I know that spring has arrived in Europe but here, my gosh, March came in roaring like a lion (to paraphrase Mayor Bloomberg of New York City). It snowed huge clouds of white fluff, the wind is howling in the creaking trees and tonight will be bitterly cold.
So our little primroses remain inside on the window sills from which they like to contemplate the frost. For us, who don’t like it as much (although it is pretty, I must admit), I whipped up my magic wand (my 4-year old granddaughter was watching Cinderalla at the time and I felt I had to do something to impress her) and made rustic mini-loaves or honeycakes. Their fragrance filled up the house with dreams of other times, other seasons, other places…
The little ones loved them. Sophia (the 4-year old) even put big pieces in her cereal bowl and said they were delicious with milk. I tried and she’s right. It’s an awesome combination. The grown-ups like them too, especially the Man who, being born in Belgium, is a big fan of pain d’épice in all its guises. And what are these little loaves if not the rustic cousins of the French and Belgian honeycakes we grew up with? They are very comforting with a hot cup of tea.
- 140 g dark rye flour
- 120 g all-purpose unbleached flour
- 20 g of white whole wheat flour (if you don’t have any, don’t replace it by regular whole wheat flour. In combination with the rye, the taste would be too strong. Just add another 20g of the all-purpose flour)
- 2 tbsp roasted almond butter
- 200 g honey
- 100 g liquid starter (100% hydration)
- 100 g almond milk
- 5 g ground anise seeds
- 2 g each ground pepper, ginger, clove and cinnamon
- 3 g salt
- Heat up the milk and melt the honey in it
- Turn on the oven ( 350 F/177 C)
- Add the almond butter to the milk and honey and mix well
- Mix the flours, the salt and the spices in a big bowl
- Add the starter
- Add the milk-almond butter and honey mixture. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated
- Spoon the batter into tiny pans (I used a mini-loaf pan sheet which I bought in France but I could have used mini-muffins pans). Mine do not need to be greased but muffin pans sometimes do. So check before spooning the batter
- Bake for 30 or 35 minutes. Turn off the oven. Take the loaves out of the pans and put them back in the oven for 5 minutes in case the sides are still a bit pale
- Cool down a bit on a cooling rack before devouring them with a nice spoonful of fragrant honey
Just as we thought we now knew more than we ever would need or want to know about no-knead bread and painless artisan bread, here comes a new book with a new method and plenty of well-researched recipes and, listen to this, it rocks!
Serious amateur bakers who love to mix their dough just on this side of enough, make sure it comes out at the right temperature (usually somewhere around 75 F/24 C), like to give it some strength (but not too much) by folding it once or twice while it is rising, treat it like bone china and are rewarded by crusty crusts and holey crumb will be horrified to learn that pouring ice water onto the flour and mixing it until just incorporated, adding flour so that the dough becomes very stiff, then sticking it in the fridge for up to 10 hours, then letting it rise at cool room temperature for 18 to 24 hours, then adding yet more flour not only works, but works great!
It is easy to see that the author spent years baking the traditional way before going on to experiment with this method. She is clearly on solid grounds when talking about bread “science”.
Her goal is to make it possible for everybody to bake good bread at home using a simplified Reinhard/Gosselin method (for more info on this method, please refer to The Breadbaker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhard).
Bagget minimizes the number of steps and opportunities for mistakes and explains how to adapt traditional recipes to her method. Generally speaking, she goes a long way towards simplifying artisan baking at home.
Her book contains many different recipes, covering a wide variety of grains and other ingredients.
I can’t vouch for her baking method which I didn’t follow as I don’t like the idea of doing the second rise directly in an ovenproof pot or casserole. I like to use baskets or to just shape the loaves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and then, transfer them to a Dutch oven just before baking.
Also, the San Francisco style sourdough bread recipe is the only one in the book that uses sourdough. Since I prefer baking with natural starter to baking with commercial yeast (I like the crust better and the shelf life is much longer), I converted to sourdough most of the recipes I tried. They still work, which says a lot for the soundness of the method, however out of the beaten paths it may sound.
It was fun to try the recipes and find out time after time that the bread came out just as I wanted it. The only part I take exception with is that the process is rather long. This is not a spur-of-the-moment let’s make bread for dinner tonight kind of book. The actual worktime is quite short but you need to plan ahead a little bit. On the other hand, if it were at all quicker, this no-knead method would probably produce mediocre breads, so it is a trade-off.
I like the fact that, in most cases, there is only one bowl, sometimes two, to clean but I regret that the ingredients are mostly measured in volume (although ounces are indicated for the flours). I hope that in another edition (or a follow-up book), grams will be given as well.
For people who watch their sugar intake, some of the breads may contain too much sweeteners such as honey or molasses. In my experience, it is possible to considerably reduce that amount or to skip the sweetener altogether.
The photos are stamped Bombance instead of Farine because I first published them here on my French-speaking blog. For a 2-kg miche, Frank puts in a big bowl:
900 g unbleached bread flour
628 g water @ 78 degrees F (26 C) for a 75% dough hydration rate (levain water included in the calculation)
449 g levain @100 % hydration
22 g salt
1 g instant yeast (he adds some in class to make sure the loaf will be ready to go into the oven as scheduled but at home there is no need to use any)
First he takes the water temperature. Since hand-mixing doesn’t heat up the dough as much as a mixer and since the temperature in the lab is 66 F/20 C, he decides that the water temperature needs to be 78 F /25.6 C for a desired dough temperature of 73 to 76 F (22 to 25 C). The levain is at room temperature.
When mixing dough at home, it is much less important to calculate the desired dough temperature exactly than in a bakery where fermentation times must be respected and loaves must look as much alike as possible from one day to the other.
Frank weighs the water then adds the levain to it.
He mixes the flour into the water-levain mixture…
…until a dough starts to take shape.
When a rough dough is obtained, he places it on the table…
…and starts hydrating it, a very important step which, in this method, takes the place of the autolyse.
He does that 3 or 4 times.
The dough remains very sticky and wet but it relaxes progressively and we can see the gluten chains become more extensible and elastic.
First fold :
The dough has become more stretchable. Frank folds it upon itself like an envelope, north to south, then east to west, then south to north, then west to east, then he sets it back in the bowl.
The first fermentaion is over. The dough will be put into a big basket heavily sprinkled with a mixture of bran, bread flour and rice flour. The mixing lesson is over.
For the yeast and the enzymes to be happy and fermentation to take place properly, it is important that the dough be neither too warm nor too cold when it comes out of the mixer. A range of 74 to 77 F is considered optimal for most doughs (although rye doughs benefit from slightly warmer temperatures). The only way a baker has at his/her disposal to get the dough temperature he/she desires (desired dough temperature or DDT) is to use the proper water temperature.
How to calculate the water temperature?
Here is what I learned at the San Francisco Baking Institute during the Artisan I workshop I attended in 2009 (and I am quoting from the reference material we were given):
- If the dough is too hot, the yeast will move too fast and fermentation tolerance will be reached before the proper balance of strength and flavor has been reached;
- If the dough is too cold, the yeast will be very sluggish and fermentation will take a very long time.
Factors contributing to the final temperature of the dough:
- Room temperature
- Flour temperature
- Water temperature
- Friction factor (amount of heat created by the action of the mixer)
- Temperature of pre-ferment if using
The only temperature the baker can control is the water temperature (for more info on how to determine the friction factor, click here).
DDT = 75 F
Flour temperature = 65 F
Room temperature = 65 F
Friction Factor = 8 F
Base temperature = DDT x 3 (since we have only three factors to consider)
75F x 3 = 225 F
The known temperatures and the friction factor are substracted from the base temperature to find out what the water temperature should be.
Base Temperature 225 F
Room Temperature minus 65 F
Flour Temperature minus 65 F
Friction Factor minus 8 F
Water temperature = 87 F
225 – (65+65+8) = 87
If all of the temperatures are accurate and the friction factor has been determined properly, using 87 F water will yield dough with a final temperature of 75 F.
If using a preferment, that preferment must be considered as a fourth factor, i.e. the base temperature is DDT x 4 and the temperature of the preferment needs to be substracted from it to get the proper water temperature.