Sunday, February 28, 2016


Received the King Arthur Flour mail order catalog for March 2016 this week. Inside was an interesting recipe for baguettes using an overnight sponge. Decided to try it out and made the sponge last night. Lots of activity in the morning with just a hint of a sour note.

The recipe calls for three baguettes. I like to use a baguette pan but this only holds two baguettes. The third? Well let's try for an Epi de Ble. This was the result:

First time I have tried to make an Epi, still have to work some on the cuts. Dough was very wet - I calculate it at about 74% using the 10oz water suggested for winter climate and it stood up well in the baguette pan but flattened out some with the Epi. Nice blisters and color in the crust. Next time I think I'll drop the water down to 8oz which will yield about a 64% hydration.

Then on to a batch of Ken Forkish's Pain de Campagne which is a hybrid with both levain and instant yeast. Made a double batch and created two batards and two boules. Baked the batards on the pizza stone with a steam pan under. Baked the two boules as usual in the dutch oven. Still experimenting with wetter dough and really do not have my shaping right yet. 

One of the batards

Overall, pleased with the crust, color and crumb. A good days baking.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Sunday night is often pizza night. Tonight was no different. While I like to make artisan breads, I usually revert to the tried and true bread machine to make pizza dough.

Tonight's recipe was:

1 1/3 cups Water
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Instant Yeast

To add a little different flavor to the dough, I added 1 1/2 tsp Z'atar - an Israeli herb mixture that I really like to use.

This makes enough dough for two pizzas, so the other half went in the freezer for another day. For the pizza, just a little olive oil on top of the dough to stop the rolling pin from sticking. Rolled it out nice and thin to about 14 inches diameter.

Now for the topping:

The base is a little marinara sauce covered with chopped whole tomatoes, salt and pepper. One half has olives and turkey sausage, the other caramelized onions and spinach. Finally a topping of mozzarella cheese.

Ready for the oven

Here it is ready for the oven which was preheated to 450oF. Baked it in the oven at 450oF for 30 minutes on a pizza stone.

Nice consistent oven spring, edge rose from about 3/8 in to a little over 1/2 in.

Excellent thin crust pizza. Yum!!
The finished product

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thank you Ken Forkish - Day 2

Twelve hours after the last stretch and fold the bulk ferment was complete and the dough had risen about three times. This recipe calls for a long, slow ferment in room temperature, unlike the retardation in the refrigerator I am used to.
After the bulk ferment

I'm working with just a natural levain, no added commercial yeast. The long slow ferment should result in a mellow flavor and a slight tang, not sour like sourdough. The result is a lovely, wet dough, full of gas bubbles.

The shaped dough ball

Next step is to divide the dough into two roughly equal portions. Each piece then gets shaped into a ball. The object is to create a tension in the outer skin that results in a medium tight ball. 

In the basket for final proof
Then the ball is placed in a basket for the final proof of about four hours.

Finally it is taken out of the basket and baked in a dutch oven. First, for 30 minutes with the lid on which allows the steam to be trapped, and encourages the rise and develops the crust. The last 20-25 minutes with the lid off caramelizes the sugars in the crust to create the rich dark color and produces a chewy crust with a soft crumb inside. Yum!
The finished product

So what happened to the baguettes yesterday? Using Ken Forkish's levain in the Tartine recipe was a success in terms of the dough produced. However, following the Tartine recipe calls for three baguettes. Rolled them out, proofed them and went to bake. That was when I found that the baguettes were about four inches longer than the width of my baking stone! Baked them anyway and finished up with three baguettes with droopy ends that caught and tore in the oven racks when I pulled them out. Probably could have done with 4-5 more minutes to develop a darker color but a great chewy crust and soft crumb. Next time I will divide the dough into four.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Thank You Ken Forkish

I bought Ken Forkish's Flour, Water Salt, Yeast recipe book late last year and it has become my 'go to' book.

First step last year was to successfully created the levain using what ever wild yeasts are in my house and on my flour. Keep a portion of it in my refrigerator and take out and refresh when needed. This is what the levain looks like when its been refreshed.
Refreshed levain
Lots of bubbles and a sweet sour note. I'm going to use it in two batches of overnight country brown and a batch of baguettes from the Tartine book.

Next step is to weigh out the flours and water, mix, and autolyse for 30 minutes. The recipe calls for 276g of whole wheat flour, but I like the slight tang of rye so I weighed out 200g whole wheat and 76 g of rye flour.

After mixing for the autolyse the dough is nice, soft, and shaggy. Although Forkish calls for hand mixing, I prefer to use a dough whisk at this stage.

Flour and water mixed for autolyse
Autolyse is a simple technique where the flour and water is mixed together until no dry material is left. No kneading, just cover and leave. What is happening is the flour is absorbing the water to become fully hydrated. In turn, this releases enzymes in the flour that stimulates the proteins that start the gluten development. Other enzymes begin the process of breaking down starch into simple sugars that will later feed the yeasts.

After 30 minutes the salt and levain is added to the flour and water mixture. The salt is kept out until now to because it would retard the gluten development.
The dough after adding the salt and levain
Now we can get our hands in the mix, making sure to first wet them. The levain is incorporated by mixing first, then cutting the dough by squeezing the hand through it bringing the thumb and index finger together in a scissors type motion. Look at how well the gluten has developed already.

Now to start developing the dough. My oven had a proofing setting that is about 75oF. and the bins of dough are going in there for the next stage of bulk fermentation. No longer do we need to knead the bread, especially with higher hydration doughs.  This Overnight Country Brown has 78% hydration, that is 78g of water to every 100g of flour. The technique that has replaced kneading is generally known as stretch and fold. With a wet hand slipped under the dough about a quarter is lifted up until resistance is felt. The section is then folded down over the other side.

First stretch and fold before inverting
See how much smoother the dough has become

Working around the container, this step is repeated four or five times until the dough is in a ball. Then the ball is inverted so all the folds come together face down.

Three to four stretch and folds should see the dough really nice and subtle. That's it for tonight. The dough will now continue to bulk ferment overnight. Tomorrow's episode will be the final shape and bake.