I’m getting more comfortable with the bannetons. I think they’re getting more “seasoned” too.
A boule “born” on the 4th of July:
The Recipe – 600 grams bread flour, 390 grams refrigerator water (baker’s percentage 65%), 13 grams salt (2.25%), 6 grams diastatic malt powder, 3/8 tsp instant yeast.
Combine ingredients and mix on low speed 8 minutes.
Cover and let rest 18 hours at room temperature. (65F – 70F)
Lightly spray oil the work surface. Remove the dough from the workbowl and stretch and fold the dough four times, once from each from top, bottom, left, and right. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a well-floured banneton, seam side up.
Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rest one hour. Place a baking stone in the middle of an oven, put a sheet tray on the bottom shelf. Preheat oven to 460F.
When the dough is ready, toss 7-8 ice cubes into the sheet tray. Turn the dough out onto the baking stone and slash the dough as you see fit.
Bake ~35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 200F.
This bread was a little bit of departure for me in a few ways:
It’s 600 grams rather than 400 grams. 400 grams has been my comfort zone.
This dough had a higher hydration (65%) than I’ve been able to “smoothly pull off” in the past when using a banneton. There has almost always been some sticking during release from the banneton. Not this time. I made a point to “aggressively and confidently” turn the dough out onto the baking stone. No sticking! That’s good thing!
The larger dough mass combined with the diastatic malt (and not using a dutch oven) created a relatively dark, thick, attractive crust.
The slashing was less than perfect: I need to swap out the razor blades for something newer and sharper a little more often.
Authors write about “Twelve Steps” (or more) to baking bread, which sounds like a lot of processes:
Bulk or Primary Fermentation
I “simplify” it in my head into four groups of “Activities”:
Bulk or Primary Fermentation
At the end of each Activity there’s a natural rest break.
In effect then, Twelve Steps become Four Activities:
Weigh and mix the dough, and let rest.
Divide and shape the dough, and let rest.
Shape/pan the dough, and let rest.
Bake, cool, and eat.
That sounds pretty manageable, doesn’t it? If you don’t count the baking step it’s only three Activities. Easy.
I bring all this up because I’d gotten into the habit of skipping Activity #2 when making focaccia. I’d mix, then coax the loose dough into a parchment-lined tray, allowing for one rise in the tray.
And that was fine, sort of. The focaccia were well-received, though I thought they had the potential to be better. As it turns out, if you don’t skip an Activity that people having been doing for thousands of years the results improve! Behold the power of trial and error!
A two-pound focaccia from Easter dinner:
A one-pound focaccia we ate with dinner last night:
Re-introducing the initial bulk fermentation gives a better crumb structure — the bread becomes more airy, with uniform bubbles throughout. I think that’s partly because the extra rest and handling means that the bubbles get redistributed more evenly. I’ve cut back on the oil too. The end result is a lighter, less oily focaccia.
Both breads: 70% hydration, 6% oil, 2% salt (not counting the pink salt), about 1% diastatic malt, baked at 425F for 24 minutes.
Here’s a Cheap Seat Eats post from January of 2016 talking about a good result due to allowing for an initial 30-minute rise before transferring the dough to the tray. Which means I’ve re-re-learned something. That’s good, right? The biggest difference between that one and these two is that the oil percent for these two were 6% rather than the 3% in the 2016 post. That, and I allowed for a 30-minute pre-ferment in 2016. These two got ~1 hour.
These don’t skimp on the butter or the cheese — the butter weight is 25% of the flour weight.
The recipe: 600 g AP Flour, 150 g room temperature butter, 300 g refrigerator water, 12 g kosher salt, 1 tsp instant yeast. (1+ cup of Grated Pamesan is applied to the dough sheet in step 5, below.)
Add the flour to the work bowl of the mixer. Add the butter and break it up into the flour with your fingers.
Add the other ingredients (except the Parmesan) and mix on low speed for 8 minutes.
Refrigerate, covered, for 1-3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Roll out the dough on parchment paper to 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. It should come out to a rectangle around 10″ x 15″. The parchment paper will make it easier peel up the dough in step 8.
Spread the grated Parmesan evenly over the dough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to sort of mash it into the surface of the dough.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough across the short dimension into pieces 1/2″ wide and 10″ long.
Twist the individual slices and place on Silpat lined baking sheets. I was able to fit these onto two baking sheets.
Let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 F.
Let cool on a cooling rack.
The finished weight of the breadsticks is somewhere North of two pounds — seven people wiped these out in no time. The nice thing about this recipe is that it will hold in the refrigerator for a few days, then be ready to eat in about an hour.
Epi Bread makes an appearance at the Iron Chef Leftover Annual Lasagna Party (cell phone pic):
I feel like everything came together pretty well this time around. The color was better than usual due to the addition of egg wash — two eggs were beaten then strained and brushed onto the doughs before the doughs were cut into the Epi shape. The egg wash created more contrast between the light and dark parts.
Each individual Epi was around 15″ long. The finished weight of all of the breads put together was around five pounds.
As far as the actual “mechanics”:
Each “batch” was three breads at 150 grams of flour each.
This time around I used a refrigerated “Poolish” (preferment) that I started on the 22nd — two days before the event. I went with a refrigerated Poolish because on the 22nd we weren’t sure we were going to be able to make it to the event, and I could bake the dough on the 25th if we missed out on lasagna.
To make one batch of Poolish combine 150 grams of bread flour, 150 grams of refrigerated water, and a pinch of instant yeast. Mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover. It can be refrigerated for up to three days with no real loss in quality.
(I did all three batches together (900 grams total), then divided it out into three – 300 gram units on baking day.)
On baking day combine in the mixer one batch of Poolish with 300 grams of bread flour, 120 grams water, 9 grams of salt, 1/3 stick unsalted butter (36 grams), and 1 teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix for eight minutes. Hand knead a little if the dough looks rough. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.
Divide into three pieces and roll each piece into a baguette shape that will fit lengthwise into a Silpat-lined sheet tray. Cover and let rise two hours.
Brush each baguette with (beaten and strained) egg wash. Using scissors, cut the breads and lay the cut segments off to the sides for the finished Epi shape.
Bake at 460F for 22 minutes. Carefully remove to a cooling rack. (I used tongs to slide the Silpat out of the sheet tray, then slipped the Epis off of the Silpat.)
The addition of butter to the recipe made the finished product a little richer and dinner-roll like. The Epi shape made it easy to cut or break off pieces, and increased the total amount of “browned goodness” surface area. I’d like to think those decisions helped the breads fit in with the rest of the meal. Nobody complained.
I’ve been meaning to try out the combination of banneton + baking stone when making a “hearth” bread. Hamelman recommends a 73% hydration dough for his Ciabatta, but I knew if I went that high the odds of “disaster” would be pretty high too. I settled on a more moderate 65% hydration for this first pass, something along the lines of a French Bread, though it’s really a “65% hydration boule” (ball).
The recipe involves light mixing followed by three folds at one hour intervals, then a two hour rise in a banneton.
The first picture was taken right after the light mixing:
Notice how the dough is somewhat shaggy. It’s fairly sticky too. Over the next few hours it’s going to shape up.
Here it is after fold number one:
The “folding process” involves taking one edge of the dough, stretching it out, then folding it back on the mass. Then the stretch is done to the opposite side — repeat until all four sides have been stretched and folded back onto the mass. If you look closely you can see the last fold sitting on top with a slight seam running left to right.
Here it is after fold number two:
Not much evidence of the seams this time. The dough has gained a lot of structure, and it’s not nearly as sticky as it was — now it’s just sort of tacky.
An hour later was the third fold, and the dough placed placed into a well-floured banneton:
I should mention because it isn’t pictured: During every rise the bowl/banneton was covered with plastic wrap.
The dough was allowed to rise for two hours. An hour prior to baking the stone was placed in the oven and the oven was preheated to 460F.
The dough ready to be flipped onto the pizza peel:
And out of the oven (I baked one at a time):
The appearance is due to the floured rings of the banneton, combined with slashing the dough prior to baking. It looks involved, but it’s really pretty simple.
Overall the structure was a little tighter than I would have preferred — the “right” answer to that is probably more steam and higher hydration. The first dough stuck to the pizza peel, which was the “disaster” I was trying to avoid, and it’s why I used a moderate hydration in the first place. (And it degassed the dough somewhat, which is not what I wanted.) I used ample flour for the second dough and that one released fine.
There’s definitely a “wow” factor with this approach. I’m sure I’ll do it at least once again during the holidays.
The recipe is based around Hamelman’s “Ciabatta with Poolish” (Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes)
The day before — make the Poolish (120g bread flour, 120g water, a few grains of yeast. I added 2% salt to the Poolish, which is not classically correct — I wanted the Poolish to not go totally crazy and overproof.)
Combine the Poolish with 280g bread flour, 140g water, 1/2 tsp yeast (up to 1 tsp might work better next time), 6g kosher salt. Total recipe is 400g bread flour, 260g water (65%), yeast, 8g salt (2%)
Mix for 3 minutes on low speed, then 3 minutes on 2nd speed.
Fold the dough, move to a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.
Fold the dough. Cover and let rise another hour.
Fold the dough. Cover and let rise a third hour.
Fold the dough, place into a well-floured banneton or bowl. Cover and let rise two hours until doubled. With one hour to go preheat the oven and stone to 460F.
Gently dump the dough onto a pizza peel. Slash the dough.
[Late Edit: SeattleAuthor brought it to my attention that I left out a step in the directions — Steam The Oven.] Bake for 40 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool.
Again, it looks like a lot of steps, but it’s really pretty easy. Just set the timer and forget it for a while.
Easter called for another Challah, this time I tried Peter Reinhart’s, from his book Artisan Breads Every Day. (Last year was his “Double Celebration Challah“. For comparison, here is my 2nd attempt at Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Brioche, a recipe which I found to be a pain to parse.)
This year’s Challah was fairly simple and easy — combine all ingredients, knead, cover, then put it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to three days). The dough is then shaped into braids, braided, covered with egg wash, allowed to rise, covered with egg wash (again) and sesame seeds, allowed to rise (again), then baked:
The recipe is here, on Michael Ruhlman’s website. Note that I halved all of the ingredients — I didn’t need to make two loaves. I don’t know why Reinhart often writes recipes for two (or four, or eleventytwelve) doughs. Though at least this time he used grams, so I didn’t have to mess with figuring out what a one-third portion of 7-1/4 cups of flour computes to.
I like this recipe better than either of the other two that I referenced at the start of this post. The Double Celebration Challah calls for an indeterminate amount of water, 10.5 to 12 ounces — that’s a big range! The Beranbaum Brioche recipe is very poorly worded, and I feel like the recipe is broken into more steps than is necessary.
From a taste standpoint, this Challah was better 2015’s. It may be that including the optional vanilla extract made a difference, though no one mentioned that they detected it. I also think the salt level was very close to correct this time, in contrast to the 2015 bread which seemed to be lacking salt.
This Challah called for coating the dough with egg wash twice, at one hour intervals. The dough rests uncovered the entire time. It sounds really odd, but it worked.
Last year’s Challah split — almost exploded. I read somewhere that splitting tends to happen if the braiding is too tight, which definitely could have been the case.
When it came to the “knead on the counter until the dough is tacky but not sticky” — at least this time the dough was very wet and shaggy at the start of the kneading, and it took a fair amount of flour to get to “tacky”. Maybe it was just humid(?)
Overall it’s a low-hassle, nice tasting bread, and it’s attractive too. I can see making this again even if it isn’t a special occasion.
I feel like this may have been the best “quick” focaccia yet.
3% olive oil in the dough. That’s lower than in oil than most of the focaccias I’ve made in the past. The crumb was lighter than in past attempts, and the bread got a lot more “lift”.
The dough was allowed to rest for 30 minutes before it was moved to the pan. I think this also improved the finished crumb structure.
A 450F oven. (Rather than 425F.) The crust came out quite a bit browner and crisper as a result.
It made a terrific dinner with a bit of cheese and SeattleAuthor’s charcuterie:
The formula: 400 grams Bread Flour, 280 grams room-temperature water (70% hydration), 12 grams olive oil (3%), 9 grams kosher salt (2.25%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast.
Combine ingredients in the mixer and mix on low speed for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat the dough and bowl with oil, cover, and let rest 30 minutes.
Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment. Lightly oil the parchment.
Transfer the dough to the oiled parchment, pulling it gently to the edges of the pan.
Cover and let rise ~1.5 hours.
Drizzle the top with olive oil. I used a rosemary-oregano olive oil that we received as a holiday gift.
Oil your fingers and dimple the top.
Bake 22 minutes at 450F. Remove to a cooling rack when done.
For comparison, here’s a 100% hydration, 6% olive oil focaccia from 2014. It couldn’t be dimpled because it was already collapsing under its own weight. It was baked at 425F and even with the higher oil content it was a lot lighter in color. Here’s another that was baked at 425F. And another. None of them are all that brown.
What’s interesting is that one side expanded more than the other side. Again:
The slash was down the middle when I made it — that’s how far the “center” shifted as the bread expanded.
So why did one side rise more than the other?
My first thought would be that the pan needs a lot of butter — any “dry” spots catch on the sides and imbalance the loaf. But it’s happened two tries in a row…
It could be that if any egg wash touches the sides of the pan it makes for an uneven rise…
Alternately, I may be misinterpreting the directions. I’m folding such that the seams run lengthwise inside the loaf. It may be that if I fold so that the seams are crosswise… I’d bet that the same “problem” would persist, only one end would rise more than the other instead…
Of course it could be as simple as “stuff happens”. I thought the first bread was slashed well, but it looks like the slash could have been deeper on the 2nd bread.
I don’t know. It could be different combinations of factors in each loaf.
I’m going to have to try more recipes from the Beranbaum book. My feeling is that this particular recipe could be worded better. I think I did everything right, but I spent a whole bunch more time than usual reading the recipe. I think bits and pieces of the recipe are spread around somewhat, and the ingredients are lumped together in a non-intuitive way. I wound up annotating in the book for future reference, which I something I don’t like to do. However, I really like the fact that the measurements are available as metric weights.
All in all, this brioche represents a two day process involving five hours of “work” each day, handling the dough every 1-2 hours. As a flat guess I was “hands on” for more than an hour each day.
In the future: I’d like to hope it’s possible to get a comparable result without that many steps, but for special occasions, it’s a nice bread.