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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Professional Help for the Exorphin Junkie #1

I get Professional Help for my Addiction - #1

I have been baking bread and blogging about it for about a year now (baking longer than that, but only blogging about it for a year), and I figured it was time I got some professional help.  I took my first ever bread course today at the nearby college.

This bread making course is a rather intensive 2-day course, and our instructor is one of the chefs at the college's Culinary Arts program.  When I say it is intensive, I don't mean that the loaves we made were difficult or time consuming.  No, I just mean that we moved along fairly rapidly, and made a total of 4 different doughs in one solid day of baking.  I didn't have a lot of time for taking pictures.

This course is something my wife and I have done together, on this cold Saturday in February.   We have been looking forward to it for a long time now -- almost like a vacation.  And although I was warned by several people that I probably wouldn't learn anything I didn't already know, I expected to learn quite a bit.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Chef Stephanie has been teaching for eight years, and has had lots of baking experience before that.  Many of the restaurants that she worked in serve Mediterranean meals, and some of her favourite breads are in the Mediterranean style.  That is what we worked on today, for our first lesson.

She handed out some recipes and an apron to each of us, and we began.  I have posted the recipes from day one here, in case anyone else wants to peruse them.  They are volume measurements, not recipes given by weights.  (I may be able to get the weight measurements from her, I'll see).

Chef started us off with a Rosemary Focaccia, which I thought was a great idea because there is virtually no forming of the dough: you just mix the ingredients, get a feel for it, let it bulk ferment, and then press it onto a pan. 

My focaccia

While it is proofing the second time, we were making our second dough, essentially the very same ingredients, only this time we added Sundried Tomato and Chevre (Goat Cheese).  Here, she showed us how to roll up the dough with the cheese inside it.  It is essentially the same as pushing down the dough like we did the focaccia, but instead of proofing it like that, we sprinkled some cheese on the bread and rolled it up like a log.

I got to use a dough hook on a mixer, first time ever: mostly, I do all my kneading by hand

My sundried tomato and chevre loaves: before the final proof, and after baking

While that was proofing, and we were baking our focaccia, we made the same loaf using Black Olives and Gorgonzola Cheese.  By now we were getting the hang of it.  This was made exactly the same way as the Sundried Tomato and Chevre loaf.  The interesting thing about these loaves, I thought, was the way she had us brush olive oil on the tops, and score the loaves BEFORE the final proofing.  I had always only ever scored my loaves just prior to putting them in the oven.  For these loaves, this pre-scoring worked well, although I really didn't see any meteoric oven spring on any of my loaves.

My olive and gorgonzola loaves, before proofing and after baking

The final loaf of the day was a Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf, which she allowed us to make into a free-form loaf.  I made my dough into a couple of smaller boules, and they retained their shape and didn't sag out over the parchment paper, like some of my whole wheat doughs do.  If you use bread flour, bread is a lot easier to form.
Walnut and Carmelized Onion Loaves
One of the Convection Ovens
I was pleased with the way the surface of these boules turned a nice light chestnut colour in the College's convection ovens.

Almost the entire haul of bread, made between the two of us
My wife and I came home with a lot of bread.  We ripped into my Focaccia on the drive home, and we ate some of the Black Olive and Gorgonzola loaf and the Sundried Tomato and Chevre loaf for supper tonight with a soup, and we froze some.  We'll be delivering some to our moms in the morning.

These loaves squished down a bit on the ride home.  Imagine, we forgot to take some bags with us.  Next time, we won't forget

The breads we made today are easy to make, and they taste good.  They do, however, all use bread flour or all-purpose flour.  My interests, as I have been blogging and baking, have turned almost exclusively to whole grains, but it is good to make other breads once in a while to remind oneself of the possibilities.  I am not sure whether the bread recipes that Chef gave us will translate well to whole grain flours, but I am sure going to give it a try.  (I already have a whole wheat focaccia recipe that turned up recently on the Fresh Loaf blogs by Marie H that I want to experiment with!)

The next day, we cut into the Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf.  We both think that this is the best of the loaves we made.  The Onion imparts a nice scent and a surprising amount of sweetness.  The roasted walnuts provide texture and colour (they leave the white bread stained a bit purple -- the digital photos here don't quite deliver that colouration, unfortunately), as well as an interesting taste.  This is a nice bread, almost like a desert bread, it is so sweet.  You can't eat this all the time, it is far too starchy.  But it is nice as a treat.

I am thinking that a whole wheat version of this might work, too.

Best of the Four Breads: Walnut and Caramelized Onion Loaf

Notes to Myself
  • Get the weight measurements for these recipes, and then see if it will translate to whole grains.
  • What is the advantage of scoring prior to the final proofing, vs scoring just before putting the bread in the oven?  It is possible that the late scoring will deflate the dough somewhat.  It is possible though, that you won't get as high an oven-spring if you score it too early.  Hmm.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beard's William Melville Childs' Health Bread Variation #2

The Official Whole Wheat Version of Wm M. Childs' Health Bread
and a loaf with a Kamut variation

The last bread I made was a disaster and got fed to the chickens.  So I needed to bake some bread to take to work.  I decided to make this 'Health Bread' again, this time with the proper whole wheat ingredients.  The last time I made it, I used some all-purpose flour.

I was going to grind my own wheat here and use only fresh ingredients, but I had another idea and tried that instead.  I still intend to try the freshly milled approach the next time I make this.  Here, however, I wondered what the bread would taste like if I added some kamut flakes and kamut flour to the mix.  I made one batch that was completely whole wheat flour and oatmeal, and one batch that was half-kamut, half-whole-wheat flour, and half oatmeal, half kamut flakes.

I haven't done much baking with kamut, so I really don't know the grain. I didn't have enough ingredients to bake entirely with the kamut, so I used half whole wheat.

The Ingredients:
  • 20g yeast
  • 280g warm milk
  • 4g sugar
  • 434g boiling water
  • 402g oatmeal (Kamut version has 202g oats, 200g kamut flakes)
  • 776g whole wheat flour (Kamut version has 388g wwflour, 388g kamut flour)
  • 258g dark molasses
  • 20g butter
  • 14g salt
Kamut version is to the left of the spoon
The Method: What was supposed to happen.

Proof the yeast in the warm milk and sugar.  Pour the boiling water over the oatmeal and freshly ground whole wheat, and allow to sit until it is 98 degrees F.  Warm the molasses, butter and salt in a saucepan and add to the grain mixture.  Add the milk-yeast mixture and mix with your hands.

Kamut version:

Whole Wheat version:

Allow to rise to double, then knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, about 10-12 minutes.  Divide into 2, place in pans, and let rise until doubled.  Bake 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

What actually happened:

I left the dough in the bulk fermentation phase far too long.  I expected it to rise more, and it just didn't.  I should have just gone ahead when I returned from walking the dog, but I waited a few hours more, waiting for the dough to 'double' when it probably already had.

Thinking that there was not going to be much more rise, I didn't divide the kamut dough after kneading it.  I just put it into a single, slightly larger pan.  The Kamut dough felt a bit runny, but it was hard to knead at the same time.  The kamut flakes had not absorbed as much water as the oatmeal had.

Kamut version:

The whole wheat dough felt like it might have some rise and spring to it, so I did divide it (although not in half: I felt that the dough wouldn't double again).  I took away 1/3 of it and formed some balls with it, thinking that these would turn into buns.

Whole wheat version:

After an hour, the tins were overflowing.  All because I did not 'believe'.

the 'buns' had melded together

the dough had expanded and left ugly surface marks on these loaves

Whole Wheat and Kamut loaves both over-flowed the tins

I took the overflowed dough and made a few small bun-balls with them.


The kamut bread tastes a little different.  The colour is from the molasses, I think.  The smell when it was freshly cooked was unusual, to say the least.  I kept sniffing it, trying to identify the scent.  Cinnamon?  No.  Cloves?  No.  What is that scent?  Sniff sniff.

I will have to eat a few more pieces to decide whether I like it, it is so different.  The crunchy texture of the crust and the crunchiness of the kamut flakes complement each other.  But I'm not really sure what sort of toppings a bread like this can use.  It is a bit sweet due to the molasses.  I tried it with some cheddar this morning, and that wasn't the right topping.  I guess I have to figure out how to eat it.  It can be sliced thin like pumpernickel, but it is not a thing like pumpernickel.

I guess I will just have to have these question marks all over my head as I eat it.

Notes to Myself
  • Next time you make this, try grinding your own flour. 
  • Next time you make this, try dividing the dough.
  • Next time you make this, try soaking the kamut a bit longer in the boiling water.
  • Next time you make this, try using some OJ instead of all that molasses.
  • The top crust is actually kind of nice, with that ugly texture.  You could emulate it by making a wash of cracked wheat, and I bet that would be nice.  Or what about a wash with Kamut flakes?  (Put just enough boiling water over some kamut flakes to release the gums and starches, and then paint it on top of a baking loaf.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread #2: another failure

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread #2
Time for another bread disaster.

This is my second attempt at making Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread.  Once again, the disaster comes from trying to fit the recipe into my own life schedule rather than from any fault of the recipe itself. 

The first time I made it I was alarmed at the way the dough flattened out, rather than exhibiting oven spring.  I felt it was due to the way I had failed to form a tight gluten cloak on the loaf, failed to pinch it off at the bottom.

This time, the dough performed even worse.  But it is for a different reason (well, maybe the same reason, just not the reason I thought before).

This time, I let the dough sit in the fridge for FAR longer than it should have.  The enzymes that are so closely harnessed for Reinhart's recipes now began to destroy the natural starches in the flour, even affecting the elasticity of the gluten itself.  In short: this dough went bad.

All because I failed to follow the recipe, which clearly states (1) for the soaker, if you are leaving it for longer than 24 hours, it should be refrigerated, and if refrigerated, for no longer than 3 days, and (2) for the biga, it should be refrigerated for no longer than 3 days. 

Nurses' Schedule

An old scientific research study that you often find cited involves the effects of the consumption of whole wheat and whole grains on cardiac disease.  This study looked at the consumption habits of nurses, and found that the ones that consumed more whole grains had better outcomes with heart attacks, etc  Well, I'm here to tell you that study is highly suspect in my opinion: not for the results that they obtained, but rather because it is so difficult to fit whole grain recipes like the ones in Reinhart's book, into a nurse's schedule.

I mixed up these ingredients Thursday night.  In theory, I could have made the bread on Friday when I woke up from a sleep, prior to working the night shift Friday: but there wasn't time.  I ended up making a simpler bread on Saturday, when my unrefrigerated soaker was probably already past using.
Then I didn't make it Sunday either.  There was simply not enough time, on this nurses' schedule.

On Monday, my intention was to make it when I awoke.  I took the biga from the refrigerator around 4, intending to make it at 6.  But then I was told we were going out to a friend's house for supper, and I didn't get back to the dough until 8:30. 

Autolysed beyond repair
Both the soaker and the biga had distinct sour smells to them.  Both had evidence of wild yeast action.  Both felt limp and gooey.  I should have tossed these ingredients out.  But I just wanted to see what would happen.

Autolysed beyond repair

In keeping with my poor man's idea of the eastern yin-yang philosophy, it is my opinion that one should make a bread like this at least once, just to see what a good bread is.  This is not a good bread.  Now I have something bad to compare a good bread to.  Oh, but I've had bad bread up the yin-yang.  Now I need a good bread to compare my bad loaves to.

Mixing the Dough and Forming the loaf
This dough felt different from the very first.  It did not feel like a Reinhart dough is supposed to feel.

Dough in the bulk fermentation stage, by the wood stove

Since, last time I made this recipe I felt I hadn't properly made a tight enough gluten cloak, this time I felt determined to try harder at shaping it.  Unfortunately, with this dough, it was impossible to form any kind of tight surface.  Every time I would pull it around to pinch it, there was no gluten at the surface that was in any way different from the interior.  I kept pulling the dough around and pinching it off, but it remained gooey all the way down.  I tried and tried, overhandling the dough, but it never did anything more than just slide another layer of slippery goo to the other side of the ball.  The boule was getting smaller from overhandling, rather than from any tightness of the dough.  Eventually I just gave up and put it in my not-floured-enough basket.

You can't form a gluten cloak on a blob of goo that has its gluten autolysed beyond repair

Making a Bun with Cloth Goo
After 45 minutes, I upended the basket directly onto the stone, and peeled the cloth from the top of the flaccid dough.  Later I scraped this goo that had stuck to the cloth off, formed a small bun-sized ball with the cloth-goo and tossed it onto the hot stone beside the bread I was making.  That turned out to be the best part of the whole bread.

The cloth got stuck to the top of the dough and had to be peeled off

The dough on the cloth could be scraped off with a pastry cutter

I made a bun with this cloth-stuck goo

God help me, I ate this little bun warm from the oven, even though it was probably spoiled

A loaf as thin as the book

As expected, there was no rise, just a limp flat bread that doesn't taste the way a Reinhart loaf is meant to taste.  You slice it and it looks like a breadstick, the loaf is so thin.  The crust is crackly like an artisan loaf, but it is just a bit strange compared to other breads. 

The bun tasted a little off, but was probably edible (well, even if it wasn't edible, I ate it anyway, warm from the oven).  The bread also seems a bit off, so I won't eat the whole thing.  It doesn't have a bad smell to it, but there is an aftertaste back-note of spoilage that you get when you chew a bite.  This is not a bread you want to try eating more than once.

Notes to Myself
  • Try, try again
  • You might as well give up trying to make a Reinhart loaf when you are working 3 days (or nights) in a row.  It just won't work in your schedule, period.