The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Where is Reinhart “epoxy” method today?

UpsideDan's picture
UpsideDan

Where is Reinhart “epoxy” method today?

I have been using his method for a few months now and like it a lot. However, the method was published in his Whole Grain Breads book in 2007 but vanished from his later books. Artisan breads everyday of 2009 makes whole grain breads with overnight cold fermentation of the whole dough. Bread Revolution of 2014 is using poolish. No more epoxy of biga/starter with a non-yeasted soaker. I wonder if anyone knows the reasons behind that and whether indeed the epoxy method is just not the best one to use ???

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

One thing I love about Reinhart's book is that if you go through them in order you follow him along on his bread journey. Seeing what he keeps, tweaks, and changes. 

He explains this in his Artisan Breads Everyday (2009) pg 82. 

Chapter 4  Enriched Bread 

Three 100% Whole Grain Breads

"In my previous book, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, I introduced a method of mixing and fermenting dough that brought two artisan techniques together in a new way. I called it the epoxy method because every recipe uses two pre-doughs: one pre-femented(sp), such as a sourdough starter, and the other not fermented, such as a soaker or a mash. The purpose of this method was to evoke the full potential of flavor trapped in the grain by using enzymes and fermentation to develop the flavor, then bringing the pieces together on the second day in a final mix. The goal was to create extremely healthful breads that also tasted great. 

For this book, I've modified the epoxy method to simplify it and use the same overnight method employed in most of the recipes in this book. After all, holding the dough overnight uses both parts of the epoxy method: pre-ferment and the soaker. However, in order to retain enough leavening power in the yeast without adding a second mix on the second day, as in the epoxy method, the dough must be fairly wet and contain a higher percentage of yeast. "

UpsideDan's picture
UpsideDan

Thank you Marie for finding this quote. I do see a lot of merits in the epoxy method. (1) It works very well with a very little amount of yeast - see below my modification of the transitional country hearth bread from p.156. This one became my daily bread.  (2) The taste is great. (3) I just don’t see a need for “simplification”. The method is very simple to begin with and allows a lot of flexibility. I make in advance biga and soaker portions for three days (or a starter a day before) and store in the fridge. Everyday, I mix and match whole wheat and white flour portions to make different kinds of breads. (4) most of the work requires very little skill and is therefore less sensitive to process mistakes. Mixing biga and soaker is very easy, and on baking day, the dough already has a lot of strength and requires very little handling.  (5) there is no need to make folds, which although is a little work, requires availability over a relatively long time.

Basically – the epoxy method provides the exact benefits claimed by Reinhart…

And here is my modified bread (76% hydration):

Biga – 227gr whole wheat + 170gr water + 1gr salt + 1gr yeast: mix and store in the fridge
Soaker – 227gr bread flour + 170gr water + 4gr salt: mix and store in the fridge
Final dough: biga + soaker + 28gr bread flour + 28gr water + 5gr salt : mix using FWSY pincer method

David R's picture
David R

There are so many little ways to succeed at making bread, so many possibilities. Perhaps there's a clue in your further explanation later on, in which you say you make bread every day and always have the "epoxy" ready - it might be that the method is not popular with those who don't bake every day and who don't always have everything prepared ahead of time.

It might even be possible that Reinhart himself still prefers "epoxy", but has found it unpopular with readers or editors - who knows?

charbono's picture
charbono

I bought the book when it first came out and have been using the epoxy method since then. His presentation is unnecessarily complex, and the process can be streamlined.

By the way, I too have found that little kneading is required, since the final dough is so strong.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

It was one of the first books I bought, as opposed to just borrowing from the library.  While i liked it at first, and don't mind the steps, I thought he did not explain using it for sourdoughs very well, IIRC,  it called for a lot of yeast on the day of baking.   Since I have gone to mostly sourdough starter, I haven't used the epoxy method much.  

iwonder's picture
iwonder

I'm a very new baker.  A couple months ago I got Reinhart's Whole Grain book.  It wasn't an entirely new concept since I had made preferments before, and I wanted to presoak the whole grains to minimize grittiness and maximize flavor.  It doesn't involve any extra work (less in some respects).  I haven't made any loaves that weren't 100% whole grain since then!  In fact, I've converted several favorite recipes to completely whole grain.  I'm sure I'll drift back to soft and fluffy crumb at some point.  ;-)

As Reinhart states in the book, we should experiment with ingredients as well as with the method.  It's been a lot of fun.  

ericjs's picture
ericjs

I still use this method. In his Bread Revolution he focuses mainly on sprouted grains, which I believe he says accomplishes much of the same flavor-building and enzymatic action.

I've been making mainly 100% whole grain breads using home-milled flour, and have been using the recipes from that book that he's adapted from Craig Ponsford, with the modification of putting the remaining ingredients (except the poolish and yeast) into a soaker roughly 12 hours before I bake.

TopBun's picture
TopBun

I really love the Ponsford-adapted recipes in Bread Revolution, especially the whole grain ciabatta which gets rave reviews from everyone who eats it. Never thought to go back to my roots and use a soaker for the rest, like I did when his Whole Grain Breads was my one and only baking bible.

ericjs's picture
ericjs

I love that ciabatta recipe as well, and use it as jumping off point for other breads also, following the same process and same basic proportions. I do a 50% rye, an annadamma (25% rye and 25% corn), a raisin bread with 25% oat flour and 25% barley flour. I usually add some molasses, sorgum, or barley syrup to these. I tend to adjust the moisture by feel.

Mike Wurlitzer's picture
Mike Wurlitzer

Has anyone tried the "Epoxy" method using Wild Yeast Water instead of a SD starter?  While we appreciate the benefits attributed to SD, we do not like the sour taste and have found Wild Yeast Water to yield very nice results as a replacement for the SD starter in many, but not all breads.  As I mill my own wheat berries I'd like to incorporate more WW but my wife does not prefer the taste of WW. I'd like to change that.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Are you milling white or red wheat berries? 

White wheat berries have less tanin, so you can usually go with a higher % of white WW, than with red WW before people start complaining.

Mike Wurlitzer's picture
Mike Wurlitzer

I have both and have tried both Red and White hard winter wheat berries and while I like the flavor, my wife does not. As much bread as I like to eat, I'm trying to make it at least a little healthier but at my age probably won't make more than a day's worth of difference.  I can sneak by 10/15% but beyond that I end up eating the entire loaf myself.

ericjs's picture
ericjs

What about some other whole grains? Instead of whole wheat, try mixing  in some whole rye, or oat or barley flour (or some combination).

Mike Wurlitzer's picture
Mike Wurlitzer

For some reason, she really likes my Deli Rye which uses a Rye Starter from a King Arthur class I attended 5 years ago. She dislikes any other breads made with the rye starter.

Again, we both enjoy the breads I have substituted Wild Yeast Water for the Flour/Water SD starter. If nobody has tried this I'll just give it a go and hope for the best. I just hoped someone had taken that journey and could give a thumbs up/down.

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

This is directly related to my current experiment, so I thought I would post here.

While we appreciate the benefits attributed to SD, we do not like the sour taste

Have you tried Desem?  After sifting through much of the mysticism and lore, my understanding is that it boils down to using a stiff (50 % hydration) cool (50-65 F) WW starter that boosts the yeast:LAB ratio, which allegedly imparts a mild and slightly sweet flavor on the final loaf.  Many suggest the flavor of the final loaf is more complementary to WW grain than the typical SD starter.  For some reasons "Desem" seems to have disappeared from TFL after 2012 or so, despite rave reviews from some very accomplished bakers:

Nat took a bite and then looked at me and asked quite seriously, ‘Have you added anything else to this … it tastes sweet?’ Not only does it taste sweet, but you can smell the sweetness in the kitchen while slicing through a loaf

The flavor of the bread was delicious. It had a mild sourdough tang and a very prominant whole wheat flavor but with absolutely no grassiness or bitterness and with a lovely sweet undertone. My biggest fan and harshest critic, my wife, pronounced it "very good bread" and ate twice as much bread as she usually does at dinner.

Without doubt, it is the most delectable, fully flavored whole wheat loaf I have ever eaten. Why it took me this long to get it right, I don't know. But I'm glad I did

The crust was exceptional - very crispy on the outside, while the crumb was light, moist, and slightly chewy, with a nice flavor and no whole wheat bitterness

Of course the individual posts are anecdotal, but together they seem to paint a fairly consistent picture.  I was intrigued after reading these reviews from some very experienced bakers, and over the last few days I have been attempting to convert my WW SD starter to a Desem starter via 12 hour feeding cycles at 50% hydration in a mason jar placed inside a wide mouth thermos with a large ice cube and a lot of uncertainty along the way.  It seems to maintain a temperature of around 55-60 degrees or so.  Unfortunately, I can't speak from experience yet -- I'm in the middle of BF with what I hope to be a Desem loaf now, so I'll see how it turns out tomorrow.

It has been an interesting exercise.  I'm a novice baker and have been dutifully using 2 stage builds aiming for >= 3x @ <= 84 F for solid oven spring in my 100% home milled WW loaves.  The stiff and cool WW starter seems to be the exact opposite of everything I've read until now, but from the posts I've read it seems to produce excellent oven spring (in the right hands).  Maybe it achieves the same yeast population as the wetter and warmer builds, but just takes longer to get there.

I'm still curious why "desem" doesn't turn up in recent TFL posts.  Perhaps it is seen as a fairly obvious subclass of the larger sourdough/naturally leaened bread umbrella (it is just the inversion of the steps described in this want more sour post by dabrowman (anti-Desem bread)).  PiPs described it more as a "flavor profile" in one post.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who is currently baking Desem loaves or perhaps wants to join the experiment.

Mike Wurlitzer's picture
Mike Wurlitzer

I have honestly never heard of this but you have given me enough information to wet my appetite for a more in depth study.  Thanks.

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

I came across a very helpful discussion on optimizing starters for this flavor profile here: maximizing-yeast-sd-starter

ericjs's picture
ericjs

Thanks for the desem heads up, I'm very interested in trying this. I've just taken the plunge into sourdough and branched my seed starter into two mothers, an all rye starter, and a desem. The place I have to store the dough ball runs about 49 F. How does one maintain and feed such a starter? The procedure I'm familiar with normally involves feeding it at room temperature even if stored in the fridge in between loaves. Does the same apply to a desem ball or does doing that defeat the whole keeping-it-cool aspect?

headupinclouds's picture
headupinclouds

How does one maintain and feed such a starter?

I documented a Desem bake yesterday with a short write up and some photos.  In short I use a mason jar in a wide mouth thermos with ice cubes refreshed at the daily feeding cycle.  That seems to achieve the desired range perfectly without too much added fuss.   Working at 50% hydration with whole grains is challenging, and I use the sprayer minimally as needed to achieve minimal adhesion.  I'm not sure how sensitive hydration changes are in this range to the desired Desem effect.

Does the same apply to a desem ball or does doing that defeat the whole keeping-it-cool aspect?

In practice I probably warm it up for less than 10 minutes or so as a side effect of the feeding mix, but promptly place it back in its cooler immediately after that.  I don't think that will have a detrimental effect, but I can't say that authoritatively.  We could probably consult some simplified LAB and yeast vs temperature models for additional assurance.   Good enough for sourdough work!

ericjs's picture
ericjs

Thanks for this! I'll have a read through; man, that's a beautiful crumb!

I certainly wouldn't worry about the 10 minutes, I was more wondering if one had to deliberately keep the temperature elevated for some hours as some sourdough maintenance instructions have you do, and I take this as a clear "no", and I'm glad since that's one less step.