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Incorporating breads into my schedule

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Hi, I'm a working pastry chef who has just dabbled in bread making from time to time and I'd like to add some bread products into my work schedule. I'm not going to be able to replace our purchased breads for ala carte service. My labor costs wouldn't make it as profitable as time spent on sweets. BUT I personally want to take on some bread making to increase my knowledge.

Can you make some suggestions on which breads might give the most preconcieved value to our kitchen? Is there any short cuts I could use to help me fit those into my schedule? For instance, could I make a large batch of it in the beginning of the week, refridgerate it and just pull out what I need daily to bake off?

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For a few years, people in France have been experimenting with refrigerating doughs the day before to be shaped and fermented the following day. I have had no experience with this as yet but will still put my two cents in as I feel that it is cumbersome, and I would rather work with a classic , very active dough.

In these times when the "garbage men" of my youth have been rechristened "sanitation engineers", etc, bakers could be called fermentation managers. Most people at home are used to making "straight" doughs, that is, all of the ingredients are kneaded at the same time from scratch. It is possible, however, to "borrow" part of the flour called-for in a recipe, and make what is called a preferment ( some people call these starters, but to me starter=sourdough). There are various types, which include:

- a yeast "levain", where 1/4 or so of the flour is turned into a fermenting piece of dough and added to the new dough as though it were a starter ( pastry chefs might remember this from brioche recipes)

-Poolish- a liquid mixture (1:1 four to water) brought to Paris by Viennese bakers

- Pate Fermentee- quite simply baguette ( or other basic french bread) dough which has been set aside and allowed to ferment.

To understand the preferments, we should look first into basic fermentation theory. We all tend to oversimplify yeast's role in breadmaking, assuming that the idea is that the yeast ferments sugars in the dough, forming bubbles which cannot escape because things are so elastic, and once the pieces of dough are light and puffy, into the oven they go. In fact, bacically speaking, so far, so good, BUT: In the earliest days of breadmaking, weak flours and handkneading huge amounts of dough meant that doughs were an impossibly sticky mass, and it would have been unthinkable to shape it immediately into loaves. Instead, bakers noticed, that during long (relatively) cool fermentations, the dough would acquire some structure, some "architecture", so that by the end it would no longer be sticky but instead firmer and shapeable.

It wasn't understood at the time that besides the alcohol and CO2 gas produced by the alcoholic fermentation, there were by produccts which include fatty organic acids. These acids are what firm-up the gluten strands to give structure to the dough, but they also give flavor, texture, and keeping qualities to the finished load. A straight dough must ferment for 3 to 4 hours before shaping to reap full benefit from these acids, but borrowing part of the flour to make a preferment means that instead of a new dough's starting-off with no organic acids, it starts off with a lot ( because they were pre-formed in the pre ferment).

What this all means is that if you use a recipe calling for a good percentage of preferments- whatever method- (up to 1/2 the flour) things can go surprisingly quickly with no loss of quality. The amount of yeast used in the preferment should be adjusted to the amount of time it is made beforehand, and the preferment kept at cool room temperature ( the wine cellar?) or allowed to start off for a time at room temperature and then refrigerated ( Cool or colf preferments can be an advantage in hot climates)

I would suggest that you try making country style loaves containing some whole wheat flour ( 15-20%) or rye ( just a bit for it changes things quite a bit), because they tend to be more forgiving: as long as they are correctly kneaded and fermented, they can me more dense or less dense but are almost always pleasing, and they will be a clear contrast to the bought bread you also serve.

Just in case I forget to mention this elsewhere, remember that doughs for French breads are surprisingly cool by North American standards, the ideal being something in the neighborhood of 72-75o Farenheit.

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I have a confection oven. I read your response on another question about oven types. So it seems that my options are pretty limited...........how can I get a decent bread out of this oven? Can I get a decent rye bread using a confection oven? If so could you reccomend a specific recipe?

Thank-you for all you help!

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Rye bread is pretty complicated stuff, because rye flour is so full of pentosanes that it can form no gluten, and rye starches gel at a low enough temperature that they are victim to attack by enzymes during the first few minutes of the baking process ( result= mush). In other words, rye is for people who have had the time to practice other types of baking and really look into things because best results are achieved with a rye sourdough, and alarmingly wet ( almost like cement) dough, and an oven extremely saturated with steam.

I agree, however, that rye is a flavorful way of setting your own loaves apart from those which you buy. If I were you, I would look into a yeasted dough with a fair proportion of preferments, and 15% to 20% rye flour. This should be doable, bur before this, as a first step, get your feet wet by starting off with more straightforward stuff.

I don't have much to add about convection ovens, and until I get to it myself, can only encourage you to give it a try, and please let me know how things turn out.

Thank you. Follow-up questions are a true compliment.

a bientot


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