Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bakers Percentage and Hydration: a lesson in bread baking

So I recently made Richard Miscovich's 75% hydrated Pain Au Levain and it got quite a bit of interest on facebook, most notably on a group called CHEF AT LARGE, which is hands down my favorite cooking group on facebook. First of all it is HUGE! And it has a lot of what I would consider ethnic dishes, but that is mainly because I am from the Western end of the world, so I find it very interesting to read and see these colorful and flavorful dishes on a daily basis.

There was much interest in regards to what hydration means in a bread, so I decided that it would be best to describe the bread baking process in a blog post so that other readers could read it as well.

I have been baking bread since 2006 and religiously since 2011, twice a week, if not more! I have baked through several books and for the most part am self taught, but I owe much thanks to my mentor Misky, for he gave me a strong dough foundation to build upon!

Generally speaking, bread is made using what is known as bakers percentages. This means that all of the ingredients are in a simple ratio to flour. There are two rules that make this system work. These rules can not be broken, otherwise your formula will not be consistent.

  1. Flour is always 100%. This could be one flour or many flours. For instance in a 75% whole grain bread, 3/4 of the flour will come from whole grain and 25% of the flour will come from white flour. In the bread which I baked most recently 25% of the flour comes from whole grain and the rest was unbleached bread flour 
  2. All other ingredients are represented in relationship to flour. Let us use water as an example. Lets say a formula calls for 1000g of flour, to keep it simple. A 75% hydrated bread will contain 750g pr water. That is to say that for every 100 units of flour you will have 100 units of water. For the purpose of explanation a typical Baguette is around 68%, Ciabbatta is 80%. So when you think about the texture of these two bread think about how much water is in them.

Follow these two rules and the rest is up to you. 

Just because the bread I baked is 75% hydrated in in the final dough, that does not mean that each part has to be in that ratio. For instance, the preferment (the mother dough, which ferments overnight prior to the mix) is in a 1:1 ratio of flour to water. (Note: the preferment develops flavor, helps release B vitamins and increases shelf life.) The hydration in this step will greatly impact the final taste of the bread. A poolish is a pre-ferment which contains equal parts flour and water, it is loose in nature and will be open once fermented. This preferment will provide a nutty and earthy taste. Another preferment is called a Biga, which is Italian, contains less water, and thus has less buffering capacity, which is provided by the Hydrogen atoms in the water, and is more sour and lends itself to more savory breads. Ciabatta are typically made with Biga's and Baguettes are typically made with Poolishes. 

There are also Levain builds which are made with a sourdough starter which is created by allowing flour to sit with water at room temperature in a closed environment, this allows the mass to acquire yeast from the air, thus creating its own micro-organism community which has been used to rise bread for thousands of years. I personally have two starters; a whole wheat liquid levain (100% hydrated) and a Rye levain which is also 100% hydrated. The rye levain give a more acidic kick, the wheat levain gives a more subtle nutty flavor, but still nice acidity.
So a sourdough takes about a week to create and it requires the baker to constantly remove some of the mass and replace it with flour and water. Once it is ripe it will have a fruity smell and almost burn the nose. It will be bubbly, aromatic and loose (assuming 100% hydration is used). Sourdoughs can also be made to be more dense. 

There were also a few questions in regards to the Dutch Oven Technique, which I have finally corrected to enhance the crust formation on my breads. Thy hearth baked has the advantage of an oven that can get very hot and can maintain its heat for a long time because of its increased thermal mass (the large hearth) the home baker does not have this tool in his back pocket. So a dutch oven can be used, with its thick and heavy cast iron (or ceramic) material it can stay hot and its tight fitting and heavy lid trap in steam which is one of the few things needed to create a crisp crust (along with high heat). By placing the bread in a hot combo cooker, slashing it and then covering it and baking at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then removing the lid for the rest of the bake (25-30 minutes) and deep ruddy crisp crust is formed.

There are so many more things to add but I will start with this. 

Please keep asking questions! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

75% Whole Wheat 80% Hydrated with Photos

As promised, here is the 80% hydrated 75% whole wheat levain that I made last week. This time I was able to get some good photos. Hands down, this is my favorite bread right now! I made an 83% hydrated with 75% whole wheat this week, but I am afraid I have to fit in one or two more folds. I had a hard time getting it off the couch and into the combo cooker.

The 80% hydrated loaf has a moist and tender crumb with a nice chew. The crust is dark and crisp and the flavor is right on the money. It's not too heavy and has a good sour flavor! I think that I hit the jackpot with this formula! I think that I am in love with it so much that I will share it with all of you. Before I share it though, I would like to give a trial run on an 81% hydrated and possibly a 79% hydrated to make sure that I have this dough exactly where I want it before I go public with it. It really is amazing what a very small change in hydration can do to a loaf. When you increase the bread by 3% water, you get a completely different loaf, with a different texture and a totally different flavor. 

I have to send a shout out to Anita, my good pharmacy friend at work. She has been talking up my bread in the pharmacy and has gotten me two more bread buyers! I love making bread friends, it's the best!

Bake on!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

80% Hydarted 75% Whole Wheat Levain

I was just talking to a new friend of mine today, and we were discussing how we each became the people we are today, and my honest answer was BREAD! Bread has taught me so much about how to live life and how to be a better person, more patient, more understand, more strong, more stead fast etc.....anyways, just a thought I wanted to share.

Update on my studies: This week I have covered chronic and acute liver failure, chronic and acute pancreatitis and most recently kidney failure. Now onto more interesting and important things; BREAD!

(Pictures to come in my next post as I loved this bread so much that I am baking it once again.)

I have been slowly increasing the amount of whole grain flour in my sourdough breads over the past weeks, and now I have taken the plunge, 75% whole grain. I have made 100% whole grain breads in the past, but they have never been light and open. This one is, a happy invention, no doubt!

Once again I have used the 75% hydrated levain as a base but made a couple of significant changes. I increased the hydration percentage to 80% but rather than adding the water to the autolyse I decided to put it into the sourdough build. I recently have been working with a levain seed which is 150% hydrated rather than my usual 100% hydrated. Since I feed my seed with whole grain flour, I thought it would be advantageous to increase the hydration, to allow for the seed to be more open. The truth is the levain is not more airy, but rather smoother in texture and more full flavored. I am really liking this change. 

I have to be honest with you this bread was perfect till just about the last moment. After the autolyse stage, the salt was added, and to be honest barely any kneading was necessary. Maybe 90 seconds by hand. the dough was soft and smooth, highly extensible and so easy to work with. I was able to complete four picture perfect folds. The dough was pre-shaped and shaped into a tight boule and then proofed beautifully in a lined brotform. I was even able to transfer the dough in to my screaming hot 5Qt combo cooker without any problems. Thirty minutes later I took it out of the pan and placed it directly on the hearth to finish for five minutes. I set the timer and it went off....but I was in the middle of helping Kelly with something. And I said to myself, Ill grab the bread in thirty seconds. Five minutes later I realized the error in my ways. And I went running and screaming into the kitchen "OH CRAP". The bread was a bit dar, but my main concern was that the crust felt very crisp and over baked, but after a 30 minute rest I revisited the loaf and to my surprise it felt great. It gave the right amount of give. 

This is a loaf that packs a wonderful sour punch, great whole wheat flavor but that still offers a tender moist crumb along with a nicely developed crust. There really is something very satisfying about creating your own formulas. To be honest this bread might replace my 50% whole grain, 75% hydrated loaf as my staple base formula. I think I am going to continue to push the hydration limits to see how far I can go. I really do like the effect of making a higher hydration build. But be careful the more water that is in it, the faster it will grow, more surface area for the yeast to jive in!!

Another successful weekend bake! 

Keep posted for more Hearthbakedtunes Creations!

-DW, The Rye King

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

75% Whole Wheat Levain with Pecans and Walnuts

I know I have not included a Dead show in a long time, but here is the concert I listened to while creating this wonderful sourdough bread. In fact I was in the kitchen for about five hours, lots to do, much fun was had.

A note about my studies: Over the past months I have been studying hard for my critical care nutrition certification exam. Over the past week I have moved on from the general nutrition support subjects to the more specific disease states. This past week I covered Trauma and Burns, Heart Failure and Pulmonary Disease and Chylothoax and Chylous Ascites. More updates to come. 

This bread is yet another adjustment to Richard Miscovich's Pain au Levain 75% hydrated. I have been slowly pushing the whole grain limits for this bread. I have brought this bread from its original 25% whole grain to 50%, with excellent results. Still open crumb. Last week I brought this bread up to 66% whole wheat flour and today 75%. I can not yet see the crumb but the crust looks great! As a registered dietitian and chef I am always looking to increase the health of my recipes and formulas with out sacrificing their flavor/textural integrity. Playing with Miscovich's classic loaf has been good fun over the past months. This bread contains 15% pecans and 5% walnuts by weight, which were both pan toasted till aromatic. The the bread was autolysed with the sourdough included for 30 minutes. hand kneaded for five minutes and includes a 2 hour ferment with four folds . 

This is the second time that I used by new Lodge 5qt Combo and the first time that I used it without branding my forearm. 

I wanted to also let everyone know that I am working on revising a e-cook book with my dear friend and talented chef Yair Zuk. The book should be available for sale soon. I strongly recommend that everyone gets there hands/eyes on it! Great recipes and he has truly written the hitchhikers guide to Umami, I have learned quite a bit from the book, and am using what I have learned in my own cooking with great results!

Bake On

-DW, The Rye King

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Toasted Pecans

I have a weakness for pecan bread. It calls me to the kitchen when one is around. I developed my first bread recipe using a whole wheat flour fed poolish with toasted pecans; and this bread follows that general idea. Once again, the base for this bread comes from Miscovich's new book From The Wood Fired Oven, with some minor changes. In order to make this 75% hydrated Pain Au Levain 50% whole wheat, I replaced the bread flour in the sourdough build with white whole wheat flour. You get less lift in the build, but you get a bit more sourness in the final bake and you get some extra fiber, which is always good wholesome fun. 

The preparation of this bread is very simple. The build is mixed 8-10 hours before the bake. I used colder water since I knew that I had a long work day ahead of me. I also used my white whole wheat starter, Jack Straw, which I have not fed in at least a month. He performed brilliantly. These microorganism colonies are so powerful that you can feed them whenever you can. I have never had trouble with one going kaput! 

As always, I toasted the nuts for this bread because it brings out their oils and their natural nuttiness. I like to toast my nuts just under the point of burning. I feel that you get much more bang for your buck that way. The nuts in this recipe make up 20% of flour weight, and they really do go a long way. 

In my humble opinion, the best ways to eat this bread is either toasted, with nothing on it, or cold with some sweet, unsalted butter. It also makes an awesome grilled cheese sandwich, but cold with butter is my personal favorite. 

I'll be baking some more sourdough breads in the coming week, but I'm not yet sure what they will be. I am having so much fun with these 75% hydrated loaves and kneading by hand. To be continued.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Favorite Wet Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This is a formula from Richard Miscovich's new book which I have adapted by using whole wheat flour to make a crispy pizza curst that is both light and full of fiber. This dough combines the one-two punch of a poolish, coupled with a long fermentation time. I even baked this bread into a pretty solid looking and tasting batard. 

As is typical, the poolish is 100% hydrated and contains 25% of the bread's total flour. I prepared the poolish with white flour, because I find that when whole wheat is used in a dough like this, the lightness is a bit more difficult to achieve. I would much prefer using the whole wheat in the final dough rather than in the preferment. This is just a personal preference. 

The dough is autolysed for 40 minutes prior to kneading, and all of the ingredients are included except for the salt. The shaggy dough is then turned out into a large metal bowl and is kneaded in a folding style until the dough is smooth and elastic. This took about 5-6 minutes. Since this bread has a very long proofing time and many folds, a long mix is not necessary. The dough is then allowed to ferment for 3.5 hours with folds every 45 minutes. Because I wanted to bake a loaf out of this dough, I took about 1/3 of the dough and allowed it to undergo three folds before I pre-shaped it and then shaped it into a tight batard. I actually over-shaped this bread. Unfortunately, it absorbed too much flour during the shaping and also lost quite a bit of carbon dioxide. None-the-less, a pretty darn good bread was born. In my mind, this is the perfect pizza dough! It's full of flavor and made the most wonderful crust that has ever come out of my oven. Putting this baby on a piping hot stone will give you the best results! I really enjoy 73% hydrated for a half whole wheat Pizza dough! 

I am now experimenting with 55% whole grain and increasing it slowly to see how far I can push this dough! 

Stay tuned for my next bread. 75% whole grain levain with oats and molasses 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pain au Levain with Increased Whole Wheat; 81% Hydrated

This is another exciting Pain au Levain this one is also prepared with Jack Straw, my whole white wheat 100% hydrated sourdough starter. This bread also features a retarded proof meaning, that after bulk fermentation it was allowed to proof in the cooler, this one went for 18 hours. It went into the oven super relaxed. Actually it spread out so much partially due to the high hydration that I had the guide the loaf into a less wide and taller profile. I will show a picture of the bottom of the loaf to show you what I mean. I also shaped this loaf with Robertson approach of shaping a high hydration bread, since this loaf was 81% hydrated. 

This sourdough for this bread is hydrated at 125% and thus is only given 7-8 hours to build at room temperature. I actually increased the hydration to speed up the fermentation. I chose to retard this bread since I had some serious time restraints. I made another bread very big loaf, this one for a Saint Patricks Day Hoolie, thrown by the new friends John and Betty, two wonderful people who are in their prime of life. John is an Irish Soda Baker and I am excited to be sharing this large loaf with him. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term Hoolie, as I was. It is an Irish get together, party in a small place; usually a residence. So I made this loaf on the big side again for everybody, and once again it barely fit inside my 3 Qt combo cooker. I baked this bread at 500 degrees mainly because I forgot to turn the oven down after preheating the cooker. It baked for about 60-70 minutes. About 45 minutes I realized I did not turn the oven down, so it finished at 425 for the last 20-25 minutes of the bake. Oddly the bread did not split open as my previous one did, but according to Doug Rae, a local baker in Maryland, this is because the dough was so nice and relaxed. I'll take that over the bread over-proofing. After about an hour the top of the combo cooker is removed and the bread is finished on the bread stone. This is a Mickey Mouse sort of thing, you can easily just keep it in the bottom of the combo cooker too, I am just a funny baker that way. 

So two hours after the levain, the autolyse is started. All of the flour and water are combined and allowed to mingle for about five hours. When the autolyse is complete the levain is added and the salt, and then the dough is kneaded by hand for about ten minutes. This dough is a hot mess at first, but give it three minutes of kneading and it really starts to come together. I think it would help the kneading process if the hydration of the starter was lower and the water in the autolyse was higher, this is due to the absorption of the whole wheat flour. Once the dough is kneaded it is gathered into a sort of ball and allowed to bulk ferment for three hours with 6 folds at 25 minute intervals. Since the dough is not divided a pre-shape is basically not necessary. Once again I shaped these loaves with the chad robertson method . YOu basically just keep folding the loaf into the 'seam' and then you pinch it to hold it together. It actually worked really well. Its a cool method for shaping a wet and tacky dough. The loaves were then retarded in my innovative cooled proofer for 18 hours. Then it is warmed at room temp for 45 minutes, which was most likely futile; and then baked as described above. 

The bread had good oven lift, and great coloration, just a bit weird that no splits developed, but I can not complain it allowed for a pretty cool clover stencil!

Have a great St Patricks Day from your Jewish baker at Hearth Baked Tunes

Bake on,

-DW, The Rye King 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Molasses Eight Grain Levain

This bread is another healthy whole grain invention. 75% of the flour comes from whole grains, not to mention a significant sized soaker. Needless to say this is a case study in fiber. 

I decided to try feeding my sourdough build with freshly ground whole oat groats. I also spontaneously decided to use Liza Mae, my rye starter in order to add one more grain to the mix in this multi-grain bread. Typically, in a bread like this, I would use honey, but I went with molasses which gave the soaker a wonderful deep brown color. The soaker contained, Cracked Spelt, cracked oats, sunflower seeds, cracked white wheat, millet and cracked kamut. Since this bread is made without yeast, it is given a relatively long fermentation time. Three hours on the bench with two solid folds, and then two hours in proofing baskets, seam side up. This long fermentation greatly helps flavor production and this bread's flavor will change as it rests. It will be a little on the sweeter side from the molasses, but still on the earthy and wholesome side. I also used some whole spelt in the dough. I substituted 50% of the whole wheat flour with freshly ground spelt flour, which has such a delightfully brown, earthy color. The one thing this bread will benefit from is raisins which is just enough to give it a chewy bit of sweetness. 

This bread then baked in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. The loaf that I had the most success with was the one baked in the combo cooker covered for 35 minutes and uncovered for 10 minutes. The other loaves did not achieve the same deep color. I later realized that I forgot to steam the whole oven after setting up the loaf in the combo cooker. It was late and I was ready for bed. Oh well!

I also totally forgot to get some pictures. Hopefully, one of my buyers will take a photo or two for me!! 

I am loving this combo cooker thing! It is great! I can not wait to get another one, and a dutch oven and ......... This whole bread hobby thing is really taking up quite a bit of space in my place! 

-DW, The Rye King

Friday, March 14, 2014

75% Hydrated Pain au Levain, with Rye Flour

A 3.2 lb; 1.5 Kg Rye Levain Monster
This is a funny little (poetic justice used) bread that I came up with on the fly. I wanted to make another 75% hydrated pain au levain, but I wanted some Rye in it. This bread is 50% whole grain with 25% of total flour coming from white whole wheat flour and 25% of total flour coming from whole rye flour. 

The starter for this loaf was fed with bread flour, and I used Jack Straw, my white whole wheat starter, which provides a nice medium sourness. It adds a little more "tang" than bread flour but a bit less so than my previous red wheat starter. I placed the starter on my water heater for about 7 hours and then I let it sit at room temperature (55 degrees) for another 2 hours. 

Some elegant but strong brotform lines

The autolyse for this bread is quite simple. It contains all of the wheat flour and rye flour and bread flour and water. The levain build and salt are added thirty minutes later. Generally speaking, the mix was very easy and uncomplicated. I mixed for three minutes on first speed and then three minutes on second speed. It did get a little complicated when my Kitchen-Aid mixer decided to bite the dust, fly the coop, crapped-out. (you get the picture). Hearthbakedtunes bids a fond farewell to our 6 quart friend. My Kitchen Aid has been an important part of my life, but life goes on.  So for now, I am beginning a new "movement": hand kneaded bread. This requires some strength and a lot of force, but I am excited about it. Now that my Kitchen-Aid is out of the commission, the biggest challenge is that i can no longer mill.  So now I am thinking that I will be getting a mill and making my breads by hand. It will be fun and it will get me closer to the process, which is great! Plus, both Forkish's and Robertson's books require mixing and kneading breads by hand. Bring on the challenge. 

I gave this bread four solid folds. If rye had not been included, only three would have been kneaded. Since I did the kneading by hand, I decided that an additional fold was warranted.

I did one other unusual thing with this bread. Instead of baking two loaves, I decided to bake only one. It was a risk worth taking. After baking, I had myself a rye monster, that weighed in at 3.2 lbs. WOW! 

Dabbling with my coined term 'the unscore' letting it burst where it must

I was very pleased with how the combo cooker performed! It really makes a nice bread! And such great brotform rings! 

Another winning hearthbakedtunes formula! It will definitely go in my book down the road.

Bake On!
-DW, The Rye King

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Power of the Pumpernickel

Baking this bread was an absolutely spiritual expereince! I love making this bread as I feel its the link of science, art and history!!

If you want to learn about the mystery of the universe, and then be able to eat it, then this is the right bread for you! Years and years of German bread tradition are wrapped up into this pullman pan and baked in a receding oven for 12-16 hours. I have only done this bread two times before, and I have had very pleasing results. But this is the first time that I have had confidence in my dough. The last two times I baked this bread, I did not have an appropriate heavy bread for the bread soaker. But this time I had a 68% whole rye with fennel which I baked last week. I toasted it up in the oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees to suck all of the water out of it and to caramelize all of the natural sugars in the dough and used that in the bread soaker. 

The bread soaker is only one component in the preparation of this bread, I will describe them in order here.

Two nights before you plan on baking this bread, a Rye berry soaker is made. About a cup of rye berries are soaked in warm water overnight. This softens the berries and allows them to swell to about 125% of their original size. This makes the boiling process go faster and also allows the berries to absorb more water during their cooking period. You can place the berries in a hotel pan and bake them in the oven. Since I was not using the oven at the time, I opted to cook them on the stove. I brought the water and berries to a boil, then reduced the stove to a simmer: then covered them and let them cook away for 60-80 minutes. 

The next step is the Rye sourdough build. I have to admit that Liza Mae, my starter was sluggish. She has not been fed in over a month and I should have either used my whole wheat levain, Jack Straw, or should have waited until tomorrow to make this bread. However, I was excited and eager to go, so I used Liza Mae. I was a bit disappointed because the sourdough build did not rise considerably over night. 

At 3:30 in the morning I woke up to start the soaker. I boiled water in my electric kettle and poured it over the severely toasted bread. I also checked on the sourdough build in the boiler room and saw that it was not moving. I turned the oven on 170 degrees for five minutes, shut the oven off and placed the build in the oven and went back to bed. 

At 7:30 AM the preparation and scaling process began. The first thing that had to be done was to completely drain the bread soaker. Important: Do NOT discard the water. I squeezed the bread and removed as much water as I could and placed the bread little by the little into the bottom of the mixing bowl. When you do this, you will notice that the water takes on a light brown color. This is normal. This is from simple diffusion that takes place as the water passes through a permeable membrane (the bread). The water is rich in flavor and if necessary (as it was for me), it is added little by little during the mixing phase. Next the rye chops, bread flour, salt, yeast and black strap mollasses are added to the mixing bowl.

At 7:45 I began the long, slow mix!  The bread is first mixed on first speed for ten minutes. It is necessary to scrape the bowl down as you go. I did this about 5 or six times. Turn the mixer off and really reform the dough into a ball. If the dough is dry add a little of the reserved soaker water. Be sure to add it slowly. I think I added about 1/3 of a cup of water total. The amount of water that you add will largely depend on your cooked berries, the kind of bread that you soaked, and the temperature of the water that you used in your soaker. As aforementioned, I used very hot water in mine. 

This dough then bulk ferments for 20-30 minutes. A pullman pan is oiled well and then floured. Be sure to also oil and flour the lid of your pan. This is done in the same way that one would oil a bundt pan for making a cake. The oil is sprayed on the pan and then a large amount of flour in poured into the pan and the pan is shaken and turned every which way to ensure that there is a coating of flour on the entire pan. This will keep the bread from sticking and will also insulate the bread during the long bake. The bread is then shaped in to a log, about the length of the pan. I literally put the bread next to the pan and shape until it is about 2 cm shorter than the pan. I then quickly and carefully placed the log into the pan; covered it; and then let it rise on top of the oven for about an hour.

Then the baking process begins. I started the baking process in my apartment at 10:06 am. I want to note that increasing your oven's thermal mass will help you to maintain strong heat retention, so I placed a full pizza stone, a 3 quart combo cooker, a 14" cast iron skillet, and half of a bread stone in my oven. I used half of the bread stone because once the bread has been on the stone for an hour I remove the stone and place it on top of the pizza stone, this way the bottom of the bread does not get too thick and carbonized. 

Here is the Breads time line:

350 degrees for 1 hour
275 degrees for 4 hours
250 degrees for 1 hour
225 degrees for 45 minutes
200 degrees for 1 hour
170 degrees for 45 minutes
Oven off for two hours
170 degrees for 10 minutes
Finally, oven off until 12-13 hours from when the bread first went into the oven.

This will closely mimic a receding bread oven and will give you great results! 
Finally, remember to increase the thermal mass in your oven for best results. 

And the moment of truth!!

Bake on!

-DW, The Rye King and proud of it!!!