Sunday, February 27, 2011

Still Tweaking the Formula


The experiment with soakers in my bread goes on. I have to go back and re-read Reinhart's "WGB" to get more detail on the whats, whys, and whens of the procedure. I know it works, I just want to do less guessing and more doing in less time for better results. The returns seem to justify the efforts.

The latest loaf out of the oven is further delving into the process. I followed Hamelman's per centages for his Oatmeal Wheat from his "Bread" and tried to adapt it to a sourdough. Furthermore, I substituted flaked malted wheat for oatmeal. This might have been an oversight of ingredient characteristics because the flakes don't absorb as much water as oatmeal. The package they came in said they don't affect hydration in the loaf but previous experience showed otherwise. I never bothered to measure that capacity before I launched this loaf. In turn, that threw off my estimates for flour weight and water per centages. I ended up adding 30g of bread flour (yes, I measured that) after the autolyse to bring the dough into focus in the mixer.
I suspect that the 30g of butter and 30g of honey lent themselves to the darker than usual crust. I'm not familiar with brioche doughs to make a comparison but I can't recall baking a loaf with that much enrichment. Towards the end of the bake, at 425F, the aroma seemed to smell a little bit burnt but that flavor wasn't in the crust at all. The baking stone wasn't hurt either so the application of the rule, "Don't fix it if it isn't broke" seems to be appropriate.


The crumb turned out to be very tender and moist which could be expected when using a dairy fat like butter. It has a good "wheaty" flavor. The 50g of flaked wheat seemed to disappear into the interior. They don't seem to have added any texture and hardly any color. I may have to go to 100g of flakes the time I pull this recipe up.

A rather annoying cold has caught up with me and inflicted its misery on my body. If it hadn't snowed on Thursday, I think that I may have sought out some kind of retail therapy to divert my attention. As it is, I've been looking out my window for distractions from the monitor. The usual suspects, cardinals, finches, goldfinches, juncos, and titmice have been fighting for perches on the feeder. They have been joined today by a flock of spotted towhee that migrate through this area this year. The towhee are supposed to be winter residents but I haven't seen that to be applicable. They are robin like in appearance and size and I mistook them for that bird when they passed through about 6 weeks ago. They have been trying to strip the chanticleer pear tree of any leftover berries from their first attack. I saw them later this afternoon at some trees at the intersection of High St and S 21st going for what may have been hack berries. The towhees aren't interested in the spillage from the feeders so they co-exist with the other birds. There is one exception and that's the two blue jays that are in the neighborhood. Nobody seems to get along with jays so it must be some shortcoming in their character and not the other birds.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A soaker loaf

These pictures show off my first, really successful sourdough loaf with a soaker as part of the formula. I was only minimally scientific in my development of the formula and I still managed to bake this without drama or trauma.
The soaker was 50g of home milled whole wheat and 50g of WheatMontana multi grain cereal. It was an overnight cold soak in 100g 0f water I added 1g of kosher salt to slow down the enzymatic reactions.
The rest was fairly straight forward. 250g of Dakota Maid bread flour, another 50g of whole wheat, 165g of water, 8g kosher salt, 4g of dried malt extract, and 180g of 80% hydration starter elaborated in a single build. I do something like that every week. It works for us. Nothing special was done in the mixing or, bulk fermentation though I did do an 18 hour retarded proofing in the fridge.
During the bake, I got an unexpected oven spring and an aroma that went into the corners of our little house on the edge of the prairie. That may or not have been caused by the enzymes in the soaker breaking down the starches into sugars such as maltose. The crust does look a little pale but this was a lean dough with no added fats or sweeteners.
In bread baking, the proof is not in the pudding but the eating. The soaker effort paid off well. the cereal added some color to the crumb but wasn't crunchy or objectionable in the eating. The crumb was reasonably open for a loaf with 25% WW and another 50g of grains. I think that I'll work on this formula a couple more times before I declare it done.
I have another soaker loaf cooling off as I type so the pictures will have to wait for a day or so. It's based on Hamelman's Oatmeal Wheat Loaf from the book "Bread". I substituted flaked malted wheat for the oatmeal and chose a sourdough starter instead of yeast. I can already tell that I'll have to work on that formula and will write on my tweaks in the next posting.
Outside, there are some early signs of spring. They are encouraging despite the forecast for snow tomorrow. I've seen quite a few leaves from daffodils starting up, the first tulip, and a patch of crocuses. Nothing of note is happening with all of our peonies. The stalks from last year do appear to have had some minor growth since I clipped them close to the ground last fall. I do admit to having pulled the straw mulch back from the garlic and saw probably 8 or 10 shoots. The rest will follow as the days grow longer and the ground warmer. It's not time to fertilize them yet. The fruitless pear tree lost the branches that I deemed hazardous to my head and health as I mow under the tree.
After that, no one should expect me to seek work as an arborist.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a "66"

The latest loaf out of the oven turned out to have a 66% hydration level. I think the interior crumb is good and this variation of the recipe will get better as I raise the hydration to 68 or 70%. I shaped this into a batard and placed it on parchment paper that had been dusted with semolina. I used a rolled up towel to slip under the paper and hold up the loaf's shape while proofing. The slashing is a still a weak point and better slashing might be a contributing answer among others for a more open interior.
I've got a couple of books from the library on baking. First is Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads". I've yet to try his method developed for this book. he calls it an epoxy method where half the flour is soaked for about 12 to 24 hours and another half is used in either a biga preferment or a sourdough starter. The two bowls are cut up and mixed in a larger bowl with the salt, a fat when called for, a sweetener, and some yeast. The dough undergoes a short fermentation, then shaping, and a quick proof. At least that's how I'm understanding it works. It looks like it it's worth a try for the curiosity approach and for the fact that I have so much whole wheat flour that I needn't worry about a mistake or two. The other book is E Kastle's "Artisan Breads". My only quibble with the book is that it really doesn't help the person that's starting a square one to get the basics down pat. Most bread baking books are a little bit light in this aspect. Maybe it's because the authors have been baking for so long they assume every one has some experience in the craft. the recipes do make for good reading. I've already tried his yeasted rye with caraway seeds and then adapted the recipe to utilize a sour. That was my Super Bowl rye. There are what appear to be some proofreading errors in the recipes concerning the baker's percentages. I think if someone understands the concept of the percentages, they'll recognize the errors and move on. This book is at the local library so I think I'll not buy a copy for a while. However, if I see a used copy at a good price, I'll grab it.
Outside, the snow is quickly melting during our February heatwave. We may see a night or two where the temperature doesn't drop below freezing. I've seen some soil mounds in the yards of the neighborhood and that means that it won't be long until the moles are back in town. I can at least take some small comfort in that I'm not the only person whose yard is afflicted by these rodents.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Catching Up With The Flours

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be trying a pan loaf with a soaker of a multi grain cereal. That's a project that will have to be repeated because I can't say that I've mastered that type of bread. I had problems with the hydration due to the soaker and the dough was more slack than I wanted. So I added flour, 3 TBL worth, to get a better consistency. I also added 1/8 tsp of active dry yeast to the water to keep the fermentation on schedule. The yeast did bring the schedule in but the ADY lightened the flavor of the bread leaving me to conclude that I would be better served in the future to let the dough take its own time rather than sacrifice flavor for convenience.
The top two pictures are my Super Bowl loaf of what can be called a deli rye with caraway I built up a two stage rye sour and that made for a great flavor in the bread. Carol has given me the green light to make this bread any time I want. We ate it with some kielbasa from Stoysich's in Omaha and its definitely a keeper. I'll have the recipe in a ODF or .pdf for any one that asks in a day or two.
The other two pictures are the latest work in what has become one of my standard loaves. It's 75% bread flour and 25% whole wheat. Substituting 5% rye for some of the whole wheat works well too. I've tried a standard 1-2-3 loaf with 150g of 100% hydration starter, 300 g of water, and 450g of flour with great success. That is a big loaf just under 2 lbs but with the starter and a retarded proofing, the results are worth the effort. The bread doesn't dry out quickly and its taste improves the next day.
This loaf was an odd recipe in that I used a larger than normal starter of 180g at 80% hydration and 400g of flour. I took a guess that the water should be about 280g and that worked. I was rewarded with an open, tender crumb. This recipe will be available for the asking as well.
Out in the yard, new birds are starting to show up. Some starlings showed up in a small flock during Tuesday's snow. Thursday morning was out of the ordinary in that a hawk was perched on the power line to our neighbor's house. Red tailed hawks are prevalent around here but there are three other types in the area at this time of year. There's a lot of snow on the ground still so checking up on the garlic I planted last year will have to wait for a few more days. The forecast calls for temps in the mid to upper 50s for the next six days or so. I don't expect any crocuses for at least two to three weeks but that won't discourage me. We got a nice little catalog full of day lily and peony specials that are very tempting. I've been able to resist ordering, so far.
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Sesquicetennial Miche


Saturday, 29 JAN 2011, was the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood, also known as Kansas Day here in the Sunflower State. Accordingly, I started a sourdough miche loaf that would have sunflower seeds on the crust. It looks like I chose my flour content incorrectly in that the traditional flour used is a whole wheat of around 85% extraction or a combination of 85% whole wheat flour and 15% bread flour. This loaf got about 25% whole wheat and it came out flatter than I hoped for. I also experimented with a 70% hydration level which did give me the more open interior crumb.
The flavor is much more than edible, it's great. Even though there's hard red winter wheat in the recipe, it came out very sweet with no bitterness. I did use 4g of dried malt extract for crust color enhancement but that shouldn't have added any residual sweetness in the crumb. There has long been a suspicion in the back of my mind that the sourdough levain and retarded proof break down the phytin compounds in the WW flour but I haven't read anything conclusive about that.

In the que for upcoming bakes this week are whole wheat pan loaf with some add ins of either rolled oats or a multi grain cereal. It's time to clean out the cupboards of odds and ends. There's also a sourdough rye with caraway seeds for the Super Bowl party. With good timing, I should be able to build a two or three step rye sourdough starter to give the loaf some added zing.

Outside my window today is the big blizzard. It's about 15F, winds are out of the north at 20-35 MPH, and a fine grained snow. Visibility is between 1/4 to 1/2 mile. There are only a few bird types feeding today, chickadees, juncos, finches, and goldfinches. The juncos are particularly territorial and driving off the other birds. I haven't seen any cardinals today. We are now in the time period that should deliver the most snow and bothersome wind.

It's a good day to take a refreshing nap and later on find a friendly book and warming sip of bourbon on ice, maybe Gran Marnier. The snow will be there tomorrow. Shoveling can wait until I've at least had some lunch.
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