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Back for a visit with rye

It's been a long time since I've participated in TFL.  It seems that baking for a living has become nearly all-consuming, and while I lurk around here looking at the wonderful breads being baked, I haven't had the time or inclination to even comment on what I see.

Back in April our bakery, located in a restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront in Washington, DC ,was flooded when the Potomac River overtopped a levee that had (for reasons no one has yet explained) been only partially raised.  The results were devastating: our restaurant and two others were destroyed.  At the time we were supplying bread for our restaurant, a sister restaurant and one of the restaurants on the waterfront that was flooded.  We were working with close to 700 lbs of dough a day when the disaster struck.

In the aftermath, our sister restaurant - Founding Farmers - was forced to purchase nearly all their breads for several months.  The exception was the production of English muffins, which a couple of us did from midnight until 6am each morning in the cramped kitchen at Founding Farmers which was simultaneously being cleaned and awash in water and suds.  It was an unpleasant couple months, but we were lucky to still have jobs, so that trumped our discomfort.

Eventually we were able to lease space at a commercial cake bakery while a new bakery is constructed for us.  Life has returned to normal - I now begin my day at 4am (bankers hours by bakers' standards), and we work in a well-equipped kitchen with  a 4 deck hearth oven and double stack of convection ovens.  Below is a rack of freshly baked ciabatta awaiting delivery to Founding Farmers.

During this time I've continued my own baking adventures at home, mainly involving pain au levain, ryes and a memorable fougasse consumed on the lawn at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts while listening to kd lang.

But lately, I've focused more on ryes, and last week I returned to a favorite of mine: a 72% rye with a rye soaker and seeds.  It's a 100% hydration dough, due to the seeds (in this case, equal weights of sesame and sunflower), which means that you pretty much pour the dough/batter into pans.  There is no shaping or bench resting with this dough.

Below is the formula I constructed.  This produces 3 x 1.5# loaves.

I mix the dough for about 10 minutes on speed 1.  What makes this dough particularly interesting,  I think, is that there is no water in the final mix: All the water is used in the levain and the rye soaker.

This dough has a short fermentation period and only slightly longer proof before it is baked.  I fermented it for 35 minutes, and then poured it into the pans, where it proofed for 55 minutes.  I docked the tops of the loaves using a fork.









 They went into a pre-steamed oven at 475 ° F oven.  After 15 minutes I reduced the temperature by 25 °, and continued to do so until the loaves had baked for 75 minutes (so the final bake temp was 375 ° ).

Loaves were cooled on wire racks, and once cooled wrapped in linen for 48 hours before I cut into them.

I'm quite happy with the result.  The crumb has a nice openness for a high percentage rye, and the combination of the seeds enhances the flavor - especially if the bread is lightly toasted.

Still being a goat cheese aficiando, I enjoy it with this tasty rye in the afternoon - often with a nice glass of rye whiskey!



Summer Fun

Larry Kilbourne

Nicoise olive and Vidalia onion fougasse

While this has not been the most pleasant summer in the Washington, D.C. region - what with record high temps - it still beckons foods that are most enjoyed during the summer season.

And for a baker, that means fougasse - a bread originated in the Provencal region of France and made to be enjoyed in picnics and outings.

This could be described as pizza without the sauce: instead of toppings, you just decide which ingredients to wrap into the dough.

In this case, I lightly cooked sweet Vidalia onions in a little olive oil until just translucent, cooled them and added nicoise olives.  In a commercial setting, a spiral mixer would mix these with already moderatedly mixed dough without a lot of trouble.  But with a kitchen stand mixer and dough hook, I've learned that only bad things happen - the olives are never incorporated into the dough but eventually get mashed up.

So, I've learned to incorporate the olives by hand: stretching the dough out into a square, adding the olives, and then turning the dough in on itself until the olives are finally distributed throughout.  It's a bit of work, but the outcome is well worth the effort!

In the case of the lightly sauteed onions, the dough hook was effective at mixing them into the dough, and after I added the olives.

This is a crust-heavy bread - and intentionally so.  It's a snack, like pizza, and the cuts, as you can see, not only create more surface crust, but also make it easy to break off bite-sized pieces.  As I said at the outset, a wonderful picnic bread... and definitely one that draws attention!


Day-off Baking

Since February I've been Head Baker at Farmers & Fishers and Founding Farmers restaurants in Washington, DC.  A great job, a daily challenge for someone with so little experience (I'm blessed with bakers who know a lot more than me!), and a fabulous opportunity to learn more about bread.

But it's left me with little time for posting on my learnings...and my bakings.  But this weekend I took a deep breath, baked at home as I love to do, and decided to share the results on this blog.

The first bread I baked was a favorite rye of mine: A 72% rye - making it what I call a cocktail rye - that includes both a rye soaker and a flax seed soaker.  The latter makes the seeds more digestable; the former simulates a 'mash' and yields a sweetness that you otherwise can't get.

As you can see, this is a very wet rye that resembles mud more than dough.  Indeed, high percentage, high hydrated ryes more resemble puddings than bread dough.  And they are baked and subsequently treated similarly.

No commercial yeast was incorporated in this: I used my rye levain and because of necessities actually retarded the shaped dough during its final proof - something that isn't normally done with high-rye percentage rye doughs.

But I'm quite happy with the results.  The loaf is amazingly moist (I keep it wrapped in aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap, so to retard molding) and amazingly sweet.  With a good goat cheese or aged Emmentaler it's heaven!


The large bubbles at the upper left hand of the loaf indicate that I'd pushed its final proof about as far as I could without overproofing it.








  The second bake was a traditional pain au levain (sourdough) taken from Jeffrey Hamelman.  It uses mixed levains - both a wheat-based sourdough and a rye-based one - and incorporates a little whole wheat flour to give it a wonderful character in terms of flavor. 

In this instance, I was forced to retard the shaped loaves for 23 hours.  This is something Hamelman counsels against because of the effect of retarding on flavor - yielding a more noticeably sour tang with the long retardation.  But I had no choice and so decided to do what I had to do.











Although the loaves had a mild tang from the long retardation, it was in no way the sharp sourness that many associate with (and either love or hate about) San Francisco style sourdough). 

I'm especially pleased with the honeycomb structure of the crumb - a good sign of a loaf that is well-risen when it's baked.  


This is a wonderful everyday sandwich bread.  And a reminder that commercially produced bread will never achieve what a home baker can, with a little patience and care. 


Riffing on Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain

Today was a much needed day off from work. I love the new job, but we're pushing out about 650# of dough per day with an average of 3.4 bakers, and as our production is increasing we're going from comfortably busy to close to overwhelmed.

Anyway, a day to sleep in and generally relax, and of course, do some baking.

I fired up my white and rye starters last night, not certain what use I would put them to.  This morning I came downstairs and decided I wanted some good multigrain sandwich bread and turned to Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain.  Of course, I had neglected to make a soaker using the seeds the previous night, but I went ahead and mixed about a cup and a half of the following: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and rolled oats, and poured about 240g of boiling water over them.  Lidded the container and let it sit for about 40 minutes.

From that point I pretty much followed Hamelman's recipe, with the exceptions that I used my rye starter to supplement my regular levain, and also in place of the cracked rye he uses as one of the five grains.  I also added a small portion of sunflower seeds and rolled oats not used in the soaker directly into the dough which was quite wet.

Bulk fermentation was 1 1/2 hours, with a fold at 45 minutes.  By that time, a very slack dough had firmed up considerably due to the thirsty seeds.

I divided the dough, preshaped, rested and made one boule and one bâtard.  Fnal proof was just a little over 1 1/2 hours. 

The breads were baked at 450 degrees F for 40 minutes.  I didn't get a whole lot of oven spring because I really pushed the proof, but as the bâtard clearly shows that the cuts opened nicely, so the dough had a bit of final push in it.

As Hamelman comments, this is a lovely table bread.  The flavors of the grains, seeds and mixed levains are pleasant and complementary, and the crumb is wonderfully light and moist.  Hamelman comments on the fact that the 98% hydration of the dough is not a misprint, but testament to the capacity of the grains and seeds to absorb moisture. 

Even so, the texture of the crumb is light and fluffy.


A perfect sandwich bread!  And tomorrow (and another day off), I'll be piling cold cuts high on it.


Spring Croissants


I've been out of the loop for sometime now, and indeed, this may be a brief 'coming up for air.'  I have a new job baking at a restaurant which provides the breads for itself, its sister restaurant, and another adjacent restaurant.  Right now we mix and bake about 600 - 800 lbs of dough per day, but that will increase as summer nears.  In addition, our restaurant group is planning on opening two new locations in the area between now and September, so our production requirements will increase substantially in the coming months.

Our major doughs are ciabatta (we'll bake 250- 300 lbs of 1 lb loaves per day, plus a couple hundred small 'ciabattinis'); pain au lait which is used for hamburger, slider and lobster rolls; English muffins; loaf breads (rye, white, multigrain), and a line of hearth breads we're just in the process of rolling out for retail sale at the restaurant.  And then there's homemade biscuits and cinnamon buns for Sunday brunch.

So I'm finding myself both overjoyed at the opportunity (we may be getting our own bakery built toward year's end) and overwhelmed by all that's happening.

Today, on my day off I practiced a bake of a new biscuit recipe.  And then decided to keep some long-neglected promises to provide croissants and pain au chocolat to my doctor's office (which has, over many years, provided 'no charge' treatment and advice on occasion) and the head chef at my local pub who provided my last 50# of KA Sir Galahad gratis.  It is a good thing to repay debts - particularly debts of kindness.

The recipe I used can be found here.  It's an adaptation of Dan DiMuzio's in his excellent textbook (as opposed to cookbook), Bread Baking. My only deviation was to up the butter content by 5% (it was convenience, not conviction).

The dough I made last night, and this morning I incorporated the butter block.  I gave the dough two series of single-folds, followed by a double-fold.  It was refrigerated for 20 minutes between the butter block incorporation, two-single folds and double (book) fold.  I then placed it in the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill well, before my final manipulation.

After 3 hours I removed the dough, which measured about 7"x 16" and cut it in two unequal parts, leaving me with one piece 7" x 10" long and one 7" x 6" approximately.  One I returned the the fridge and the other I proceeded to roll out to a rectangle about 14" high by 21" long.  After lightly flouring the surface I folded the dough top to bottom, to form a rectangle 7" x 21".  From this I cut out triangles of 4 1/2" width. 

The first batch of dough yielded 14 croissants.  The second piece I rolled out to a height of 8" and a length of 18".  I again folded it width-wise and cut in into 3 1/2" lengths, yielding 10 rectangles for the pain au chocolat.


Proofing was 3 1/2 hours, which is fairly lengthy, but my house temperature was at about 70 degrees F, so I allowed it to proceed at its own pace.  I covered the croissants and pain au chocolats with plastic wrap during final proof, but did not apply eggwash until just before placing them in the oven.

Bake was for 15 minutes: 5 min at 425F, 5 min at 400F, and 5 min at 375F.


In future bakes, I want to up the recipe amount: I think my current dough yields croissants that are a wee bit smaller than I'd like them to be.

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