Monday, December 5, 2016

French bread wrap up

Since the first ciabatta came out pretty good my motivation for that experiment has dissipated a bit, haha. I may continue, or pick a different style. It was good, and the boys liked it, but it doesn't make for good grilled cheese. Also technique seems far less important than recipe.

At any rate, I decided to do baguette again but this time to use the technique of pain d'epi to make a holiday wreath - make the loaf into a ring and then take the scissors to it and make a nice looking loaf that way. We'll see how it turns out.

Also wanted to take the opportunity to wrap up everything I learned about baguette making. Here are the key points.

  • Recipe -
  • I used 260g of water in Oct/Nov. More water did not make for bigger holes in the crumb and made it a huge pain to knead.
  • I prefer pointed ends in the baguette loaf.
  • Use a razor blade to make deep long slashes.
  • For Pain d'Epi cut deep into the loaf with scissors.
  • Preheat the oven with a small metal pan in there. Throw ice cubes in that after putting the bread in and just before closing the oven door.
  • Before placing the loaves in the oven, spray them with the sprayer from the sink so they're good and soaked.
Picture of the pain d'epi loaf coming shortly...

Here it is, going to call it pain de Noël since it's supposed to resemble a Christmas wreath.

And prior to cooking...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ciabatta #1

Ok, so first go looks promising, though I'm still doubtful that it's the ideal recipe. The crust looks nice, we'll see tomorrow how the crumb looks. Here is a shot of the 8 buns made with this recipe -

The recipe recommended 13-15 min at 450°, I ended up almost 20 because I wanted the right color. I guess I'm happy enough with the outside, that's not really what matters anyway.

EDIT - had an extra one and could not wait. Crust was crunchy, interior was nice and open crumb. Overall chewy and tasty. Nice bread!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Baguette Evolution

I'm pretty pleased with how this experiment worked out. Great learning experience. Check out that evolution :)

Next, ciabatta rolls

Ok, I'm pretty happy with the French bread, time to try something new. Current plan is this recipe - . However this is only 68% hydration and I'm a big hydration fan, so I'll do this then try something crazy like this one at 95% hydration - .

Currently the biga is resting peacefully on the dining room table.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finally, perfection

Well, ok, perfection might be a bit strong of a word. But it turned out very nicely. I doubled up the dough in one of the loaves to make a bit bigger loaf - worked well. Once again sprayed the loaves with water from the sink, then threw a handful of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven. Twenty minutes was perfect, crust looks glorious.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Attempt #5

Attempt #5 was pretty good, I used 260g water as an attempt at a happy medium between the low hydration and high hydration dough. I also made liberal use of flour when kneading. By the time I was done kneading the dough was not very sticky. As a result, the scoring went much better than last time. As for the crumb, I have not dissected the bread yet, it's still cooling.

Perhaps ever so slightly overcooked at 20 minutes. Check out the bottoms, a bit overcooked, and interestingly enough you can still make out the seams.

Definitely circling ever closer to a perfect bake. Next time I may try slightly bigger loaves, maybe just make two and cook for slightly longer. The skinny loaves are nice, but it would be fun to try something a bit more substantial.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Crumb Verdict

Not significantly more open and airy. I expected more and larger holes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tonight's Loaves

Ok, so the much more hydrated dough had both positives and negatives.

For starters, the positives. The skin of the loaf was definitely more blistered, which is nice. I strongly suspect the crumb will be much hole-ier. And I pulled them out after only 15 minutes at 450°, ten minutes shorter than the recipe recommends! Yet a thermometer inserted reported an interior temp exceeding 200°. The crust is a gorgeous color.

Negatives. As mentioned the dough was MUCH harder to work with. The slashes were much more difficult as the wet dough stuck to the razor blade, which led to an inferior beads-on-a-wire shape to the loaf.

In addition to the other changes I mentioned, I drenched the bread with the sprayer from the sink before putting it in the oven, definitely covered it well with water.

I think the lesson here is to go with somewhat less hydration so the dough is more easily workable and the slashes take better. Perhaps next run I will try with something roughly halfway between previous runs and this current one.

Possible thoughts for the future - a longer pan for the oven would be nice, these went right to the edge. A large steam tray might be nice for proofing so I don't waste so much plastic wrap.

Weigh It

Ok, this is a wake up call. The recipe called for 3.5 cups of flour, or 418g. I measured the 3.5 cups for the first three attempts. This resulted in a dry dough, even when combined with the maximum amount of water. And the crumb was rather dense. Denser than I wanted, anyway. The recipe calls for:

  • Starter: 0.5c water + Dough: 1.25c = 1.75c = 396g
  • Starter: 1c flour + Dough: 3.5c = 4.5c = 538g
This comes to a hydration of 396/538 = 0.73 = 73%. Theoretically, a nice wet dough that should produce a very hole-y crumb. But there was a problem converting from cups to grams. The water was fine, but the flour was a problem. For the first three attempts I used volume measures. For the fourth attempt I decided to use weight, and I measured out the 4.5 cups to see what it weighed. YIKES, it weighed 607g! So a hydration of 396/607 = 0.65 = 65%, waaaaay different. Much drier and admittedly easier to knead dough. Very curious to see how tonight's loaves turn out. At Duncan's request, I will make one loaf of pain d'epi, he enjoyed the look of it and called it a thorn loaf. Followup post when I have pictures of the resultant loaves.


Well, through inaction it has been left out. I can't imagine it'd be harmful to use it. There's certainly no mold yet, I'm thinking the flavor will be nice, worst case a little sourdough-like, which is awesome.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I saw a post on reddit where someone had a nice hole-y crumb ( ). They said they used 280g of water, on the high end, but slightly less than I use. Perhaps I am using too much flour? I will carefully scale the flour next run.

I prepped a starter for tonight, but I won't be able to make bread tonight. Not sure whether to just leave it out or pop it in the fridge.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Baguette 2 (cont'd) - Crumb ok

Ok, so the crumb is alright, but some bigger holes would be nice. Perhaps higher hydration on the next try.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Baguette 2: The Razor Blade is Key!

Yes indeed, the razor blade for slashing is KEY! Here's what I got today.

Left to right - rounded ends, pointy end, and pain d'epi (supposed to resemble a wheat stalk). And this.

I was pretty pleased with how these turned out. Far superior to previous attempts. Here are the improvements for this batch.

  • Threw a handful of ice cubes in a small metal pan at the beginning just before closing the oven
  • Heavy spritzing of the loaves before putting them in the oven
  • Preheated the oven with my metal tray, then slipped the loaves on parchement paper onto the preheated tray
  • I think this was the real key, sharp, deep cuts with a razor blade instead of a serrated knife
I think with the knife the cut opens up immediately and bakes evenly. With the razor blade the cut slowly opens as the bread expands while baking, resulting in a color gradient in the cut, looks much more appetizing! 

The pain d'epi was kind of fun, you can see how to make it here, at about 3:08 - .

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Baguette Detour

So I used the blog to record some bread baking experiments back in 2010, and I'm going to do the same now. I've made a lot of bread since then, and I like to think I've made some improvement over that time. But I've never really done baguette before. So I'm going to keep a record and see how it improves over time.

Recipe -

First attempt

These were good but too dense. And the crust not so blistery as I would have liked.

Second attempt

These were worse.

To do:

- perhaps try a different recipe
- use razor blade for scoring
- get crumb shots

2016 Season

Well, I was pretty neglectful of this blog in 2016. However, I did do some gardening. Mostly at the Friends community garden. First I planted peas, which did not even come up. Not sure what went wrong there. I haven't had much success with peas the past few years.

One successful experiment this year was greens. I grew kale, collards, turnip greens, and chard.

I grew 15 tomato plants, including Cherokee Purple and San Marzano. Harvest was 110 lbs over the season. To my great shame I did not start from seed, I bought plants at a local nursery. Next year!

Eggplant was a huge disappointment, I guess I got a not-so-great variety. Never really seemed to ripen fully and tasted miserable.

Zucchini was great as usual. I discovered a great new use for it as well, shredded in my microwaved scrambled eggs in the morning at work. Wow, it's great. Shredded and froze a lot of it for use over the winter. Garlic also did nicely, though the bulbs were not huge.

No cukes at all. Next year! And almost no peppers. Here's my full output this year in one photo, sadly.

The final analysis? I'll do better next year! Also really need to use some kind of landscape fabric at the garden so I don't have to weed so much. For next year: zucchini, garlic, peas, cukes, tomatoes, beans, basil, peppers.