Monday, December 26, 2011

After the Flour Dust Settled

I baked this particular loaf for Christmas dinner at my brother in law's house yesterday. It was a simple enough loaf that could be called either a rye bread or a bauernbrot depending on where you come from. I don't have any crumb shots but the interior was nicely open and the flavor was good enough that a 15 year old niece asked for a second sample as I was slicing the loaf for our meal. 

150g of rye starter at 100%.
I used a two stage build that took about 14 hours to hit its peak. This wasn't a 100% rye starter in that I built it from my ongoing starter or madre.

80g whole rye flour
20g white whole wheat flour
100g water.
Soak for at least 4 hours

Main Dough
All of starter
All of soaker
300g bread flour
166g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
1 Tbs sunflower oil
1 Tbs molasses

This formula is more than useable in its present development stage. The molasses definitely does leave a subtle addition to the flavor of the bread and to the color of the crumb. Whole wheat flour can be substituted for the white whole wheat for a darker crumb than I saw. Unsalted butter can replace the sunflower oil. After shaping the loaf, I sprayed the top of the loaf with water and rolled the loaf over some caraway seeds. About half of the caraway seeds fell off by the time I sliced the loaf. Mixing the seeds in the dough would be a better option for me to try in the future.
Before we left Omaha, I picked up 10# of bread flour, 5# of all purpose, and 5# of stone ground whole wheat, all milled by Dakota Maid. The prices had increased by 30% or so since last summer. In any case, I've got lots of flour to play with now.

Last summer, I posted about the extensive flooding in the Missouri River basin. During our trip to and back from Omaha I got a chance to observe some of the damage. We traveled on I-29 from just outside Kansas City up to Omaha. I-29 is situated to the east of the river, close to the bluffs that the glacial run off created at the end of the last Ice Age. The damage that I saw as we drove by was really impressive. A more thorough observation and analysis of losses will probably be depressing to the farmers who will have to remake their farms and lives.
Most of the route is at two or more miles away from the river yet it was easy to see how far in the river had spilled during the summer once we approached Hamburg, Iowa. The river had flowed over the highway and the waters had been there so long that even hedge trees, which are notoriously tough to cut down, had been killed. The railroad bed to the east of the highway was washed away and had to be replaced in many sections. Mile long railroad trains that carry coal for power plants are back on schedule on those tracks.
Lots of fields that normally grew bumper crops of corn or soybeans have been covered by silt up to four feet in some locations. It will take years before the farmers can restore the acreage to its former fertility. The F-5 tornado that hit Joplin, MO was certainly more dramatic in its destruction but the amount of destruction by the river flooding this year will exceed that tornado in dollars lost.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Baking

I got into a little bit of flinging the flour for the holiday. The first loaf up was a reprise batard of the Easton Hillside Sourdough loaf. The formula is easy enough to replicate but I can't help thinking that before I set the formula in stone that I should try it with a liquid levain. Hamelman's "Bread" uses a 125% hydration levain as a starter in almost all the loaves in the book. Most of my starters have been between 70-100% hydration until I baked the next loaf for Christmas dinner at my BIL's.
This picture is my initial effort at developing an oatmeal-cranberry sourdough. It's a blatant theft of the Hamelmans Golden Raisin Sourdough. I sat down with pen and calculator because I haven't learned how to work with spread sheets yet and scratched out the numbers based on a 400g flour loaf. My plan was to bake two smaller loaves, keep one for home consumption and take one for Christmas dinner.

During the course of the effort I ran into two obstructions that slowed me down. The first was the use of the oatmeal in the formula. The oatmeal just sucked up a lot of the water and consequently left the dough much stiffer than I expected. The whole wheat flour in the formula isn't soaked beforehand so that probably added to the difficulty. I added about 50g more water but couldn't get the feel of the dough right. Soaking the oatmeal first and then adding flour to correct a slack dough will be a lot easier than trying to add so much water.

Baking presented a new problem for me. My usual baking time didn't work well for two loaves.  It was probably caused by the oven being open longer to load the loaves onto the stone. One loaf, pictured here was done more than four minutes earlier than the other. The crumb on the loaf already cut is tight but light as in almost fluffy. There's work to be done on this loaf's formula.

This last loaf is a rye bread of no particular nationality's pedigree. I've been reading Leader's "Local Breads" but not in depth enough for a meaningful interpretation or slavish copy. I used a two stage starter build of mostly rye. The flour in the dough was 75% bread flour, 20% rye, and 5% white whole wheat. I enriched the loaf with some sunflower oil and molasses.

This loaf is going to Christmas dinner as well so there are no crumb shots yet but I'm confident that it will do well with the Polish sausage to be served with dinner. The formula is similar to a bauernbrot that I did a couple years ago.

Here's wishing any and every one that reads my posts a Merry Christmas and peaceful holiday season.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Easton Hillside Sourdough

This the most recent bake for me. I named it after the family business that I bought my baking honey from.

150g starter at 90% hydration, 80% AP/20% white whole wheat, two stage build

80g white whole wheat
20g whole rye flour
100g water

Main dough
300g bread flour
166g water
8g kosher salt
15g Hillside Honey
all of starter
all of soaker
Baked using Susan's Magic Bowl method.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunflower State Sourdough, First Attempt

Once I get past the obvious that the loaf leaves much to be desired in slashing and shaping, there is a lot of good here in my first attempt to make a new signature loaf. Whether it's childishness or hubris, I want to call it my "Sunflower State Sourdough".

The loaf is made from a variation of my starter and flours from Heartland Mills of Marienthal, KS. My problem with the rather flat oval probably originated from my shaping the dough like a batard and then fitting it into my oval banneton. The HM All Purpose flour isn't a high gluten AP so I think my best bet is to go with the batard shaping and proof the dough as a batard. That's a loaf style that I need much more practice in so Attempt #2 probably won't be very dramatic in appearance.

The starter turned out to a 2 1/2 stage build. My first step used a seed from my madre stock, HM AP, and a bit of HM Golden Buffalo. Just before the peak, I stirred the starter down- the half step, and let it rise again. At the second peak, I added more of the HM AP/GB combination and water, stirred down, and let the starter get back to work. I left the starter in the basement at 64F so I could sleep instead of starting my procedures at 430AM. Later on, I proofed the loaf, which was wrapped up, in our 54F garage to give myself a better chance to observe the proofing.

The goodness in the loaf is in how different and how much better this loaf is in flavor than some of my recent loaves. First of all, the crumb has a great deal more substance and texture to it. This isn't to say that it's really chewy or rubbery. It's just more bread in character. Don't be confused, I haven't quite got my finger on what it is yet. My first assumption is that it's due to the nature of the HM AP flour because I didn't use anything new in my procedures other than a couple extra minutes more in the bake to see if I could get more color in the outer crust. At $6.50/5 # of flour, the HM AP is twice as expensive as my usual Dakota Maid bread flour or all purpose flour. Plus, it's hard to find in the KC metropolitan area. Shipping costs from the mill are high and driving almost 400 miles to buy at the mill isn't a reasonable thing to do.

I guess my learning curve better be a steep and fast one if I'm going to develop a reliable formula before I have to declare bankruptcy.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Progress on three stage levain breads

I started my inquiry into the use of three stage levain or starter builds in my breads last week. The first bread wasn't bad but did have some unexpected results.

The first wrinkle in the progress was the slow growth of the starter. By the time I needed to have a strong starter for mixing, it was about three hours behind so I added 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast which helped bring about an adequate rise.

Another small problem was in the feel of the dough. I used molasses in this loaf and the dough lacked any elasticity. I made a loaf during the summer where I used molasses and didn't have such a problem.
As it stands right now, the fastest solution I can think of is to mix the molasses in with the water for the main dough, heat the water in the microwave oven, stir to mix the water, and let it cool down to less than 90F before mixing the dough. That's a lot of bother for one ingredient. Using honey the next time is a simple and faster alternative if I want to bake an enriched loaf.

The two loaves are a pair I baked for a pot luck Christmas party for the county Democratic Party organization. I had enough time and the experience from the first loaf to get the starter right. The left hand loaf was a French country loaf and the other was a sourdough white. I knew the crowd I was baking for and didn't want to get too far out with my breads. There are no crumb shots for these loaves.

Both loaves were satisfying efforts. The dough was easy to handle. Because I was planning on a retarded proofing, I used a three hour bulk fermentation with stretch and folds at 1 and 2 hours. Both loaves were steamed for the first fifteen minutes of the bake and had good oven spring. When I cut the loaves at the party, the crust was still crisp enough to leave lots of fragments on the cutting board. The interior crumb was nicely open and the flavor of the loaves was better than most of my efforts over the past couple of months. I have to say that there was complexity to the taste and that factor was very rewarding.

The three stage build is worthwhile IF you aren't constrained by a schedule to feed your family or for an event. My madre or seed stock starter sits in a refrigerator and may be part of my problem with the first loaf. I thought a three stage build would create a vigorous enough build that I could be baking in 24 hours or less. I've realized that if I kept my starter at room temperature and did daily replenishment I would have been just fine. That's not practical for me so I'm going back to two stage builds where I won't have to discard any of my starter.

This coming week I'll try building my starters with Heartland Mills AP and Golden Buffalo to see what happens. The GB has invigorated starters for me in the past and the AP is organic as well so I'll have to observe closely to see if there are any meaningful results. I've scaled down the Golden Raisin levain loaf formula from Hamelman's "Bread" with the goal of adapting the recipe for a cranberry bread. It could work.

We may be getting a brief break in temperatures this week which could give me enough time to work outside. Rather than raking the leaves in the yard, I'd prefer to just mulch them with the mower. I think it's too late for any more winterizing fertilizer for the grass but the chopped leaves won't hurt a thing. The shorter daylight hours have put the birds into different rhythms so I don't know if there are any new varieties out there. Almost all the migratory flocks have passed through. The rosemary plant that I brought in to winter over appears to be the victim of too much attention from us. The leaves are pale and droopy which I take to be signs that we over watered the plant.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Low Visibility Kitchen and One Loaf Got Away

I started my baking preparations on Friday morning before I finished my first cup of coffee or reading the morning paper. There was work to be done so I hauled the mixer, the active dry yeast, starters(yes, plural), bread flour, white whole wheat flour, and rye flour from the storage shelves and refrigerator downstairs. I had a scratch pizza crust and two sourdough loaves to do. One loaf was for a church bake sale and the other was for our personal enjoyment. Flour and yeast were in the air.

My pizza crust is still relatively simple, low effort, and more than serviceable.

250g all purpose flour
25g white whole wheat flour
25g sourdough starter (optional, for folks who have a little too much in their fridge)
170g water at 85F
1/2 tsp yeast (ADY or IDY)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbs olive oil

I just mix the first five ingredients in a bowl until there's no dry flour on the bottom of the bow. If you use ADY, be sure to hydrate in the water for 10 minutes before mixing. Cover the bowl and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes. Don't fret about the yeast. Sprinkle the salt across the top of the dough and add the oil to the bowl. Mix well with your hands or a dough whisk. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about two minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place the dough in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough around to coat the surface of the dough and cover with plastic wrap or the bowl's lid. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then place in your refrigerator. About 4-6 hours later, take the dough out to warm up for at least an hour before shaping. I wait 1 1/2 hours at a 70F room temperature, less when warmer. This dough should result in a 12-14" (300-350 mm) diameter crust of medium thickness.

I dock the crust interior with a fork to minimize bubbles. I also brush the edges with some olive oil and sprinkle the crust interior with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. The cheese helps minimize slippage of ingredients later on. The crust is par baked for 8 minutes in a 450F oven. The crust is then "decorated" and loaded back into the oven. Sometimes I use a perforated pizza pan and other times I put the crust on parchment paper to bake on a stone. When using a baking stone, I use a sheet pan as a platform for the par baking and then slip the pizza off onto the baking stone. Bake at 450-475F for 10 minutes, turn the crust or pan around. Pull the parchment paper if using a stone. Bake for 6 minutes and check for doneness. When the edge, know as the cornicione, is a dark golden brown you can pull your pizza or leave it in for another two minutes if you like a really crispy crust.

The two loaves were very similar, varying only 5g in the amount of rye flour in the dough ingredients. The starters turned out to be a 100% hydration level this time around and were built in two stages with my usual 85% AP/ 15% rye flour mixture. The bulk fermentation was stretched out to three hours on Friday with stretch and folds at 1 and 2 hours. Both loaves got a 14 hour retarded fermentation in the fridge and needed to be warmed up before baking. Because my oven can't do two loaves at once, I left one loaf in the downstairs basement to wait at 65F for the second bake.  That didn't hurt a thing. The loaf that got away is the one that went to the bake sale and it was proofed in my oval banneton. No pictures of that one.

150g at 100% hydration

75g white whole wheat flour
25g rye flour
100g water at room temperature
Soak for at least two hours.

300g bread flour
166g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
1 Tbs honey
all of soaker
all of starter

Working on these two loaves has motivated me to adjust my procedures. The two step starter build worked well for me in this bake but after reading an interview with the Burlington, VT area baker Gerard Rubaux in the excellent blog Farine,
I'm ready to move to a three step build starter to get an even more active starter. The extended bulk fermentation also impressed me because the dough turned out to be easier to handle during the shaping. I can't explain the why but I can't argue with the results. I hope to find an explanation for that by the time April rolls around.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.