Friday, April 5, 2013

Pain au Levain (2nd batch with new starter)

This is the Pain au Levain recipe off the "Fresh Loaf" website.  Same as the previous bake but this time I'm doubling it:

White flour 106 grams
Rye Flour       8 grams
Water            62 grams
Culture         28 grams

Note: I actually added a little more water to this.  When I mixed all of the above together, it was a bit too dry.  I think this is because my sourdough culture was a lower hydration.  

Day One:  Mix all the ingredients and place in a bowl (tightly covered and unrefrigerated) for 8 to 12 hours. 

After 13 hours it was basically doubled in size and bubbly.   

Final Dough
Pre-ferment              204 grams
White Bread Flour  666 grams (King Arthur)
Rye Flour                   34 grams
Water                       480 grams
Salt                             16 grams

Day Two:
Blend the rye flour and the white flour in a large bowl.  In another bowl, dissolve all of the pre-ferment into the warm water.  Add the water / pre-ferment to the flour and mix until the flour is well hydrated.  Cover and autolyse [awe-toh-lees] for 45-50 minutes. 

During this process, enzymes (amylase and protease) begin to break down the starch and protein in the flour.  The starch gets converted to sugar, and proteins (glutenin and gliadin) get reformed as gluten.  So, in a short period of time, you can get great gluten development without a lot of work.  This also prevents oxidation (from over-mixing) which can result in loss of bread flavor and color.  

After the autolyse, add the salt (slowly in a mixer for 2 to 4 minutes or by hand 5 to 10), cover dough and let rest for 50 minutes.

After the 50 minutes, perform a stretch and fold.  Here's a good video that shows the technique:
Cover dough, let rest for another 50 minutes and then perform another stretch and fold.
After the 2nd stretch and fold, allow the dough to rest, once again, for another 50 minutes.

After the last rest, divide the dough in half (I do this by weight), form them into boules and place them in well-floured bannetons.  Flour the tops and place the baskets into plastic bags and proof them for 2.5 hours.  Here is the "before" pic:

At the two hour mark, pre-heat the baking stone to 480F.  

Here's the "after" pic when the 2.5 hour proofing was done.  Not a tremendous amount of growth, but the a "proof check" indicated it was ready.  

Now, into the oven.  I emptied a very large cup of ice cubes into a tray on the bottom rack for steaming.  For the first 5 minutes, I spayed the walls of the oven with water, every minute.  After the 5 minutes, I lowered the oven temp to 430F.

I was a little worried because there wasn't much oven spring in the first 5 minutes. However, after 25 minutes (halfway through the bake), they looked pretty good.  I rotated the loaves.

 Here's the final bread.  Nice :)

Here's the crumb.  Not great distribution, but it came out fine.  Chewy crust and creamy / chewy crumb with nice flavor.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pain au Levain

I'm a lazy blogger and more apt to simply post pics to Facebook...  However, my Pain au Levain (sourdough) last month was my best to date.  I'll double this batch and bake some more this weekend.  I'll give details then...  For now, here are the pics of the last one:


Final dough at the start of the rise

After final shaping (I floured this textured towel 
to get some great looking markings on the bread :) )

This dough is a lower hydration and much easier to form and score properly.  
Definitely my best looking bread ever... :)  Got an awesome amount of oven spring on this.

This was a dinner party "gift" so there's no pics of the crumb.  However, it had a slightly open crumb that was creamy and delicious.  More to come!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Italian Bread

Updated 3/24:  Oops... forgot to put down how much yeast is needed for the dough :)

For all those who wanted the recipe :)

This recipe is from "The Fresh Loaf" website and based on a recipe from Bernard Clayton's: New Complete Book of Breads.  While the original recipe called for a same day bake, I retard the fermentation of the final dough overnight and bake the next morning.  I don't know how much of a difference this makes to the final flavor of the bread, but it resulted in a very flavorful bread, crunchy crust with a chewy and creamy crumb.

Is a "sponge" known in Italian as a Biga and French as a Poolish (just to name two) made with flour, water and a small amount of baker's yeast.  The pre-ferment itself is just a portion of the final dough that is fermented longer in order to conjure up additional flavors as yeast and beneficial bacteria work their magic over time.  The only difference between a Biga / Poolish is the amount of hydration i.e., flour to water ratio.    The amount of yeast  used in the pre-ferment depends on the length of time (and temperature) the sponge will ferment.  Letting a preferment go too long will "break" it as enzymes eventually break down the gluten strands that give a bread its structure.


1 cup of flour  (127.5 grams)
1 cup of water (236 grams)     Baker's %= 185%
1/2 tsp of yeast (1.4 grams)    Baker's % = 1.1%

Combine ingredients and place in a covered bowl for 4 to 16 hours.  

Almost 8 hours later, it's nice and bubbly...

...and fragrant :)


All of the preferment
5 cups of flour (637.5 grams)
1/2 cup low fat dry milk (dry)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp yeast
2 cups water (472 grams)

Mise en place: Get your "stuff" together before you cook or bake :) 

Disclaimer: I'm still experimenting, so this recipe and instructions may change for future posts.  I think this needed more flour but I decided to try to deal with the stickiness of this dough just to see how it turned out.

I first dissolved  the yeast and brown sugar in the 2 cups of warm water.  Using the KA paddle attachment, I mixed in all of the preferment and the low fat dry milk powder.  I then added about 1/2 of the flour, the oil and salt before switching to the dough hook. The rest of the flour was added a little at a time.  Total knead time was about 13 minutes (on 4).  I probably added about 2 to 3 tbs of flour because this dough was way too slack and very sticky.  Even so, when all was said and done, the dough was still pretty "fluid" and sticky.  However, as you'll see in this video below, after a couple of "stretch and folds" in the bowl, the dough starts to come together as the gluten strands develops.  They use this technique in high hydration doughs like a ciabatta and baguettes (where you want nice, big, uneven holes in your crumb)

After the stretch and folds, I formed a ball with 
the dough, covered it with saran wrap and placed it in the fridge overnight

 By morning (about 8 hours later), it had at least doubled in volume

I divided the dough into two equal parts, formed the parts into balls and let them warm up (covered) for around an hour

To shape the bread, I started start off with a rectangle

Folded the top down around 2/3's of the way and "sealed" it.

Folded the top right and left corners in and sealed them

I then took the top part, folded it down to the bottom and sealed it.  I'm still trying to get a handle on how to properly do this.  This is actually the way to form a batard (which should be thick in the middle and pointy on both ends; football shaped in a way). I rolled it out with my hands to shape it the best I could, keeping the seam at the bottom.  (check out the video instructions on this blog).  

Again, this is going to take some time for me to do correctly. 

The formed loaf needs to have good "structure"; properly sealed with a taunt surface (but not too tight where it rips or tears). 

I didn't do TOO badly with these.  Unfortunately, I ALMOST dropped one while transferring it to the peel.  (very close) :)  I let these proof covered for 45 minutes.  I may do an hour next time...

The top surface then needs to be scored with a "lame" (a razor blade on a handle).  I can do this properly on stiffer doughs but still have issues with those that are a bit sticky.  The scoring allows for proper expansion in the oven.  I popped these into an oven pre-heated to 480F (with my baking stone).  A cup of ice cubes are place into a pan at the very bottom of the oven (to create steam)  In addition, I spray water onto the walls of the oven for the first 5 minutes.  The steam keeps the surface of the dough moist so it expands properly in what's called the "oven spring".  FYI don't get any water on the glass of your oven door.  It will shatter.  After the steaming, I lowered the oven temp to 430F.  Note:  I start off 50 degrees hotter to make up for all the opening and closing of the oven door within the first 5 minutes of baking.

These actually turned out fairly well considering.

Took them to the choir rehearsal / luncheon today.  I was happy with the results :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

German Dark Rye

Picked up some Hodgson Mills stone ground rye flour and decided to give a recipe for German Dark Rye (on the bag) a shot.

3 1/2 cups Rye Flour
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of bread flour (I used AP)  2 1/2 cups was more like it.
2 tbs vital wheat gluten  (because the rye is low in gluten)
2 pkgs of yeast (3 tsp or 14 grams)
2 cups of warm water (probably more like 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
3 tbs of cocoa powder
1 tbs caraway seeds (I don't like caraway seeds and left them out)
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup of melted butter

The brown sugar and yeast are disolved into the warm water in the mixing bowl.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.  Add the molasses, rye flour, vital wheat gluten, cocoa and caraway seeds.  Mix well and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Mix in the melted butter and salt.  Slowly add in 1 cup of bread flour and add enough of the flour balance to get a soft dough.  

This dough was a bit stiff so I quit adding flour at around 2 1/2 cups.  Concerned that it was still too stiff, I added approximately another 1/2 cup of warm water.  

I kneaded this for about 10 minutes in a KA mixer, placed the ball in an oiled bowl, covered it and let it double in size at room temp (about an hour).  I then knocked it down, cut it in half and formed two small boules which were placed on some parchment paper and covered with saran wrap.  These were left to rise for approximately 1 hour until they were almost double in size.

The tops were scored and both loaves were placed onto a baking stone in an oven pre-heated to 400F.  I added about a cup of water to a lower cookie tray for "steaming".  The loaves were removed after around 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread was 200F.

To date, this was the best overall bread I've ever made.  Crispy crust, light airy crumb and outstanding flavor.  A perfect compliment to the corned beef and cabbage I made for lunch / dinner today :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pain au Levain (bake day 2) UPDATED

My starter wasn't quite as active as it should have been and I had to dramatically increase the proofing time prior to bake.  The small boule I made yesterday was "OK" but the crumb was pretty dense.  Today's look's like it's going to be a little better...  Will have to check out the crumb tomorrow morning.

As anticipated, the crumb was pretty dense.  I probably should have fed my starter the night before.  I should also start monitoring the temperature of the dough and the room so I can collect some data on proofing times (just for the heck of it)  I'm pretty sure this just needed to be proofed a lot longer.  Unfortunately, since I was going out last night, I had no choice but to bake it (ready or not :) ) 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pain au Levain (Day Two)

The mother starter had been in the fridge overnight.  It was cut up into a dozen or more small sized pieces and placed in the mixing bowl afixed with a beater attachment.  To this I added  312g of warm water and mixed on low speed until the starter was softened / mixed.  This was followed by the addition of 454g of flour and 17g of salt.  With the dough hook attachment, the flour / salt was slowly added until a course ball of dough was formed.  Total mix time on medium was about 4 minutes.  I then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

After the rest, kneading continued for about 3 or 4 minutes until the dough was soft, supple and tacky (but not sticky).  It was then kneaded by hand for a very short period of time, formed into a ball and left to sit uncovered for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, a stretch and fold was performed; front to back and left to right.  Here's Reinhart's demo on a very high hydration dough.  It's amazing how quickly a totally unmanageable dough is quickly transformed after just one stretch and fold.  A bench scraper is an absolute must!

The dough was then flipped over, formed into a ball, covered and rested for 10 minutes.  This S&F / rest process was done three times over the next 30 minutes.  Once formed into a ball for the last time, it was placed into a lightly oiled, tightly sealed bowl where it will stay for 2 hours.  It is not supposed to rise much (because no active yeast is used) but it should show some signs of doing so before it's put into the refrigerator for overnight fermentation.  

Here's what it looked like after the final S&F...  I'll post a pic later once the two hours is up.  Tomorrow is bake day :)

UPDATE:  After 2 hours: Not a lot of action but there is activity.  Into the fridge it goes...


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pain au Levain

I'm going to have a 2nd go at Reinhart's Pain au Levain.  I'll be using the "Mother Starter" I've kept going from the seed culture I made back on 9/1/11.  While one of my blogs does have this recipe, I'll just re-post it here.  

I diluted the mother starter with the warm water and then added the flour (I'm using King Arthur unbleached All Purpose and KA Red Whole Wheat).  Using a wooden spoon, I mixed all of the ingredients to a shaggy mess and then kneaded it on my un-floured countertop.  It was a bit sticky at first but quickly took the shape of a somewhat stiff, slightly tacky dough.  It's now sitting covered in a lightly oiled bowl.  This will stay at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.  By then it should be about 1.5 times its original size.  It'll then be refrigerated overnight.
DAY 1:  


⅓ cup (2.5 oz / 71 g) mother starter, cold or at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz / 142 g) unbleached bread flour
⅔ cup (3 oz / 85 g) whole wheat flour
⅔ cup (5.35 oz / 151.5 g) water, at room temperature

                                                        Here's how it started (1:30pm)    

UPDATE: (9:30pm) Lookin' good...