The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Minimalist baking

dmsnyder's picture

Minimalist baking

I've tried an awful lot of toys and tweaks in my quest for better bread. But Eric's (ehanner) claim that he doesn't see any benefit to using a baking stone and the recent post asking about La Cloche versus a Dutch oven got me thinking: Each new trick I've learned about has been added on top of all the other tricks I've adopted. It sounds like what happens with government programs - If the one we have isn't doing the job, we don't trash it or improve it. We just create a new one to run beside the old one. I call it "Planning by Acretion."

Sooooo ... I made a batch of Anis Bouabsa baguettes. I made them more highly hydrated than usual - about 80% hydration, rather than 75%. I used the same method of mixing and fermentation as usual. They proofed for 45 minutes. They were so slack, I didn't even try scoring them.

Now, here's the big difference: I did not use a baking stone. I did not humidify the oven. I baked on a heavy sheet with parchment, and I covered the loaves with a cheapo aluminum foil baking pan for 10 minutes at 500F, then baked at 480F for another 15 minutes.

Like this ...

Fully Proofed


Covered and ready to go in the oven

Baked and cooling

I'll add a crumb photo later.

Pretty nice results, I'd say. Certainly worth more trials with different breads.

On the other hand, there are other things that I would never want to make without my 7 quart Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot. For example, tonight's dinner.

Chicken & Dumplings



Janedo's picture

Looks great. Waiting for the crumb! I can imagine it as being very open, with a nice crunchy crust. Do tell!

Sometimes, since I'm always working with fairly low gluten flour, my baguettes are so slack, that it is scary to slip them on to the stone. I turn them on to parchment paper and then they slide easily. I do score them, though, even if it is VERY difficult. I can't buy the huge aluminum pans like that though. Everything is so small here, but will try the folded parchment paper trick.

I'll take the stew, too. YUM!



ehanner's picture

It just slays me when I discover something that has been sold by basically "every bread author in the world" is not quite accurate. The whole "hearth oven in your home" story falls into that category, in my opinion. I'm so glad you tried the pan and got good results. Just a little tinkering with the shelf height will allow you to get what ever bottom crust you desire.

Now that you are on the band wagon, try leaving the oven OFF until you load the bread pan. You should add a few minutes to the covered time depending on how quickly your oven heats up. Again with a little tweaking of the timing you can save yourself (and the earth) a considerable amount of energy by not pre-heating a stone or the oven. This of course goes against everything we know and hold dear but, never-the-less, it does work.


dmsnyder's picture

Well, the crumb was disappointing. It was not nearly as open as it should have been at this hydration level. I think I should have just stretched the dough into baguettes rather than trying to "shape" them. On the other hand, maybe they would have been better baked on a stone. ;-)

More data are needed.


proth5's picture

I'm definitly a fan of a heavy baking stone (I have a Hearthkit plus an old baking stone in my oven) for baguettes and other non-panned breads.  Could be my old oven or my old self, but I've found the combination of the stones and steam to work just fine with very little bother and nothing beats a stone for pizza - sorry. I am aware that heating a stone uses the earth's resources, but I heat the oven and then bake up to 5 breads in quick succession.  We do what we can.

I get the same boring open crumb week after week at 65% hydration (and pure levain - no commercial yeast) with the stone and the steam.  But as you know, I always qualify results with my hands/my dough/my altitude.

For me, the manuvering of a pan to cover my baguettes seems more difficult than pouring a little water into the oven and using my pressure sparayer to spray the stones (I don't spray the oven walls), but we are all different and that is what makes the world go 'round.

I keep going back to hearing that "everything must be perfect" and that no single factor is responsible for great bread.

I will say that Solveig Tofte is cited (in Bread Lines - the publication of the Bread Baker's Guild of America) as saying that she thought that only high hydration would result in an open crumb, but what really was important was making sure that fermentation happened properly.  (Of course then we are not told exactly what this means...) She's pretty good with a baguette.  I think about stuff like that.

Look forward to more experiments and

Happy Baking!

Eli's picture

They look very good! What are your thoughts on this method would you do it again?

I have to say now that I have learned to work with the stone and the cover method I really see a difference in my breads. I still think it is a start to finish process. From mixing to bulk fermenting and on to the stone.

Those look like matzah balls!! All looks delicious!!



dmsnyder's picture

I'll probably try baking this way again, if only to get more data. On the one hand, why mess with a method that works for me (baking stone, cast iron skillet and loaf pan for steaming). On the other hand, I have a lot of respect for Eric, and he certainly turns out great looking breads without a stone.

The pan and aluminum foil cover is pretty easy to manage. There is no hour of pre-heating the stone, boiling water, etc. It would be nice if I can get it to work for me.

Stay tuned.


caviar's picture

The bread looks good and I think trying new things is a great way. But I have to say the dumplings really overpower everything else.

David would be saviour and give us your recipe for the dumplings?


dmsnyder's picture

Chicken & Dumplings

For 4 persons

8 Chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, wings, ½ breasts)
1 cup Flour
Salt & pepper
2-3 tsp Olive oil
2-4 Leeks halved, washed and sliced thin
1 large Shallot cut up
3 Carrots cut in half rounds ½” thick
2 Stalk celery cut in ½” slices
½ tsp Dried thyme
1/3 cup White wine
3-5 cup Chicken broth
1 cup Peas (optional)

Dredge chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven pre-heated on medium to medium-high fire, brown chicken in olive oil on all sides and set aside.

Sauté leeks and shallots in dutch oven until soft (3 min.). Add carrots and celery and sauté until soft (3-5 min.).

Deglaze with white wine and boil for a couple of minutes to reduce liquid by half.

Add chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Replace chicken in pot and cook partly covered until almost done (20-35 min.). Stir in peas.

Place dumplings over chicken and cook covered at a gentle boil for 15 min.

Serve in bowls, a piece or two of chicken, 1 or two dumplings and sauce.

1 1/3 cups Flour
2/3 tblsp Baking powder
½ tsp Salt
2 tblsp butter
2/3 cup milk
½ cup Chopped parsley

Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Heat butter and milk to simmer in a small sauce pan and add to dry ingredients. Mix with a fork or by hand until mixture just comes together. Form into 12 balls by rolling portions of mixture between hands. Set aside.


Janedo's picture

Thanks David, I'm going to try it during the holidays since I'll be doing a great deal of cooking what with everyone home (no school, no work) for two weeks. Over here it's two meals a day so can you imagine?


dmsnyder's picture

There are just two of us at home now, except when we have visitors. I still love to make dishes like this that are really well-suited to large families. My wife and I just get 3 dinners out of the one recipe.



gardenchef's picture

Hi David

Gosh the Chix and dumplings looks unbelievably great! I will definitely be making that soon, thanks for sharing recipe.

My question...

Could I use the same recipe for your dumplings (minus parsley of course), maybe add cinnamon sugar?? to make apple dumplings?

My daughter had some at college cafe, loved them and I'd love to have some for her at Thanksgiving...and I want mine to be better of course:)))) Though her school has great food and I've never even seen an apple dumpling so any help is appreciated.


~cathy     (gardenchef) 




pmccool's picture


Apple dumplings usually feature a whole (cored) apple wrapped in a type of pastry dough and baked.  Sort of like your own personal apple pie.  Quite a bit different than either the steamed savory dumpling that is more like a baking powder biscuit or the thick noodle.

Google "apple dumpling recipe" and you'll get thousands of hits.  Here's one sample.

Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream are highly recommended accompaniments.


gardenchef's picture

sorry posted twice

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Are those white bread dumplings with Italian parsley?  Boiled in water first?  Did you roll them in your hands?   Just curious....


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Mini.

See recipe, above.

You're more the dumpling expert than I. Are these "bread dumplings?"


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But they sure look good!  If they were...i'd wonder who chawed off the crusts!


plevee's picture

I didn't intend to do this. I usually heat the oven with stone to 500F, put in the bread with a cup of boiling water in a pan, turn off the heat for 10m then bake at 425F for the remainder.

Today I went to re-turn on the oven & noticed the water in the pan hadn't evaporated - the thermostat had not been changed from the 320F I used for a batch of cookies & was down to ~280F. I turned the heat up & took out the bread 20m later.

Result: a minimally less pretty crust - almost like baking under cover for too long - the crumb & crust texture were indistinguishable from those of my usual method!

Perhaps I'm ready for the cold oven start!