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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Ten Bread Failures for 2010

My Top Ten Bread Failures for 2010

It has been just over 1 year since I started making bread in earnest and with any regularity, and I have been blogging both successes and failures since February 2010.  It is actually more fun to look back on the total disasters I have created, rather than the good loaves.  The failures tend to be more memorable.  Here is a list of my top ten (there are a LOT more than just these 10, it was hard to narrow down the field.  But the top ten failures had to lose in virtually every criteria.  For example, the loaf that my mother-in-law broke her tooth on was actually a pretty nice loaf, and so it doesn't make this list).

Without further ado, here are my top ten bread failures for 2010:

Dough transfer error that not only made for a very ugly loaf, it also burned up one of my oven mitts.  It was a disaster because I tried to bake too many loaves at once, and I got distracted when I was placing the loaves in the hot oven.  The loaves tasted bad, but it might have been because of the flavour of the burning mitt, who knows?  They weren't pretty, either.

The Burnt Oven Mitt.  The Ugly Bread that resulted is at the top of this page.

A German No-Knead bread, that supposedly required no preheating of the casserole dish that it was in.  Well, that's a bad idea, the casserole dish definitely needs to be preheated too.  Did I mis-translate that recipe?

What happens when you don't preheat the casserole dish for the no-knead bread

HBin5 bread made from pumpkin puree.  One of the many loaves that I've made that are underbaked, and have caves in the middle.  Sometimes it doesn't show up until days later when I'm eating the loaf.  I have invested in an internal thermometer, I just haven't got around to using it yet.

Another underbaked loaf: strange gooey cave in the middle of the loaf.

A loaf that fell apart when I shook it from the pan.  This has happened more than once, but this was the worst.  Very upsetting, especially when the loaf takes several days to build.  Another symptom of underbaking, I presume.

Shaken baby syndrome: disaster when this bread, my baby, is shaken from the loaf tin

This was one error after another, starting with the mistakes I made in the hydration of my starter when I was refreshing it.  Every fix I attempted, it just made things worse.

Hydration error

This was one of those 'detox loaves' that I've experimented with: the idea being, you make the bread a whole wheat loaf by using the all purpose flour but adding swirls of bran and germ in the middle of the loaf.  This one got mouldy before I could eat it. 

Mouldy bread

The Seventh disaster was supposed to be a 'Strong Rye Bread", but it turned out to be a 95lb weakling that got sand kicked in its face at the beach.  I didn't follow the directions.  One of my earlier rye attempts.  Rye still intrigues me and frustrates me.

What happens when you ignore the recipe methods and just follow the recipe ingredients

This disaster was supposed to be a Lombardy loaf, made for Easter.  The pressure was on, but my bread was a failure.  This one didn't bake long enough, and was so gooey inside it was inedible.  My wife took over and baked one that turned out a trifle dark.  I guess she just wasn't taking any chances.

Utterly gooey inside, not even a little bit baked

An oft-repeated bread failure, that I just don't seem to be able to learn from: but this was the first time I tried to use my old, depleted mother-starter in a recipe.

Sourdough discard bread: why use the discards, why not use the unspent sourdough?

And the number one bread failure for 2010: this one is fairly recent, proving that I really haven't learned anything at all!  What didn't go wrong in this bread (if you can call it bread, which probably you shouldn't).

The most misshapen and under-baked loaf of all: worst of the worst of 2010

Pizzadough Recipe Whole Wheat Bread

 Pizzadough Recipe Whole Wheat Bread

This is just Lahey's basic Pizzadough recipe, only I have substituted whole wheat flour for the bread flour.  I actually intended to make this into a pizza, but we made another batch using all purpose flour for that meal.  So I had this dough left over: it had actually been sitting in a covered container over 24 hours before I decided to just make it into a bread.

I shaped it into a sort of elongated boule and let it rise again in a floured basket.  I baked it free standing on a hot stone with steam for 15 minutes at 475 degrees F and then another 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.

During the busy Christmas season, it was a very quick bread to make, and although it was nothing special, it filled a void when I had to take a sandwich with me while I worked nights.

This bread staled quickly.

Notes to Myself
  • This was made with 500g wwflour and 300g water, so is only 60% hydrated.  Even still, there was quite a bit of sag once the dough fell free of the basket, and only barely enough oven spring for the scores I made in the loaf to fill in. How to get the hydration level up, but get less sag?  The whole wheat does not allow me to shape the dough nicely: the gluten cloak is not nearly elastic enough, tears far too easily. 
  • Question: did letting the dough sit for such a long time before deciding to bake make it better or worse? 
  • This is essentially a no-knead bread.  Would a gluten cloak have formed if I had kneaded it?

Monday, December 27, 2010

HBin5's Pseudo-Bavarian Pumpernickel - a new tactic

HBin5's Pseudo-Bavarian Pumpernickel

With the last experiment of the HBin5 Bavarian Pumpernickel a total failure, this time I decided to try a longer bulk fermentation, and a longer baking cycle, and a different method of baking.  Pumpernickel is traditionally steamed, and to approximate this, I returned to a Lahey-style method of baking it inside a pre-heated old crock pot interior.

I rolled the soaked rye seeds in the interior as I had previously, but I put it in a floured, cloth-lined basket for about 2 1/2 hours prior to baking.

The baking was done at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes with the lid on, another 30 minutes with the lid off, and then a further 15 minutes with a boiled rye flour starchy coating to the crust to keep it from getting too hard -- a total of 75 minutes.


It still was not long enough.  The interior of the loaf is still far too moist (even a full day after baking, before slicing into it).  The loaf did stick to the preheated container -- probably due to the damp rye seeds that were sprinkled on what ended up being the bottom of the loaf prior at the time of bulk fermentation; or it could be because of the rye starch wash that was placed on the loaf during the final 15 minutes of baking.

The crust is crunchy and has a nice taste.  The loaf was damaged in digging it out of the container with a spoon when stuck.  It is very airy inside, and far lighter than it looks.

When you get an edge piece of the loaf, it tastes quite nice (although not a thing like pumpernickel) -- a nice, mild rye bread.  But the interior remains gummy, that no amount of toasting will correct.

Notes to Myself
  • This will be the last time I make this recipe.  It is not a good one.
  • When baking rye breads in this manner, and this thick, you best consider a time of 45-60 minutes with the lid on, then another 30-45 minutes with the lid off.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Variation of HBin5's Bavarian Pumpernickel

Pseudo-Bavarian Pumpernickel

These are dangerous times.  This morning I realized I had no bread to take to work with me, when I work nights over the holidays: Christmas eve and Christmas night (Like all nurses, I take my turn at working holidays).  I wouldn't have time to bake on those days, between sleeping and family visits.  I was going to be exhausted, with no bread.

So I had to make some bread on the 23rd.  The bread I made on the 22nd -- a playful, experimental loaf and a 123 loaf that utterly failed --- is inedible. 

But baking on Dec. 23 meant sharing the kitchen with my wife, who needed to use the space for her holiday baking.  We generally share this kitchen space by taking turns.  But this morning there was no way around it: we had to co-exist in the same space.  Holiday tempers flared.

I opted for something fairly simple: I would make a big batch of Bavarian Pumpernickel from "Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" (something I've never made before, but sounded interesting). 

I measured what I scooped, to determine the baking percentages.  Here is what I found:

More or less Mis en place

    •    364g whole wheat flour
    •    268g rye flour
    •    378g all purpose flour
    •    19g yeast
    •    9g kosher salt
    •    40g vital wheat gluten
    •    17g bread spice
Plenty gooey to mix up: you have to do it by hand, the spoon isn't enough

My family has an aversion to caraway.  This is my own home-made bread spice, that I made here.  I used 2 TBSP here, not one.  I have to say that the reason this bread smelled great while baking was due to the spice used.
 Everything is mixed, and then it is set aside to sit for 2 hours or so

 It sees a substantial rise in that time, and then it gets refrigerated.

 Overnight in the fridge it will have settled a bit more

Making the liquid caramel was a really fun thing to do, but it does bounce dangerously hot drops of supersaturated solution around when you pour the boiling water over it.  The warnings in the book are to be heeded. 

    •    76g liquid caramel
    •    36g molasses
    •    904g water (961g - 1/4 cup)

I decided to also make up some soaked rye kernels too -- I would boil them 30 minutes and then soak them overnight in some apple cider, and add them to the dough at the last minute before baking. 

    •    1 c rye berries 170g
    •    2 c water

 I boiled the rye kernels for 30 minutes, then soaked them overnight in cider

Now this little change that I made would ultimately change the way this loaf was shaped, and I had no great expectations that my loaf would be as nice as the one promised by the HBin5 authors.  With no great expectations, I was not so very disappointed, therefore, when my bread didn't perform well.  I can't really blame the HBin5 authors here.  I didn't follow directions, so I was bound to have something quite different.

 I flattened the dough gently with my fingers...
 ... and tossed some soaked rye berries on top

I proofed the dough in a basket lined with a tea towel.

 Just prior to baking

Regarding Pumpernickel: 
This "HBin5" pumpernickel bread is not a real, traditional Pumpernickel, but rather a North American variation.  I understand the traditional dark black pumpernickel loaf is mostly rye meal, steam-baked a long time, upwards of 16 hours, to achieve a taste and dark black colour derived from the Maillard reaction.  We know that this is dangerous, due to the Acrylamides that are also formed (although the long steaming process might slow their creation, who knows?).  But something in me wants to try and make it anyway. 

This method is supposed to approximate the taste, the flavour and some of the colour of this dough is supposed to come from the caramelization of some sugar that is boiled on the stove.  This is inauthentic, but it is apparently the best I can do unless I have more time.  I have been recently interested in the discussion of what gets added to pumpernickel to make it so dark.  The experts say nothing gets added: it is the method alone which gives the pumpernickel its taste and its texture and dark colour.

Results of my Bake:

 Before I shook off the excess flour
Pancake thin loaf!


Although this baked for 50 minutes at 450 degrees F. (the HBin5 recipe called for only 30 minutes), it is not baked.  And it tastes nothing like a pumpernickel.  In fact, it tastes very bland -- it is wet inside, and has no Geschmack at all.  If it were not for the fact that it is Christmas and there is nothing else at all to eat when I go to work, I would not eat this at all.  It is awful.

Take a look at the many underbaked areas of the bread, especially on the edge at the bottom, where the bread sat directly on the stone.  This stone was preheated for 30 minutes.  There is no way that it was not hot enough.  What happened?  This looks nothing like pumpernickel, and doesn't even look like a rye bread.  This bread was a disaster.

Merry Christmas.

Notes to Myself

  • This bread cannot be salvaged.  When the holiday nights of work are finished, soak it in water and give it to the chickens, along with the last few "breads" you've made.
  • Informative Links on Rye (Things I've been reading while preparing to bake this):
  • Shiao-Ping writes on her pure rye bread here; I consider her breads to be the very best looking of all the Fresh Loaf Bloggers, and her advice is always on the money.  She makes very nice looking rye loaves and then tells us that her family doesn't like them!  She has made many other rye loaves that I really want to bake too.  She makes it seem so effortless.
  • See also Horst Bandel's Black Pumpernickel recipe, care of The Fresh Loaf Blog.  Another blogger, Franco, attempted it and had good results here.
  • I like the etymologies given in the Wikipedia article on Pumpernickel: "The Devil's Fart" indeed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Play loaf with Barley, Rye, 8grains, and Whole Wheat

 Play Loaf

Children must play, and so must home kitchen bakers sometimes.  This is just one of those episodes of playing in the kitchen, to see what I might get.  I just picked some ingredients at random and tossed it all together to see what might happen.

I was still thinking about that 123 idea, and wondering if I had used 3 parts of water by mistake, on the last "loaf".  I decided that for this experiment, I would toss some ingredients in, using 1 part eccentric flour, 2 parts whole wheat flour, and 3 parts water.  With no other thought in my head than that as a roadmap, I began collecting ingredients.

Step 1:
  • (1 part) 92g barley flour
  • (2 parts) 184g wwflour
  • (3 parts) 276g water

The first ingredient I picked out of the cupboard was some whole barley.  I used about 1/2 a cup of this, whole, which I measured to be 92 grams once I had run it through a coffee grinder to mill it into flour.  I measured the whole wheat flour on a scale: approximately 1 1/4 c made 184g.  So the water needed to be 276g, and that was about 1 1/4 c, minus about 2 tsp.  This was step 1.
     Step 2:
    • (1 part) 60g 8grain cereal (~1/2 c)
    • (2 parts) 120g rye flour (~ 1 c)
    • (3 parts) 180g water (~200ml or 1 3/4 c - 2 tsp)

    For step 2, I boiled the water with the 8 grain cereal just to boiling, then removed it from the heat and waited about 5-10 minutes and then stirred in the rye. I kneaded it into a ball and let it sit another 5 minutes.

    Step 3:
    • 7g Salt ( 1 1/2 % of the total flour weight)
    • 5g Yeast ( 1% of total flour weight)
    • 5g Homemade yeast (another 1% of the total flour weight)

    Here I just mixed all ingredients together -- the salt and yeast together with what I had in step 1 and step 2.  The dough from step 2 is still warm, but the water from step 1 is still cold.

    If you add up the 8grain cereal as part of the flour, this is a 100% hydrated dough: total flour is 456g, and the total water is the same.  I did not expect to be able to knead this dough.  But I did turn it out on a floured surface to try to shape it a bit.  Then I just placed it in a basket lined with a floured couche, and left it to sit for about 8 hours. 

    It was probably ready long before that, but I had to leave to cut down the Christmas tree, so the dough had to wait.

    At 2 hours: ready, but I had to leave!
    6 hours later....

    brushing off this excessive flour might have added some trauma to the saggy loaf
     chimney docked and scored

    I ended up baking it on a hot stone with steam, 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then another 50 minutes at 400 degrees F.

    The loaf settled a lot in the oven.  I got a really flat loaf.

    And it should have baked longer.

    It smells fresh, but it tastes rather bland.

    Notes to Myself
    • Bad idea.