are the small rivulets of bubbles that have formed, displacing for the most part larger bubbles that dominate under-ripened poolishes. (And actually, this could have ripened for probably another 20 minutes or so, but my schedule pronounced it 'done' - and in any event I'd prefer a slightly under-ripened poolish to an over-ripened one).

Here are the 10 oz 17" baguettes (mini baguettes really) that emerged from my new FibraMent baking stone after 23 minutes at a temp of about 450 degrees F.


Aside from the few slices shown here, the rest was quickly devoured by patrons and kitchen staff at the Old Brogue Irish Pub.





wally's picture


I must have been a good boy this past year, because Santa was very generous to me.  Under the tree I found a new brotform, a fabulous new baking stone - a FibraMent that measures 15" x 20" x 3/4" - a Lodge Combo Cooker and a new peel!  And although nearly felled by a terrific head cold, I could not resist the temptation to play with the new toys.

I bake baguettes at work every day - usually in the neighborhood of 140 or so - but I rarely attempt them at home anymore because of the steaming issues (I've bored everyone at TFL to death with) with my gas oven.  But....since using Sylvia's patent-pending (I assume!) steaming method involving wet towels in glass bowls brought to a boil in the microwave, I've had really nice results with my batards and boules, so it seemed only right to stick my big toe in the water of baguette-baking again.

I chose Hamelman's poolish baguette recipe which I've slightly upped to 69% hydration and slightly higher poolish content.  I think it yields a very workable dough in terms of handling, and I learned long ago that you don't need superhydrated doughs to achieve open crumb - just proper mixing, fermentation and handling.

Although my stone allows a 20" baguette, alas, even my peel only goes to 17 1/2", so I had to be content with something that is still a good half-foot shorter than the true thing.  I scaled his recipe to give me two baguettes at 284 g apiece - just about 10 oz which seems right to me for the size.

The paraphernalia involved in creating steam is: cast iron frying pan in bottom of oven loaded with lava rocks, and, Sylvia's (nearly patented) glass bread pan filled with wet towel and boiling water.  The procedure is to add the bread pan about 5 minutes prior to loading the dough, and then as soon as it is loaded  immediately and carefully pour a cup of hot water onto the lava rocks, close the oven, and repeat twice more at 1 minute intervals.  The pan with boiling water I take out after 15 minutes.

The FibraMent stone requires initial seasoning, which amounts to heating the stone to 100 degrees F for one hour, and then increasing the heat by a hundred degrees for one hour until reaching 500 degrees, where it remains at that temperature for two hours.  I realized that this would coincide nicely with the fermentation schedule for the dough, so as soon as I began mixing the dough I also started seasoning the stone.

Because the stone is a full 3/4" thick it requires a longer preheating period to build its thermal mass from my previous pizza stone that was only 1/2" thick.  But, as I've discovered from my initial bakes, it retains heat better and longer: both baguettes bent upwards at each end and interesting, both twisted slightly in the same direction as you can see from the picture at the head of my entry.  This greater retention of heat will require adjustments in my baking temperatures - downwards I think.

Anyhow, here are the results of the baguette bake: I'm generally pleased with the crumb but exhuberant over the open grignes the steaming created.


That night they served as a wonderful sop to a Thai green curry soup that I made with P.E.I mussels, Crisfield oysters (a special treatment of the famed Chesapeake Bay oyster) and a lobster tail.


A nice supper on a cold evening.

The next day I decided that I'd return to one of my favorite everyday breads: Hamelman's pain au levain using mixed starters.

(Also a good excuse to resurrect my refrigerated rye and white dough starters which needed feeding and use).

I scaled the recipe to yield two 680 g (about 1.5 lb) loaves.  One I allowed to proof in a banneton, the other in my new brotform.  This is a nice bread to make when you have a lazy day and don't need to accomplish the baking in a hurry.  Between the mixing and autolyse, its long fermentation (two-and-a-half hours) and equally long final proof, the process lasts about 6 hours before baking.  But since there's very little you actually need to do over this period (except for the mixing, one fold and then the final shaping), it's one of those breads that takes a long time but leaves you with lots of time to do other things while waiting on it.

I preheated the oven to 450 F, and put my new Lodge Combo Cooker along with its lid onto the FibraMent baking stone.

After going through my pre-loading steaming procedure, I first scored the loaf that I proofed in the banneton and plopped it into the Combo Cooker, put the lid on and left it on the stove.  The second loaf that inaugurated my new brotform I turned onto my semolina-dusted peel, scored and immediately slid onto the baking stone, followed by the Combo Cooker and a cup of hot water.  The steaming procedure was repeated twice more at one minute intervals.

After 15 minutes I removed the lid of the cooker and continued the bake for both loaves for another 25 minutes, removing the boiling pan of water 15 minutes before the end of the bake.

Here's the results:

The one of the left was baked in the Lodge Combo cooker, while the other sat directly on the baking stone.  Now some contrasts:

It's pretty easy to tell from their bottoms which was baked in the cooker (and the little peak-a-boo split on the bottom of the one on the right tells me I slightly underproofed them).  I think in future experiments I will either reduce the baking temperature, or more likely not preheat the cooker quite as long.

As for profiles, however, the two are essentially the same:

And finally, a crumb shot:

Many new toys for me to enjoy in 2011, and a reason to return to baguettes and old favorites.



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