The Wood-Fired Blog

The Accidental Brick

Not the construction kind. The bread kind.

I have been on a pretty roll for the past month or so with by bread baking. We haven’t had to buy and bread from the store, and everybody is really happy. It’s interesting how quickly you lose your taste for store bread (even the good stuff) after you have been enjoying home baked bread for an extended period of time. I am rotating whole wheat/whole grain nut and see loaves, whole wheat cinnamon raisin, baguettes, focaccia and various banana/fruit/nut quick breads.

And it has all been working really nice — until a couple of days ago. I think I was getting too confident and doing a little less weighing of ingredients and I accidentally made my first really dense brick in a really long time. Looking back, the dough was not hydrated enough (I should have really felt it in my hands), and any chance it might have had in developing while proofing was cut short because it was late in the day and the time had come to put it in the oven (one way or the other).

So here it is. These are two loaves made from the same pre-ferment; I split it in half to start the two loaves. Guess which one is the brick. haha.

Another Day, Another Over-Proofed Loaf

The upside of this is that I haven’t made this mistake for a while. My boule was over-proofed before my oven was ready — you could definitely tell. The outer skin of the loaf was very soft and almost ready to fall in; it wasn’t even firm enough to properly score.

The problem? I can track it all the way back to my dough prep — where quickly measuring my yeast by pouring it into the mixing bowl on a digital scale, I went too fast, and instead of adding 5 grams to a 500 gram loaf (1%), it spilled. I used a spoon to recover most of my spill, but still ended up with closer to 10 grams than 5 grams. And as a result, I had some very lively dough. Boing.

The final bread has a very thin and soft crust, and it is very short and wide. It definitely sagged when I removed it from the baneton, scored it, and loaded it into the oven.

This was an 80% hydration loaf, with 80% whole wheat, 20% white whole wheat, plus 10% flax seed bran, 7% honey, 5% olive oil, 1% yeast (well, not really), and 2% salt.

Another loaf another lesson. It will be fun eating the evidence.


Slightly Less Challenging Bread

Some people like crusty, nutty, tangy, chewy bread. You can count me as one of them.

But not everybody is the same, and as the household baker, I am held accountable to the standards of my constituents — the family. And if I go too far down the path toward hearty, challenging bread (and if you throw in a mistake here and there), my eaters will start to become leery, and stop eating my bread. You can see it coming — “who wants toast with breakfast?”. And no hands go up.

Which leads me to challenging foods. Off the top of my head, I can think of two wonderful foods which have a “challenging” scale — sushi and cheese. Many (many) years ago, very early in my Silicon Valley career, I worked for a Japanese computer company and took a “getting to know you” trip to Tokyo to meet the managers, where I came face to face with serious sushi. It was nothing compared with the shopping mall sushi that we have all become accustomed to. There was some pretty crazy stuff, and I often found myself wondering, “what the heck is that? A fish or plant?” But over time, learned to love it.

Equally, there is the world of chevre’s and very ripe aged cheese. In a typical French cheese plate, the restaurant will help you develop your palate by starting you off with fresher, younger cheeses and then bringing you along for the ride to where you are enjoying the strongest cheese.

So, that’s my plan. I am going to throttle back a little bit on my bread and bring everybody along a little more slowly. Here is a less challenging loaf.

You can’t tell from the photo, but this bread doesn’t have seeds or nuts or lots of extra whole grains. It is 80% whole wheat, 15% white whole wheat and 5% AP flour, with 20% oat bran, 80% hydration, 4% honey, 2% olive oil, salt and yeast. It doesn’t have any of the heavy stuff.

The bread on the left is my less challenging loaf. I think you can see that it’s a little lighter, but compared with supermarket bread it tastes great and it’s fully of really good ingredients.

We’ll see how it goes.

Well, that and I am going to start experimenting with Rye flour. Hopefully I can do that without breaking the challenging food scale.

Kitchen Sink Bread

It was one of those moments where you have lots of odds and ends of things lying around — so I made them into bread. It’s quite a list, but it came out nicely. Here goes:

300 grams whole wheat flour
600 grams white whole wheat flour
100 grams AP flour
30 grams honey
30 grams olive oil
30 grams molasses
10 grams yeast
20 grams salt
50 grams flax seeds
50 grams pine nuts
100 grams oat bran
80 grams durum semolina flour
750 grams water

It’s nutty and crunchy, and the AP flour and the honey/oil/molasses give it a nice lift. It’s a whole grain bread, but it isn’t heavy. Overnight fermentation and mid-day baking in a small yet-to-be-named pizza oven. It’s fun working out the idiosyncrasies of a new oven.