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I just took a challah out of the oven, the first I've ever made using bread flour. All these years, I've had the notion that bread flour would produce a heartier, heavier bread than I like, and I've never used it. Shirley Corriher, in Cookwise, showed me the light. The higher gluten content of bread flour allows lets the bread rise better. Am I the last to have learned this?

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I've always made challah with unbleached all-purpose flour. I think your worry about heaviness was unfounded especially in this case because the eggs make a lovely pliable dough that rises well and produces a fluffy texture. The only thing to watch, I think, is baking time, paying special attention to removing the loaf from the oven before the interior dries yet not before the exterior browns adequately.

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I baked it for 35 minutes. It's dark, because of the double glazing. I let the first egg wash sit for 5 minutes, then re-applied before putting the bread in the oven. After 20 minutes baking, I touched up the bare areas. I'll report tomorrow on the taste and texture.

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I'm here, jet lagged and so even duller in the head than usual. But I did summon the strength to bake our challot this morning at 4:30, with bread flour, which doesn't affect density. The higher protein creates a stronger gluten web with proper development. Think of it as a stiffer matrix of cages for the gas bubbles, resulting in a tighter structure. Some heavy bread mixtures, such as multigrain concoctions, can benefit from the addition of dry vital wheat gluten, which assists in maintaining the structure and in giving lift. See Adam's interesting and useful comments and links in the pasta by hand thread on dry gluten and protein content.

 

Short answer: bread flour is good for bread, but there's nothing wrong with all purpose flour for most bread baking with commercial yeast. Sourdough is a whole other thing.

 

The best French Toast ever coming up this weekend with the leftovers.

 

Happy New Year to all relevant persons.

 

Back to sleep.

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The season is open and as usual, I am tweaking my basic boule. I posted the following question on the egullet Q&A with Peter Reinhart, but received no reply. It was inspired by Adam's comments and link concerning the separation of protein and vital gluten:

 

"My question concerning gluten is this: if I choose a flour with a relatively low protein number, and then add vital wheat gluten, do I stand a better chance of producing a very wet dough that can be aggressively developed into loaves that will retain their form and also have a very open crumb, as opposed to simply using a strong flour at a high hydration which, in my experience as a home baker, does not yield the large holes one looks for in such a loaf?

 

edit: I am familiar with turning techniques, and I have produced good flattish loaves with a variable crumb. What I am curious about is a loaf I once saw that was very high - nearly round - but also with very large holes. I have seen flour offered that gives both protein and vital gluten specifications, which is what gives rise to my question."

 

This week, I put together a boule using all purpose flour, and one teaspoon of vital gluten for every 4 ounces of flour. I can't really develop the dough very aggressively because I don't have a mixer. I do everything by hand. But I did turn the dough - something I recommended myself on a pizza dough thread somewhere - once an hour. The dough was two pounds, 70% hydration, 40% starter, with about a quarter cup of wheat germ. After three hours bulk fermentation, I formed it and put it in the fridge overnight. Next morning, three hours out at room temperature, bake with my steam technique.

 

It was a beauty. If I ever figure out how to post pictures, I will share them with you. Nearly five inches high, nicely differentiated crumb, beautiful form. I am content with this formula and method for now. It's time to move on to bread with chiles next week, and just maybe, for the good children, chocolate sour cherry. All 100% sourdough, of course.

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Hi folks,

 

I've got a question for you bakers out there. I made some epis today from a batch of mixed starter dough. I want to begin the sourdough starter process. Do I refrigerate the rest of the dough (about 1 pound) and wait for it to bubble? Do I leave it out in a warm place until it begins to bubble and then feed it? I'm a little confused. Can anyone out there give me a hand? I appreciate it. ,

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a batch of mixed starter dough

If by this you mean dough made with commercial yeast, then no, you shouldn't use it for 100% sourdough.

 

It's easy enough to make your own starter. The best directions for this and most things sourdough can be found in the faq at rec.food.sourdough. If you read egullet, some of the same information has been recapitulated there.

 

It is much easier and more practical to acquire a stable starter from a reliable source.

 

If you bake every day, your starter should be refreshed on a regular schedule, depending on its hydration and its behavior characteristics. If you bake regularly, but not every day, you can refrigerate your starter between uses.

 

It's important to get to know how your starter behaves in your own kitchen. Bubbles appear to a greater or lesser degree depending on how firm or loose your refreshments are. The moment at which you make use of your starter in a formula will be fundamental to its performance.

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Thanks Robert. By mixed starter, I mean I used a nugget of foccacia dough (sans herbs, cheese, etc.), incorperated that into two starter stages (both made with dry active yeast) and have allowed it to sit out, covered, overnight at 81F. Cursory glances at the vast array of information on sour dough on eGullet and the web in general make my eyes hurt. There is so much information there. I'm gathering that I can do it but it's not the optimal route. Is this a fair assumption?

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Ron, some of the best writing on bread baking is in Julia, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Also, the first Chez Panisse cookbook has writing by the guy who started the Acme bakery after leaving Alice Waters. For sourdough, I like the first half of The Bread Builders by Alan Scott and Dan Wing. (The second half is about how to build a brick oven.) All of this is mostly sourdough. Baking with commercial yeast is so easy it scarcely requires a book, although you might look at the Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton. Pick just one? The Bread Builders.

 

CWS: I'm betting you haven't read the rec.food.sourdough faq. This is the place to go.

 

Any dough or chef or starter that incorporates commercial yeast is useless for making 100% sourdough bread.

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