Bread oven

When you get serious about baking bread, sooner or later you begin to think of ways to make your oven into a better baking oven for bread. First you go out and get a baking stone. Then maybe a cloche or you think of ways to line your oven more. Perhaps a stone on the top shelf as well so that it can radiate heat downward as well as hold a more intense heat. Well then you begin to wonder about what else you can do. I am at that point although I have already glimpsed beyond to my own masonry oven and/or a commercial oven (there may be one in the works). So here I am at the point where I am trying to figure out how to bake my bread even closer to a hearth oven, this is what I have done today:

oven

Here is the set up before putting on the bottom baking stone.

And here it is with the stone:

bottom stone

I lined the sides of the oven with three firebrick on each side,which I stood upright because two wouldn’t fit horizontally. I then added brick to the floor in two layers to lift the baking stone up off the element. I then put another baking stone on top. The baking stones are from a kiln and are crescent shaped. Not the best shape, but heck, that is what I have to work with. One of the baking stones has the edge broken off which worked out great for me because it wouldn’t have fit otherwise. I also had the firebrick laying out behind the shed not doing anything they are 1.25 inches thick.

I have made up a batch of the Coastal Loaf bread using regular sourdough starter instead of motherdough starter, I thought I would see if it was more like a baguette or french style bread. So I will try out the stone setup tomorrow.

Bottom heat

I made up a new motherdough recipe yesterday and the motherdough was really vigorous. I will call this bread, Coastal Loaf. The motherdough was at 80% hydration (the motherdough not the dough).

(Forgive the use of metric mixed with imperial, I just got my digital scale, and my mind is still mixed up 🙂

Coastal Loaf

I used:

680 g of motherdough (approx. 1.5 lb)

700 g water (3 cups)

938 g bread flour (7.5 cups)

150 g whole wheat flour freshly ground (1 cup)

8 g (1 teaspoon) malt syrup

27 g  (2 Tablespoons) of oil

24 g (4 teaspoons) salt (not added during mix)

This made 2436 g of dough (5 lb 5 oz)

I divided this into three pieces of 812 g (1lb 12 oz)of dough each.

I mixed up this dough at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. I let the dough autolyse for 20 minutes, finished mixing for about 4 minutes and then let it proof until 8:00 pm. I then added the salt, stirred down the dough and put it into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning at 7:00 am I took out the dough and let it warm up for one hour. At 8:00 am I shaped the loaves. I made two batard syle loaves and one boule style loaf.

dough proofing

For this proofing setup, I rolled up three bath sized towels and draped a large cotton cloth over the whole thing, then I put a tea towel over each half that was to contain one loaf. That way, I could lift each loaf out with the tea towel.

I preheated my oven for one hour at 500 F and put a baking stone on the bottom shelf and on the second to the top shelf. I was going to see if I could bake two loaves at once, and just switch them halfway. I was worried about the top loaf being too close to the top of the oven and getting overly browned. The dough looked ready after two hours proof (our temperature is in the 90’s). So I popped the loaves into the oven and misted for the first five minutes. I also had a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven floor. After the first five minutes,I turned the oven down to about 435 F  I put the timer on for 14 minutes, switched the bread halfway and baked another 14 minutes. I was surprised after the first 14 minutes, because the bottom loaf had really done an oven spring and the slashes had already opened up beautifully. The top loaf was smaller looking and the slashes weren’t too open. The dough was exactly the same weight and was proofed exactly the same, so the only thing I could think of was that the more intense bottom heat was beneficial for oven spring. I then switched the loaves halfway and the bottom loaf which I switched to the top did get a little too browned.

Here they are:

two loaves

two again

boule too

The boule went into the oven next by itself. It had a terrific oven spring. Here it is with the other two loaves. Here is a picture of the interior crumb of the bottom heated loaf:

interior crumb

I will get pictures of the other interior crumbs as they are sliced.

Here is the picture of the interior crumb of the bread that was on the top of the oven:

crumb

I really like working with the motherdough as you get the tendency toward the larger holes, and the color and flavor are always superb. The smell is heavenly. It really seems to bring out the full pontential of the wheat.

This was really a wonderful learning day for me!

myself

Not a Baguette or French Loaf

I took my One Night Sour Sponge Bread which has the cracked wheat meal in it, and made up some bread today. I decided to shape two of the loaves like torpedos and one as a boule. I didn’t do too well for shaping torpedos, I certainly need a lot more practice on shaping these kinds of loaves. Also the dough is a little too high in hydration and sticky for shaping a traditional Baguette or French loaf. However, I just wanted to push the limit. The oven spring was good, the shapes held up pretty well, the slashes didn’t fare too well though. Here they are:

one night   

boule too

The boule is pictured here with one of the long loaves. The other loaf has already been devoured as we grilled it up for dinner.

Here is a picture of the crumb:

crumb

Ciabatta

I decided to tackle the Ciabatta bread. I used my motherdough starter to save on an extra day fermentation. The hydration ended up being 74% for the finished dough. I actually had it around 80% ! gooey! But I added flour to bring it to 74%. Here is what the dough looked like after being brought to 74%:

ciabatta dough

I wish I would have taken a picture when I poured it out, it was like batter. But here is one of the loaves after I folded it the first time. I then stretched it again and folded it twice:

loaf 1

folded again

Here are all four loaves finished with their forming, they weighed about 1 lb 5 oz each:

all four

Here are the first two loaves out of the oven:

baked bread

Here are three of the loaves:three loaves

I would have shown you  all four except one was devoured while still hot!

Here is the crumb of one:

crumb ciabatta

I could have gotten more oven spring, I would like the holes to be larger, but overall I am very happy with how these Ciabatta loaves turned out.

crumb ciabatta

Country Kitchen Loaves

Yesterday I decided to make up a recipe that would have these parameters:

Dark crusty exterior, finer crumb, large, lots of slashes, have a taste like the large farm kitchen loaves with the added milk.

So I started at 10:30 in the morning, and already had a nice bucket of motherdough (I had this motherdough at 100% hydation, but I am now keeping it at 80% hydration , when I refresh I add 400g water and 500g flour) going and well fermented so I decided to use it for flavor and color and skip the extra night fermentation. The loaves were successful except for the slashes did not bloom as well as I would have expected.

Here is a picture of the loaves :

kitchen loaves

Here is the crumb:

kitchen crumb

As you can see, I got what I was after. The only thing I wasn’t happy about, is that I wanted a lot of slashes, but the slashes, made the bread spread too much in the first loaf, and didn’t bloom much in the second loaf. I had the dough at 63% hydration, so I thought that was a low enough hydration loaf to support a lot of slashes. I am pretty sure it was the fact that the loaves were too large (2lb 11 oz) for my regular baskets and I had to use plastic bowls. The skin on the dough didn’t dry enough to support a lot of slashes. I wish I had at my disposal, a very large number of bannetons and baskets of different sizes and shapes!If anyone has any other ideas as to why my loaves spread too much or the slashes didn’t bloom, I would certainly like to hear it!

Basic White with a difference update

Well it has been two days and I pulled out the loaf I was going to check to see if it were as stale as usual on day two. Here it is:

soft crumb

It certainly without a doubt had a softer crumb than usual for the basic white recipe. It was still great for a sandwich not just toast. So the addition of milk to the recipe and extra oil does seem to help keep the bread fresh longer.

Sourdough Bluecheese Pullapart Loaf

Today I am going to bake up Bluecheese Pullapart Loaves. Some people call it Bleu Cheese. I developed this recipe for sourdough, but I have memories of commercial yeast pullapart loaves my mother made when I was a child. I put the ingredients into the mixer, mixed just enough to bring the dough together minus the salt, and let rest for 15 minutes (autolysis).

autolysis

 After resting, I added one more cup of flour. The dough is now smoother:

rested

I let the dough raise four hours and since it was a smaller batch than half of the bowl, it was certainly doubled:

doubled

I poured out the dough, added the salt, and kneaded into a ball. Then I let the dough rest for five minutes. At that time I rolled out a rectangle and brushed on butter :

rolled out

I cut the rectangle into 16 pieces and sprinkled on about 5 ounces of crumbled blue cheese:

blue cheese

Using the pastry cutter, stack up each row of four and put the stack into the bread pan:

stack

stack with cutter

When you are done placing all of the stacks into the bread pan it should look like this:

pan of bread

This recipe made two loaves:

two loaves

Here they are baked:

baked bread

baked loaf

crumb bluecheese

The crumb looks velvety and it is because it is covered with butter but there is a fine holey crumb when you tear a piece open. Well there you have it, my Sourdough Bluecheese Pullapart loaves.

Sourdough Biscuits (Scones)

I have a recipe that I have used for years for Sourdough Biscuits. The ingredients are usual, the mixing is not. As a matter of fact, if you don’t mix these biscuits the way the recipe directs, they won’t come out nearly as nice. It is usual to mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another bowl and then combine them. That won’t exacty work for this recipe and I have tried it that way, it just doesn’t produce the right results.Here is where you can print off the recipe:Continue reading

Basic White with a difference

Today I started a basic white batch of sourdough bread. I have been putting in even a nominal amount of cracked wheat because I like the texture and added eye interest. I put only two tablespoons this time because I also wanted to try something a little different. After doing up the Sourdough Kaiser Rolls, I thought maybe I would add a little extra oil and some milk powder to a basic white recipe and see how it changes the crumb texture and the crust.

I also want to see if it changes the longevity of the shelf life. Now with my crew I often don’t get long lived bread but when I do, I notice that some of the breads go stale faster. White bread isn’t as bad a culprit as whole wheat bread on this point but white bread that isn’t eaten same or next day, does get stale pretty fast.Continue reading