All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Everyday Bread #14

Everyday Bread: An Experimental Whole Wheat Loaf using Lahey's methods

I had it in my mind that I would use some nutritional yeast in the crust of a whole wheat loaf, as an experiment using Lahey's methods.  While putting it together, I thought that it might also be used as an ingredient in the dough.  It turned out to be better in the dough than on the crust.  This is the best whole wheat bread I've made yet, in my opinion.

  • 3 c whole wheat flour (462 g)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt ( 8 g)
  • 1/4 tsp yeast ( - )
  • 1 c water (228 g)
  • 1 1/3 c buttermilk ( 288 g)
  • 1/2 c nutritional yeast flakes (26 g)
  • For the crust: mix 1/2 c nutritional yeast flake and 1/2 c bran

Stir it together, and let it ferment, covered, for over 12 hours at room temperature.  It will be slow to rise, but it will eventually double.  When it has, it will still be very wet.  Form it into a ball as best as you can, and place it in a linen lined with a bran-yeast mixture.  Place the linen in a basket so that it will not spread.  After 2 hours, cook in a high-temperature oven-safe pot with a lid on it for 30 minutes at 475 degrees.  Then take the lid off and bake another 15-20 minutes.

The crumb is actually quite airy for a 100% whole wheat loaf, and it tastes marvelous.  The crust is just about the right consistency: supportive when one needs to cut it, not so hard that one would break a tooth on it.  On the other hand, the crust does taste a bit bitter, and it is burned in areas.  Wonder if it would be possible to coat the top of the loaf with buttermilk or yogurt instead of bran?  This would have to be done when it is put into the pot to bake.

Notes to Myself:
  • Maybe it is the buttermilk that makes the loaf so airy.  Does the nutrtional flake have any effect on the taste at all?  Try leaving it out in another experiment, to see if it tastes as good as this loaf.
  • Change the crust: perhaps it may be possible to coat yogurt or an egg wash on the surface of this loaf -- perhaps when the lid is removed for the final 15-20 minutes.
  • Is there a way to score these loaves so that they break apart in a more controlled way?
  • Try baking one of these with a few blobs of cheese curd mixed into the dough, to see what will happen.

Pizza #3 - garden asparagus baked in the barbeque

This was Lahey's thin dough.  I decided to try and bake it on the barbeque.  This is the first time I've ever done it this way, and the only way I'll ever get the pizza dough this hot (up to 700 degrees F), because my oven doesn't go that high.  I placed one baking stone on the barbeque, and the other one I loaded with the dough and toppings, intending to slide the cold stone on top of the hot one.

The plan worked well.  I put some olive oil on the stone, and spread out the dough.  Then I put some olive oil on the dough as well.  From here, I put on 'the toppings':

  • oregano
  • turmeric
  • garden asparagus
  • olives
  • mozzarella
  • old cheddar
  • parmesan cheese for the edge
This would have been sufficient, had I stopped here.  But instead, I made a critical error.  I still had a little bit of nutritional yeast and bran left over from today's experiment, and so I sprinkled it over everything else.  This actually made the pizza almost too bitter for my wife to eat.  She complained of its dryness.  I suppose it was the bran more than the nutritional yeast, but she doesn't like either, and thinks that the yeast tastes bad, "as in turned bad."  Personally, I don't mind it, and I rather like the bitter taste of bran.  I think that it is what you get used to.

I baked it for ten minutes on the barbeque.  Every few minutes I checked on it, and that caused the temperature to drop for a bit from the 700 range to 620 or so.  But it was cooked in that time.

I ate most of this pizza as my wife did not like it.

Notes to Myself:
  • Keep bran away from the toppings of the pizza, it is too bitter for most people's taste.
  • Make sure that there is enough moisture in the toppings so that the high temperatures don't dry out the pizza
  • Keep the edge moist - parmasen cheese is too dry for the edge

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lahey #7 - Olive Loaf revisited

I just made this one again.  Mostly because I had the olives on hand.  And I wanted to know if I had cut into it too early last time, which affected the crumb. And besides, it tasted good last time.  I made only a couple of minor changes from the last recipe: (1) baked with lid off only 15 minutes, and (2) used cracked wheat, not bran, for the surface crust and to coat the couche.  I think I prefer the bran, but I like the 15 minutes rather than 30; on the other hand, it does make it difficult to cut, because the crumb is so wobbly it doesn't stand up for the knife.

Notes to myself:
  • Make this with bran on the couche, not cracked wheat.  Try baking covered x 30 minutes, uncovered about 18 minutes, next time.
  • Try it with green olives so the crumb doesn't look so grey
  • Try folding it in the bowl a few times rather than once on the counter
  • Try baking in a shallower pot so you can better manage the transfer from couche to baking dish

Everyday Bread #13

Another Brötchen: an attempt to make Berliner Schrippen

I made a half recipe of these rolls, and really it was a half-hearted attempt, too.  The original recipe called for two German flours, "type 550" and "type 1050".  The numbers refer to the ash content, something that is not measured in North America.  I phoned Arva Flour Mills, the local mill where I get my flour, and asked them if they had run any tests on the ash content, but they were unable to give me any information.  Perhaps if they had told me the length of the stream and the type of wheat, I might have been able figure it out, but other than saying it was hard red wheat, they didn't have a lot of information for me.

The German 550, I have learned, is similar to the U.S. All Purpose, a combination of hard and soft wheats.  The 1050 has a lot more ash, or mineral content.  To get this consistency, one would have to use Canadian all purpose wheat, plus some vital wheat gluten.  I didn't follow this advice, however.  I simply used Arva's all-purpose for the 550, and their whole wheat for the 1050.

  • 900 g Flour (type 550)
  • 100 g Flour (type 1050)
  • 5 g Sugar
  • 10 g Fat (Butter)
  • 50 g Fresh Yeast (or 3/4 tsp dried instant yeast)
  • 20 g Salt
  • 500 g Water, cold
Sift flour and mix; dissolve yeast in water, and add remaining ingredients
Knead into a medium stiff dough.  Let rest for 20 minutes (and repeat?)
Make about 30 rolls in an elongated shape.
Preheat oven to 240 degrees C (464 degrees F), while you score with a sharp knife.
They should only be 3/4 of the way proofed when you put them in!
Use steam in the oven when baking, and bake them 18-20 minutes.

I'm not happy with the way these turned out.  These are not Berliner schrippen.  They came together easily enough.  But the dough was very stiff, not just medium stiff.  And there was very little rise even though I waited 40 minutes.  And even in the oven, it seemed to me that the rolls didn't do much.  They didn't have any oven spring, and they are very dense little buns.  And the taste isn't special.  There isn't nearly enough whole wheat.  I'll never make this recipe again.  They don't make me happy.   I might try more whole wheat, or maybe a bit of rye flour, in a different recipe instead.

Notes to Myself:
  • The Quest for the perfect bun has got to start with whole wheat flour, not all-purpose or bread flour.  
  • Letting the yeast rise the dough overnight might be a better option than trying to get the rise in 20 minutes.  Why not a nice, slow rise with very little yeast to start off with, like Lahey suggests?  Before you go to bed at night, you put out enough dough for a couple of morning buns.  How hard could it be?  Maybe  you can even bake it in the toaster oven.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everyday Bread #12: 5 minuten Brot

Everyday Bread: 5 minuten brot
'Bread Off'

Baking two loaves at once the other day to compare them (see Struan vs Transitional Multigrain Bread) was fun, and I learned quite a lot.  Making and tasting breads side by side makes it very easy to discern one's likes and dislikes, and to consider the best method for next time.  I decided to try another 'Bread off'.

Once again, I found a recipe on the German website that I wanted to try: 5-Minuten-Brot, or Five Minute Bread.  The name is somewhat misleading.  The dough is baked for an hour; and furthermore, the day before baking (or earlier), you have to roast 300 grams of different grains and seeds over fairly low heat.  But the actual mixing up of the bread on the day of baking is said to take only 5 minutes.  The recipe, in translation:

  • 600 g wheat or spelt flour
  • 600 ml water, lukewarm
  • 1 pkt dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 50 g each of: oats, millet, flax, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed

Roast all of the seeds and grains in a dry pan for one hour, using not much heat, stirring frequently.  Set aside until days later.  On baking day, mix water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour, and then the roasted seeds and grains.  Pour into a well-greased pan, place in the cold oven at 225 degrees C (437 degrees F) for one hour.

What I did:

A number of people who tried this and reported back to the German website sounded very excited at how good it tasted, how easy it was to make.  One baker said that they didn't have to roast the grains, they just added them and it worked that way too.  Others found it worked when they substituted other grains, like buckwheat, or even if they used nuts instead.

I wanted to try this recipe 'as is' so I roasted up the named grains.  I just put them in a roasting pan for an hour, shaking the pan every 10 minutes.  Our oven's lowest setting is 170 degrees F; and I don't think they properly roasted.  But I didn't feel that was going to be much of a problem, considering others used them entirely raw, too.  Besides, who needs the extra acrylamides?   I put the seeds in the fridge when I finished so whatever oils I had unleashed wouldn't get so very rancid before I used them.

The next day, I was thinking about hydration of dough in the various recipes for breads, and wondering if this recipe would work in a Lahey-style, high heat oven.  So I calculated the hydration percentage of this recipe, and compared it to Lahey's. 

Lahey uses a 75% hydration for his main recipe
this 5-minuten brot uses 66% hydration.

With this calculation I was all set for a bread recipe competition. (Unfortunately, this calculation was wrong.  Reinhart considers the total flour in the recipe to be 100%, and he doesn't include any grains or seeds in his calculation of that 100%.  Grains and seeds are always a percentage of the total flour.  So that means that the 5 minuten brot has a 100% hydration rate, and by trying to reach Lahey's hydration level using this incorrect assumption, I increased Lahey's loaf to have a hydration of 113%.)

The Bread-off is born

I thought I might try the official recipe with half of my semi-roasted seeds, and try a higher-hydration experiment with the other half.  For the official recipe, I would use a combination of all-purpose flour and spelt. 

    150 g all purpose flour
    150 g spelt flour
    300 g total

For the rest of the ingredients, I would merely half the recipe as written:
300 ml water, lukewarm
1 1/8 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
25 g each of: oats, millet, flax, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed

For the experimental loaf, as a translation to a Lahey-inspired hydrated dough, I could use any kind of flour I wanted.  I chose to make a blend of whole wheat, all-purpose, rye and spelt.

    75 g all purpose flour
    75 g whole wheat flour
    75 g rye flour
    75 g spelt flour
    300 g total

With half of the seeds, this would bring the total weight to 450 g, which is slightly more weight than Lahey's recipes; but I would keep Lahey's hydration ratio, so the water I needed to add was 338 g.  I would use not half, but 1/4 tsp of the yeast for the experimental loaf, and let it rise 12-18 hours, as is Lahey's way.  I would use no sugar, but I would use 1/2 the salt (or 1 tsp, which is slightly less than Lahey uses).

This was today's bread-off basic competition.  Which of these two doughs would rise best, bake best, taste best?

Making the Official Loaf

The official 5-minute dough ingredients were gathered.  I remembered to include the salt after I took this 'mise-en-place' photo.  I think that the salt content is a bit high, but I did it anyway, for the 'official' recipe.

I mixed it all up, and it seemed quite wet.  I used coconut oil to coat the inside of a casserole dish (since I thought that the recipe might not fit into a tin).  The dough was smoothed out on top before I put it into the oven.

 Despite the coconut oil, this didn't come out of the pan very well, and needed some persuasion.  But it wasn't burned.  The top had separated in one spot, and it may have benefited from having the lid on for the first part of its baking cycle, like Lahey's method.  But overall I was happy enough with the appearance.  Any loaf that bakes without burning or blowing up is a good day for me.

Making the Experimental Loaf

While the official loaf was baking for an hour, I formed the experimental dough that had been fermenting for over 12 hours, as per Lahey's instructions.  It hadn't quite doubled, but it was about 1 1/2 times the original size.  While the official dough was quite wet, this dough was extremely wet.  It stuck to my pastry scraper as I folded it.  I put it onto the couche that was prepared with cracked wheat.  This was proofed for 2 hours.  I was glad it was wrapped up, or it would have flowed over the counter.

Into the preheated pot it went, and it baked a full 30 minutes covered, and another 15 minutes uncovered.  This is the only thing I did different from Lahey's method.

It rolled out of the ungreased crock pot when it was done without sticking to anything.  This alone makes me like the Lahey methods over the official greased loaf pan 5-minuten method.  If it takes longer than 5 minuten to clean up the pot, then it is no time savings.

The verdict

No clear-cut winner, I am afraid.  The experimental loaf (left) has a softer, more pliable crumb.  Due perhaps to the rye flour, it is substantially grayer in coloration.  Due to the fermentation, there is definitely more harmonic subtlety to the taste.  However, the higher hydration probably interfered with the full development of the flavour: it could have been better with less hydration, I know it.  The crust is softer than other Lahey loaves that I've baked, cover-off, for the full 30 minutes.  I like that. 

On the other hand, the 'official' loaf (right, above) has an interesting crust too, and I actually prefer it for this bread.  While harder than the experimental loaf, the crunchiness of it sets off the seeds and grains which make up the interior of the loaf.  The seeds, by the way, are certainly not roasted and might actually give the loaf a more interesting taste if they were.  The loaf doesn't have the subtlety of the experimental loaf, but it tastes fine.  There is a distinct problem with the cracking of the loaf on the bottom, similar to another high grain loaf that I made recently that stuck to the pot.  I now believe that digging the loaf out of the pan while it is still warm is going to cause these fissures.  They do not harm the taste in any way, but it makes the presentation of the bread unacceptable.  I will eat this loaf myself and never give it to anyone to share, I'm ashamed of it.

Both breads are filling, and taste good, but I would have to say that neither is particularly special.  I will have to attempt this bread again, to give it a fair trial.  I interfered too much with the recipe to say that I baked it the way the original author intended.

Notes to myself:
  • You probably didn't have to include the grains and seeds in the total of your flour: that is not, after all, how Reinhart does it.  The flour alone is a 100%, and any seeds he adds are a percentage of that whole when working out formulas.  Of course, he doesn't have this many seeds and whole grains in his breads without soaking them or mashing them. (Try 225 g of water next time, or keep it the same as the official version, 300 g)
  • Instead of roasting the seeds and grains, try cracking them and/or soaking or fermenting them. If they need to be cooked to soften a bit, you could boil some of them.
  • Try painting the top of Lahey's loaves before baking them with egg white or yogurt or something; or try scoring them.  They always blast apart.  Can this be a controlled blast?
  • Consider this: if you are halving a yeast recipe, is it right to half the yeast and keep the time allotted? Yeast is a living thing: what is its growth curve?  If x amount of dough rises in y amount of time using z amount of yeast, does it necessarily follow that x/2 dough rises in y amount of time using z/2 amount of yeast?  Only experimentation could prove this.  You have not given the official 5-minuten brot recipe an adequate trial here.
  • If you have a loaf that sticks to the pot, do NOT dig it out while it is still warm, the bread will develop large fissures.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Reinhart Bread - A Multigrain Loaf Competition

I revisit the Struan
side-by-side with Reinhart's Transitional Multigrain Sandwich Bread

My son said he tried the first multigrain struan that I made, when last he was home, and said that it tasted good, but he thought it was a bit stale.  Although I personally didn't care that much for the taste (perhaps that was one of the reasons it was going stale, I was eating other breads that I thought were better), I was feeling a bit guilty that I hadn't given the recipe an honest try.  I knew I had to revisit the loaf, which Reinhart describes as the bread that launched him on his baking career.

    Part of the problem was, I didn't make the original struan properly.  Not really knowing which grains to put together, I simply used a multigrain flour -- and, even at the time I chose to bake it this way, I felt I was cheating.  I had to give the struan one more go.  But which grains would give the bread recipe a good run for its money?

    The answer was actually found when I looked at the next bread in sequence in the book.  This is another Multigrain Bread, but Reinhart gives it the name 'Transitional Multigrain Sandwich Bread'.  It is transitional because it does have some all purpose flour, in addition to whole wheat and other whole grains.  That gave me the idea of making one of these 'Transitional Multigrain Sandwich Breads' alongside the 'Multigrain Struan'.  I would make the breads with essentially the same grains -- only the Struan would have only whole wheat flour, and the transitional loaf would  have some all-purpose.

    That meant that I would use Reinhart's suggestion for the grains used in the soaker of the transitional multigrain bread in the Struan as well.   The recipe for the struan calls for 170 g of cooked or uncooked grains -- and Reinhart gives suggestions for which of the grains he thinks should be pre-cooked, and which are acceptable to just toss into the soaker uncooked.  There are so many variables, that is one of the reasons I just threw up my hands and opted for a multigrain flour.  But here, in the transitional loaf, we have a very specific list of grains to use as ingredients:
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Rolled oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Cooked Brown rice (I used cooked wild rice)
  • Bran
  • Flaxseeds
I had to run out to the store to get Flaxseeds.  I'm sure I had some, but I just couldn't find my stash, so off I went.  I also substituted the Brown rice.  I almost used Basmati rice, but in my quest for the flax, I came across some wild rice I had.  I boiled it for about 30 minutes, and I was afraid it might not be enough.

The total of the amounts of the multiple grains in this transitional loaf that Reinhart calls for is 169.5 g -- so very close to the 170 g called for in the Struan's soaker, I felt justified in saying, "These are the same" (since my scale doesn't do partial grams anyway).

So one day when I awoke from working nights, I walked the dog and came back and threw together 2 multigrain soakers.  In theory, I could have just done a double recipe, and just divided it on baking day.  But I didn't, in case they needed to be baked at different times for whatever reason.

I did not put together the Biga at the same time.  I would do that in the morning before falling asleep.  It only needed 8 hours of sitting, and all that time it was to be in the refrigerator.  I decided to do this when it would least impact my wife, who needs the space in the fridge and complains loudly when I put too many bread supplies in there.  Friday seemed the perfect day, since she would be away.

So if the soakers are identical, what is the actual difference between the bigas?  The transitional loaf calls for 227 g of all purpose flour, and the struan calls for the same weight in whole wheat flour.  But the water amounts vary, and here we learn something instructional: the whole wheat flour requires more water than the all purpose flour, to make a kneadable dough.  I have read many times that this is because the bran soaks up more of the water.

The soaker hydration is essentially 50%.  I worked out the hydration percentages of the biga for each:

    all purpose flour's hydration for biga:    63%
    whole wheat flour's hydration for biga:     75%

There is also a difference in the construction of the final dough, although both are here adding a little additional whole wheat flour.  The only extra hydration at this point comes from the oil (and possibly some of the sweetener, if for example, one uses honey -- but this time, I used brown sugar); but the struan uses another 56.5 g of the whole wheat flour, and the transitional multigrain bread uses only 28.5 g.  I felt that this has pretty much the effect of bringing the total hydration for both loaves, in the final stage, to the same consistency (although I didn't figure out the math for that).

When I got home from working nights, I measured out the quantities for the 2 bigas, and kneaded the dough briefly as per instructions.  I put them in the fridge until late afternoon; I also got the ingredients ready for the final doughs.  Then I went to bed for some much needed sleep.

These Reinhart breads are not that difficult to put together, but it does require some organization of one's time.  At 5 pm, I took the biga from the refrigerator; it would be 7 pm before I could combine them with the soaker and the final dough mix.  Mixing the two breads separately might take 15-20 minutes, since I was taking my time, and taking lots of pictures.  Then it would be another 1 1/2 hours minimum for them to rise before I could shape them; and another 1 1/2 hours minimum of proofing.  The actual baking time was going to be about 40 minutes: so I was going to be awake until eleven or twelve o'clock tonight.  Good thing I slept all day.

The mixing and kneading were a snap.  I found the struan easier to work with.  The transitional loaf was a lot wetter, curiously, since it had less hydration.  When one is kneading these doughs, they rapidly warm up in your hands, and get very sticky.  I had my water on hand, and when I dipped my hands into the bowl, it had the effect of cooling down the dough, but it made it a bit slipperier.  It would stick to the countertop, and then I'd have to toss down a little bit of extra flour.

The only really noticeable difference in the doughs, other than the wetness I just mentioned, is that the one with the tiny bit of all purpose flour really comes together after the 5 minute rest, when you are kneading for the final minute.  It is at this stage that you actually feel the gluten strands from the all purpose flour tugging together, lining up, stretching and pulling.  I didn't get this same sense with the 100% whole wheat flour in the struan.

When the dough had risen 1 1/2 hours, I formed them into batards.  They may not have risen to the full doubling point.  Perhaps they required a full 2 hours or more.  But I didn't wait.  This could have been my ultimate downfall, and the cause of my ultimate disappointment (see below).

Both of the loaves were painted with egg white and sprinkled with poppy seed.  The only difference is that one loaf has some all purpose flour, and is a little bit lighter in colour than the other.

Both loaves spread substantially sideways rather than rising upward during the final proofing before baking. This trend continued during the baking step.  I did not score the loaves.  There was very little oven spring, and that was the only cause for my disappointment.  The loaves are very beautiful, but they are terribly flat.

To be fair, the transitional sandwich bread was designed -- they both were designed, really -- for a loaf pan, and they might not have spread sideways had I put them in one, or if I had let them proof in a couche.  But I wanted to have them cook on some parchment paper, for easier transfer into the oven.  And I wanted to have a batard shape, I love the look of these loaves and the nicer crust baking on a stone gives you compared to what you can get from a loaf pan.  But I knew when I was forming the batard that there was no gluten cloak forming.  I am assuming that I didn't allow the dough to rise long enough, or proof long enough.

When the loaves were finished, the whole house smelled marvelous.  The next day I cut them open for a side-by-side taste test comparison: alone, with butter, toasted with butter, and toasted with butter and jam (one must be thorough!).

The verdict:  the loaves are very similar in taste, only they strike the palate in slightly different ways.  I think that the poppy seeds were a bit lost in the flavour of the whole wheat but Reinhart is right, they do nicely complement the transitional multigrain loaf.  I think that the wild rice added something very interesting to the whole wheat struan; in the multigrain loaf, there was a different hit of carbohydrate, and the wild rice worked but didn't set it off as nicely.  Both loaves had excellent crust and mouth feel.  I found no overlying reason to prefer one over the other.  But they are different in subtle ways I find difficult to describe.

Again, these are sweet loaves; but these come with a full, well-rounded flavour.  I noticed that the whole wheat struan had oozed a tiny bit of liquid while baking; probably from the butter and brown sugar.  I am not convinced that these loaves need to have sweeteners in the form of honey, agave, sugar or other substances; nor am I convinced that they need to have extra fat in the form of oil or butter added.  I bake them that way now because that is the recipe I am trying -- my goal is to work my way through this book.  But if I were to make the struan again, I would try to do away with them so that the whole grains could be more directly tasted.  I think that the complex carbohydrates in the whole wheat and other cooked grains will provide enough flavour for the struan to offset any bitterness that Reinhart might be afraid of.

But then again, perhaps that is just my taste.  I'm already sold on whole grains.  I like their taste.  I don't need to have it sugar-coated just to make me want to eat it.

I won't promise that I won't coat the bread with butter and sugary jam though.

Notes to Myself:
  • Get another couche.  Batards need it, especially high hydration loaves that spread before they rise.  If each bread has its own couche, you can more easily transfer them into the oven or crock pot, or use one to cover a rising dough.
  • Make sure that the dough doubles during the rise.  If this happens in 1 1/2 hours, fine; but if not, wait the full 2 hours -- or more. Only if it doubles will the bread form a good gluten cloak during shaping, and it will have a better chance to rise.
  • Taste tests by two independent taste testers agree: both of these loaves taste good, but they do taste different -- and the struan has more flavour. So why would anyone choose the Transitional loaf?  If you have a choice, choose the struan.
  • Try making the struan without the extra butter/oil and sugar.
  • The egg white brushed on the crust made it a really nice consistency, and the poppy seeds stick to a proofing dough really well when you use egg white.  Use egg white liberally for crusts.