Sourdough beginner's Tale: 1st Bread Attempt Failure...

Discussion in 'Bread' started by J13, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Good to hear that even you sometimes have shaping issues. ;) Makes me want to soldier on. Side note....first time I made the bread I went the cold oven route (remember that? The question that started this all). This time around, I preheated the oven but not the pot.

    There wasn’t a whole lot of difference. Both came out hockey-puck shaped, both had dense but good crumb and were perfectly delicious and eatable. HOWEVER....the cold oven route, where I baked for 30 minutes to start instead of 20 to make up for the lack of preheated oven, gave me a crispier crust. The preheated oven, where I went 20 minutes to start, didn’t give me quite as crispy a crust.

    Of course, it’s possible that the oven wasn’t as hot the second time around :p

    Either way, I can attest that a cold oven bake (in an old-fashioned oven that heats from the bottom) can give you a loaf as crispy and done as one baked in a preheated oven (likely as one baked in a preheated oven/pot). Whether it will do as well if I can actually get the bread shaped so that it will spring up (I’m presuming that is why I keep getting hockey pucks), I don’t know. We will see. But I would sure love to keep putting the bread in a cold pot in a cold oven. The less times I have to maneuver heavy & hot cast iron in and out of a super hot oven the better. Well worth an extra 10 minutes bake time.

    Oh, and funny coincidence. I just reconnected with an old friend-of-my-brother who is starting a made-to-order, Tartine bread business in Mill Valley (sprouted wheat loaves only. VERY specialized, very local). I’m going to try and get a few tips from him as well...presuming he has the time for an email exchange. I’m well aware that becoming a full time baker, even on a small scale, is a 24/7 undertaking.
     
    J13, Jun 24, 2019
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  2. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    That’s interesting about the cold oven. I would have expected the preheated oven to have a crispier crust. I would’ve thought that the heat would have created faster evaporation in the Dutch oven, so more oven spring and more crust development.

    And I hear you on not enjoying dealing with a super hot Dutch oven. Why do you think I am all about the baguette? I am so tired of burning myself. I’d rather deal with steaming the oven and getting a better result with my baking steel.

    Regarding hockey puck shape, you don’t always want a big round shape. Depends on what you’re making.

    Example, this should be more oval shape, not round because it’s a baguette. This is a shaping problem. That’s why I’m going to baguette class. Still makes nice slices for crostini though D2A81F0F-AFA8-4522-8DC9-DFA3E603F2E8.jpeg
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 25, 2019
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  3. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Well, as I said, the crisp crust in the cold oven might have been due to higher oven temp, as I did crank it up to 500° and keep it at that temp for a while because...cold oven. This as compared to the preheated which got turned down to 475° after I put the pot inside because...preheated. So that might account for it—and it might be something for me to remember. I need to keep oven temps on the high side. Some recipes say to turn down the oven from 500° to 450° when you put the bread in the oven and keep it at 450°. This might create a perfectly crispy crust in modern ovens, but I'm guessing no-so-much in my old fashioned oven. I think it needs to be kept to higher heat to deliver on that crispy crust.

    One thing's sure: the preheated oven didn't give me any more oven spring. I should have posted pictures earlier...down below you'll see the preheated-oven one (two days old). It has holes, and it has crumb...but it's like the top lifted a bit and left the bottom behind. Not like your-almost-bagette there which clearly expanded in all directions.

    I am getting a cast-iron combo tomorrow for dedicated bread baking. The pot I've been using is enamel coated and I've been leery of preheating it empty in a super-hot oven. It's also pretty big, and the dough may have hocky-pucked because it had room to go out and/or no walls to climb (sic). Either or both of these might have caused the breads to end up flying saucer shaped. That said, it would really, really help if I could confidently say I'd shaped them. Then I could at least cross that off my what-am-I-doing-wrong-list.

    Other things on that list:
    (1) Too few stretch-n'-folds during bulk fermentation? (I did 3 for the first, 4 for the second as instructed by recipe...should I do 5 or 6?)
    (2) Recipe says to make Levain that morning and use 5 hours later. Maybe make Levain night before?

    I'll give Perfect Loaf recipe one last try, this time going for the full recipe and making two loaves. Unless the dough turns out differently this time around (more elastic, less of a sticky, muddy mess), I'll shape them as high hydration loaves. The next morning I'll bake one in cold pot, cold oven. As I can only bake one at a time, the second, obviously, will be baked in a preheated pot and oven. We'll see if there are any significant difference between cold oven/hot oven methods.

    On the other hand...much as I love the flavor of the Perfect Loaf recipe...maybe I should save myself the frustration and just switch to a different recipe?
    Well, I'm envious of that pretty round slice! It may not be a perfect oval, but I would be so happy to get results like that! :D
     

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    J13, Jun 25, 2019
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  4. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Your bread is really not that bad at all. The way you sounded I thought it was flat like a disk. It’s not a hockey puck. You got rise. You got some nice holes. Yes there is some shaping issues there but nothing out of the ordinary for a first loaf. And really nothing really that bad at all J13! You are well on your way.

    For the Perfect Loaf recipe use the SFBI video shaping technique. I really think that will help you a lot. And at this level hydration I think it’s more appropriate. Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and look for a stainless steel taping knife in plaster tool section. It has to be stainless steel. I think there about $10 or $15. If you’re going to bake bread on a regular basis you’re going to need one.

    No matter what recipe you use you will need to learn what to feel for in dough elasticity using stretch and fold. And eventually every recipe is going to bring you around to this level of hydration.

    The reason for stretch and fold is gluten development. It is in place of kneading. The hydration level is too high to knead the dough. So you stretch and fold. And the number of stretch and fold depends on how your gluten is developing. If your dough hadn’t developed enough gluten after 4 folds, then don’t hesitate to do extra folds. It takes experience to feel for the elasticity.

    But looking at the photograph of your loaf I think you had the right amount of gluten development. I think it was a shaping issue. Watch that video SFBI on high hydration shaping about five times. Get a really good idea of the motion ingrained in your brain. Then practice the movement with no dough. Just take a taping knife and practice the movement on the counter to get accustom to moving your arm in that motion. Then make some dough and practice with the dough.

    If you want to try other recipes there’s a website called Weekend Bakery that is excellent.

    This is their recipe and video index. This is a very good website. They don’t have a lot of recipes. Their non bread recipes don’t translate as well because they’re from the Netherlands; so the all purpose flours are softer wheat and lower protein from those available in the US. But the bread and the laminated dough recipes work.


    https://www.weekendbakery.com/articles-index/


    This is their most basic sourdough recipe. I do mean it is very basic. This is what I was thinking what is the Perfect Loaf beginner loaf. It has very little sourdough and is low hydration.


    https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/sourdough-pain-naturel/
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 25, 2019
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  5. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    o_O If you say so...I’ll believe you, but may I point out you are the one saying that the baguette you made wasn’t right because it wasn’t “oval” enough :p
    Easy enough to buy one of those. But I’ve already got an extra large cookie spatula. See photo. Will that do?
    Okay, will do!

    One question though...how much can I practice with the dough? I mean, if I play with it, then let it rest, will it bounce back and let me play some more? Every video implies that it’s delicate and fragile as a soap bubble and shouldn’t be touched too much. Touch too much and...hockey puck.

    A few more questions:
    (1) *Can* I make the Levain the night before (even if the instructions are to make it in the morning?). It would actually make things easier for me if I could start the morning with Levain ready to go rather than making it and waiting for 5 hours to use it. The Perfect Loaf recipe centers around a schedule for getting things started at 8am, and actually making the bread between 12-6pm. That doesn’t always work that well for me. Which brings me to question #2...
    (2) Final rise in the refrigerator: I get that the whole idea is to put the dough in the refrigerator for 16 hours, but if I understand right, one can do a final rise on this dough on the counter for less time and bake it that evening. How many hours? And what would be the pros/cons of doing it this way?
    (3) Mixing in the Levain to the dough...two part question here.
    (A) Adding levain to water and dough: Perfect Loaf wants dough made separately, rest an hour, then add levain, extra water and salt. But one video I watched had the baker mixing the Levain into the water for the dough, then adding the flour. Seems an easier way to add the levain then to the already made dough. Is there a benefit to one over the other? And if I’m going to add the levain to the flour/water dough after it’s rested an hour, should I “melt” it in the extra water I have *then* add this mix to the the dough?
    (B) One gentleman used a mixer and dough hook to make dough and add in levain, water and salt. Is this kosher? Or is this a “real sourdough bakers do it by hand” kind of thing?`Or even (cue epic fantasy music) “Your journey to soughdough will be long and hard, but do not be tempted by the dough hook! It will ruin all you hope to create.”

    Next attempt may be put on hold as I have to meet up with relatives this Saturday.
     

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    J13, Jun 25, 2019
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  6. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Would this do? It’s only $9, free delivery from Amazon.
     

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    J13, Jun 25, 2019
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  7. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes. That looks almost identical to the one I own :D
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 26, 2019
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  8. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    A young levain is always more desirable because the acid load is low. If you want an overnight levain it’s best to find a recipe with a levain that made overnight. That way you know thought was given to the acidic load. Also you know it’s been set up so it’s ready to bake in the morning.

    Yes you can do final rise/proof on the counter. But it is NOT ever about time. It’s about the rise. Do the touch test. Touch it with your finger. When the dough is properly proofed, it will leave a slight indentation. It will fill in slightly, but not come all the way up. See the photo below. Those are croissants but it holds true for all dough.

    Follow the Prefect Loaf process on adding the levain. He knows what he’s doing. The rest period is for autolyse. It’s what makes artisan sourdough bread what it is. As the flour hydrates the protese enzyme degrades the protein. That will create extensibility in the dough. At the same time the analyses enzymes convert the starch to sugar. And that will feed the yeast. So while it may be inconvenient, this is an important step.

    I recommended a recipe or website based on the baker’s knowledge of baking science. I know it seems like a lot of work, and it is, to go through these steps. And it is very confusing. But as you learn more, and you understand why you are doing what you are doing, it feels less like work. And then you decide what you like and don’t like to bake. For me, I like baguettes:p

    I don’t know of anyone who uses a mixer. And a planetary mixer is the wrong type of mixer for bread dough. It doesn’t knead because the bowl is stationary and the mixer head rotates around the bowl. So the dough just rolls around the inside of the bowl. Plus that just creates a lot of heat friction in the dough.

    Edit: sorry the photo didn’t upload. This a a photo of a screenshot so it’s odd shape. Sorry.

    5F22BE70-51B3-461C-BA35-6109894B5A90.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 26, 2019
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  9. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Ah. I see. It does help to know the “why” behind these things.
    Got it. And the picture helped. Thank you. But how much time before that first poke? There has to be X number of hours to leave it before you check it for the first time to see if it’s risen enough or needs another hour to rise, right?
    Okay, but I’ve got to find a way to make Perfect Loaf’s bread-making schedule work better for me (which is why I asked about making the levain the night before). It’s important for me to have 10:30-12pm on Saturday/Sunday open and free either to get things done or just to have/make brunch with friends/family. Unfortunately, the time stamps on the Perfect Loaf schedule has “make the dough” @12pm Saturday and “bake the bread” @9:30am-10:30am (or 11:30 if there’s a 2nd loaf) Sunday. Which means that over these two weekends I’ve cut short what I’m doing on Saturday to be home in time to make the dough, and ended up running late on Sunday because I was baking bread.

    The schedule would work so much better for me if I could start the process @1pm Saturday, and bake the bread at 8:30 am on Sunday. Which, if time is less important than readiness, I might be able to do. Maybe a full 16 hours in the refrigerator isn’t needed? Maybe 14 hours would suffice? Thoughts? Advice?
    So that’s a “no” on the mixer ;) To be fair, the guy in the video only mixed the stuff up for about a minute, so, no that much heat friction.
     
    J13, Jun 26, 2019
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  10. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I don’t know how long it will take before you do the poke test. You have to watch the dough. As it rises, you will see it change. As it looks more full and taut, start testing it.

    Artisan bread isn’t for everyone. It’s time consuming. It’s about the hands. The reason people make artisan bread is because they want to work with their hands instead of a mixer.

    It’s like my sister with her fiber arts. She buys wool. Washes it. Combs it. Spins it into yarn. Knits it into a sweater. Me, I go to Macy’s and buy a sweater. She buys bread and cookies at Safeway. I bake bread and cookies from scratch.

    The Weekend Bakery pain naturel doesn’t require much effort at all. It may be more suited to you.

    It uses a poolish made with a little bit of sourdough. You can make it at night before you go to bed. Next morning you get up mix the dough in a mixer. That’s followed by two or three stretch and folds. Then you shape. So you can get through the processes fairly easily. And it produces a nice loaf with the combination of the sourdough and overnight poolish. And it’s designed for your mixer.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 26, 2019
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  11. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I’m heading out to buy flour? I’ll ask about the whole foods 365.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 26, 2019
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  12. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    The receptionist said she has no way to confirm if Whole Foods is still ordering from Central Milling right now. But Whole Foods 365 all purpose flour in California has been Central Milling in the past. She also said that Safeway‘s Organic “O” brand all purpose flour has been Central Milling as well. And that was nationally, not just in California.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 27, 2019
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    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Funny you should mention specially milled flours.... A few days ago I discovered that there is a small, urban mill not an hour from where I live called "Grist & Toll." They're selling their products to a little store connected to a cooking school. It's within walking distance from me, but I decided to drive there today and check them out, as they're open to the public most of the week. The gentleman minding the store was really nice. I asked some questions and purchased a bag of their freshly milled, hard red spring wheat (protein 12.5%). I'm going to start with that and see what kind of flavor and texture it imparts to the sourdough. If I like it, I'll get the white flour, and maybe the rye.

    Kinda mind-boggling to me that, without having to go far, I can buy this kind of speciality flour right from the source.:cool: $8 for a 2.5 lb bag. I also bought one of their tea towels :D

    And Safeway's generic flour might be Central mills? :eek: Mind blown twice today.
     
    J13, Jun 27, 2019
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  14. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    That's great you have a flour store near your house. Is it a blend or single variety? Where are they sourcing the wheat? The price is pretty high, about twice the cost of CM. But I'm guessing that is due in part to small scale production. CM has been around a long time and are well established, so there's economy of scale.

    A 12.5% is higher than the flours I use. But it's lower than the high gluten flour from CM with is 13.5%. I tend to blend this with other flours. When I was at KG a few weeks ago for that informal talk about wheat, he discussed how they work with the bakers to create blends into blends specific to the wheat varieties characteristics and the baker's needs. Its pretty fascinating how they can customize a flour to meet a baker's specification. Of how the bakers can articulate their needs, and they can blend flours accordingly.

    When I was at KG yesterday I saw they had a baguette blend. So of course I bought it. Not sure what's in the blend though. I was so busy talking to the receptionist that I forgot to ask about it. I'm sure they use it in the baguette class and I will have a chance to ask about it them.

    I was surprised at first to hear about Safeway too. But when I thought about it, it made sense. Consumers are demanding organic products. Whole Foods is opening more stores crossing the country. If Safeway is going to compete, they need to meet consumer demand for products that Whole Foods has been offering since day one. Where is a corporation like Safeway going to get organic wheat flour? Certainly not from Conagra.

    lol, yeah once you find a source you buy more than flour. KG has a store front full of baking tools. Every time I buy flour I have to fight the urge to buy baking tools. Most every thing is really competitively priced too. So its really hard not to buy stuff.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 28, 2019
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  15. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Here’s their website: https://www.gristandtoll.com/
    And here’s a news article: https://modernfarmer.com/2014/05/miller-time-grist-toll-lead-la-local-flour-movement/

    They seem to be selling only single varieties rather than blends. The one I bought is “Joaquin Oro,” and I’m not sure where they’re sourcing it from in particular (Central Mills might know?), but it is a California wheat. The news article says from small, local farmers growing heritage varieties.

    There are two owners, Nan Kohler & Marti Noxon (Noxon was a former tv producer and the name sounds real familiar....I wonder if I know people who know her...) and they’ve only been around for 5 ½ years. Given all that, I’m not surprised that their prices are on the high side. But even with bread making on my baking menu, my baking needs are modest. I’d be amazed if I manage to deplete this bag within 6 months. If I ever get to the point where I’m in need of regular 5lb bags, then I’ll probably have to switch to a cheaper source ;)

    Tell me about it! One of their customers makes these BEAUTIFUL handmade wooden rolling pins they sell, full size and half-size. I suppose I was lucky that they were out of the color I wanted in the small ones, but I asked them to call me when they get in more...SO beautiful!

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask...you’re gluten intolerant and can’t eat the bread you make. But I gather you bake a lot...where does it all go? o_O
     
    J13, Jun 28, 2019
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    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    They seem to be a niche market for artisan bread bakers. The one odd flour is the Sonora. It is so low in protein not much can be made with it. It has to be mixed with other flours
    since at 9% protein it’s too weak to use like an all purpose flour. And since it’s a whole wheat it’s not suitable for pastry applications since whole wheat makes pastry very heavy. It cannot be used as a stand alone flour, and it’s not really suitable for bread or for pastry. So it’s an odd one.

    Yes I do bake a lot, three to four times a week. Though in the summer months that drops dramatically since I do not have air conditioning. I usually focus on a particular item. I’ll bake chocolate chip cookies for several weeks looking to understand everything about them. Then I’ll move on to something else. I give my baked goods to family and friends.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 30, 2019
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  17. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    I got the impression that most if not all their flours are meant to be mixed with all-purpose or bread flours rather than act as stand-alone. I imagine that if you added Sonora to all-purpose you'd end up with a pretty good pastry flour. And I'm sure you're right that their usual customers are artisanal sorts who want to create their own special blends.

    I was advised about this regarding the red wheat—I *can* use it as a stand alone, but if I use 50% or more of it to make anything, extra hydration is needed as its a very thirsty flour. As my sourdough recipe only as something like 30% wheat flour, and we've already established that the dough is on the wet side, this wheat should work out fine.

    Will eagerly report back on the results this week. I'm hoping to make the bread Wed. and bake it up for the 4th of July.
     
    J13, Jul 1, 2019
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    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for the slow responses of late. We had a days long power outage a couple days ago. I lost all the food in my freezer and refrigerator. In dumping the food I had to wash out all the containers because you can’t recycle anything with food in it. The past couple of days I’ve been shopping to re-stock everything. What a big pain it’s been.

    In between I was converting some recipes for a poster who was looking for cookie recipes. But she may not even be on the forum anymore. I wrote a new chocolate chip cookie recipe and converted two I had in my binder. I was converting a couple more but since she hasn’t responded I don’t think I’ll waste anymore of my time working on that project. I’ve got plenty of other things I need to get done this week.


    Yes they clearly state on their website that the flour is too weak to be used as a stand alone. I experimented with whole wheat flour in pastry a few years ago and nobody liked it. And too, I came to realize it’s a fool’s errand to try to add nutritional value to pastry. Replacing a portion or all of the flour with whole wheat flour does not miraculously make a chocolate chip cookie “healthy.”


    Besides, pastry it’s meant to be treat. Sometimes rich. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes elegant. Sometimes comforting. But it’s always meant to be an indulgence and eaten in moderation. I find using whole wheat flour ruins the spirit and soul of pastry. So now I keep to low extraction flours for pastry.

    I read their comments about “thirsty” flour. I didn’t want to say anything at the time, but since you mentioned it, I’m not sure why he thinks his flour is an exception since all whole wheat flour requires 100% high hydration.

    Below is a link to a brief article that discusses the challenges of working with whole wheat and how a key is 100% hydration.

    As reference to those mentioned in the article, Dave Miller is one of the original bakers in the artisan bread movement in the US. Miller was the mentor for Chad Robertson of Tartine.

    Craig Ponsford is a gold medal winner at Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. For the past ten years he’s coached the US team. He does advanced bread training for professional bakers and does limited hands on classes for non professionals. I’m taking a baguette class from him next month.

    Yes let me know how your bread turns out with the Joaquin Oro. Are you changing any of the other flours? I know you mentioned in an earlier post about using KAF AP instead bread flour. I’m thinking maybe you should just change one flour at a time. You already know what the dough feels and develops like with the original flours. So you have a point of reference. If you change too many flours you lose all your point of references

    I’ll be baking pies for my family’s Fourth of July bbq. I’m also making my grandma’s picnic style potato salad. Russet potatoes, finely diced white onion, black olives, Claussen pickles, curly parsley, Best Foods mayo, diced hard boiled egg thats actually steamed so it doesn’t have a gray yolk. Salt and pepper. Never ever any mustard.



    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/what-makes-whole-grain-bread-so-hard-to-bake-63878/
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jul 2, 2019
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    Chris Member

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    I find sourdough incredibly temperature-sensitive. I live in the UK, so my kitchen is typically 18-20C in the winter, and sourdough takes forever to rise. In the winter, my go-to recipe is a no-knead one, where I just leave the dough for 18 hours - yes EIGHTEEN hours - and then stretch and shape, and let rise for another 4 hours before baking. On a warm day in the summer, this time reduces dramatically.
     
    Chris, Jul 2, 2019
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  20. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    :eek: Color me shocked o_O Yeah, I've tried recipes where you add in all kinds of alternative "healthy flours" like wheat and also use coconut oil instead of butter, and palm sugar/date syrup/honey instead of sugar, etc. While some have turned out very tasty, I'm never fooled. Even if they are less calories than the usual chocolate chip, and have more protein...well, you'll just eat more because you think "they have less calories and more protein" right?

    Doesn't seem like they're worth the bother unless you're baking them for someone with allergies or vegan or on a special/religious diet.
    Totally agree. And whole wheat belongs in bread where it can develop and blossom and really be tasted.
    Well, I think the gentleman behind the counter assumed that, being a novice baker, I was working from a lower-hydration recipe for this bread. And as I was buying whole wheat, I think he also assumed I was going to use a lot of it in the bread. It only makes sense for him to warn me that it might need a more water. Once he read the recipe I was using, he said I was fine and didn't need to worry.

    While I was there, they were making bread. They test every batch, and then write up on the website and bags what the baker needs to know about that flour. Maybe their tests showed that this whole wheat was a little different and needed even more water. Or, possibly, they just put that on the package as a warning to bakers who might not realize that if they use primarily these flours, rather than blending them with all-purpose/bread, they're going to need more water?
    I was thinking of getting their rye flour. But as you advise, I'll just try the wheat for now. The other flours will be Arrowhead rye and either King Arthur all purpose or King Arthur Bread. I used King Arthur bread the first time around, and thought it was a little gummy—but I really can't tell given that the bread hasn't risen right yet. The second time around I switched to 365 all purpose. I wasn't as happy with that loaf, so back to King Arthur. The difference is between 12% protein (bread) and 11% protein (all purpose). Thoughts?
    Do you add pickle juice? That was my great-aunt's secret to her potato salad. Add some pickle juice to the warm, diced potatoes and let marinade for about 15 minutes before mixing in the rest. And yes, steaming eggs gets much better hard-boiled results. :)
     
    J13, Jul 2, 2019
    #40
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