Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Better, Not Perfect, Pain Complet Au Son

My second attempt at developing this formula turned out  better than the first effort.
 I tweaked the formula so much that when I slashed the dough before loading, I really expected that it would end up more flat bread than a loaf. The only reason for an acceptable shape that I can figure out is that my shaping was sufficiently strong to allow the oven spring to build upwards. Even if that wasn't the case, It's all good.

The tweaks made were relatively small or at least that's how they appear to me.

I started out by soaking the white whole wheat flour before mixingThen I used a slightly different volume of starter. I also changed the amount of water in the main dough. One of these days, I'll get serious to the point of neurotic obsession and approach this baking much too, too seriously.

Because I was out of house bread, I simply did a three hour proof rather than putting the loaf into the fridge for an overnight rest.

160g @ 66% hydration after a two stage build

Soaker #1
100g white whole wheat flour
100g water

Soaker #2
40g wheat bran
100g water

Main Dough
300g bread flour
190g water at 85F
8g kosher salt
All of the two soakers
All of starter

This is a very good bread for any purpose. I spread chunky peanut butter over the first two slices this morning and then used the bread for a turkey and Swiss cheese with Dijon mustard sandwich this afternoon for lunch. While small flecks of color in the crumb reveal the bran, its flavor isn't as obvious as it was the first time I made this loaf.

The biggest difference in the baking of the two loaves was more environmental than in the ingredients or procedure. The first effort was baked while we had the air conditioning on rather than the open windows I worked with yesterday. That's a difference that I need more experience in baking to learn how to compensate for effectively.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Was that a baby jalapeno chile I spied? Plus, an easy country loaf.

It is indeed a baby jalapeno that I saw in the garden. Most years, the conservative gardeners don't even put out tomato and pepper plants until Mothers Day. My nightshade family plants are usually in the ground as soon after 15 April, our areas average last frost date, as soon as I can gather the momentum to prepare the garden soil. This isn't fearlessness or disregard for the common gardening wisdom but merely a willingness to take the chance of loss because the varieties I prefer will still be in the nurseries for me to use to replace my frostbitten plants.In 23 years of gardening, I haven't lost anything to frost yet, gardener's errors yes, but not to frost. Some of my garlic are starting to send up their scapes (I think that's what they're called) and I should start trimming them so the plant's energy goes into the bulb itself. The herbs are starting to respond to the warmer soil but so far all I clipped from the herbs has been some oregano and cilantro.

The first hummingbird of the season has been spotted but I may have trouble if I put up the feeders. The plant hanging trellis, a two armed wrought iron fixture, on the north side of our house was recently accosted by what I suspect was a large raccoon. I woke up on Thursday morning and found that the trellis was completely out of the ground despite the fact that it had a twelve inch anchor section driven into the ground. The trellis was also bent about six inches off axis at the bottom. It's not too far fetched to believe that a raccoon went climbing up to the top of the trellis in order to grab the suet feeder cage and caused the bending. The suet cage is missing in action which could have been part of the raccoons efforts. An opossum probably wouldn't have been ambitious enough to climb such a thin trellis.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Rob invited Mrs PG and I to their house for a Mother's Day meal this evening. In order to provide a decent loaf of bread, I opened up my copy of Hamelman's "Bread" and went straight to the first section of recipes, breads with preferments, to see if there were ideas worth "appropriating". There certainly were and I knew I could have the bread baked and ready to hit the road in less than twenty four hours. I also expected that it would be tasty enough to serve to Rob's family and get a few compliments as well. I forgot to take any pictures but I did write down the recipe which is based on the "Rustic Bread" formula.


200g bread flour
200g water at 85F
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/16-1/8 tsp active dry yeast

The yeast is probably much less than a gram and hard to measure but not to worry. The preferment, after being thoroughly mixed, is covered and can sit out on the counter at room temperature for 12-14 hours or until bubbles are on the top surface.

Main Dough:

160g bread flour
20g white whole wheat
20g rye flour
80g water at 85F
1/2 tsp kosher salt*
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
All of preferment

Total salt weight for the loaf should be 7g.

I bulk fermented for 1.5 hours with a stretch and fold at 45 minutes. The proofing took about 1.25 hours. The loaf baked at 450F for 15 minutes and then turned around for even baking for another 20 minutes. The internal temperature should be 205F. It has an excellent, mild flavor that even precocious 4 year old children can enjoy. I hope that anyone that duplicates this formula will leave me a comment about their experience.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Three Cornered Country Loaf or Don't Blame the New Camera

I won't blame my new camera for this odd looking Country Loaf. A new Fujifilm F505 was delivered by the USPS last week and I still haven't quite got the fine details down yet.
There a plenitude of specialized programs that I'm sure I'll use once just to see how they work and after the pictures are deleted I'll go back to trying to get the best picture with the least work. The flash is somewhat odd but that may be a function of the light metering program built into the camera. But, with the help of my Picasa 3 program, I might get the pictures I want to post here.

The bread is in the style of Thom Leonard's French Country Loaf  with the addition of some wheat germ. The misshapen appearance is probably due to my use of a less than dangerously sharp paring knife to slash. Some of the dough got tugged around during the last slashes but I kind of like the odd shape. Chances are I won't be able to replicate it again if I try.
Like many of my recent loaves, the starter was large and of medium hydration, around 70%. Most of flours are really thirsty these days so I'm learning the necessity of adjusting the dough.
190g of 70% hydration

35g wheat germ
100g stone ground whole wheat flour
135g water

Main Dough:
265g bread flour
25g whole rye flour
150g water at 85F
8g kosher salt
all of starter
all of soaker

This loaf won't be set out to feed the chatterbox squirrel that berates us every time the bird feeder is empty. He has no complaints these days, after feeding well on the seeds dropped by our feathered friends, he can no longer climb the PVC pipe that we use for hanging the feeder outside my window.   

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Practice Pain Italien

   While I'm disappointed that the peonies in the yard are making a hasty exit, the garden is yielding my first pickings of leaf lettuce. There's been about 5" of rain over the last eight days and the lettuce responded with vigorous growth. There were no pretensions of precision when I planted my lettuce. I put a tablespoon of cane sugar in a bowl and put in some lettuce seeds. They were from the last two years so I had an excuse for my heavy hand. Then I took said bowl and went out to the garden to spread the mix down the three foot long row. The sugar made it easy to see where I had sewn seed. I moved the dirt back on top of the row, watered in the seeds and waited for the bountiful harvest. It took awhile but it has come around. The first planting is Parris Island Romaine and the second is Green Ice. It won't last long into the heat of summer but the first pickings from the garden are always the sweetest, regardless of the crop.

This afternoon's bread is my first, but very casual, attempt at a Pain Italien loaf, something that the French boulangers near the Italian border pride themselves on knowing how to do well.
Once again, I stepped over the edge of the cliff and decided to use my own ideas rather than a fixed recipe from someones book. It's not perfect but not bad either. First of all, because the recipes I saw called for using AP flour, I thought a poolish or biga was in order.

I started with a 78% hydration preferment build. After mixing it up, I left it on the kitchen counter at room temp, 71F, for a few hours before putting it into the fridge overnight.
I'm not crazy about all white flour bread so I measured out some wheat germ and stone ground whole wheat flour to add some color and texture to the crumb.Then I added some non-fat dry milk and olive oil to help keep the crumb tender.
The result was two baguette looking loaves, one 245g and the other 275g after baking. Without adequate steaming, the crust wasn't up to Parisian standards for baguette color. I suspect that 50 minutes of proofing was inadequate for an open crumb. I could have done much worse.  
The crumb has turned out to be soft and on the sweet side. With a few changes, I think that I could get closer to the ideal. Practice makes perfect so whenever I plan to serve a pasta dish, I'll have a good reason to revisit this recipe.


103g AP flour
80g water at 85F
                                                                  1/8 tsp, maybe a gram or so of active dry yeast.
Hydrate the dry yeast for 10 minutes in the water then mix in flour. Cover and leave at room temperature, 70-74F, for 2-3 hours and then refrigerate over night, taking out to the counter at least two hours before mixing dough.

Main Dough:
225g AP flour
20g stone ground whole wheat flour
5g wheat germ
165g water at 85F
5g non-fat dry milk
8g olive oil (1/2 Tbs)
7g kosher salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast

I baked the loaves in a perforated two loaf pan. The slashing patterns showed up in a somewhat exaggerated manner but I don't mind. This was the first time I got a recognizable baguette type loaf without major league agony. There's work to be done but the result is encouraging.

The last loaf was Friday's work. It too was under proofed which means that I have to get over my worries about that. As the average temperatures rise, the challenge to find the sweet spot with the proofing dough will be more amusing than before. Thank goodness I can eat the less than perfect loaves and consume the evidence.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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