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This time it went a bit on overload. It got slightly out of hand.

4 kilograms of dough. Hm. Had to divide it in two batches, and mix it with an hour difference, because wont fit in the oven.

It is a nice San Francisco sourdough recipe, though, with 72% hydration and with a levain starter.

Levain:

365 flour

185 water

300 stiff starter

And here is the final dough:

2.1 kg flour

1.55 kg water

55 g salt

levain from above

Nice. but I misread a bit the instructions, so the actual baking time is calculated for 5 am tomorrow morning. The cat wakes me up at 5 am anyway, so tomorrow i will wake up just on time. :)

Here are some pictures of the dough during the resting process.

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Fast baguette. Advanced baking and pastry.

Ok, this was a few days ago. My first take on a fast 70% hydration baguette.

525g flour

370 water

½ tsp yeast

10g salt

 

It looks like boobs, I know. For a first try, it was quite nice. I just didn’t have the baguette tray at the time, so I ended up baking the baguette in a round pan. Hahaha.

What I learned is that:

  • it is very important to avoid the temptation to put more flour, even if the dough seems wet. It gets better after the floor time.
  • it is important to keep an eye on the temperature – 23C is more than enough for the dough to raise well; before I used to put much warmer water, and the result was an uncontrollably fast raising dough and a big loss of flavor.
  • it is important how the final dough is shaped and how firmly it is rolled.

 

 

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When I think about it – I have always been interested in food. Even in the old days of cheese, bread and beans, I was still loitering around the kitchen, trying to see what’s cooking.

Now when I think about it – about 10 years ago I really got into cooking actively, and tried to produce edible results. Most of it was failure, but there was always someone who was around to test my food.

Sometime in mid 2000’s I got into baking. Buying my first bread machine was fun: I sent an email to someone on Craig’s list about their bread machine and we agreed to meet in the afternoon in front of a local restaurant. As I went there and sat on a bench waiting, I started observing the people. It took a while, I think I waited about half an hour or so, and no one came with a bread machine. Eventually I noticed an old lady sitting on another bench waiting patiently. Eventually I went and asked if she had a bread machine for sale. She looked at me very puzzled, with a lot of mistrust and asked how I knew about it. I said it was me who was interested in it, and she said she expected another old lady, not a guy in his 20’s. I got the machine, and went home, a bit puzzled myself.

My parent’s reaction wasn’t really far off. After all, “cooking + men = trouble” kind of mentality was widely spread in their generation. It took about 5 years to change, anyway.

So, I started with a very simple bread machine. It was 1 litter, not who knows how good, but it was producing edible bread.

Eventually, after a few years I got another one – a Tefal XXL – it was much better, and it was getting great results.

Then I got interested in what the secret was of making this soft and great-smelling bread. I started reading on bread making, and I was confused for a very long time, before I decided to take on a half-automated way of making bread. I bought a fairly cheap but OK standup mixer and started using it for kneading the dough.

I found a nice manual online about sourdough – a very old-looking site by Mike Avery called sourdoughhome.com. Mike has great advice on baking and he explains the process in detail. He used to own bakeries and has a great deal of experience in bread making.

Anther book I use is “Beard on bread” – a great manual on how to make variety of breads with yeast.

Then I found another site, which is absolutely brilliant – weekendbakery.com. It even has videos on how to do certain parts of the baking process.

Only then I started making bread by hand – from start to finish.

Nowadays, it seems quite fun to bake with all kinds of mixes and to experiment with the ingredients and to control the taste…

It did take almost 10 years, though. No idea if the 10,000 hour rule is valid or not, but it took about this much to get consistent results.

If anyone wants a bread, drop me a line. :)

 

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It has been a while since I have been experimenting with bread making. It is interesting process and I like it.

The funny part is that it teaches me patience. (ask the people around me and they will tell you that I am the real implementation of the opposite of patience).

But when it comes to making bread, I find it relaxing and rewarding in a way that it makes me patiently work on a loaf of bread for 6 days (like any creator, on the seventh day I take a break – lol).

So, here is how it goes:

Day 1: take a spoon of the sourdough starter, mix 50g flour and 50g water, mix and wait. Do the same in the evening.

Day 2: mix 50g flour and 50g water, mix and wait. Do the same in the evening.

Day 3: mix 50g flour and 50g water, mix and wait. In the evening, mix 100g flour and 100g water.

Day 4: mix the flour, water and salt together with the starter. Wait a bit. Then knead. Put in the fridge.

Day 5: Take out of the fridge, if it has not doubled, leave at a room temperature for a few hours. Put back in the fridge.

Day 6. Take out of the fridge, shape carefully and leave at room temperature for a while. Warm up the oven to 260C, then put the bread in and bake at 240C.

 

Here are some pictures of my Pave. It was quite good, even though I did not bake it enough. Next time I will know to bake it a bit longer…

MyFirstPave_readyforbaking

MyFirstPave_baked

 

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After living for so long in the US, it only comes natural to me to dream about banana bread once in a while.

It is delicious, it always smells good, even if it is not to tasty at times.

Outside the US, however, it is not so popular.

A few weeks ago, during lunch I mentioned banana bread to my colleagues, and many questions popped up:

  • but is is like a bread?
  • is it sweet?
  • can you put cheese and ham on top, since it is a bread?
  • and so on

Not so sure about the cheese and ham. Maybe. Maybe not.

I baked some and took it to my colleagues. They enjoyed it, I think.

Here is a recipe of banana bread:

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 75 g / 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 200 g / 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 192 g / 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

As you can see, I have the measures in weight, not volume; or at least most of them. (my precision scale is on the way, so i could not really measure the baking soda)

Here are some instructions:

Preheat the oven to 170 C, but if you have an oven with a fan, you should use 160 C.

It is really simple – mix the butter and the bananas together, after you have melted the butter.

Beat the egg and mix it in, add the sugar and the vanilla. Sprinkle the baking  soda on top, mix it and give it a minute. The soda starts a chemical reaction with the acid in the bananas and this makes the banana bread fluffy.

Mix the sifted flour in without overdoing the mixing.

Pour in a pan and bake until golden brown. Depending on the oven it will take from 45 to 50 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.

Banana Bread

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Here is a simple white bread recipe:

400 g water

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

700 g white flour

2 tsp dry yeast

Mix all and bake!

Not so fast. As they say, the trick is in the details.

Looking at this recipe, one can ask a thousand questions (and one definitely should!). For example:

  • what kind of water? Temperature, purity, softness?
  • what kind of salt? Iodine, no iodine, sea, rock or what not?
  • what kind of sugar? Is it any kind, or just refined white cane sugar?
  • what kind of flour? How much protein, how much humidity, stone ground or something else, is it sifted or not and so on
  • what to mix first? is it the yeast and the water, is it the water and the salt, is it the flour and then the water…

 

The questions keep coming up, and it seems that the more experience one gets in baking, the more questions come up.

I guess this is the exciting part for me about baking – the different experiments and combinations.

Many people get excited about kneading the dough and they say it relaxes them. Don’t get me wrong – kneading is as important as anything else (in the breads that need kneading) but for me it is boring and my hands get tired.

That’s why I got a kitchen robot and it is called Heston. A cool machine, really.

So, back to the recipe: there are many ways to make this bread and it really depends on where you live and what result you want to get out of it.

First of all, there are a few things that can damage the process of making this bread – the temperature. The yeast is a living creature, so everything above 42 C will damage it.

For this particular recipe I add the water in the bowl, then add the sugar and the salt to it to dissolve. I ad warmer water – around 60 C and then I spin it around while mixing the salt and the sugar in a way that the water will cool off and the bowl will warm up. Then I use a kitchen thermometer to make sure the water is about 40 C.

The salt I use is specifically selected NOT to have iodine and any other chemicals. I use pure sea salt, and I grind it myself. The salt you see in the store that is already ground has chemicals in it which prevent clumping, but they tend to kill the yeast.

After dissolving the sugar and the salt, I add the flour.

The flour is the tricky bit: they have all kinds of flour in the stores, but it is really hard to find a good one without chemicals. I like also to use a high protein flour. The highest protein contents you can get in the stores here is 12%. I would like to get 14 or so, but I guess these are available only for bakeries.

Also, the flour has to be sifted at least once.

Then the flour itself has humidity content, which is hard to tell without some machinery, but with enough baking experience you will be able to make the distinction.

The best way to approach this is to add only 2/3 of the flour the recipe calls for, and then to slowly stir it in the water. Then see how it looks like and then start adding more flour, as needed. It is much easier to add more flour then to add more water later on.

After incorporating the flour in the liquid, start kneading – for me this means increasing the speed of Heston from 1 to 2.

Knead for 15 minutes, then stop the machine.

Wait for an hour (this really depends on the room temperature – at 28C will be about 45 min, at 22C will be about 85 minutes, but this also depends on the temperature you had when you started kneading).

The guideline here is to have the dough double in volume during the kneading process.

Then turn on the machine and mix for a few minutes until the air bubbles are out.

Take out and put in a pan in which it will bake.

Leave it in the oven with the oven light on – this will usually keep about 40 degrees.

After another hour, start baking.

There are several ways to bake – you can use a cold start or you can preheat the oven and then put the dough in.

It really depends on the room temperature and the flour. If you are counting on a bigger oven spring, the use cold start, otherwise you can use the preheated oven.

Bake for 25 min at 180C, then test with a thermometer to see the inner temperature of the bread. Keep in mind that the water boils at different temperatures depending on its content and the altitude, so you will get a different reading of the bread temperature when it is done.

Eat and enjoy.

In later posts I will explain more about some of the variables.

Bread recipe

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Measure the initial volume with hair elastic…

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I have a bread machine. And I like it. It is one of the few bread machines that are actually worth buying. It is the Tefal XXL bread machine.

The other day I decided to make bread at home and I measured all ingredients, put them in the machine bowl and after starting the machine I realized that the mixing unit on the bottom of the bowl is stuck and does not rotate.

(Well, to admit honestly, it is kinda my fault: I was not supposed to put the mixing bowl in the dishwasher, and even if I did, I should have put some machine oil on the rotating parts, so they don’t gather rust. Oh well – I did fix the machine eventually and now it works, but this is not the point.)

What was I supposed to do with 500g of flour, salt, sugar and yeast mixed already while the bread machine was not working?

Throwing away the ingredients was not an option, reading a blog on bread making was not an option, running to the neighbors to find one who knows how to make bread by hand was not an option…

The colsest thing that came to mind was to call Vassilena.

After a 5 minute conversation in which she explained in detail what I should do and what to look for, I managed to get on the right track. (And I am blogging this because the result was way beyond any expectations).

So, let me share the recipe and the idea of baking a bread – Vassilena style:

Ingredients: (for 1kg bread)

405 ml warm water – how warm: when you put in your finger in the water it does not feel warm nor cold

2 teaspoons salt – salt is important for the bread and it helps form and shape the crust (technically if you put more salt the bread will have thicker and darker crust)

1 tablespoon sugar – the sugar is used as a fuel to the yeast (in practice, the yeast is composed of microorganisms, which eat sugar and flour and fart, hence the bubbles in the bread)

500 grams of white flour

60 grams of unsifted rye flour *

130 grams of sifted rye flour *

2 teaspoons yeast

100 grams of walnuts or almonds

* if you do not have or do not want to use rye flour, you can just replace the amounts with regular flour

The rest is matter of patience and some work.

Here is the flour I am using:

IMG_0462Pics2_

How to make it:

Start by measuring the water and puring it in a large bowl. Keep in mind that you can measure the water on the measuring scale. 1 gram is 1 ml.

Make sure to sift the flour, so it is fluffy. This is important, so the flour can get some air inside, so the yeast can breathe later on.

Put the flour on top of the water, add the salt and the sugar and mix slightly. Then add the yeast.

Mix well for about 10 minutes until the dough is well mixed and it slightly springs up when you touch it.

Add the walnuts or almonds and fold them in by mixing the dough another 2 minutes.

Leave the dough in the mixing bowl, cover it with a plastic bag or plastic foil and let it stay for an hour or two.

Now, this step really depends on many factors: the warmth of the water, the room temperature, the amount of yeast even.

If your room temperature is not too high, you can actually use the oven and warm it up slightly on the minimum setting for a minute. Then you can just leave the oven light on – the warmth of it is more than enough to keep a good temperature while the dough is raising.

And now you have to find something to do: read a book, chat, blog, drink some beer if you wish.

Come back in an hour or two and check if the dough has doubled in size. If it has – then start punching it down – kneading it, so the yeast farts can get out.

After the air bubbles are out of the dough, shape it well and place it in the bowl in which it will be baked.

Cover it with the foil again so it does not dry up, and wait. Drink another beer, probably?

Come back to it in an hour or hour and a half and see if it has doubled in size. If it has, start the oven and heat it up to 225 C. Take out the dough first while the oven is warming up.

When the oven is ready, place the dough inside and bake for 10 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 200 C and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes.

If you want to have a softer bread, make sure to put a bowl with water on the bottom of the oven so the steam can circulate around the bread.

Take the bread out, cover it with a bread cloth, and let it cool.

Eat it any way you like.

By the way, if you have a bread machine, you can use it to mix the ingredients in the first part – just add everything in the bowl and start the machine for 10 minutes.

Thanks, Vassilena!

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