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, March 5, 2011

Professional Help for the Exorphin Junkie #2

Bread Making Course Results, Day 2

We've had our second and final breadmaking class at the nearby college (see the first class here).  Just like last time, we made four different doughs.  Just like last time, they were all bread flour, or all-purpose flour breads.  Not my kind of bread, but a fun day out nevertheless.

My biggest question prior to arrival was, "how is she going to teach us the sourdough?"  Sourdough needs to be prepared.  How would that fit into our chef's philosophy of production kitchen, straight dough methods?

In a nutshell: Chef Stephanie came prepared.  She had elaborated her mother starter all week long, and brought in a huge tub of it for us all to take some.  We each took 2 cups, and there was still lots left over.

Today we all paired off and afterward split the booty.  While I put together the ingredients for the Sourdough bread, my wife made up the dough for the Lavender Brioche.  Later in the day, she made up the Honey-Oat Bread (only, she used organic molasses instead of honey), and I mixed the Ciabatta dough.  Incidentally, that Ciabatta also used a starter (chef called it a sponge), and there was a giant tub of that, too, for all of us to dip into to use.

Just like the last time, I post the recipes here for those who are curious.  I probably won't be using these recipes again myself, unless I am going to try making them with whole grains. 

Sourdough Bread

This was not exactly a wild yeast sourdough.  Chef has been keeping this starter alive since last summer, feeding it weekly or replenishing it as she uses it, but it was originated from commercially obtained active dry yeast.  Nothing wrong with that.  I'm just saying.

We used 2 cups of her Starter in our Main Dough.  The curious thing about this bread is that, in addition to the starter, it calls for vinegar and baking soda.  This dough didn't seem to want to rise at all in the proofer.  But once it went into the oven, the spring was substantial.  Too much, in fact.  Chef warned us that this would happen, due to the baking soda.

The loaf on the left was brushed with an eggwhite wash; the loaf on the right was brushed with water -- both prior to baking.  You can see where the wash ends, and how much it rose, from the bottom of the tray.  Like it wanted to lift off like a rocket.

Lavender Brioche

This is a very enriched dough.  As Chef Stephanie put it, "not the healthiest loaf, but you will die happy.  This is decadent."

The lavender is infused in the milk ahead of time (again, Chef came prepared, and we all used her lavender-infused milk).  The lavender gets sifted out.  It just imparts a mild flavour and scent to the milk, most of which is lost, frankly, when you go to eat it.  But the idea of infusing the fluid that hydrates your bread (be it water or milk or juice) with herbs really got our imaginations going.  What if we infused it with cinnamon?  Cardomon?  Ginger?  What other taste could we "infuse" into our bread via the hydration?  Clearly, there is an infinite room for experimentation here.  But again, just how much do you actually taste in the final product?

We ate a couple of the brioche buns that we put on the fluted tins, and felt that despite all the enrichment, it still needed something.  "Surely not more butter," I said.  "There is a ton of butter in it already."  Luckily, my wife had brought some trail mix with her, and she tossed that in some of the dough.  The raisins and nuts complemented this nicely.  She was already thinking of using this dough for an Easter loaf.

Lavender gets sifted out

I think we had a double batch of the brioche for some reason

Honey Oat Bread (but made with Molasses)

We had this for lunch when we got home.  Meh.


This is the big tub of sponge that Chef brought in for us all to share.

We were supposed to make smaller ciabatta, even smaller than the ones I made.  They probably should have been called ciabattini, or ciabatta rolls.  This dough is tricky to work with, it is so gooey.  But mine rose a bit during the proofing stage, and it had some nice oven spring.

I had the distinct sense that I didn't "own" these breads, though, because I had not made the Starter myself.


This was the haul we had when we laid it out on the kitchen table when we got home:

While this was a fun class to take, I can't say that I really learned all that much about bread making in it.  We received 8 total recipes, and we now know ways to mix by hand and machine; we know a couple of basic shapes for bread; and we know the feel of several different doughs.  No one can expect more from 10 hours of class time.  I got no more, and no less, out of this class than I expected.  Well, I guess I expected more teaching on how to shape loaves, and we didn't get that.  But I am not disappointed.

The Proofer.  This machine sees a lot of use, with 25 students waiting on doughs to rise.

Our corner of the kitchen, right in front of the two convection ovens.
There might be the odd crumb shot picture I will add to this blog entry, if I feel like it.

Right now I'm just a little sleepy, and hope to have a short nap.  Postprandial Bread Narcolepsy, no doubt.

By the way, I don't get this crashing feeling when I eat whole grains.

Notes to Myself
  • Temperatures given in the recipes are for CONVECTION ovens; for other ovens, the temperature needs to be 20-25 degrees HIGHER than what the recipe says.
  • The Sourdough bread contains vinegar to boost the acidity, not for the yeast, but for the baking soda to work.
  • Notes on brioche: when scalding milk, before you put the milk in the pot, first fill it with water and simply rinse the pot.  This will help prevent your milk from being a messy pot cleanup.

    If you are going to make an Easter loaf with brioche dough, add your raisins right at the very end of mixing the dough.

    The Brioche dough is made not with bread flour, but with all-purpose flour; you could even use cake flour in the recipe (up to about 1/2 the quantity of flour).  Here, what makes it rise so well is not so much the gluten strands trapping the yeast gases, but the emulsifying of the eggs and other fat in the recipe.


  1. That sourdough boule is remarkably unconventional. I would compare the recipe you were given to, say, any other recipe ever. The trick with the vinegar and baking soda has to be a time saving technique in order to ensure you go home with a loaf, but a real sourdough boule or batard is only levained by the yeast.

    The recipe I use professionally has a mature culture being elaborated twice to build up enough liquid levain for the dough, and then the only other thing going into it is flour, water and salt. Kneaded briefly, it is then bulk fermented for 3 hours or so, folding twice at 1 hour intervals. I shape it into a boule, throw it into a banetton (actually I don't have those, I have a bowl with a cotton cloth in it), wrap it in plastic and retard it overnight. The sour flavor develops through this long, slow fermentation.

    But there's no way you could do this in a day and have it come out right, which is why I think she used that vinegar / baking soda trick. Could you taste the baking soda or the vinegar?

    Were the convection ovens she used steam injected? Normally, you never egg-wash or wet the top of the sour dough, you have steam in the oven itself. I only have access to a regularly convection oven, so I get around this by pre-heating with a sheetpan in it and pouring about 2 cups of boiling water on the sheetpan to moisten the environment prior to placing the bread in, and 2+ cups after I've put the bread in depending on how much steam I want. In general, you want to have steam on every bread which isn't egg washed (e.g. brioche, challah) in order to allow it to expand further (it keeps a crust from forming too quickly) and to gelatinize the starch to give it a bit of shine. The dry heat also inhibits some enzymatic activity that colors the bread, so steam gives you a lot more color on your loaves.

    Nice looking brioche!

  2. Also, uh, did she make you call her Chef? Strictly speaking, bakers aren't chefs, unless she's a pastry chef. I am really curious about this class...

  3. You're right about how unconventional the sourdough recipe was. And I think absolutely it was meant to be a time-saving device. But I walked around the room later and had a look at everyone's sourdough loaves. None of them (including mine) were as nice as the one Chef had made in demo, which indicates to me that we all still required a longer bulk fermentation than we were allowed, given the time crunch. And she had been bulk fermenting her dough long before we arrived.

    I had a small taste of the sourdough bread this morning and I could not taste the vinegar, but I did feel it was too salty for my palate, and that may have been the baking soda. The crumb was tight, like a white bread (I'll try to post a picture of it today, somewhere above). And to me, it didn't even have much of a sourdough flavour either. I think my wife will like it well enough because she doesn't like sourdough.

    The College ovens had steam injection, but because all the students were finishing various breads at different times, and opening and closing the oven doors at odd moments, I think this is why she had us wash the loaves. She did try to reserve one oven for the brioche and one for the loaves requiring steam, but I don't think that the steam got used much.

    In my home oven, the addition of steam is always problematic. I usually just use a pan of water, and a spritzer bottle, rather than wash the loaf. But a few recipes I've tried have done washes before, during or after the bake, and I've had some interesting crusts with some of them, and I continue to experiment with some of the ideas.

  4. Sorry I somehow missed your earlier question.

    Chef Steph did not 'make' us call her chef. But she is indeed a chef who teaches at the College's culinary arts program. And even on a weekend, there were enough of her students from another kitchen there, working on various things, that we would fairly frequently see them come in and beg for ingredients, ask for advice -- and they all called her 'chef' with what was evidently deserved respect. They may have been 'told'-- at one time in their early classes -- to call her chef, but at this point, it was without doubt for them a term of respect, now that they understood what it meant, and knew what she was capable of, both for teaching and inspiring, as well as her wealth of experience. Some (but not all) of us weekend bread students just noticed this and picked up on it.

    As for her bread baking abilities... I think she was eminently capable (within a production kitchen), but probably bread isn't her specialty. I may have learned more from a smaller class and a 'dedicated' baker, i.e. one who bakes (bread) only.

    Chef Steph is a well-rounded chef. For example, she is going to teach a weekend pastry class, for noobs, similar to our bread class, with choux pastry etc., before long, and my wife was interested (though I was not). She said that she has also taught other similar classes that were not baking, but certain styles of cooking.

    I would encourage you who are real bakers, if you are interested, to approach your local colleges and see if there might be any interest in a course on bread making in your area -- offering your services as teacher. You may be able to pick up some extra cash for teaching, you'll meet new and interesting people, but more than that, you would inspire home bakers to appreciate home-baked loaves or demand better bread from where they shop.