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The Staff of Life - A Primer on Baking Bread

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Part 10:

 

As a primer we’ve pretty well covered the bases. With the exception of sourdough, there isn’t a bread recipe I know of that you can’t make, now that you’ve learned the basics.

 

There are short sourdoughs, in which the starter only ages two or three days, which would be included. Real sourdough, however, using a mother that is made with wild yeast and maintained for years, requires skills far beyond the scope of this series. So I’m not going to discuss it.

 

If you’ve been making bread following this series, however, you’ve certainly got the skills. There are numerous sources of info that you can turn to.

 

What I am going to do, however, is provide a running commentary on breads and bread making. There will be bits and pieces, in no particular order, that fill in the gaps, answer questions, talk about techniques we haven’t discussed, and provide recipes that interest me. Hopefully you’ll find them interesting as well. And, of course, if you have questions or concerns I'll do my best to address them.  

 

First off, I want to share a short bibliography. I don’t pretend it’s at all exhaustive---a list of books that deal just with bread making, or in which bread plays a significant role would stretch as long as this entire primer. Indeed, just the books titled “Bread,” or “Breads of the World” would go on for pages. Instead, what I’m going to do is list the six books I find myself returning to, over and over, either for information or recipes.

 

1. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 2001. Although Reinhart’s own Crust & Crumb and other books about baking “artisan” breads predates this by several years, BBA is the book most credited with starting the revolution in home bread making; popularizing concepts like retarded fermentation and the use of pre-ferments.

 

2. Bread Alone, Daniel Leader & Judith Blahnik, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1993.  Dan Leader’s seminal work covers much of the same ground as BBA. It is slightly more technical, though, and, being based on the methods he used at his bakery of the same name, often seems more commercially oriented. Still and all, it provides many insights not found in Reinhart’s work.

 

3. Ultimate Bread, Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno, DK Publishing, New York, 2004. Although published in the 21st century, Ultimate Bread is sort of a throwback to the simpler pre-artisan days of baking bread. Their recipes, for instance, use only volume measurements. Sponges are the closest thing they come to using pre-ferments. And almost all their 100 or so recipes are single-rise, single-day productions. But there are some truly great tasting breads to be found here.

 

4. Flatbreads & Flavors, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, William Morrow & Sons, New York, 1995 (hardback), 2008 (softbound).  One of my all-time favorite cookbooks. Alford and Duguid traveled around the world, collecting flatbread recipes from the native peoples wherever they went. In addition, they provide recipes for savory foods of those same cultures that go well with the breads being discussed. This is the only book I know of devoted strictly to flatbreads.

 

5. A Baker’s Odyssey, Greg Patent, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2007. Have you seen Mo Rocca’s Food Network show, “My Grandmother’s Ravioli?” Greg Patent did it first, with baked goods. The book’s sub line “celebrating time-honored recipes from America’s rich immigrant heritage” sums it up. Not strictly a bread book, in does contain a wealth of ethnic breads, along with other baked goods---both savory and sweet---provided by folks who are maintaining the food culture of their forebears.

 

6. Bread: The Breads of the World and How to Bake Them at Home, Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter, Anness Publishing Ltd, London, England, 1999. This is a relative newcomer to my collection. I’d come across it in the library, browsed through it, and had to order a copy. If there ever was a bread book that seemed written for our Foods of the World forum, this is it! It’s an exploration of bread from all over the globe. About 2/3 of it is a pictorial with text, providing insights into the history, shape, texture, and rationale for each bread, sometimes comparing them to similar breads from other regions and countries. The last third of the book contains recipes for 100 traditional breads from various cultures.

 

This raises another point. There is no particular reason to invest a lot of money in bread books. Not when today’s libraries contain so many books on the subject. I’ve read maybe 30 such books that I don’t own. But every one of them provides unique information or recipes that are useful.

 

For instance, there is a bread shape called a “couronne,” which translates as “crown.” Basically it’s a bread made into a ring shape. Reinhart starts with a boule, punches a hole in the middle, and then stretches the ring to the size he wants, making a seamless loaf. Most bakers start by rolling the dough into a thick rope, forming a circle and sealing the seam where the ends meet.

 

My library has a volume simply called The Bread Book. IMO it is generally unremarkable, and not worth owning. But there are things in it well worth knowing. Example: It has a recipe for a fruit-filled couronne that is formed unlike any other I’d seen. You start by rolling the dough into a thin rectangle. Then you spread the filling on the dough, and roll it like a jelly roll. But it goes even further.

 

After filling and rolling the rope you carefully slice it in halve lengthwise. Then, keeping both halves cut-side upwards you twist them together. Then form the circle and seal the ends.

 

Being as that was one of the few things in the book I found worthwhile, I copied it for my files.

 

Lo and behold, the technique is not so unique after all. Ingram and Shapter, for instance, use the same method for making a Danish savory crown, filled with onions and cheese. But the fact remains that I learned it from a book I have no intention of ever buying.

 

My point, if it needs stating, is that if there’s only one, or two, or half a dozen things to learn from a bread book it’s worth reading it, even if you’ll never own it.

 

I’d be remiss, too, if I didn’t talk about the web as a source of bread making info and recipes. To be sure, there are web sites that focus on bread.  The Fresh Loaf (www.thefreshloaf.com)  is perhaps the best of them, but there are others. If you can’t learn from those sites you’re really not trying.

 

On the other hand, be cautious using those all-too-many recipe dump sites. In my experience, most of them are the next best thing to useless. Recipes of any kind are rarely tested, and errors abound. Ingredients are left out or misstated. Instructions are written poorly, with steps often omitted or written incorrectly. This tends to be even more true when bread is involved.

 

Once you’ve got some bread making experience you may be able to spot the mistakes, and adapt for them. But if you’re just beginning, you’ll more likely frustrate yourself when the bread doesn’t come out right.

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Part 9:

 

Many bread recipes start out with a slack (i.e., moist and somewhat sticky) dough. While you can use a firm pre-ferment for these, you have to adjust the liquid content upwards. That being the case, you may as well start with a moist pre-ferment to begin with. That’s where a Poolish comes in.

 

The big difference between a Pate Fermentee and a Poolish is their runniness. Firm pre-ferments are, in effect, already dough. In theory you could make a Pate Fermentee in a large enough quantity and bake it. Moist pre-ferments, on the other hand, are closer to being batters than doughs. They are incredibly hydrated, with the liquid content running at least 100%. Here, for instance, is Peter Reinhart’s version:

 

Poolish

 

2 ½ cups (11.25 oz) unbleached bread flour

1 ½ cups (12 oz) water at room temperature

¼ tsp (.03 oz) instant yeast

 

Stir together the flour, water, and yeast in a mixing bowl until all the flour is hydrated. The dough should be soft and sticky and look like very thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, or until it becomes bubbly and foamy. Immediately refrigerate it. It will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

 

Note that in this formula the water content is 107%. Actually, I should say liquid, because you could just as easily use milk.

 

The difference between a Poolish and a standard sponge is merely fermentation time. Remember, we only ferment sponges about 20 minutes. And, whereas sponges can be used with both firm and slack doughs, Poolishes are only used with slack doughs.

 

Handling slack doughs presents special challenges. They’ll stretch and distort just by picking them up. And they have to be retained, at least until they’ve risen, or they’ll run out in a puddle. For shaped breads, such as baguettes and Ciabattas, retention is achieved by creating a temporary trough with baking canvass. Other times they’re contained by sidewalls of the baking pan, or allowed to run until their own surface tension stops them, to form flatbreads, such as Focaccia.

 

The problem is simple: We all love many of these breads, and want to rush into baking them. But, because of the special handling requirements, this likely leads to failures and frustrations. So my recommendation is that you get a bit of experience with firm doughs before taking on these challenges.

 

To show you what’s involved, we’ll start with Ciabatta, one of the most popular breads in both Italy and America. It’s also one of the most difficult breads to pull off.

 

Although rustic breads such as this one have a long tradition, the name “Ciabatta” only stems from the mid-20th century. A baker in the Lake Como region noticed that the amorphous shape of these breads resembled the slippers worm by dancers. He named his version “Ciabatta di Como,” and the name stuck.

 

Start by preparing the baking cloth. Professionals use linen for this, but that’s cost prohibitive for the home baker. Instead, muslin, light canvas, or even an old tablecloth with do. Or you can find kits in some stores that include a couple of sizes of baking cloths.

 

First time you use it start by spraying it with oil, then flouring it. After that just keep it floured each time you use it.

 

It use you’ll create a couche, which mere means that you’ll bunch the cloth to create channels and sidewalls. You’ll want the troughs to be as wide as your intended dough, and the sidewalls higher than it. In effect, you are creating a series of very high wrinkles.

 

BTW, the softer the cloth the easier this is to do, which is why linen is preferred over canvas.

 

 

Ciabatta

 

3 ¼ cups (22.75 oz) poolish (one recipe)

3 cups (13.5 oz) unbleached bread flour

1 ¾ tsp (.44 oz) salt

1 ½ tsp (.17 oz) instant yeast

6 tbls to ¾ cup (3 to 6 oz) lukewarm water (or substitute milk or buttermilk for all or part of the water). Using milk will make a more tender bread.

Semolina or cornmeal for dusting

 

Remove the poolish from the refrigerator at least at hour before you need it, to take the chill off.

 

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt and yeast. Add the poolish and six tablespoons of the water. Mix the ingredients to form a sticky ball. If necessary, add a little more water to pick up any loose flour. Use the spoon like a dough hook to mix the  mass thoroughly until it forms a smooth, sticky dough. This will take five to seven minutes. Alternatively, use the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, switching to the dough hook for the final couple of minutes.

 

Sprinkle enough flour on your work surface to create a square about 8 inches on a side. Transfer the dough to this bed, and perform a stretch & fold. What you’ll do is grasp the dough from both sides and stretch it in both directions, while simultaneously folding it in thirds. Spray the dough with oil, dust with flour, cover with plastic film, and let rest 30 minutes.

 

Stretch and fold the dough again, mist with spray oil, dust with flour, cover, and let frerment on the counter for 1 ½ to 2 hours. The dough will expand, but not necessarily double in bulk.

 

Lay your baking cloth on a work surface.

 

Carefully peel the plastic off the dough. Using a bench scraper that has been dipped in water, divide the dough into three rectangles, trying to degas it as little as possible. Generously flour the dough, then use the scraper to lift each piece from the counter. Roll both sides in the loose flour to coat.

 

Lay the loaves on the cloth and gently fold each piece letter style, working from the long ends, creating an oblong about 6 inches long. Bunch the cloth between pieces to create the couche walls. Mist the loaves with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover the cloth with towels.

 

If you think all this sounds awkward, wait until you try it.

 

Proof the dough for 45 to 60 minutes until it has noticeably swelled.

 

Preheat the oven to 500F. Steaming will be required, so set the oven up for that.

 

Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan, using the bench scraper to help support them. Lift the dough from each end and tug it out to a length of 9-12 inches. If it bulges too high in the middle, gently dimple it down with your fingertips to even it out. Slide the doughs onto the baking stone, or bake directly on the sheet pan. Steam the oven. After the final spray, lower the heat to 450F and bake for ten minutes. Rotate the loaves for even baking, and bake 4 to ten minutes longer, or until done. Loaves should be a golden color (but with dusty streaks due to all the dusting flour). They will feel hard and crusty when removed from the oven, but will soften as they cool.

 

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let them cool.

Baguettes were traditionally shaped using a couche, and still are by smaller bakeries in France. Fortunately, there now are specially shaped baguette pans for this purpose. If you want to try your hand at baguettes (and what bread maker doesn’t), I recommend getting one of those pans instead of frustrating yourself trying to more the long, thin doughs on and off a couche.

 

 


 

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I'm looking forward to your treatise on a retarded ferment Pain de Campagne.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 January 2013 at 09:59
Keep up the outstanding work, Brook ~
 
I gotta admit, I've learned more in your primer just in the last few days, than in all the years previously when I fumbled around trying to learn on my own. Very easy-reading and informative style -
 
... and inspiring as well! I'm looking forward to applying a few things!
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Part 8:

 

Last time we started discussing advanced bread baking techniques. As we did in the beginning of this series, we’ll take them one at a time, learning as we go.

 

Here is the recipe for the first pre-ferment, taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice:

 

Pate Fermentee

 

1 1/8 cups (5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/8 cps (5 oz) unbleached bread flour

¼ tsp  (.19 oz) salt

½ tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast

¾ cup to ¾ cup plus 2 tbls (6-7 oz) water at room temperature

 

Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add ¾ cup of the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minutes with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer). Adjust the flour or water according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (it is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It is harder to add water once the dough firms up).

 

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. The internal temperature should be 77F to 81F.

 

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it arund to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it swells to about 1 ½ times its original size.

 

Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freedze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

 

And to use it, we’ll make a Pain de Campagne. This is my go-to bread. So much so, in fact, that the book falls open to that page, it’s been used so often.

 

In France, particularly in Paris, they tend to call any bread not a baguette a Pain de Campagne. This translates as “country bread.” The generic French bread sold in American markets is a form of Pain de Campagne.

 

As noted, I make this a lot. Not only is it great tasting, it’s very versatile in terms of size and shape. Literally any bread shape can be formed from this dough, and you can make anything from dinner rolls to oversized boules from it.

 

Most of the time I shape it as a batard. But for dinner parties, when I really want to impress guests, I make it as an Epi (i.e., Sheaf of Wheat), which is merely a baguette cut into a fancy form.

 

Pain de Campagne

 

3 cups (16 oz) pate fermentee (one recipe as above)

13/4 cups (8 oz) unbleached bread flour

1/3 cup (1.5 oz) whole wheat or rye flour or combination of the two

¼ tsp (.19 oz) salt

1 tsp (.11 oz) instant yeast

¾ cup (6 oz) lukewarm water

 

At least one hour ahead of time, remove the pate fermentee from the fridge. Cut it into 12-15 small pieces, dust in flour, and set aside, covered, to take the chill off.

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl if doing this by hand) combine the flours, salt, yeast, and pate fermentee. Add the water, stirring until everything come together a makes a coarse ball. If necessary add a little water, no more than 1 tablespoon at a time, to gather any loose flour. Dough should be soft and pliable.

 

Knead the dough, 8-10 minutes by hand, or 5-6 minutes by machine, adding more bread flour if needed to create a dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky.

 

Form the dough into a ball and set it in an oiled bowl, turning the ball to coat all sides. Cover the bowl and set in a draft-free location. Let rise until double in bulk, up to two hours.

 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide it into three or more pieces, depending on the shape you desire. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, sprinkle them with cornmeal or semolina, and transfer the shaped loaves to them, leaving room for expansion. Lightly mist the dough with spray oil, cover loosely with plastic film, and set in a draft-free location until 1 ½ times their original size, about an hour.

 

Preheat the oven to 500F. Put the pans on the middle rack of the oven. If they both won’t fit, stagger them on separate shelves, remembering to not only rotate them, but to switch places, halfway through the baking.

Steam the oven as described above. Lower the heat to 450F and continue baking for ten minutes. Rotate the pans and bake 10-15 minutes more. Loaves should be a rich golden brown all over and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, or register 200F to 205F on a probe thermometer.

 

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let cool.

 

To make an Epi start by forming the dough into a batard. Roll and stretch it until it is baguette shaped; that is, long and thin. Using a kitchen shears make the cuts. Holding the shears at a shallow angle, cut about ¾ through the dough. Bend this ear to the right. Make another cut, and bend that ear to the left. Continue in that manner the length of the loaf.

 

To make sub rolls, divide the dough into six or eight pieces. Form each piece into a miniature batard. Reduce the baking time by at least five minutes.

 

For dinner rolls, divide the dough into six or eight pieces. Form each piece into a miniature boule. If desired, use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to create interesting designs.  

 

Margi recently posted a Pain de Campagne recipe http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/pan-de-campagne-de-provene_topic3095.html that I tried a couple of days ago. It differs primarily in the greater amount of rye flour used, compared to my standard. Frankly, it’s a much better tasting bread, and is likely to become my new best friend.

 

Next time I make it, however, I’ll put the finished dough through a retarded fermentation to see if it makes it even better. Retarding fermentation of the dough always makes a better bread. Sometimes dramatically so, other times in a barely perceptible manner.

 

I’m anxious to see how it affects Margi’s recipe, because it’s already a superior bread, well worth making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Part 7:

 

Using the methods we’ve discussed so far you can bake, literally, hundreds of different breads. With one or two exceptions these can all be done as single-rise, single-day loaves. Even if you use a double rise, most of them can be completed from raw materials to finished bread in less than a day.

 

Now we’re going to move into some more advanced techniques. Don’t get your panties in a bunch over the word “advanced” though. All it means is that we’ll be taking some extra steps, and extending the time frame out to two, or even three days.

 

I can hear you saying, “Oh my God! Three days! Is he kidding?” Fully understandable. I would have had the same reaction five years ago. But, as it turns out, these extra steps just require a little more planning. And there are ways to avoid devoting the time all at once if that’s a problem.

 

Is it worth putting in the extra time and effort? IMO, absolutely! Using them can elevate your bread from good to great.

 

The first thing we’ll discuss are pre-ferments. That’s another one of those technical terms. All it means is that you’ll make what your grandma probably called a starter, and use that as your primary leavening agent.

 

European bakers traditional kept a piece of today’s dough and used it to jump start tomorrow’s bread baking. All that pre-ferments do is formalize that process, and make it a little more consistent. Besides which, saving a piece of yesterday’s dough only works if you bake every day. And how many of us do that?

 

What that does for us, though, is provide an extensional definition for pre-ferments. What they are, quite simple, is a process in which you make one dough, then use it to create a second dough. These are called “indirect” doughs.

 

You’re probably already familiar with the idea. The sponges we’ve been using in many of our recipes, for instance, are one form of a pre-ferment. The ultimate pre-ferment is the mother used to create sourdough. Even if you’ve never tried maintaining one, you no doubt have heard of them. Sourdough, because it uses wild yeast, is a special class of bread. So we’ll hold off on discussing it for now.

 

Pre-ferments are useful because they slow down the fermentation process, allowing more flavor to be released from the wheat. In simplistic terms, the yeast and enzymes have time to convert the starches to sugars. This not only makes a more flavorsome bread, it leads to better crust formation.

 

How so? Again, over-simplifying what is a complicated chemical reaction, crust is produced when surface sugars caramelize. Obviously, the more sugar present the more efficiently this happens.

 

With the exception of sponges, which are always prepared as part of the dough-making process, pre-ferments are made the day before you bake. For home bakers, that usually means the evening before. They are then left to ferment overnight; sometimes at room temperature, sometimes in the fridge.

 

They can be made up to three days in advance, and kept in the fridge. Or you can freeze them for up to three months with no loss of quality. Frozen starters should be thawed overnight in the fridge, then taken out and allowed to stand at room temperature to remove the chill before using---which can take as much as two hours. That take-off-the-chill period applies to any preferment that has been kept in the fridge.

 

Because I use pate fermentee more than any other pre-ferment, I’ll typically spend some time making a big batch, then freeze it in use-sized portions. For this I take quart-sized zipper bags, spray the inside with oil, and put in the appropriate amount of pate fermentee. The bags are labeled, dated, and popped in the freezer.

 

There are two kinds of firm pre-ferments, and two moist ones. Modern American bakers have adopted the European names for them, and we’ll continue to do so.

 

The firm pre-ferments are called Pate Fermentee and Biga. Many home bakers think they are synonymous terms; that Pate Fermentee is the French version, and Biga the Italian. But they are different. Pate Fermentee is, at base, a recipe for making a French bread dough on a small scale. Bigas, on the other hand, while superficially resembling it, are made without salt.

 

The wet pre-ferments are sponges and Poolishes. You’re already familiar with sponges if you’ve made any of the breads in this series. A Poolish is a very moist mixture, with the flour and water (or other liquid) weighing the same. That is, in any Poolish formula, the water will be 100%---or close to it. While a Poolish can be frozen, it hardly pays to do so, because they take very little time to make.

 

The precise mixtures of pre-ferments vary slightly, baker to baker and author to author. As we discussed with flour, it’s best to be consistent, and use the same recipe all the time. With one exception, I use Peter Reinhart’s recipes, taken from his The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and those are the ones I’ll post here. If you’re more comfortable with somebody else’s, then use them. It’s not so much the specific recipe that matters as it does the technique

 

Oh, yeah. The one exception is when I make Bavarian style soft pretzels. In that case I use Eric Kastel’s pate fermentee, as found in his Artisan Breads at Home. Eventually I’ll post the entire procedure for making them.

 

The second advanced technique we’ll be discussing is called “delayed fermentation” or “retarded fermentation.” 

 

We’ve already talked about the benefits of extending fermentation time to provide better flavor and texture to the finished bread. Retarded fermentation carries this to the ultimate that is practical for home bakers. To accomplish it you put the dough in the fridge overnight. In that environment, yeast and enzyme activity will continue. But it will do so at an incredibly slow rate. Most of the time, when you remove the dough from the fridge, there will have been hardly any expansion at all.

 

Depending on the particular bread, this retarded fermentation takes place immediately after mixing the dough; after the first rising; or, in some cases, after shaping the loaf. Sometimes all the stages go through retardation, but that’s fairly rare. Most typical is a double retardation. The pre-ferment, obviously, has been in the fridge at least overnight. And then the finished dough, in one form or another, goes in the fridge for a second retardation.

 

Finally, let’s talk about steaming. Dough, when put in the oven, is happiest in a humid environment. Both oven spring and crust formation are affected by the amount humidity, particularly at the start of the baking process.

 

Commercial bread ovens have built-in steam injectors to maintain this higher humidity. Obviously, this isn’t practical for the home baker. So various techniques have evolved for simulating that.

 

I’ve tried several, and here’s what works best for me. Put a baking dish (wide and shallow works best) in the bottom of the oven, with 2 cups of water, as the oven preheats. Set the oven 25F-50F degrees higher than your baking temperature.

 

Set the dough on the middle rack of the oven. Close the oven and wait two minutes. Then, using a spray bottle, open the door, spray the bottom and sides of the oven (avoiding the built-in light) and close the oven. Repeat the spray 30 seconds later, and repeat 30 seconds after that. Lower the oven to the baking temperature, and bake until done.

 

Speaking of baking, because most home ovens do not heat evenly, it’s a good idea to bake the bread halfway, then rotate it for the balance of time.

 

Can you skip these steps? Without a doubt. As we’ve seen in the first six installments, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of great tasting breads are baked every day without them. But if you do use these techniques you’ll produce breads that are far superior to any you have baked before.

 

And, who knows, it might turn out, as it did with me, that you develop a passion for bread making.

 


 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 January 2013 at 10:54

Brook,

 
Truly lovely segment and very valuable thread on whole ...
 
Thanks so much for posting and taking the time to type this here for all of us to have as a reference.
 
All my best,
Marge.
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Part 6:

 

Some of the world’s favorite breads are made with enriched doughs. These include the four basic ingredients, of course. But they’re made lighter, richer, and buttery tasting primarily by the addition of fats.

 

Don’t be misled by the word fat. Certainly actual fats and oils, such as olive oil, butter, and even lard, are used to enrich doughs. But additional fats come from the addition of eggs, milk, and similar products. Enriched doughs are almost always sweetened, as well, either with sugar, honey, or other sweeteners.

 

Enriched doughs are often made in special shapes, such as crowns, twists, and pull-apart buns, or are baked in special pans to provide eye appeal to the bread.

 

The classic enriched bread is Brioche. While always appealing, Brioche jumped into even more prominence when it became the first choice of many celebrity chefs.

 

Traditionally, Brioche is formed in two parts, a larger bottom ball and a smaller ball centered on it to make a top hat. It was also baked in special fluted tins, which are available in several sizes ranging from full-sized bread to mini-buns.

 

However, there’s no need to confine yourself to the classic shape. Brioche can be made as a sandwich loaf, or in the form of muffins or rolls. It’s a very versatile dough.

 

Brioche is made by mixing the dough and letting it sit, overnight, in the fridge. This is a technique called “delayed fermentation” or, more precisely, “retarded fermentation.” We’ll have much to say about that technique later on. But, for now, you need just remember to mix the dough the night before you’ll be baking.

 

For our version we’ll make the traditional shape, making them cupcake sized. You can purchase the Brioche tins in that size. But it’s just as easy to use a standard muffin tin.  

 

Brioche Buns

 

12 Brioche or muffin tins

½ cup (4 oz) warm milk

2 tsp active dry or instant yeast

3 tbls sugar

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature

4 ½ cups (20.25 oz) unbleached bread flour

2 tsp salt

2 sticks (8 oz) butter, softened

An eggwash made by combining 1 egg with 1 tbls milk

 

Start the night before:

 

Combine the milk, sugar, and active dry yeast in a mixing bowl and let bloom about five minutes. Whisk in the eggs until well blended. Alternatively, if using instant yeast, combine the milk, and eggs in the bottom of the bowl. Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.

 

Add 2 cups of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating well. Add 2 more cups of the dry ingredients, and beat in well. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture and beat at least two minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

Next day, remove from fridge and let stand until the chill is off. This can take as much as two hours. While waiting, prep the Brioche or muffin tins by greasing them lightly and dusting with cornmeal or semolina.

 

When the dough has warmed, divide it into twelve pieces. Separate each piece into two, with one piece using 2/3 of the dough. Roll each piece into a ball. Place the larger ball in a tin and center the smaller ball on top of it. Cover with a dishtowel or oiled plastic wrap. Set in in a draft-free spot and let rise until doubled in bulk, which could take another two hours.

 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

 

Brush the Brioche with the egg wash and bake 20 minutes.

 

In the Emmentaler region of Switzerland they celebrate the harvest thanksgiving with a special bread called Zupfe. Similar loaves, called Zopf, are made in other parts of Switzerland. What they all have in common is that they are braided. Don’t let that throw you. As we’ll see, braiding dough isn’t much different than braiding hair.

 

Zupfe

 

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 ¼ cups (10 oz) warm milk

3/14 cups (15.75 oz) bread flour

1 ½ tsp salt

4 tbls (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened and creamed

1 tsp sugar

2 tbls kirsch or brandy

Egg glaze made with egg yolk and 1 tbls milk

 

Make a sponge: In small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into ½ cup of the milk. Stir to combine. Let sit until yeast is frothy, about five minutes. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the yeast and draw down enough flour to form a soft paste. Cover the bowl and let it sit, about 20 minutes, until the sponge is frothy and slightly risen.

 

Pour about half the remaining milk into the well. Mix in the flour, salt, butter, sugar, and kirsch or brandy. Stir in the reserved milk, as needed, to form a soft, moist dough.

 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, shiny, and elastic, about ten minutes, adjusting with water or flour as needed. If using a stand mixer, knead five minutes.

 

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel or plastic film, and set in a draft-free location until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½-2 hours. Punch down.

 

Repeat for a second rise. Punch down and let dough rest ten minutes. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece to form a 16 inch long rope.

 

Shape the loaf: The key to an evenly braided bread is to start in the middle. If you begin braiding at one end, the opposite end will be thinner, because you can’t help stretching the dough as you work.

     To make the braid, lay the three ropes side by side, with the long direction away from you, on a lightly floured work surface. Starting halfway up, pass the left-hand rope over the middle rope. Then pass the right hand rope over what is now the middle one. Continue in that manner until reaching the end, which should be tucked and pinched to create a finished look.

     Turn the loaf and braid the other half.

 

Preheat the oven to 350F.

 

Transfer the braided dough to a baking sheet that’s been dusted with cornmeal or semolina. Cover with a dish towel or oiled plastic film. Set in a draft-free location until doubled in bulk, about 35-45 minutes.

 

Brush the top of the loaf with the egg glaze.

 

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2013 at 14:09
Ah, ok, I see what you're going for now. Thanks Brook!
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You're not alone, Mike. Most folks have trouble envisioning this, until they try it.
 
The idea is that you're going to stretch just the surface of the dough, to improve the surface tension. But you don't want to collapse any of the gas.
 
So, gently lay the flat of your hands more or less in the center of the round, and draw the dough downwards and under. You will hardly change the size of the round, but will wind up with a dimple in the middle of the underside. Bakers call that the "key." You want to pinch it so that it seals.
 
It's easiest to learn this with a round bread, rather than an oblong one. Once you've got the technique down you can apply it to other shapes.
 
If you skip this step you'll probably not notice any difference, unless you do two breads, one with the tighter skin and one without, and compare them side-by-side for height and crust formation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2013 at 10:32
Thanks Brook, awesome tutorial you've got going here.

Can you explain this part a little more? I'm having trouble picturing it in my head.

Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

For the most even rising, and crust formation, you want to tighten the surface. Using the flat of your hand, draw the top of the dough down towards the far side, tucking it under about halfway.


Thanks!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2013 at 09:12
Brook,

Country breads in France range from rectangular, log, square, round, spheres, logs with pointy endings, and every shape imaginable a creative Baker can do to please his customers and visitors ... HERE IS THE WAY I PREPARE IT ...

PAIN DE CAMPAGNE DE PROVENÇE


photo courtesy:  www.la-cachina.com

Kind regards,

Margi
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 January 2013 at 09:06

Brook,

Baker Roger Auzet, is a 4th generation baker in a tiny village called Cavaillon, Provençe, France. He had given me the great rustic loaf recipe Pain de  Campagne or Country Bread, as we raved about it at his family Boulangerie ( Bakery ) ... Truly a treat ...
 
Thanks for your interest and for publishing the lovely mention in your very exemplary and informative Bread Primer Series.
 
Appreciate it and good luck with your French Country Rye and Wheat Bread ... Look very forward to hearing ur results ...
 
Marge.
 
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Part 5:

 

Margi’s French country bread, http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/pan-de-campagne-de-provene_topic3095.html above, is an example of a transitional bread. With those, some of the sifted flour is replaced by another type; usually a whole grain flour such as whole wheat, rye, or corn.

 

European members should be cautious of the term corn flour. In America, it’s actually a flour, ground from the whole corn kernel. In Europe it refers to what is called “corn starch” in the U.S. In this primer we’ll always call it cornmeal so there is no confusion.

 

At any rate, transitional breads provide the texture, flavor, and health benefits of whole grain breads, without the special handling hassles inherent in using them exclusively. The white flour component provides the gluten otherwise missing.

 

Transitional breads, per se, are no more difficult to make than plain white bread. One difference, however, is that they usually are free-standing loaves. Which means we’ll learn shaping techniques as we go along.

 

For openers, we’ll make Broa, which is a Portuguese corn bread. Most American corn breads use baking powder and baking soda as the leavening. But there are yeasted corn breads found all over Europe.

 

This one originated in northern Portugal, but quickly spread through the country. It’s now found everywhere, differing only in the  proportions of wheat to corn. And, with apologies to our members in Rhode Island and the American South, yellow cornmeal should be used, because the color is important.

 

Broa

 

2 tsp dry active or instant yeast

½ cup +2 tbls (5 oz) warm milk

¼ cup water (2 oz)

1 1/2 cups (7 oz) yellow cornmeal

2 cups (9 oz) unbleached bread flour

2 tsp salt

1 tbls olive oil

 

Sprinkle active dry yeast into the milk in a small bowl. Let it stand until frothy. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, bread flour, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the bloomed yeast and the olive oil.

 

Alternatively, combine instant yeast with the cornmeal, bread flour, and salt. Add the milk and about half the water. Mix to form a firm, relatively moist dough, adding more of the water if necessary. Mix in the olive oil.

 

Knead the dough, about ten minutes by hand or five minutes with a stand mixer.

 

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set in a draft-free location until doubled in bulk. This will take about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

 

Punch down the dough, form it into a ball, and set to rise a second time.

 

Punch down the dough, form it into a ball, and let it rest on your work surface, covered, ten minutes.

 

Form the dough into a boule, which simply means round: Start with a hand-shaped ball. Set this on your work surface. Using the flat of your hands, cup and pat the dough from both sides while you simultaneously turn it clockwise. This will give you the basic round shape. Then tighten the surface tension by using the flat of your hands to draw down the dough, tucking it underneath. Keep turning the dough as you do this, or you’ll lose the round shape.

 

You’ve just created the start of a boule.

 

Gently turn the dough and seal the bottom seam by pinching it together. Set the dough, seam side down, on a baking sheet that’s been dusted with cornmeal or semolina. Cover and let rise in a draft-free location until doubled in bulk.

 
Finding your own way: There are numerous ways of making baking pans non-stick, so far as dough is concerned. The simplest is to just dust it with cornmeal or semolina. Or you can lightly grease it first, and then dust it. One alternative is to line the pan with parchment paper, and then dust it or not as you prefer. Or you can merely use a silpat. The all work.
     In my experience, whatever method you choose, you should always at least sprinkle some cornmeal or semolina. This not only prevents the bread from sticking, it eliminates any chance of it picking up foreign flavors. 
 

Preheat the oven to 400F.

 

Dust the loaf with cornmeal and bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Finished bread should sound hollow it you tap the bottom.

 

Transfer bread to a wire rack and let cool.

 

In France, they tend to call any bread not a baguette a Pain de Campagne---which loosely translates as “country bread.”  Most often they’re formed in the shape of a torpedo, called a batard. Think of the generic Italian bread sold in America and you’ll get the idea.

 

Margi’s version uses a pre-ferment, a technique I will be discussing, in detail, in the future. But her instructions are so clear, you might take a stab had her transitional version. Here’s how to shape it:

 

 Lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Press and stretch it into a rectangle, with the long ends front and back. Size will be determined by the amount of dough, and how long or wide you prefer the bread to be. I use width as the determining factor. When elongated dough doubles it only slightly lengthens. Most of the movement goes upwards and sideways. Once you’ve made a few batards you’ll develop a feel for how large the dough rectangle should be.

 

Now, starting from the far edge, fold the dough to the middle of the rectangle, pinching it to seal. Then fold the bottom over that. We’ve done this before, and it’s no different than folding a letter.

 

Tighten the surface tension, just as you did with a boule. Transfer the dough to a baking pan, dusted with cornmeal or semolina, seam side down. Cover and let rise.

 

If you’re not happy with the finished size you can adjust it by rolling the whole thing under your hands. This will lengthen and thin the batard.

 

Pain de Campagne is perfect for sub rolls. To make them, divide the dough into six equally sized pieces. Then fold and roll each of them as above, making the finished bun about six inches long. You’ll have to adjust the baking time if you do this. With Margi’s recipe I’d start by baking 20 minutes. If they don’t sound hollow when the bottoms are tapped, return them for five minutes more.

 

Although transitional breads are usually free standing there’s no reason you can’t make sandwich loaves with them. My Oatmeal Pain de Mie http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/oatmeal-pain-de-mie_topic1774.html?KW=oatmeal+bread is a good example. If you don’t have a Pullman loaf pan, no problems. Just use two standard loaf pans instead.

 

Note that this bread specifically uses instant yeast, so no sponge is necessary. If you use active dry yeast you should be able to adjust by following the standard sponging technique.

 

Oatmeal Pain De Mie

 

5 cups (22.5 oz) unbleached bread flour

1 1/3 cups (5.6 oz) rolled oats

14.5 oz lukewarm milk

3 tbls butter, softened

4 tbls honey

3 tsp instant yeast

2 tsp salt

 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl, using the paddle. Add the butter, milk, and honey, stirring until well combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead five minutes, adjusting flour or liquid as necessary. (if making this by hand, knead 8-10 minutes)

 

Turn dough out on a lightly greased work surface and French fold it. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic film, and let sit 1 hour. French fold again and let rest 15 minutes.

 

Repeat for a second rise.

 

Form dough into a log and transfer to a pain de mie (pullman) pan. Cover loosely with plastic film. Let dough rise until one inch from top, put cover in place, and let rise another ten minutes.

 

Bake in preheated 350F oven for 35 minutes. Remove cover and if necessary let bake five minutes more to brown top crust and assure bread is cooked through. Internal temperature should be about 200F.

 

Transfer bread to a rack and let cool.

 

 


 

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Part 4:

 

OK, enough of this idle chatter. Let’s bake bread.

 

Much of the modern literature presents the 12 steps to making bread. I’m going to skip that. Instead, we’ll learn them, as well as other techniques, as we go along. It’s a lot less overwhelming that way.

 

As you progress with your bread making you’ll discover that any lean dough (and most enriched ones) is very versatile. You can bake them in pans, shape them into large free-standing loaves, or divide them into buns. But you have to walk before you can run. So we’ll start by making a plain single-rise white bread, baked in loaf pans.

 

Neither this, nor any other home-baked white bread will resemble the Wonder types found at the market. One reason being that the grocery-store bread doesn’t not use a real leavening. Instead, the dough is whipped to incorporate air, and it’s those bubbles that make the holes in the crust.

 

In this, and with all other recipes, we’ll presume that flour weighs 4.5 ounces per cup. If you have to add a bit more or less to form a perfect dough that’s perfectly alright. If you need to make significant changes to the amount of flour then you’ll have to adjust for the brand you are using.

 

One cautionary note. The following will make a bread that might be saltier than you are used to. You might want to cut back. You can use as little as 2 teaspoons---which is more common.

 

Plain White Bread

 

6 cups (27 oz) unbleached bread flour

1 tbls salt

1 envelope (2 tsp) active dry or instant yeast

2 cups (16 oz) warm water

2 bread pans

 

If using active dry yeast, bloom it in ¼ cup of the water. If using instant, combine it with the flour and yeast.

 

Make a sponge: If using active dry yeast, combine 51/2 cups of the flour with the other salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. Carefully draw down flour from the sides, mixing it to create a thick batter in the well. Sprinkle the batter with a little flour. Let this sit about 20 minutes until it is aerated and frothy.

 

Gradually mix in the balance of the flour to create the dough. If too dry, add a little water, a tablespoonful at a time. If too moist, slowly add flour, a tablespoonful at a time, combining each addition well. Some authorities insist that all mixing should be done in the same direction, to better develop the gluten strands. I’ve not found it makes much difference.

 

Note: Making a sponge is not absolutely necessary. But considering the contribution it makes to the final bread, it’s well worth taking the extra time.

     If using instant yeast, skip the sponge stage.

 

Finding your own way: If you use a stand mixer, the choices are to start with the paddle, for mixing, then switch to the dough hook for kneading; or just using the dough hook for the whole process. While some are comfortable just with the dough hook, I find it takes longer to mix, and doesn’t do as good a job. So I use both.

 

Knead the dough, ten minutes by hand or five minutes by stand mixer. Although hand kneading can be physically demanding, it isn’t difficult. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using the ball of your hand, push the dough forward, starting at about the equator. Make a quarter turn, fold the kneaded flap over the top, and do it again. And again.

 

As you knead the dough will become smooth, elastic, and somewhat shiny. Make any adjustments by adding very small amounts of flour or water as necessary. The final dough will be slightly tacky, but not sticky.

 

Form the dough into a ball and set it to rest, covered, on a slightly floured work surface, for ten minutes. Meanwhile, wash and dry the mixing bowl, and oil it lightly. Any oil will work---butter, lard, vegetable oil or what-have-you. Nowadays most bread makers use spray oils.

 

Transfer the dough to the bowl and roll it to coat all surfaces with the oil. This will prevent it from forming a tough skin. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic film, and set it in a draft-free location to rise until doubled in bulk.

 

At best, any time-to-rise figure is a rough guideline at best. Temperature, humidity, and other factors will affect how fast this happens. In general 1-2 hours will suffice.

 

You can take that “double in bulk” instruction with a grain of salt as well. Many, perhaps most, people cannot accurately judge when that has happened. But there’s no need to worry, as there is a precise method of telling when the dough is ready. Stick your finger into it, to about the first joint. If the depression fills back in, the dough is not ready. If the depression remains unchanged, or only slightly fills, it is.

 

Punch down the dough: As noted earlier, this is more an expression than an actual instruction. Instead, press down on the dough, to gently collapse it. It helps if you lift it from the edges as you press down on the center.

 

With your second attempt at this bread, repeat the rising process. Again, a second rise isn’t absolutely needed. But this will give you an opportunity to see the textural and taste differences it can make.

 

While this is happening, lightly grease the baking pans and dust them with cornmeal or semolina.

 

Shape the dough:  You can, if you want, just pat and stretch the dough until it fits. But this leads to inconsistent rising and misshapen loaves.

     To do it correctly (and why wouldn’t you?) divide the dough in half. On your work surface, stretch and pat the dough into a rectangular shape a couple of inches longer than the pan. Starting at the far edge, fold the dough into the center, pinching it slightly to seal. Then lift the near edge and fold it over. All of this is precisely like folding a letter.

     For the most even rising, and crust formation, you want to tighten the surface. Using the flat of your hand, draw the top of the dough down towards the far side, tucking it under about halfway. Really try to develop a feel for this, because all great breads depend on improving the surface tension that way.

     At this point you have a dough log longer than the pan and as wide, or slightly narrower, than its width. Fold the ends down, in equal amounts from each side, and tuck them under so the log is the same length as the pan. Carefully lift the dough and place it in the bottom of the pan, pressing it to completely fit as necessary.

     Why this step? In the oven bread naturally rises more in the center than at the edges. To a certain degree this doming is a good thing. But to prevent the bread from over-rising in the center, you increases the mass at the ends.

   Repeat the shaping with the second half.

     Cover the pans and set them in a draft-free location to rise. This will usually take about half the time of the first proofing.

    

Preheat the oven: While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 450F. Frankly, I’m appalled at some of the instructions given for this. One book talks about preheating 15 minutes before baking. Hmmmph! Not in any oven I know. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to properly preheat, especially if you’re using a baking stone.

 

Finding your own way: Do you really need a baking stone in your oven? The simple answer is “no.” Will a stone help you bake better bread? Absolutely! Here’s why:

    The thermostats in modern ovens work by recycling on and off. When the oven reaches the set temperature it turns off. At a certain point, as the oven cools, the oven turns itself on again. In a well-working oven, this cycling takes place over a 25 degree range. But don’t count on it happening even within that range. Most ovens don’t.

     The more mass there is inside an oven the less frequently it cycles. Something like a stone holds the heat, keeping it near the target longer, and cooling much slower. If you used four stones to build an internal hearth it would hardly cool at all, and some home bakers do exactly that.

     Later on, as you progress to free-standing loaves, you’ll find that many of them are baked directly on the stone.

     But preheating the stone takes time.

 

Bake the bread: When the loaves have risen, dust them lightly with flour. Then, with a very sharp knife or one-edged razor blade, make a slash, about half an inch deep, down the center.

     Put the pans on the center shelf of the oven and bake 15 minutes. Rotate them 180 degrees, lower the heat to 400F, and bake another 10-15 minutes until done.

     The dough will rise some more in the oven.  FWIW, the additional rise that takes place when heat hits the dough is called “oven spring.”

 

     To test if a bread is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom. You should get a hollow sound. If not, return the loaves to the oven for another five minutes.

     Alternatively, use a probe thermometer inserted into the center of the bread. Bread is fully baked at 190-210F.

 

Cool the bread: Transfer the breads to wire racks and let them cool completely. Despite the romantic myth, it is never a good idea to slice or tear hot bread.

 

Enjoy! You’ve just made your first loaf of bread.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 January 2013 at 10:23
Brook,
 
Thanks alot for the temperature correction on the hot water, and the details on this specific recipe.
It turns out a wonderful light golden brown bread with a lovely profile ...
 
Yes, I agree working on this bread in two days, would be a great suggestion.
 
It is a rustic looking very thick loaf; not a baguette. The name in French is COUNTRY BREAD OR
PAIN DE CAMPAGNE.
 
Thanks for your knowledge and advice.
Margi.
 
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115F tends to push the safe limits. So it's better to shoot for the lower figure. Basically, 90-105 is the accepted range. Water hotter than 115 will kill the yeast.
 
The loaf you presented is what we call a transitional loaf. That means it uses some whole-grain flour, but there's still enough white flour to assure gluten development. One of my planned installments will deal specifically with transitional breads.
 
Shortcuts? I don't think so. The hallmark of French breads is that they take time and effort. That's why bagettes are so appealing to everyone. They're lean breads, using just the four basic ingredients. How the dough is prepared, however, and the shaping and baking, is what provides it's incredible taste appeal.
 
The starter in your recipe is a rye poolish; a pre-ferment that is made the day before it is used. Unusual in a French bread, because they more often use a pate fermentee, or, sometimes, a biga. The difference between the three is strictly the proportion of liquid to dry ingredients. That's another subject we'll deal in later on.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 January 2013 at 09:32

Brook. Good Afternoon.

 
One of my fave country French breads requires a starter as follows:
 
1 cup warm bottled water ( 105 farenheit - to 115 degrees farenheit )
1 tblsp. honey
1 envelope dry yeast
1 cup Rye flour
1 cup + 1 tblsp. bread flour
 
THE BREAD RECIPE
 
2 1/4 cups warm water 105 to 115 degrees farenheit
1 envelope dry yeast
6 cups sifted bread flour
3/4 cup Rye flour
1 1/2 tsps. fine grain sea salt
 
It is gorgeous however, very laborious ... This recipe was given to me by a 4th generation French bread baker in Provençe in a tiny village called Cavaillon.
 
Are there any short cuts to produce such a stunning pale brown bread with this profile ?
 
DESCRIPTION:  A THICK LOAF WITH CRISP EXTERIOR AND A BEAUTIFUL WHOLE WHEAT FINE GOLDEN INTERIOR ... NOT A BAGUETTE IN SHAPE ... THEY CALL IT COUNTRY BREAD; PAIN DE CAMPAGNE ... RUSTIC APPEARANCE AND DIVINE ...
 
THANKS IN ADVANCE,
MARGI.
Volamos a Mediterraneo, un paraiso que conquista su gente u su cocina.
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Part 3

 

Most of the time, when we say “flour,” we’re talking about white wheat flour. For the time being, that’s what we’ll confine ourselves to discussing.

 

Flour is made by milling (i.e., grinding) wheat berries, which are the seeds of the wheat plant. Each seed consists of three parts: the outer husk, called the bran; an inner kernel, called the germ; and the bulk of the seed, surrounding the germ, called the endosperm. If the seed were planted, the endosperm provides food for the growing plant until the roots take over that job.

     Clear flour, which we use most of the time, consists of flour that has been sifted to remove most of the bran and germ. Whole wheat flour, on the other hand, uses the entire berry.

    

Flour is classified, in North America, by its hardness---which merely means how much gluten-forming protein it contains. In general, flour is broken down into four classifications:

 

-Cake and pastry flour. This is made from soft wheat, and has the lowest protein content of all, ranging from 6-7% for cake flour, up to 9.5% for pastry flour. They are used for baked goods that require tenderness rather than strength, such as cakes and biscuits. It is not suitable for making yeast breads.

 

-All-purpose flour. This is a combination of pastry flour and bread flour. While it is suitable for making bread, it doesn’t work as well as straight bread flour. More than any other type, all-purpose flour varies from mill to mill, so if you find one you’re happy with, stay with it. On average, all-purpose flour ranges from about 9- 11% protein content.

 

-Bread flour. As the name implies, this is the first choice for yeast breads. Milled from hard winter wheat, it has a protein content ranging from 11-14%.

 

-High gluten flour. This is a specialty product whose protein content can be as high as 16%. It is rarely used alone, but, for some breads, is added to bread flour for the extra protein.

 

Why the concern with protein levels? Quite simply, gluten, the building block of bread, results when certain wheat proteins combine when mixed with water and agitated. The better the gluten development, the higher the bread will rise, and the lighter the crumb will be.

 

Note that I specified “North America.” In Europe flours are classified other ways, often numerically. Quite frequently they are categorized by how finely they are ground, rather than from the source of the flour.

 

All flours types are available either bleached or unbleached. With bleached flour, certain chemicals are used to remove the beta carotene naturally found in wheat. This affects both the color and flavor of the final product. But there’s also a beneficial enzyme reaction with beta carotene. So, in general, unbleached flour makes a better tasting bread.

 

We can see from this that unbleached bread flour should be your preferred choice. But if the only thing available is all-purpose bleached flour, don’t let that stop you. Maybe your final bread won’t be the best. But it will still be better than store bought.

 

Breads made with 100% whole wheat flour (as with all whole-grain flours) tend to be heavy, compact, and rather chewy. So initially you want to avoid such breads, as they require special handling techniques.

 

If you’re concerned about missing out on the health benefits, you can replace up to 25% of the flour with whole wheat with no ill effects. Some authorities say up to 50%. In my experience, that high a proportion puts you into the special handling requirements of whole grain flours.

 

Wheat flour sometimes contains additives that help with the baking process. Ash, for instance, in various amounts contributes to oven spring---the final rising of the dough once it’s in the oven. Some mills, like King Arthur,  automatically include ash, but most don’t. For the home baker ash content isn’t something to worry about, except when it affects final results if you change flours.

 

There are all sorts of flours other than those made from wheat; in both whole grain and sifted forms. Rye is the most familiar, but other include barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oat, potato, soy, spelt, and rice. While all of these, alone or in combination, are useful in making great breads, they either lack, or have low levels of  the gluten-forming proteins found in wheat. Using them alone requires special handling or they typically produce compact, heavy, bricks. As with whole wheat, however, they can be added, in various amounts, to wheat flour to produce light, airy, high-rising breads. Until you have some baking time under your belt, however, I would not add more than 25% of them unless the recipe specifies otherwise.

 

If you get passionate about bread making, and do it often, it pays to buy it in bulk if you can. I get both my all-purpose and bread flours direct from Weisenberger Mill, for instance, in 25-pound bags. There’s a considerable savings when buying that way.

 

But you don’t want that much flour sitting around at ambient temperature for the time it takes you to use it up. Not to worry. You can freeze it. Just transfer the flour to moisture proof containers (like zipper bags) and pop them in the freezer until needed. Make sure, however, that when you remove one that it comes to room temperature before you open the container. This is to prevent condensation from forming inside.

 
Even in small amounts, if you’re storing whole grain flours for any length of time they should be kept in the fridge, because once ground the oils in the bran and germ can turn rancid.

 

Flours are affected by environmental conditions such as heat and, especially, humidity. It’s incredible how much moisture flour can absorb on a rainy day, for instance. If a recipe that worked perfectly one day suddenly needs the addition of a lot more flour, that’s probably the reason.

 

In theory, one of the reasons for using weight measurements, is to level that playing field. But does it work in reality? Sometimes. And sometimes not. The basic question is: how much does flour weigh? I once made a chart tracking the reported weight of flour. It ranged from 4 ounces per cup to as high as 5 ½ ounces, depending on authority cited. One source actually said 4.5-5 ounces per cup. 

 

To my mind, that’s no more precise than volume measuring.

 

Once you develop a feel for what a dough should be like, you’ll adjust for the differences by adding more flour or more water as the case can be. And the only way to learn about dough is to make some. So, in the next installment, we’ll bake a loaf of bread.

 

 


 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 January 2013 at 17:28
It's really quite simple, Rod.
 
You'll need some 1 x 6 or 1 x 8 dimensional lumber (depends on the size of the loaf pans) and some dowel rods. Quarter inch will do, but thicker is probably better.
 
Start by cutting a base plate several inches longer that the longest bread you'll be baking. On one end, screw & glue an end plate, about six inches high. This will serve as a stopper.
 
Next, determine how wide you want the slices. Let's say 3/8th inch. Measure 3/8th inch from the inside of the stopper, on each side of the base plate. Drill a 1/4 inch hole, aligning the bit so it's forwardmost edge is on the mark. Glue a six-inch rod into each hole.
 
To use, put the loaf on the base plate and push it against the stopper. Then, using the dowels as a guide, cut through the bread. Remove the slice and repeat.
 
You could set this up to cut different sized slices. In that case, drill a series of holes at the spacing you want. You can then either put in a group of dowels, or, if you'd rather, just use one set. Do not glue them in place, because you'll be shifting them to the various holes.
 
I'm thinking you could adapt this by making the base plate and stopper wide enough to accomodate the bread you are making. This wouldn't work for me, because I make so many different sizes and shapes. But for you, only making the one bread, it's probably doable.
 
If your no-knead is, say, ten inches in diameter, then the base and stopper should be 11 inches, and the dowels slightly higher than the bread's loft.
 
Keep in mind that the dowels should surround and cradle the bread, but not press in on it. So leave enough slack to accomplish that.
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