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#31 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 27 December 2004 - 10:39 PM

That's basically it, Stuart. There's a variation involving cupping the loaf on the side and moving it over the counter while catching just a bit of it between your pinky and the surface. It's easier to do than it is to describe. You see it more often for making rolls, where the dough ball fits under the palm of your hand. After some practice, you can do one with each hand at the same time.
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#32 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 27 December 2004 - 11:05 PM

The best laid plans in the kitchen of a once a week amateur baker using home equipment can and often do go awry. This is especially annoying when the baking process takes four days and the awry part comes in the last few minutes.

Sourdough chocolate sour cherry bread (which also includes some commercial yeast because it is very dense and needs some help getting up) went according to plan. The published recipe that is my point of departure (in this case, Nancy Silverton) had been tweaked and was prepared and loaded into the oven. A few minutes later, smoke streaming from said oven was a good indicator that something wasn't right. Opening the door, through the choking smoke, the broiler element was on full, and doing a beautiful job of carbonizing the tops of loaves intended to delight a few people as holiday gifts. The numbers on my oven temperature knob have vanished from repeated cleanings. Long story short, only one was at all presentable, and that one went as a small token of gratitude for a meal that was an instant favorite of the year.

The weekly boule, however, was picture perfect. I think the clearest lesson of learning to bake sourdough has been to pay attention to the way the dough is behaving at every stage, and to recognize its condition in relation to the full process as it takes place in my own kitchen. I'm just beginning to fully understand the response of a baker, when asked what made a great loaf of bread. Rubbing his thumb and his forefinger together at the tips, as if feeling something that wasn't there, he said, "The temperature of the air, the temperature of the dough, the humidity."
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#33 Cathy

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Posted 28 December 2004 - 01:06 AM

Shave off the thin carbonized layer with trusty ceramic bread knife. Cut a slice of chocolate cherry beauty. Heat. Eat. Curtsy to Le Maître.

Like unwrapping the best present ever. :D

What I love most about the bread is that it isn't sweet. The chocolate chunks and dried cherries punctuate the crumb with bursts of intense but mellow flavor...you could make a terrific savory sandwich with this, I bet. Prosciutto and goat cheese, maybe?

Paula Oland, the first baker at the late lamented Ecce Panis (a small store that bloated into a nationwide distributor), made a chocolate-chunked yeast bread that was divine. Robert's is better.
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#34 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 03:53 PM

The baguette project begins. (Begin the Baguette, in honor of Artie Shaw?)

I've made decent sourdough baguettes in the past, but now I'm after something with a more open crumb. That means wetter dough, trickier proofing, gentler handling.

The first thing to do is to remember to measure the maximum dimension of the stones in the oven. Once, I made these long loaves, only to have to bend them to fit onto the stones.

The initial formula was 80% hydration, 40% starter. Turn twice in about 2 1/2 hours. This is not easy with such a wet dough. Divide, form by a series of folds on a floured surface. Make pointy ends. Once formed, the loaves are meant to proof overnight. To achieve this, I had to rig my baguette mold, which is too large, to accept a narrower loaf. I did this with a combination of aluminum foil and proofing cloths. Then into a sealed plastic bag and into the fridge.

Next day, let the loaves warm up for about two hours. They were difficult to slash because they were so wet and, by this time, full of gas and very delicate. On top of this, my lame is lame, which caused a certain amount of deflation.

All the effort was rewarded, though. They baked up really nicely, about as well as I could expect without the advantage of superheated steam. I think too that this is a case where mechanical mixing for a full development of the wet dough would help. Still, they were the best baguettes to come out of my oven.
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#35 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 05:49 PM

Baguette project, week two. I tried an even wetter dough, and some vital wheat gluten in the mixture. Everything else the same. My idea was that the wetter dough would be even holier, and that the extra pure gluten would sustain the loaf's architecture. Not so. The dough was extremely wet and turned out as a ciabatta in the shape of a baguette, so the crust was very good and the holes were there, but the loaves were very flat. If the same formula and procedure had produced a slightly higher loaf, say, an inch higher, this would have been a good effort.

I'm pretty well convinced at this point that vigorous mechanical development is necessary to reach the final frontier. I don't even have a home stand mixer. In the meantime, next week I think I'll go to a lower hydration, 70-75%. We'll see what happens.
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#36 Rose

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 10:04 PM

I just love living vicariously :D No clean-up. Keep it going RS.
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#37 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 01:30 AM

Week Three. It was humid yesterday, so even though I decreased the hydration of the dough by about five points, it had about the same feel as last week's. I realized this, but went ahead anyway. No extra gluten. Shorter intervals between turns: 45 minutes instead of an hour. Less time out of the refrigerator the next morning: an hour instead of two. The idea behind these last two adjustments was that the very wet dough acidifies faster, so I decided to give it less time to do that.

The result was only a little less flat than the ones I foisted on Lippy and R last week. Very tasty, excellent crumb with nice holes, although I wouldn't call it craggy. About a 10% improvement.

Now, here's the thing: I have been preparing the loaves and then putting them in the refrigerator (no professional retarding equipment around here) overnight. The long cool fermentation contributes to the outstanding taste, but it also gives the wet dough more time to break down. The method works perfectly for a 70% boule, but I'm thinking that the long fermentation is too much for these skinny things. (I've been forming them more as ficelles than baguettes. Maybe that has something to do with it as well.)

Anyway, I read a description of a 78% mixture, turned twice, risen and baked off. But the outline didn't mention temperature or humidity levels, nor did it mention whether or not commercial yeast was used. I suspect it was. How many people are crazy enough to attampt this as pure sourdough? So my next idea is to stay wet, about 75%, but to bake the loaves off the same day. Now you're thinking, where will that flavor come from without the long fermentation? I mean, it's easy enough to produce something good looking, but the taste has to be there. So the idea is to mix up a kind of poolish the night before: half the flour and all the water, and the starter, of course. Then, the next day, add in the rest of the flour, giving the starter something to work on, autolyse, add salt, form, give the loaves about 90 minutes or so at room temperature, and then into the oven. That'll be it for the really wet dough series, after which I'll start on 70% doughs, which are considerably easier to work with.
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#38 Rail Paul

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 02:13 AM

Your week three results sound interesting, Robert, and your overnight time has intrigued me. I wonder if a three hour or six hour refrigerator setting, instead of overnight, would give you a more pleasing result?

It's possible that 9 or 12 hours may be too much time in the cooler. It's also possible that the low humidiity in the fridge is affecting the result.
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#39 Lippy

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 04:08 AM

The result was only a little less flat than the ones I foisted on Lippy and R last week.

Please don't hesitate to foist anytime you feel like it.

#40 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 03:46 PM

Your week three results sound interesting, Robert, and your overnight time has intrigued me. I wonder if a three hour or six hour refrigerator setting, instead of overnight, would give you a more pleasing result?

It's possible that 9 or 12 hours may be too much time in the cooler. It's also possible that the low humidiity in the fridge is affecting the result.

I'm thinking that this dough was too wet to spend that much time in its formed state, Paul. A 70% boule, which is my usual hydration for that form, fares very well. I think a 70% baguette would too. The result of the long cool fermentation is a very good taste. So, yes, I think the loaves spent too much time in their formed state to hold their architecture.
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#41 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 11:51 PM

Week four: no baguette due to bbq event.

Week five: The overnight poolish makes the method a lot easier. Half the flour, the water, the starter: into the fridge overnight. Next day, add the rest of the flour and the salt. Into the Cuisinart in the hope that this will develop the dough better than I can by hand. This turned out to be true, but to no effect with 78 - 80% hydration. I turned the dough twice in an hour, which made it very airy and extensible, formed it, and let the single larger loaf (as opposed to two smaller ones I had been making) proof for an hour. The dough was very well developed and quite manageable for something so wet, but the loaf was again flat. All the flavor was there, and a nice holey crumb, but flat. So this will disappear with some chicken curry that Mazal is making for dinner tonight.

Later in week five, I will reduce the hydration to 70 - 72%. This is the level that I use for my boule, so theoretically, I should be able to produce a comparable result.
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#42 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 12:25 AM

Week five, part two. Poolish again. But the next day, I lost track of my arithmetic and the dough wound up much stiffer than I had intended. I would guess it was about 60%, which is way too dry. Going ahead nevertheless, I turned it twice in two hours, gave it proper autolyse before and rest after, formed the loaves and gave them just an hour before baking.

So there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the dough was too dry and I didn't proof it long enough. The good news is that they baked up pretty nicely, with much more volume than the very wet ones, and a surprisingly decent cell structure considering the dough's drawbacks. The taste was excellent.

Next week, pay attention to arithmetic. Don't mix the dough when distracted by a complicated deal. Proof the loaves 2 - 3 hours. I think I'm on the right track.

(Alternatively, the dough could be made up the day before and proofed on formed loaves overn ight in the fridge, baking either from cold or after an hour. Maybe I'll try that next.)
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#43 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 02:55 PM

Week six. Overnight poolish. 68%. Turn twice on the hour. Form, proof 2.5 hours at room temperature (about 70 degrees). Shallower, more horizontal slash.

These were the best loaves so far. Decent oven spring and volume, nicely uneven crumb. Beautiful crust, delicious taste. We're almost there. Better slashing and shaping still needed.

One more week before a travel hiatus.
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#44 Vanessa

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 09:44 AM

The rye bread dough that was rising a couple of nights ago. I realised that evening that the full rising and baking process would result in no sleep so I bunged the dough in the fridge, tightly wrapped in cling film.

Then last night I took it out, put it back in the bowl on the radiator, covered bowl in cling film. Turned over after some time when it looked like the bottom half had come back to life. Some time later punched down (although it hadn't risen much) and transferred to loaf tin and back on radiator loosely covered in clingfilm this time. Fell asleep. Woke up a while later. Dough had risen beautifully over top of tin, switched on oven, put tin in oven when heated, set the timer for 30 minutes, fell asleep again, woken up by pinging, took perfectly baked loaf out of oven and out of tin and onto wire rack. Back to sleep.

Bread worked well. The rye proportion is only about 25% max. Quite a lot of molasses makes the loaf a particular brown colour, and a taste and texture reminiscent of those malted fruit loaves we get in the UK, without the fruit.

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#45 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 03:18 PM

Returning to the (100% sourdough) baguette project after a long hiatus for Passover and then six weeks of weight control.

Without reading my notes, I went ahead with a straight 65% formula, fully hydrated before adding the starter and salt. Fermented four hours in bulk, formed, two hours on the counter and overnight in the fridge. One hour out the next day before loading.

The taste is 100%, really good. The crust is 100%, thick and crackly. The cell structure was a B; not bad, but not really as I'd like it. If I can remember to read my notes before the next effort, I will go up to 70%, but with turns and a shorter formed proof. I'll also likely wind up baking during the night, as it's too hot now during the day.


Also made a pretty good looking pane Pugliese, a ridiculously wet dough that is nearly impossible to handle. Came out looking really good. I hope the recipients liked it.
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