Sunday, January 12, 2020

Bread......Act IV

Got cranking again today on another batch. Last week's "Experiments in Bread" yielded decent results, but I made two glaring errors that came back and bit me.

Error #1 was mixing the dough too long. The flour company said 6 to 7 minutes, while the mixer company said 4 to 5 minutes. I watched the dough mix and the time, and right about 4 minutes in it started to look really good. Pulling away cleanly from the sides of the bowl, and balling up nicely. It still looked OK at 5 minutes, but I could sense it was changing (it didn't look as 'shiny' as it had), and by 6 minutes it was beginning to break up. Result? Dense bread, again.

BUT.....(Epiphany time) I now know and understand what the dough looks like, and how it changes as the mixing time progresses. This error won't happen again!

Error #2 was using the wrong stuff to dust the baking sheet with. I didn't have any corn meal or Semolina to dust the pan with (both items in stock now), so I bowed to my Sweet Little Wife's suggestion to use the package of Jiffy corn muffin mix that was sitting on the shelf.

WRONG! The mix has other stuff in it besides corn meal and flour, like lard, salt, sugar, and baking powder. This caused these "extra ingredients" to get added to the bottom layer of the bread, throwing the flavor and texture off. Not to mention the fact that when lard and flour get up to 450* or so, they SMOKE, then char, and that adds a "flavor" to the crust of the bread as it bakes.

Other than these two errors, I have the process and recipe tuned up to what should work pretty well.

So let's get this show on the road.....

Ingredients and equipment? READY!

Put 'em in the bowl.....

And after combining in the lukewarm water, the Happy Bubbly Joyous Yeast, and mixing for precisely 4 minutes and 30 seconds, we're rewarded with a nice ball of dough, not too dry, and not too moist.....

Pop it into the 100*F oven to raise, covered with a damp terrycloth, and go do something else for two hours.....

Yep....sure looks like it's doubled.....almost looks kind of "sourdoughy", with some big bubbles.....

Prepare the baking sheet with Semolina on the left side, and cornmeal on the right side.....

"Gently Deflate" the dough, divide it in half, do a bit of "shaping", and plop them on the baking sheet for the second raise.....

After 45 minutes, I removed the proto-bread from the oven, started the oven preheating, slashed each loaf three times across the top, and "generously" applied more lukewarm water with a brush, per the recipe.

Then we popped the sheet back in a 450*F oven for 25 minutes.....

Yeah, it deflated a bit when I cut the loaf tops. Still gotta work on figuring that out. I think next batch will get baked in the glass bread dishes we have.

22 minutes later, and we have BREAD!

And this time it came out really good. Like "High End Restaurant" good. The crust came out perfect again, with a nice hollow "Plonk" when you thumped it, but this time the insides are nice and light. And the flavor, devoid of the various adulterants I used for "cornmeal" last time, is superb.

I baked it using the regular "Bake Mode" on the oven, and I'm definitely going back to "Convection Mode", where a blower moves the air around inside the oven, as it bakes the top of the loaves in a much more uniform manner. It also bakes a bit faster, needing only 20~22 minutes vs the 25~27 minutes this mode took until it "Plonked" just right.

So, I'm calling this batch an inside-the-park home run. The only thing I can find "wrong" with this batch is the fact that it slumped a bit more than I expected, but wow, it sure tastes good.

Now if I can get it to come out looking like this......


  1. drjim, this is a VERY helpful post. Every year or so I get into baking bread but guess what, it's not the bread perfection I'm after. Sure, it smells and looks great but it's not quite there.

    You've inspired me to try again. What I'm after is an English farmhouse loaf.

    1. I just googled for "English Farmhouse Loaf" and found a variety of recipes. Some use an overnight "raising", or fermentation, and some (the one from Mother Beeb) just look like a bread recipe.

      Do you bake the kind your looking for in a pan or dish, or is it "freestanding" like the loaves I made?

  2. Nicely done sir!
    Slather it with real butter while it's still warm, close your eyes and enjoy it.
    Nobody will care about what it looks like at that point.

    1. You mean there's butter substitutes?

      How horrible!

      I know the taste is more important, but I still have to figure out why it still comes out a bit lumpy.

  3. Sounds like you've got a handle on making your bread. The only recipe I've had any success with is:
    It's simple, like me...

    1. Ah, yes...the "overnight" recipes for bread.

      That looks a lot like the recipes I found while looking up an "English Farmhouse Loaf" for Lone Star Parson.

      I'll have to try one of those. I like the "Dutch Oven" bread recipes, probably next on the list.

  4. Nice mixer!
    Try some more yeast...another package (2 1/2 tsp) to your batch. It will rise higher must watch it though.
    Do you have a jelly roll pan? I don't but they can help 'shape' bread.

    1. Thanks, Ex. It was my Christmas present from my Sweet Little Wife.

      The sucker draws six hundred Watts, which makes it about 3/4 Horsepower. Cranks through the dough like gangbusters.

      This last batch was made per the recipe, the only adjustments for altitude being a hotter oven and shorter baking time. I *think* it might need a bit more water (altitude adjustments call for an extra 5 tbsp (1/3 cup) of water), but I'm a little hesitant to add it.

      The next batch will be going into the glass bread pans we have to see if that helps. I like the "free form" shape without the bread pan, but if it makes it come out "better", then I'll use the pans.


Keep it civil, please....

Saturday Night Music

 One of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite bands, featuring one of my favorite guitar players. It was also written specifically for ...