Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Refrigerated dough...

Many of us have time constraints when baking. And when trying to bake multiple loaves at once, we can only fit so many in the oven. One way to space out loaves are to refrigerate the dough for hours or even a day or two to delay proofing. I recommend doing it after the first knead and before allowing it the first proof. I haven't done any experiments with refrigerating the shaped loaf, but I do know that I would rather let the dough proof a little longer on the first rise than after shaping, when things usually go faster and can go wrong much more easily.

If storage space is at a premium, take a gallon ziplock bag and give the inside a good hit with nonstick spray before dropping in your dough and sealing. You can make several loaves in a row this way, and label them on the outside of the bag. To use the dough, just remove from the bag and proof as you normally would, but allow an extra 30-60 minutes for the dough to lose the cold from the fridge.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Loaf #17, challah recipe two with bread flour

This was my first successful ring loaf (as opposed to Loaf #13), in which I used the second challah recipe but with bread flour instead of all purpose flour. An egg wash and sprinkling of sesame seeds finished it off. It was a much better bread with bread flour, softer, moister and a bit chewier. It lasted for several days without too much deterioration in flavor and texture.

Challah 2.0
2 teaspoons instant yeast
17 oz bread flour
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water
3 large eggs, plus 1 for glaze
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar
sesame seeds

Whisk together yest, 1 oz of the flour, and all the warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered for 10-20 minutes until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk 3 eggs, salt, oil and honey or sugar into yeast slurry. Stir in remaining flour, knead for no more than 5 minutes.

Proof for 2 hours, shape and proof for another 2-3 hours until the loaf triples in size.

Mix the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 325, 15-20 minutes for rolls, two 15 oz loaves for 25-35 minutes, one 1.5 lb loaf for 35-45 minutes.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Loaf #16, tear apart raisin challah rolls

Again I played with challah bread and all purpose flour, this time adding raisins to the mix to see if it had any effect on the outcome. I've gotten good enough at dividing the bread dough that I just eyeballed it to cut the dough into 8 pieces and put them into a typical loaf pan.

The addition of raisins didn't make up for the fact that all purpose flour has a drier texture than bread flour, not quite as much flavor. But the loaf pan did make for a nice bundle of rolls, perfect for a family dinner or small gift.

A small note. To keep the raisins from mushing and discoloring the bread as much, I keep them in the freezer until right before I add them to the dough. If you don't mind them blending a bit with the dough and discoloring it, then the raisins can be added at room temperature. If you use blueberries it will turn the dough blue unless they are frozen.

Challah 2.0
2 teaspoons instant yeast
17 oz all purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water
3 large eggs, plus 1 for glaze
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar
3 oz raisins (store in freezer)

Whisk together yest, 1 oz of the flour, and all the warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered for 10-20 minutes until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk 3 eggs, salt, oil and honey or sugar into yeast slurry. Stir in remaining flour and raisins, knead for no more than 5 minutes.

Proof for 2 hours, shape and proof for another 2-3 hours until the loaf triples in size.

Mix the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing. Bake at 325, 15-20 minutes for rolls, two 15 oz loaves for 25-35 minutes, one 1.5 lb loaf for 35-45 minutes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Time, the baker's best friend/enemy....

Time is among the most important elements in baking. Too much or too little can ruin the simplest recipe (ask my sister about burning water.) There is a basic time rhythm to my bread baking, which is tweaked a bit for specific recipes. Your average loaf of bread won't self destruct in a matter of minutes, but 10 minutes can make the difference both during a proof and certainly during baking.

My typical bread baking goes something like this.
Make a preferment the day before baking.
When starting a loaf, step 1 is to fill the tea kettle and turn it on. I'll need the hot water in about 10 minutes.
Put all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, add preferment/wet ingredients and turn on the dough hook.
Just bring the dough together, cover with a towel and set the timer for 20 minutes. This lets the flour hydrate, more important with whole wheat flour from what I've read. I skip this with some breads like challah which don't require much kneading or hydrating.
When the timer goes off, remove the towel and start the dough hook back up.
While the bread is mixing/kneading, put a large bowl in the oven and fill with hot water from the kettle. In a few minutes it will create a warm, moist environment that the yeast thrives in.
Take another bowl and spritzed with nonstick spray.
Put kneaded dough into nonstick sprayed bowl, put in the oven with hot water. Set timer for 2 hours.
When the timer goes off, set tea kettle on for a new batch of hot water. The water in the oven may still be warm, but I prefer to keep it going hot for max rise.
Pull out the dough and prep your work surface for shaping. I have a big cutting board that I prefer for this, it makes cleanup easier than using the counter.
Prep your baking dish, whether it's a loaf pan spritzed with nonstick spray or sheet pan with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
Shape your loaf in whatever style rocks your boat.
Place in the pan, put back in the oven.
Dump the old water and replace the hot water in the bowl.
Set time for 1 hour. This can vary a little bit, since some doughs proof faster or slower, but usually an hour is a good time to at least check.
When the timer goes off, if the dough is about ready pull it out and preheat the oven. Learn how long it takes for your oven to preheat and set your timer for a minute or two past that, so you get the loaf in the oven immediately after preheat finishes.
Don't forget to remove the hot water bowl. My hot water bowl is oven safe, just in case I forget.
Glaze the loaf if you are using an egg wash or other crust treatment. This helps keep the loaf from drying out during preheating. If you aren't using a glaze, find a bowl or plastic container big enough to cover the dough so it doesn't crust. I've never had luck with plastic wrap, and I prefer to have something around that I reuse.
When the timer goes off and the oven is preheated, put the loaf in the oven and set your time for the recommended baking time. This is usually between 25-45 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the loaf. A typical loaf pan with 1 1/2 pounds of dough takes about 35 minutes, a French loaf takes closer to 25. Wetter doughs can also take longer than dryer ones.
When the timer goes off, check your loaf with a temp probe, knock on it, or just go on good faith that it's done. Put the pan on a trivet and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before trying to dump out the loaf.
Don't forget to turn off your oven.
Put the loaf on a cooling rack for at least an hour before attempting to cut. Warm loaves aren't done baking, the gluten inside is still solidifying.
Keep the loaf in a plastic bag or sealed bin to keep it fresh. Most bread is only good for a day or two before it gets stale.
Overall, it takes probably 4 hours on average to make a loaf of bread. You can do many things while waiting for it to proof and bake, but always be nearby so you can do the next step in a timely manner.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Loaf #15, tear apart challah rolls

Again I used all purpose flour like some of the challah bread recipes called for, which didn't do much for the flavor or texture but worked well enough to eat without regret. I wanted to play with the concept of tear apart rolls, so I divided the dough into 10 pieces of equal weight and put them into a 1.5 qt pan coated with nonstick spray. As you can see in the pics, it proofs nicely. After baking and removing from the pan the individual rolls came apart easily.

This is the same dough as used in the previous challah post.

Challah 2.0
2 teaspoons instant yeast
17 oz all purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water
3 large eggs, plus 1 for glaze
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar

Whisk together yest, 1 oz of the flour, and all the warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered for 10-20 minutes until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk 3 eggs, salt, oil and honey or sugar into yeast slurry. Stir in remaining flour, knead for no more than 5 minutes.

Proof for 2 hours, shape and proof for another 2-3 hours until the loaf triples in size.

Mix the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing. Bake at 325, 15-20 minutes for rolls, two 15 oz loaves for 25-35 minutes, one 1.5 lb loaf for 35-45 minutes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Loaf #14, Challah Recipe 2

While looking at this recipe, I realized that many of the challah bread recipes called for all purpose flour instead of bread flour. So for an experiment I tried this new recipe with all purpose flour. I actually did two loaves, one I made into two long pieces, twisted together and twirled into a bowl. The other is a simple braid, although it's better than the first braid I tried in a loaf pan. I think they key is even pressure on the braid, and to make sure there is even pull all over rather than squishing it into the pan so pressure lets part of the dough push up unevenly.

The main difference between this recipe and the previous challah bread recipe is the use of more egg, and it has less flour and water making a smaller loaf. I used sugar rather than honey because that's what I had on hand. This is also adapted from the book "A Blessing of Bread" by Maggie Glezer.

Challah 2.0
2 teaspoons instant yeast
17 oz all purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water
3 large eggs, plus 1 for glaze
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup sugar

Whisk together yest, 1 oz of the flour, and all the warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered for 10-20 minutes until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk 3 eggs, salt, oil and honey or sugar into yeast slurry. Stir in remaining flour, knead for no more than 5 minutes.

Proof for 2 hours, shape and proof for another 2-3 hours until the loaf triples in size.

Mix the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing. Bake at 325, 15-20 minutes for rolls, two 15 oz loaves for 25-35 minutes, one 1.5 lb loaf for 35-45 minutes.

I found the all purpose flour just didn't give me the same rich taste as the bread flour. My wife referred to it as the "brown and serve roll" flavor, good but not anything special. I prefer the other challah recipe, both for the flavor and the fact that it makes more bread with fewer eggs not that eggs are super expensive but you do go through alot when baking lots of bread.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Challah issues...

Twice when I baked a loaf of challah bread with some sort of dried fruit (raisins, dried blueberries, etc) I ended up with an under baked spot somewhere in the middle. My other loaves turned out fine, so I'm assuming that I added too much of the dried fruit. I added a 6 oz package of dried blueberries in this loaf.
So for the next loaf, I followed the same recipe and only added 2 oz of dried fruit (in this case, golden raisins and cherries). For a bit of a change I did a quick braid with the dough and laid a strip across the top, just to see how it proofs and bakes.
I have to admit, the strip across the top didn't do much for the aesthetics of this loaf, but it baked fine. The loaf turned out much better, but there was still a tiny spot that just wasn't baked quite as well as it should be. So I just upped the cooking time for a full loaf like by 5 minutes to 40 minutes total, and it turned out fine. I don't think the presence of the raisins affected it quite as much as the sheer mass of dough that had to be baked. Smaller loaves or wreaths require less baking because the heat has less to go through.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Loaf #13, almost a good idea.

Ok, this was an experiment that went right in some ways and horribly wrong in others.

I started with the basic bread recipe. The preferment was 8oz of high gluten bread flour which usually gives the loaf a nice lift and soft texture. The rest of the loaf had 4 oz high gluten flour, 2 oz teff flour, 2 tablespoons flax meal, and the rest was about 10 ounces of whole wheat flour. It proofed nicely and was perfect for forming a freestanding loaf, but I decided to try and make a ring loaf. This involves making a boule, punch a hole in the middle and form it into a ring. What I ended up doing was taking away any structural support that would have turned this into a high proofing loaf. As you see in the cross section it ended up going outwards rather than upwards. The texture is still good, soft but slightly mealy with the addition of the flax meal and teff flour, and a slightly nutty taste. It makes a great bread to serve with soup, especially for dipping. Again I'll try this recipe variation again, but won't mess with the ring form until I have a clue what I'm doing. I prefer my loaves to move upwards rather than outwards most of the time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Loaf #12, half whole wheat

This time around I made the loaf with half whole wheat and half high gluten flour. Again I followed the basic bread recipe, the preferment was 8 oz of high gluten flour, and for the rest I used 12 oz whole wheat and 4 oz high gluten. I didn't bother with a glaze on this one, but I did try a simple knot that didn't work out quite like I intended. It looks good and tasted great, but was a bit lopsided. The high gluten flour gave the loaf a wonderful lift so it wasn't the paving stones that the whole wheat loaf turned out to be. I have heard that additional gluten can make even a whole wheat loaf into a soft bread, but that's an experiment for another time.

After proofing and shaping I put the dough into a 1.5 qt round Pyrex dish, then baked it for the usual 35 minutes. The taste was the usual good basic bread taste except with the more earthy flavor from the whole wheat.
The cross section shows an excellent crumb (texture) throughout the entire loaf. I love eating huge slabs of bread with a little olive oil spread and jelly. I do plan to do more with this recipe later, mostly adding other types of flour along with the wheat as about half of the dry goods content. When I'm out of flour I'll be adding gluten to see how that works with the dough.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Loaf #11, whole wheat bread....

I used the basic bread recipe except I used only whole wheat flour. This makes a wonderfully smelling but very heavy loaf. When I mean heavy, I mean slice it fresh then use the pieces to pave your driveway. Why did I do this loaf, knowing that it would turn out this way? So I could blog it, and compare it to mixtures involving wheat and regular bread flour.

It did have a nice taste, but the texture was just too dense and crumbly to fully enjoy in my opinion. I like a chewy bread.

But now that loaf is done, and I will have a follow up with other loaves using whole wheat flour but not for the entire loaf. I may also play around with added gluten to see if I can soften it up and make a whole wheat loaf with a good rise and soft texture. Overall, it came out as expected, and I didn't really expect to like it. After a day or two I cut it into cubes and tossed it out for the birds and squirrels, which I haven't seen eating it yet. Maybe they aren't fond of dense whole wheat either.

Friday, December 01, 2006

yeast storage...

Some folk might not be familiar with instant yeast. In short, it's a yeast that is usually mixed with the dry ingredients, doesn't need proofing and can be stored in the freezer for at least a year after opening (mine was still good when I ran out after 18 months). Instant yeast usually comes in vacuum packed packages in 1 pound increments. I get mine from Sam's Club, but you can order it from other places online. The advantage to instant yeast is that you don't have to proof the yeast, it blends well with the dry ingredients so it mixes in easily, and its long storage life. Most bread recipes only require 1 teaspoon of instant yeast for a loaf.

After opening the package of instant yeast (which is fine at room temp until opened), I pour the rest into a jar or two that I keep in the freezer. The yeast will go bad if left out, so I make a habit of only pulling out the yeast for when I am about to measure it out, and it never leaves my hand between the freezer and the mixing bowl so that I remember to put it back immediately. Sound paranoid or anal retentive? Maybe it is, but I've forgotten the jar on the counter before and found it the next day.

If you only bake once in a great while, then the little packets of active dry yeast may work better for you. I bake a half dozen loaves a month at least, so a pound of instant yeast doesn't last more than 8 months in my house at this point.

Putting the date that you opened the package on your bottle of yeast in the freezer is a good idea too, so if it suddenly isn't working, you can say "I bought this back during the Clinton administration, I wonder if that's why it won't work."

Be kind to your yeast, and your yeast will be kind to you.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Loaf #10, buckwheat flour and a tube loaf pan

So, I tried 2 new things at once. The first was a cylindrical glass loaf pan that probably dates back to the 70's, the other was using about a third buckwheat flour in the dough. I used the basic bread recipe as a base, with bread flour in the preferment and the rest had 8oz of buckwheat flour and 8 oz bread flour in the rest of the dough. I also added 2 tablespoons steel cut oats to the flour before adding the preferment, and a packet of unflavored gelatin. It kneaded and rose nicely, I formed a loaf and shoved it into the middle of the tube. Not knowing how big it would proof, I actually divided the dough and put 1/3 of it on a nonstick mat next to the tube pan.
The blob loaf is covered in corn starch, which I made way too thick. Forgive me, it wasn't the smartest move I've made while bread baking. I considered it a throwaway piece anyway.
After baking, I removed the loaf from the tube pan. I muse admit, I was a bit disappointed because it looks pretty much like my Italian loaves in shape.
The result was a nice dark loaf with plenty of soft texture and spots of white steel cut oats for contrast, the loaf was nicely round but my Italian and French loaf pans work as well for nearly round loaves without the breakable factor. I thought that the bread was a bit sour for my taste, but my wife liked it. I'll try it again with less buckwheat flour next time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Flour varieties

I have a habit of grabbing various flours that I'm not familiar with just to see how they work as a yeast bread. Right now I have several to be used, and decided to post links to a few for future reference. Even the ones that don't work well in yeast breads are commonly used in flat breads, which is another project to tackle.

Buckwheat flour. The relevant points to me, it can be combined with up to an equal amount of wheat flour to make a very nutritious bread, and it goes rancid if improperly stored. So I think the buckwheat loaf will be coming up soon.

Teff flour. Again, the relevant points for me are that it's highly nutritious, but I can only use a limited amount in yeast bread to maintain a good rise and texture. I figure a few tablespoons tossed in should work well. It's also good for a type of Ethiopian flat bread.

Amaranth flour. The important points for me, it can be mixed with wheat as 25% of a yeast bread loaf, again very nutritious and good for flat breads.

One of my goals is to make a loaf with whole wheat and other flours that is very good for me, and tastes good with a decent rise. I'll start making some basic loaves with these flours included and see what happens. My millet and flax meal loaves are tasting good, and tonight I baked loaves with an egg yolk in the dough to see how that affects the texture and longevity of the bread.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Loaf #9, Spiced challah and French Toast

I followed my previous challah bread recipe, although I also added a teaspoon of cinnamon, and half a teaspoon of nutmeg and cloves. The result is a wonderful spiced bread, tastey but not overly sweet or spicy.

After slicing up the entire loaf and putting it into a plastic bag I purchased online, I made a simple French toast batter from 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 eggs. Dunk the bread, and toss onto a lightly buttered skillet for about 2 minutes on a side over medium heat.

I did a quick three strand braid on the loaf and baked it in a loaf pan, the results were pretty good although they could have been neater. An egg glaze was used too.

Musings on bread texture and longevity..

Since making the challah bread, I've discovered that it just lasts a lot longer on the shelf than the other breads. Minimal research indicates that the egg yolk may be given the most credit for this, but I'll have to do more research. Awhile ago I found this page which gives a list of additives for bread recipes and what they do, and now is my chance to experiment. I'll put the link with the list on the blog, and start playing with additives.

My ultimate goal is to make a whole grain (or mostly whole grain) bread that is light, moist and tastes good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Loaf #8, Millet flour and flax meal

So, for a change of pace I decided to make something a bit different. I started with a preferment

8oz high gluten bread flour
15 oz cold water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon yeast

This I left at room temp overnight. In the morning/early afternoon it was a wonderful spongy froth. In a mixing bowl I mixed

1 pound (16 oz) bread flour
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup millet flour
2 tablespoons flax meal

My new lidded containers work well for proofind on a warm day, so I didn't do my usual method of putting them in the oven with a pan of hot water, instead capped them and left them on the counter. Two hours and the dough doubled, I shaped them into two French loaves on a French loaf pan (sprayed with nonstick spray and sprinkled with cornmeal). This I put into the oven with a bowl of water hot from the tap, just enough to keep the loaves from crusting over. After an hour proofing, I brushed the top of both loaves with a beaten egg and sprinkled with sesame seed (just for looks, with some pro bakers think is not good unless it helps the flavor. I just didn't feel like sprinkling it with more flax seed). It went into a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes. The top browned nice and crunchy, the flax seed made the bread itself just slightly darker than it would usually come out, and it has a slight nutty smell/taste that I find appealing. I may bring up the amount of millet flour in my next batch to see how it affects the flavor.

Overall I call this loaf a success.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Loaf #7, Challah 1.0

First of all, I'd like to apologize for there only being half a loaf. The first memory card I used to take pictures was corrupted, but I'd sampled the loaf repeatedly before finding this out. So here we have half a loaf of challah, a traditional Jewish bread with all sorts of variations possible. I used a cookbook that I found at Half Price Books, which has many recipes and a whole lot of reading about various traditions behind the bread. I highly recommend this book if you want to make challah, or just like to read about family histories as they pertain to loaves and traditions.

For this loaf I used one of the more basic recipes, simplified it a bit and did my own methodology for blending because they wanted to include a few more steps than I did. So here's the recipe.

Challah Bread
1 1/2 pounds (24 oz) bread flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
9 oz cold water

First mix the flour, sugar, salt and yest in the bowl. Add in the wet ingredients, but hold back a few tablespoons of the egg for the glaze. Mix on low for a few minutes to get the ingredients together. Cover and let it hydrate for 15-20 minutes, then knead on low-med speed for about 8 minutes. Put in an oiled bowl, place in oven with a pan of hot water, let proof for 2 hours. The hot water gives the yeast a warm, moist enviornment to do it's work. Don't turn on the oven light, I think the heat from the bulb can cause the dough to crust while just the hot water prevents it from crusting (this is based on one experience, I haven't done an in depth study to prove it's true). After the first proof, dump dough onto floured surface and press down with your knuckles. Fold the dough over on itself and repeat another time or two so the dough stiffens a bit. Shape the dough (I did a simple braid), place on a pan or in a greased dish and put back in the oven. Dump the water and replace with fresh hot water. Let proof for about an hour. Glaze with remaining egg. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, bake the loaf for 35 minutes. If you are baking smaller loaves or rolls, decrease time to about 20 minutes. Let cool.

One thing I did different with this loaf was to use a silicone mat instead of baking parchment. It worked well. They range from $10-20, and are reusable. Parchment is still good to have around, because those mats won't go over a French loaf pan as smoothly. Mine were purchased at Wal-Mart for about $10 for a half sheet and quarter sheet set.

One thing I will mention, is that although I adore the No Knead Bread method, I'd never try it with challah bread since it contains eggs. I don't know if it would go bad sitting out for 24 hours, and I'm not about to try.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Loaf #6, No Knead Sourdough

Just out of curiosity I made some of the No Knead Bread but with 2 oz less water so it's a proper dough, then after about 18 hours I shaped the dough onto my french loaf pan and baked for 20 minutes.

The dark loaves were supposed to be pumpernickel, but they turned out bitter. I used too much cocoa and/or caraway seed, and maybe they don't go together in a loaf. But the light ones I made with the sourdough starter. 1 pound high gluten bread flour, about 3 tablespoons sourdough slurry and 10 oz water. Mix until combined, cover the bowl and let rise about 18 hours. Shape and bake 20 minutes for a French loaf, probably 30 minutes for a boule. The result was a wonderfully soft, slightly sour loaf.

My next project will be challah bread, which will be a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A note on how I count loaves....

It occurred to me that someone might wonder why I'm showing multiple loaves in a post but only counting one loaf. I consider for the purposes of this project that I only do one loaf a day that counts, but I may do multiple experiments on the same day.

In my opinion a loaf only counts if there is something new about it, either in the way I created the dough, or the process I used to bake it. Doing 100 loaves of plain white bread in boule form would be easy and i could probably crank them out in under a month. But actually learning something new about how bread works? That's the goal.

I also plan to do something special every 10 loaves, an overview of the different breads I've made and celebrate the event by sharing the best bread I can make with friends.

Loaf #5, sourdough and new loaf pans

Yesterday I received my loaf pans, so after cultivating a large batch of sourdough slurry I made a batch with regular bread flour and another with high gluten flour. The high gluten flour rose faster and was shaped into French loaves (on the right) and the regular bread flour became Italian loaves (on the left). I sprayed the pans with nonstick spray and sprinkled cornmeal on it, which did a nice job. next time I'll probably just use parchment paper for easier cleanup. The loaves formed beautifully, but between over baking them and probably not hydrating them enough the outside ended up a bit tough. The sourdough taste was pretty good, though, so it's worth another try.

Next time I try using the loaf pans I'll limit baking time to 20 minutes or so, since they seem to get done so much faster in this form.

When I made the dough, I just put about 2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt into a bowl, then dumped in enough slurry to form the dough. Not very scientific, but it worked ok except for the over baking.

Loaf #4 and Food Slicer review

To try something a bit different I tried the No Knead Bread, this time with 1/3 rye flour and 2/3 all purpose flour and 2 tsp caraway seeds. I also did it as a double batch, and kept it on parchment paper after shaping so I could hold onto the corners and drop the whole thing into the pot so it would hold more of it's shape. The result was a tasty loaf, although pretty big. I'm thinking a regular size loaf baked in a round pan would be nice.

I also got a food slicer (bottom of the picture), which works real nicely for cutting up the loaves quickly and into even slices. The only drawbacks in my opinion is that if the loaf is too tall or long it may not fit against the cutting blade, and have to be cut smaller to fit. Not worth the investment if you only do the occasional loaf, but for the avid baker it's a nice addition to the kitchen.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No Knead Bread take Two, Loaf #3

I tend to binge on new recipes until I feel that I get them "perfect", thus I did 2 more loaves of the No Knead Bread. From this I learned a couple of things. One is that rye and spelt wheat flour as one third of the bread flour total makes for a good loaf with this recipe. Another is that bench proof time (the second rise after the dough is formed into the loaf shape) has it's limit. The loaf on the far left went into the oven after the first was done, so it sat out for 45 minutes longer than the first loaf (which proofed about 2 hours, maybe 2.5 at most). When I tossed it (the rye loaf, if you were curious) into the pot the dough was already spreading out, and kinda blobbed over onto its side. It came out less uniform and the air bubbles are much smaller. Tastes darned good, though. I figure one more experiment before I put this recipe onto the back burner for awhile. The only real difference in methodology was that instead of wrapping the dough in a floured towel like the recipe said, I put them on cornmeal covered parchment paper and put them into a plastic container that kept them warmer and prevented the dough from drying out.

The loaf on the far right was my first experiment with Oliver the Sourdough starter. It rose wonderfully, but I didn't put very much starter into the dough so it's a very mild sourdough flavor. I'm going to make a much larger amount of sourdough starter before tackling it again, and do a bit more research on the use of sourdough in loaves since baking with sourdough is new to me.

Although three loaves were completed, I only consider the spelt wheat bread to be the loaf to count for the 100 Loaves project, as the other two were experiments for future breads.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No Knead Bread, Loaf #2

A friend sent me a link an article about No Knead Bread. So what did I do? Went out and bought an enameled stock pot so I'd have an oven safe container with a lid the proper dimensions for this recipe. The recipe itself is simple, although I translated it from 3 cups flour to 1 lb of bread flour,and 1 5/8 cup water into 13 oz. With only 4 ingredients, it's easy. So my 4 year old and I yesterday mixed together

1 lb bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
13 oz water

After bringing it together we covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof overnight. The recipe said 12-18 hours minimum, 24 hours even better.

Today I shaped the loaf around 10am, generously covering it with corn meal to prevent sticking. It's a really wet dough, I warn you now. Around 12:30pm I put the stock pot and lid into the oven for preheat. I gave it about 20 minutes to thoroughly heat to 450 degrees, then removed the pot from the oven and tossed in the dough, recovered and put back.

20 minutes into the baking it smelled wonderful. 30 minutes in I removed the lid for the last 15 minutes. Put the lid on the stovetop for cooling, it was handleable 15 minutes later when the bread came out. I dumped the loaf onto a cooling rack and set the stock pot aside for cooling. After an hour I photographed and cut into the loaf, revealing large air bubbles and a slightly chewy texture, quite good. I am ranking this among my favorite recipes, both for the ease and for the flavor of the bread.

Recipe archive

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Published: November 8, 2006

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Loaf #1, Basic White Bread in a Round Pan

Welcome to the beginning of the baking marathon. Loaf #1 is made from the Basic Bread Recipe. I used the Pyrex dish to the left of the loaf to bake it, just a spritz of nonstick spray for easy removal. My boule loaves haven't been working well recently, which is a good enough excuse for me to work with pans to form the loaves for now. I did four slashes across the top of the loaf and didn't bother with a glaze. All flour was regular bread flour, and I usually bake after it's proofed about an hour but gave this one an extra 20 minutes because I could tell the yeast had a little more work to do.

Yesterday I ordered two French bread pans. They appear to have the least expensive French bread pans available, although the reviews on the perforated nonstick ones have me ready for a bake off in the future.

I also received some sourdough starter that dates back to the Oregon Trail, 1847. You can get it too for the cost of a self addressed stamped envelope. A group of sourdough enthusiasts are preserving the sourdough starter, which is what I really call preserving a culture (insert groan.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Preferment and the basic recipe...

The most important part of a good loaf of bread is preferment. This is a mixture of flour,water, sugar and yeast that is allowed to sit at least overnight in the fridge. The preferment is best used at least 12 hours after being made, and I've used it up to a week later with no problems. My basic preferment is

8 oz bread flour
15 oz water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix together in a container that allows for expansion (I mix them together with a whisk), cap with a loose fitting lid or with plastic wrap and a few tiny holes poked through the plastic.

Your preferment will probably separate into a layer of flour on the bottom, water in the middle and a layer of spongy foam on top.

The Dough.
1 pound (16 oz) bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt

When it's time to make the dough, put 1 pound (16 oz) of bread flour into the bowl of your mixer. Add 1 teaspoon instant yeast, 2 teaspoons salt and the preferment. Put in your dough hook and mix until the dough just comes together, about 5 minutes. Cover with a towel and let rest 15 minutes to let the water saturate the dough, then turn on medium speed for 5-8 minutes to knead the dough.

While the dough is kneading, bring a teakettle full of water to a boil. Pour about 3-4 cups of hot water into a bowl in the oven and close the door. This creates a warm, moist enviornment that the yeast loves. When the dough is through kneading, transfer it to a greased bowl (I sprits a bowl with nonstick spray, then do a quick spray over the dough). Put the dough and bowl into the oven with the hot water and let proof (rise) for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, it's time to shape the dough. I will cover shaping techniques later, so I'll assume you can form a basic boule or put it in a loaf pan for now. Once the dough is shaped, refresh the hot water in the oven, and put the loaf back in for 1 hour. When the hour is up, remove the loaf and start preheating the oven (mine takes about 10 minutes to preheat). While the oven heats, scramble and egg and brush it over the surface, then use a serrated knife to make slashes on the top of the loaf. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.

That is my standard bread recipe. Variations include substituting part of the bread flour with rye or whole wheat flour, the addition of other flavorings, and using different glazes.

Now you have the starting point I usually use for my bread. A better explanation will follow. Tonight I made 2 batches of preferment for use later this week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Upcoming Experiments

This is a quick note to myself on experiments to do during the 100 Loaf Project.

Experiment with the same recipes using 2-3 different flours, but with a different preferment for each loaf to see how it affects flavor and texture.

See how aging the entire dough for a day or two affects flavor vs the same recipe with prefement.

See how different liquids affect the preferment, including milk and juices.

Gague how much gluten to add to simulate high gluten flour, and how much to add to regular loaves, and how it affects preferement.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Some Needed Equiptment

For the purposes of this project, I'll list equiptment that I personally feel that the serious home baker should have. Some people have other ways of baking bread, that's fine with me, but since this is my blog you get to hear what I use and how I use it. This will be an ongoing list to which I'll occasionally add items.


Kitchenaid Mixer with dough hook-sure, you can knead by hand, but why bother when you can just flip a switch? I use this sort of mixer for my dough, so all instructions will involve this machine. Knead by hand if you want, you'll just have to do it a bit longer.

Proof bowl-a stainless steel bowl for proofing your dough. Glass would also work, but you can get a good steel bowl pretty cheap, and they are nearly impossible to destroy.

Cutting board-I prefer to do my hand kneading and shaping on a cutting board, because it makes cleanup much easier, and I know the work surface is clean.

Serrated knife-this is a recent addition. After chatting with a guy at a party who works at a local bakery, he told me that they use simple serrated knives for slashing their loaves. So pick one up and keep it with your bread baking implements, so people don't dull it cutting other food items.

Pizza stone-don't argue with me, you can pick a smaller one up for under $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Some people bake only on pizza stones, I typically use it just for pizza. But it makes a big difference.

Loaf pan-my current loaf pan is Pyrex, but I'll be playing with a silicon pan later.

Cookie sheet-making a loaf on a pizza stone may be kinda cool, but a cookie sheet is a helluva lot easier to get in and out of the oven.

Parchment paper-your best nonstick option for use with cookie sheets. Also handy because you can label multiple loaves with pen on the parchment before baking.

Kitchen timer-a good reliable timer so you can bake your loaves the right amount of time.

Pastry brush-used for applying glazes to your loaves.

Dry measuring cups-for measuring dry goods by volume.

Liquid measuring cups-for measuring liquids

Measuring spoons-for measuring smaller amounts of dry goods.

Digital kitchen scale-if you are serious about baking bread, then you need one. Most real bread recipes will have you add dry goods like flour by weight, not by volume.

Bread knife/electric carving knife-if you are going to bake the bread, have a good cutting knife to divide up the loaf. An electric carving knife works best, but a good serrated bread knife is fine.

Cooling rack-the best way to cool your loaf after baking.

Mister bottle-the best way to add minimal amounts of water to the dough while blending, much neater than trying to pour in a teaspoon of liquid.

More to come.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Post the First

I'm an average guy, college degree (textiles) and currently going into my fifth year as a stay at home dad. One of my hobbies, besides costume creation, sewing and photography, is baking bread.

Right now I'm on a self-imposed challenge to make and document the bread I make from 20 pounds of bread flour, and tonight I'm halfway through. I have a modest number of people following this project on LiveJournal, and it has been fun. I thought about other bread challenges, such as baking a loaf a day for a week, but for some reason the long haul projects are more fun.

So in about a week or two I will begin the 100 Loaf Project. I will document the loaves I make, including recipe and methodology, along with pictures of the results. How long will it take to make 100 loaves? I could have it done in a month if I was insane, three months if I pushed it at a loaf a day and a few extra on weekends. I'm figuring I can get the challenge done in about a year or less. I'm hoping to score a better Kitchen Aid mixer before it's over.

So stay tuned folks, when I'm done with the 20 Pound Bread Flour Challenge, the 100 Loaf Challenge begins.