Friday, January 16, 2015

A Josey Baker Hearth Bread

 These first two pictures are of a loaf that I made from pizza dough a few weeks ago. I started out building up and renewing the strength of my starter and had some discard left over. That turned into the idea of baking a sourdough pizza. Well, I had so much starter that I made enough dough for a 14" crust and still had 350 g or so of dough left. So I decided that I would make a small boule and try proofing the dough with the seam side down. The boule didn't develop a spectacular series of splits on the crust but it doesn't look too bad and I know the gimmick works.

 The purpose behind this second loaf was to try baking the loaf at 465F on my Emile Henry baking stone rather than 450F as was my practice with my older baking stone. I think it worked out well since the crumb was still moist and tender but not so moist that I thought I might have under baked the loaf. The crumb wasn't too bad considering I added a 40g soaker of bulgur with 75% hydration
This rather rough, miche looking loaf was my first attempt at "Josey Baker Bread" Hearth Bread. I've read the book and while I'm not enthusiastic about it, there is much that is good in it. Mr Baker jumps right into using preferments, discusses hydration, the importance of scaling, and stays relatively consistent in the procedures to be used. The consistency is important when you consider that the book is oriented in taking a first timer through yeast breads to sourdoughs and some treats and sweets to round out their skills.

Most of the recipes have a hydration in the 72-75% range, something that may be found perplexing by a new baker. Mr Baker does bring up the use of cast iron kettles and Le Creuset style dutch ovens for these doughs but I have to wonder if a new baker would buy either when first attempting such slack dough.

As I mentioned the book is geared for beginners. The text is written in a kind of conversational tone, with Mr Baker as the teacher delivering his monologues and wisdom. My problem with that style choice is that text is delivered in a kind of pseudo hipster/ California surf dude voicing which I found annoying. I didn't see the need for the editor to indulge in such an irritating gimmick. On the other hand, Mr Baker is the successful businessman and baker that has a book in print while I occupy an obscure corner of the internet. I suggest that if you're interested in the book, you should first borrow a copy from your local library system or scan through it at your favorite book store. You may be excited by the recipes and/or be enchanted by the how the book is voiced.

I followed Mr Baker's recipe for this loaf very closely, with my only deviation being that I baked at 460F rather than his suggested 475F. I don't have the fancy dutch oven but I do have a large stainless steel bowl that I used to cover the dough during the first 20 minutes of baking. The methods used in this particular are kind of a ABin5 meets Jim Lahey combination and I'm not sure how I'd change things if I were to try this recipe again. All I've come up with so far is to proof and bake the loaf in a 9" cake pan. But, there are recipes from the "Della Fattoria Breads" book that I'd like to try next so don't wait for the repeat in the next few weeks.

120 g cool (60F) water
105 g whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
Using a large bowl, mix the preferment and cover. Depending on room temperature, it will take about 12-16 hours until it's doubled in size with bubbles on top.

Main Dough
375 g bread flour
240 g water at 80F
12 g salt, Mr Baker prefers a fine grind grey sea salt

1. Mix the remaining ingredients with the preferment using your hands until the flour has been absorbed with the mass. This may take two to three minutes. Adjust with water if too dry and with flour if too wet
By my estimates, this dough should be at or about 75% hydration which means it probably won't be very dry at the end of mixing. The salt content comes in at 2.2% of flour weight which is little bit higher than many recipes but not a dangerous or toxic level.
2. Once dough has been mixed, cover the bowl and rest the contents for 3-4 hours at room temperature. Then place in your refrigerator for at least three hours and as much as one week.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape. Rest seam side down for a few minutes while you prepare your banneton or brotfom.
4. Place dough in your banneton or brotform, seam side up. Cover your banneton with oiled plastic wrap or a damp, not wet, smooth towel. Rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours until the dough passes the poke test. Retarded proofing in your refrigerator is an alternative can be done for 6-24 hours.
5. Once your dough is proofed, preheat your oven and baking stone or your dutch oven for 30 minutes at 475F.
6. Turn your shaped loaf out onto your peel, slash, load onto baking stone, and cover with your stainless steel bowl or roasting pan lid. If using dutch oven, carefully load your dough into the dutch oven, slash, and cover.
7. Bake at 475F for 20 minutes and remove the really hot bowl or the lid of the dutch oven.Bake for another 15 minutes or until loaf is brown.
If using a dutch oven, make sure the lid knob is ovenproof to 500F as a matter of safety. You can obtain a replacement knob for this purpose at Amazon or through other supply stores.
8.The loaf is finished when the crumb reaches 205F and has been measured as such with an instant read thermometer. For a crunchy crust, turn the loaf out of the dutch oven and place back into your cooling oven for five minutes with the door cracked open with a hot pad or wooden spoon.
9. Cool on a wire rack, with good circulation around it, for at least 3 hours before eating.

The weather here on the western bank of the Missouri River has switched from damn cold to a January heat wave. We're going to enjoy temperatures in the 50s for a few more days which may become an excuse for people to take the covers off their long neglected barbecue grills. There's no snow cover on the ground whatsoever so the usual standing room only rule at the bird feeders hasn't come into full effect yet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.


  1. It would be really great to start using hearth bread for all of my bread needs. However, the only problem is that I don't have much time to make bread at home. This is one of my favorite kinds of bread, so I would love to be able to eat it more. Do you know if there are any bakeries that do bread delivery? If so, this would be the perfect option for me, because then I could get the bread whenever I needed!

  2. Something that you might to consider is taking a try at the breads created for the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes" books. I currently have the updated "ABin5" book which adds some recipes and finally makes the concession of adding weight measurements to their recipes.

    While I haven't quite mastered their style, there are some aspects that could be used to fit fresh bread into your schedule. The first things is that you spend about five minutes mixing your dough and then covering the bowl. After two hours at room temperature, you can put your dough in the fridge for days at a time before using. That idea lends itself to making enough dough for up to four loaves at a time.
    When you want a fresh loaf, you just cut out a chunk of dough, shape it, let it rest for between 40-90 minutes, and then bake. The cold dough out of the fridge is easy to shape so you should be able to have some success early on.
    I noticed some similarities in technique between the ABin5 book and the Josey Baker book. If you have the opportunity, borrow both books from your local library system and you should be able to see what I mean after you've read them.
    The ABin5 technique is the easier of the two to grasp and execute in the least amount of time.Once you've got that, I'd suggest you tackle baking sourdough breads. They'll have a longer shelf life in your kitchen unless they find a fast way to your stomach. Sourdough can be time managed in production so you won't have to be chained to your oven once you get the knack.
    I really can't recommend having artisan delivered unless you have the funds to pay what would seem to be very high prices for a loaf of bread that certainly won't be fresh. I've mailed loaves to friends and family and the cost for Priority Mail service was always at least $10. You might bake a few bricks while you learn but when you achieve consistency, you'll have a sense of accomplishment of having done something important.