Wednesday, November 10, 2010

General Bread Baking Guidelines

So you want to make bread? If you follow some easy guidelines you can make up your own recipes and experiment with the results. Have fun!

Flour 100%
Water 60% - 70% - 80% of flour weight   (tight crumb - holey crumb – very holey crumb)
Yeast 1% of flour weight
Salt 2% of flour weight

900 g flour                           6.5-7 c flour
540-630 g water                2⅓ - 2¾ - 3¼ c water (tight even crumb – loose holey crumb)
9 g yeast                              1 T yeast
18 g salt                                1 T salt

A nice flour mix is 70% white, 20% wheat, and 10% rye by weight or volume.

Using milk instead of water makes a softer, more tender crumb.

Add oil or butter to make it richer and more tender and makes the bread keep longer.  Don’t include fats in the liquid percentage.  

Sugar is added for sweetness. Don’t include sugars in your percentages. 

Malt syrup is a flavorful sweetener. You don’t need much, maybe a tablespoon per pound of flour, to make a difference.

Mix dough until it comes together and is all wet. Cover the dough let it rest for 20-30 minutes. Knead dough for a few minutes until its smooth.   Try not to add extra flour. Place in an oiled bowl and cover. 

Note: The rest time is called autolyse. The gluten will develop on it's own if given the time. Kneading will then be fast and productive.

Allow dough to double and then make into loaves.  Allow to double again and bake.

Before you put it in the oven, you can paint on some whole egg or egg white. Whole egg will make the crust browner and the white will just make it shiny.

Whole grain flour should be soaked in some of the recipe water for a while to become fully hydrated. Overnight is easy because it’s ready for you in the morning. If soaking whole grains, drain them very well afterward and don’t count the liquid in your recipe. Soaked whole grains don’t count as flour either.  Nuts don’t need to be soaked. You might want to toast them lightly in a dry skillet to make them tastier but you don’t need to.

Retarding the dough will give it better flavor. At any point in the recipe you can just cover and stick it in the fridge. The next day, warm for a couple of hours and continue. If you don’t have time that day, leave it in the fridge another day.

Extra rises will also add flavor. Avoid artificially heating the dough to get it to rise faster. A slow cool rise will make better flavor.

Rolls bake at 400 or 425 for 15-20 minutes. Loaves bake at 350-400 for 40-60 minutes depending on size and density. Loaf center should be 200 degrees when done.  A heavy whole grain loaf will take longer than a light airy white loaf.  Wetter dough cooks longer because it has more water to cook off. Checking the temperature is a foolproof way to check for doneness.

Bread should ideally cool about an hour to complete cooking inside but sometimes you just can’t wait! Big deal, go for it!

If you want big holes in your crumb, you need to increase the liquid percentage.  Some people increase it to as much as 100% but you don’t have to go that high. Going to 70% makes a big difference.  Wet dough is harder to work with. It requires some new skills that I will go into at a later date.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mediterranean Rolls

These rolls are easy. You can stir them up after lunch and have them for dinner. I used real Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. You can use any Parmesan or dry cheese you want, like Asiago.
Make sure you like the cheese you use because that's how they will taste. Makes 9 large rolls.

Mediterranean Rolls
400-450 g flour (3-3½ cups)
300 g water (1 1/3 cups)
100 g Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (one cup or 3½ oz)
7 g instant yeast (2 t)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
25g olive oil (2 T) for the top

Dissolve yeast and honey in a little of the water and let rise for 10-15 minutes.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, and finely grated cheese. Make a well and pour in the yeast and remaining water, Knead until you have a soft, uniform dough.
Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover it with cloth and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume.
Pour the risen dough onto a work surface, and cut it to 9 equal parts. Shape rolls, place them in greased 9x9 pan. Allow rolls to rise until doubled. Brush them with olive oil. If you like, you may sprinkle them with dried herbs.
Bake 20-30 minutes at 350. Brush with olive oil again. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This bread is very unusual to make. The dough is extremely wet, but that's what it takes to get the big holes of ciabatta. Seriously, it's thinner than pancake batter! The crust is thin and flexible, but not soft. It makes an absolutely fantastic sandwich. We used it for italian sausage, onion, and pepper sandwiches. Wow! The inside is soft and holey. BTW, coccodrillo means crocodile.

Adapted from "Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta" on
Timing: 4-5 hours total

500g bread flour
475g water
2 tsp. yeast
15g salt

In Kitchen Aid mixer: Mix all ingredients roughly till combined. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Now beat the crap out of the batter with the flat beater; it will start out like pancake batter but in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes it will set up and work like a very sticky dough. If it starts climbing too soon, then switch to the hook. You'll know it's done when it separates from the side of the bowl and starts to climb up your hook/paddle and just comes off the bottom of the bowl.

Ferment: Place into a well-oiled container for about 2.5 hours and let it triple. Empty on to a floured counter (scrape if you must), and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. 

Bake: Place the pieces on parchment paper. Spray with oil and dust with flour. Let them proof for about 45 minutes, while preheating the oven up to 500F. After 45 minutes or so the loaves should be puffy and wobbly.  Stretch the dough into ciabatta shape (~10" oblong rectangle). Bake on a preheated stone at 500F for about 15-20 minutes. I made a half batch and baked the two loaves separately.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread

This is the easiest bread in the world. On Sunday night I mixed it all together in a 6 quart container and left it on the counter for 3 hours so it could double. Then I stuck it in the fridge. I took a handful out on Monday night and made a pizza with it. That's another post. On Tuesday morning, I took the container out of the fridge and put it on the counter for about 3 hours to warm up and start rising. Then  I grabbed about 1 1/2 lbs of the dough out of the container and formed it into a loaf. I put it in a loaf pan and let it double and baked it. The bread is moist and soft. It holds together well for a sandwich. The dough is very sticky so use wet hands when handling it. Give it a try! I still have another loaf's worth in the fridge for tomorrow. You can make fresh bread for up to a week and the longer it ferments in the fridge, the better it tastes.
Update: I baked the second loaf today. The dough smelled a little sour but the bread was great. Before rolling it into a loaf, I sprinkled the rectangle with a good amount of cinnamon sugar. WOW!

100 Percent Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
adapted from "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day"

1 T yeast (1 pkt)
1 T salt
1/2 cup honey
5 T oil, plus more for greasing the pan
3 cups lukewarm milk
6 2⁄3 cups whole wheat flour (not packed) (I like Gold Medal and King Arthur brands)
2 T vital wheat gluten (optional but makes a lighter loaf)

Mix the yeast, salt, honey, oil, and milk in a 6-quart bowl or other container. Stir it enough to dissolve the yeast.

Mix in the flour and gluten using a large spoon and a little muscle. Make sure all the flour is wet. The dough will be very wet.

Cover loosely, and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough doubles or triples (about 2 to 3 hours).

Refrigerate and use over the next several days.

On baking day, remove the container from the refrigerator to warm it up for a couple of hours. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Using wet hands, scoop out a 1 1⁄2 pound (cantaloupe-sized) hunk of dough. Keeping your hands wet, form a loaf. There are fancy ways to do this but you can just flatten the dough into a rectangle (the length of your pan) on the counter and roll it up. Spray the counter first with oil so it doesn't stick.

Drop the loaf into the prepared pan. You’ll want enough dough to fill the pan slightly more than half-full. Spray with oil and cover.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled. This will take an hour or so, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until internal temperature is over 200. It should be nicely browned and firm.

Cool completely before slicing.

Note: If you are weighing your flour, which is a great idea by the way, whole wheat flour is about 4.75 oz/cup or 130 g/cup. If you don't weigh your flour, at least don't pack it in the cup. Loosen the flour first and then scoop it.

Roman Bakery Video

This is just about the coolest video I've ever watched. It's a sped up version of a day in a bakery in Rome. Take a look!

Roman Bakery Video

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baked Apple Pancake

 Many years ago, in Chicago, we had a baked apple pancake at a breakfast restaurant out by O'Hare Airport. It was so delicious and I haven't had one since. Today I found this recipe on and it was beautiful! And did I mention it was delicious? It was. Give it a try for a special breakfast. It easily feeds 4 people or one pig! It has lots of caramely (not a word, I know) goodness and a custard pancake with great texture. It tasted just like the one in Chicago, as far as I remember. Here's the link again ---  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

100% Whole Wheat Bread

This is 100% whole wheat sandwich bread adapted from the book "Whole Grain Breads". It's a moist loaf and very light for a 100% loaf.

The recipe calls for both a biga and a soaker. A biga is a flour and water mixture with a very small amount of yeast. The biga is made a day ahead so it can ferment and give a lot of flavor to the loaf. A soaker is mixture of flour, liquid, and salt that is made a day ahead so it can become fully hydrated. These both can be mixed by hand in a small amount of time.

One problem with whole wheat bread is dryness due to the grain not being fully hydrated when mixed. This recipe takes care of that problem.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
(makes one loaf)

1 3/4 c whole wheat flour (227 g)
1/4 t instant yeast (1 g)
3/4 c tepid water (170 g)

Mix together very well, making sure all flour is incorporated. Place in a covered container and refrigerate.

1 3/4 c whole wheat flour (227g)
1/2 t salt (4 g)
3/4 c plus 2 T buttermilk (198g)
Mix together very well, making sure all flour is incorporated. Place in a covered container and refrigerate.

7 T whole wheat flour (56g)
1/2 t salt (5g)
2 1/4 t instant yeast (7g) (same as bread machine yeast)
2 T honey (43 g)
1 T butter (14g)

On baking day, remove the biga and soaker from the refrigerator a couple of hours before you start, to take the chill off. Cut the biga and soaker into pieces and add everything else. Mix and knead until ingredients are evenly distributed. Knead for 4 or 5 minutes, adding no more extra flour than necessary. The dough should be very tacky, almost sticky. Make adjustments with extra flour or water until you achieve this consistency. Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise for about 45 to 50 minutes until it increases by about half. Form into a loaf and place in a large oiled loaf pan (about 9x5"). Sprinkle with bran, wheatgerm, or sesame seeds if desired. Let rise for 45 to 50 minutes until it increases by about half.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425. After putting the loaf in the oven, lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Cool for one hour before slicing.