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Kerry Beal

Baking from "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza"

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Looks like a fair number of us have been wooed by Ken Forkish's wonderful new book! The bread thread is full of his loaves lately.

I thought the book needed a thread of it's own so we could discuss some of the finer points of the various recipes - work arounds we have come up with - and just to generally praise (and of course critique) the tome.

I haven't had a failed loaf from the book so far - but I do find myself trying to make some adjustments to suit my schedule and have had great success with that so far.

The levain takes 5 days to make - I was fortunate as Anna N made it and I just inherited 300 grams that I have been keeping alive since.

I've discovered that feeding 50 grams of levain with half as much flour and water as called for gives me enough to work with on any given day and it doesn't seem to suffer. And it appeals to my thriftiness as I don't like throwing out large quantities each day.

Today I'm working on 2 loaves of pain de campagne - a request from one of the nurses who got all misty eyed when she tasted the loaf I brought last week. She said it tasted just like the bread she likes at home in Europe. High praise indeed I thought.

I fiddled this recipe a bit - again to fit my schedule. I mixed the ferment last night, gave it 4 turns over about 90 minutes then popped it into the fridge until this morning. I let it warm for an hour or so - shaped my loaves then let them sit until they responded to poking as they should. Took about 3 hours. They are baking now - and look just like they should.

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Since this book has a thread of its own, I will share some comments on the two that I have made

Saturday White Bread. I loved the bread - however, I felt that the dough was quite stiff and a tad difficult to mix properly. It was so stiff, I wondered if I had measured something wrong, but I had been fairly careful, (not my usual bread baking slap dash routine.) Next time I make it I think I would increase the hydration on it just a bit.

The overnight whole wheat with polish that I made was less stiff and nicer to work with. One loaf froze beautifully and I refreshed the bread in a hot oven when I took it out of the freezer. The crust came out nice and crispy. The bread has a lovely nutty whole wheat flavour and texture. I did not have wheat germ or wheat bran in the house so substituted 70 gr oat bran. I also found it to be a good keeper - over a few days.

So far I am really enjoying this book, as it has enabled me to bake professional looking and tasting loaves at a fraction of the price of store bought artisan bread.


Edited by forever_young_ca (log)

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The levain is at room temperature - if you store some in the fridge you rejuvenate it over two days before use.

The boules get so round by using his technique for shaping - there is a video on his website that shows how it's done.

Video

I have one basket like that in the house that I made by sewing a linen lining into a basket - I have a few more in the closet up north. The second loaf I made this am I used a cotton towel, well floured, in the top of one of those plastic containers that BBQ chicken comes in. Just the right shape for my oval CI pan.

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thanks for the vid.

should you ( or anyone else ) get the time to take a few pics of the various transfers from bowl to pan etc Id very much appreciate them

they will no doubt inspire me.

do you slash the tops or are the patterns ive been seeing naturally occurring ?

many thanks again.

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I've been following Anna N's suggestion (based on Ken Forkish's suggestion) of using a parchment sling to transfer the dough into the CI pan.

The craggy tops are due to the dough going seam side down in the basket and then being seam side up in the dutch oven.

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Second attempt at the Overnight Blonde (pure levain with minute amounts of both rye and whole wheat flour) and if anything it is even more of a failure. After its bulk fermentation it looked far less puffy and active than I think it should have. In addition this one stuck to my proofing basket as the dough is much stickier than the others I have worked with from this book. The end result is flat, heavy and doughy.

It just occurred to me that this is the first bread I have attempted that is both pure levain AND made with a levain that was resurrected from a small amount that had been stored in the fridge. Kerry had success even under these circumstances but I think I will build up the levain with daily feedings before making another attempt.

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The interesting thing is just how rye tasting the Overnight blonde is - even with the tiny amount of rye flour.

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Saturday White Bread. I loved the bread - however, I felt that the dough was quite stiff and a tad difficult to mix properly. It was so stiff, I wondered if I had measured something wrong, but I had been fairly careful, (not my usual bread baking slap dash routine.) Next time I make it I think I would increase the hydration on it just a bit.

This is exactly what happened when I mixed the Saturday white for the first time! I thought I'd measured wrong, because it was so stiff. What worked for me was to increase the hydration to 80%, so I used 800g filtered water to 1000g flour.

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I haven't used the parchment sling, but have very carefully transferred it from the proofing bowl to the how baking pan - so far no burns

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I've discovered that feeding 50 grams of levain with half as much flour and water as called for gives me enough to work with on any given day and it doesn't seem to suffer. And it appeals to my thriftiness as I don't like throwing out large quantities each day.

I've had the book for a month or two now, but haven't been able to do any bread baking yet, other than that Cuisinart loaf I did a few weeks ago.

Your method of feeding the levain is how I've always dealt with my starter, which is always refrigerated until the days leading up to when I'm finally going to use it...I pour everything out and feed with maybe 50 grams each of flour and water to get it activated, then I grow enough to use in the actual bread baking. Even if I haven't used the starter for months, it always comes back to life this way.

As for stuff sticking to the proofing basket (a problem I've always had), have you tried dusting with rice flour?

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Saturday White Bread. I loved the bread - however, I felt that the dough was quite stiff and a tad difficult to mix properly. It was so stiff, I wondered if I had measured something wrong, but I had been fairly careful, (not my usual bread baking slap dash routine.) Next time I make it I think I would increase the hydration on it just a bit.

This is exactly what happened when I mixed the Saturday white for the first time! I thought I'd measured wrong, because it was so stiff. What worked for me was to increase the hydration to 80%, so I used 800g filtered water to 1000g flour.

I"ve made it a couple of times now and I increase the water to 82%. I'm sure that you didn't measure wrong, probably related to the flour that you are using.

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I am using Robin Hood all purpose flour. That is what I used for the Harvest Bread with polish as well, which ended up to be a much slacker dough.

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I am using Robin Hood all purpose flour. That is what I used for the Harvest Bread with polish as well, which ended up to be a much slacker dough.

Forever_young_ca, The recipe calls for 1000g of flour ( 7 3/4 cups of flour,) approximately 129g per cup. But the flour that I use measures six cups for 1000 g. (160 to 165g per cup).

~Ann

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Hi Ann_T

I measured the flour by weight - 1000 g - not by cups so my measurements should have been OK. Next time I make the Saturday White Bread I will increase the water to 82%. as you suggested.

BTW - perhaps a dumb question - I know that different flours have different gluten content.. Do different flours absorb water in different ways?

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BTW - perhaps a dumb question - I know that different flours have different gluten content.. Do different flours absorb water in different ways?

In my experience, different flours absorb different quantities of water. There is a significant difference between types of flour. Bread absorbs more than AP, which in turn absorbs more than pastry. Bleaching also affects how much water the flour absorbs, because it denatures the particles even more. How much humidity is in the air on the day you are mixing, or usually in the environment where the flour is stored, can also affect how much water the flour absorbs.

There is hardly any difference between commercial brands of the same type, but recently I have started experimenting with traditionally milled flour, and my go-to sandwich bread formula works different. I had previously fine-tuned the recipe to precise, to-the-gram measurements of all ingredients, and today when I mixed it, using the new flour, the dough was very loose. Perhaps the extra water and butter I had added to the original recipe is not necessary, so if I stick with the traditional flour I will have to re-tweak. :)

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That has been my experience too. I have often had to add additional water to new recipes that I have tried. Including the Saturday White Bread.

Forever_young_ca, I also weigh the ingredients.

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Working on a batch of Double-Fed Sweet Levain Bread - shall report back as it is completed. One small mistake I made - for the second feeding you don't strip out the container to leave only 100 grams in it - you leave 250 grams and feed that. Fortunately I was keeping the other half of the levain that I thought I'd do something with rather than pitching it - so was able to incorporate it back in.

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IMG_1072.jpg

The double-fed levain 30 minutes in after removing lids from cast iron

IMG_1074.jpg

Done - they all look similar! Will try to get a picture of the crust later when we cut into it.

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I got the book from the library recently and have made the pain de campagne and the overnight country blonde. I forgot to add the yeast to the pain de campagne but the bread turned out beautifully. It was a much wetter dough than the blonde -- have others noticed significant variation in hydration between formulas? I found the blonde was a firmer dough than what I usually make -- I kept double checking to see if I'd maybe misread the formula.

My only gripe about the book is that all the breads are boules cooking in a DO. I prefer a higher crust to crumb ratio than boules deliver -- that's why I generally make batards or baguettes. With the overnight blonde I shaped the loaves into batards and used a large aluminum roaster pan as a cloche. The result was good. It had a deeply caramelized crust, but the crumb was not as open as the campagne...but I attribute that to hydration. Next time I bake, I'll try to take photos.

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