Kneading is all about modifying the flour protein to impart flexibility with enough strength to trap, yeast and bacteria generated, CO2 gas. It’s important that the protein network in the dough remain in tact so the gas doesn’t escape like a deflating balloon.
We recently received some feedback from a Bread Boss user who expressed dismay at the plethora of sourdough terms used all around the English speaking world. This included books, videos and websites. It’s all very confusing and makes it hard to understand. Bread Boss seemed like just another one to add to the pile of mishmash. It occurred to us this may be a timely post and others may also find this interesting and informative.
The author of the email kindly allowed me to reproduce the relevant part as the basis of this post. Here’s an excerpt from the email.
“In all the books and in all the serious online websites there is a complete range of names used for the various stages of bread baking. Some are reasonably consistent like ferment and proof but in sourdough there are a full range of names for the same thing. For instance Peter Rienhart calls his starter a mother and uses some of it to create a “stiff dough”. Dan Leader calls it a liquid Levain, to make a stiff dough. You guys call it a starter to make a “sourdough”. I know we can’t change the world but maybe recognising these wide variations of terminology in your app might help other beginning bakers. As for me the whole sourdough nomenclature was confusing.”
My reply isn’t meant to be an exhaustive recount but a brief outline of the history of the problem and why Bread Boss and this site uses the sourdough terms it does.
It was that time of year again when baking students at the Sydney TAFE Ultimo were recognised for their hard work and achievements on completion of the Retail Baking Bread, Retail Baking Combined and Patisserie Certificate III Courses.
Each year the graduation ceremony for baking students is held in the Apprentice Restaurant at the Ultimo campus on Harris Street. At the same ceremony, students with outstanding achievements are also recognised. There was an array of people present that night which included the students’ families, friends and employers. Industry representatives also graced the occasion marking the significance of the event.
It’s a good question that most people seem to have an opinion on. Opinions by trendy foodies, celebrities, as well as us mere mortals all over the world are mainly focusing on the ills of gluten. The gluten free market is now a huge market, so now there are vested interests involved, much the same as there were on the opposite side.
It seems that further investigation and blind testing has been finding that it’s more complicated than we thought. It seems there could be another culprit which has not been in the public consciousness.
Melbourne 2014 was the start of an event that has been an annual feature of a small group of craft bakers, millers and increasingly growers. It’s affectionately dubbed “grAiNZ”. This week “grAiNZ 2017” or “Bread Ed 2017” was hosted at Dust Bakery in Sydney.
The first time I visited Dust Cesare Salemi mentioned that a gathering of like minded bakers and millers will be getting together this year in Sydney. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I’ve not been to this “Bread Ed” before, at least not a baking one of this ilk.
Where I’m living, winter is fast approaching and the annual problem of dough proving at home is rearing up again. It doesn’t get too cold in Sydney in winter (compared to Europe or North America), but because of that very fact most of us don’t have central heating. The house can easily get down to between 5 – 10°C (41 – 50°F) overnight and 12 – 16°C (54 – 61°F) through the day, which is a little cool for bulk fermentation unless I extended the times beyond my schedule. Most of my bread dough has a DTO (Dough To Oven time) of around 24 hours. So in these cool environments my timings are thrown out. Of course, I could reschedule to extend the time frames but I really want it to fit my current times.
Recently, it finally dawned on me: “why in gods name am I not using my kitchen oven!”
So, with the last couple of batches of bread, I used the oven for proving the sourdough overnight and for the final proof the next day. The results were fantastic and most importantly – predictable!
A few weeks ago I was invited with a long time colleague, Laurie Donnelly, to coffee by a mutual colleague and friend, Jessica Pedemont the chocolatier, for a very interesting discussion with baker Cesare Salemi of “Dust” Café & Bakery at the Glebe Tramsheds. Cesare brought out some of his bread made from freshly milled stoneground. Cesare grinds his own flour through a stone mill in his bakery. We were duly impressed by the depth of flavour and aroma of his bread. Cesare calls it “living nutrition” and urged me to try it. I was keen to discover more.
So I contacted the company with an excellent reputation, Skippy Grain Mills. I wanted to try it for myself and show stone milling wheat at home. Home milling wheat with a stone mill then baking the bread using that fresh stoneground on the same day of milling is very doable at home. I wondered if I could significantly capture more of the flavour and aroma of the Lancer wheat variety in bread baked with freshly stone milled Lancer grain.
Recently a Bread Boss user contacted us with concern that they didn’t understand how their formula can be accommodated within Bread Boss. It seemed every time they tried to enter the formula, warnings were flagged in Bread Boss. Incidentally, warnings are built into the app as Bread Boss has a specific method of calculating ingredients using underlying principles. Of course these warnings can be ignored but it’s good to have the warning in case something is overlooked. More on that later.
It eventually came to light that although the user used percentages in his formula it was inconsistent with the “bakers percentage” method. This got me thinking about the most common methods used in baking to express formulas.
The Tale of Two Cities
As far as I can tell it appears there are two main methods, but not limited to these two, prevailing in the world of baking. For want of accurate designations I call them:
- European method (although by no means all European bakers use it)
- American method (again by no means all)
Good bread is born of controlling the key factors that influence bread quality. These are physical processes through micro-organism activity. After all, micro-organisms do all the work converting ‘grain into bread’!
Temperature is one of those key factors that bakers need to consider and use to influence the condition of their sourdoughs and bread doughs. As micro-organisms are highly dependent on their environment we want to get as close to giving them the best conditions as possible for them, our schedules and not least of all bread flavour and quality! The rate of bacterial and yeast multiplication, metabolic activity and enzyme activity is dramatically influenced by temperature. So we need to get it as close to optimum as we can.
Earlier I wrote up about the Major Factor (MF) method for calculating the water temperature for bread dough making. In this post I’d like to cover the “Base Temperature” (BT) method of calculating dough water temperature. So why another method? The reason is that the Base Temperature method has more accuracy when using pre-ferments, sourdoughs or quantities of other ingredients with varying temperatures, such as refrigerated ingredients.
Last Saturday Karen, Tim and I went to the Sydney TAFE (Technical and Further Education) College to join the Artisan Bread Making course, with Boris as the Teacher. This was a simple one day course designed to introduce students to sourdough bread making. My main motivation for going was to see how Boris teaches in a formal setting and to see some larger scale machinery for bread making (I’ve always had a fantasy to own a serious dough mixer like a Hobart).
Being an IT professional, where most of your work is done sitting on your ass, it was quite an eye opener to see how hard it is working in a commercial bakery, much less teaching a herd of deer how to make sourdough bread.
Did a great variation on our classic mixed grain: inverted the bulk/retardation ferments and added a coating of sesame seeds.
Boris was over at my place a few weeks back and commented on my mixed grain bread just out of the oven. I was all pleased and proud to show off, but… “Looks good mate, but its a bit dense.” What I thought was a fine crumb turned out to be crummy. The good thing about Boris is that he’s not just an armchair critic: he’s an expert that offers solutions for every problem he diagnoses.
Making bread isn’t the same as cooking, bread making is a straight forward process but it involves a combination of biochemical and physical processes by living organisms. This means it’s important to have a balanced formula as microorganisms are very sensitive to changes to their environment – in this case – bread dough. It also means ingredients at the right weights. I use the word “formula” for good reason. Most uninitiated in bread baking believe that the word ‘formula’ and ‘recipe’ are really the same. This is not the case in bread baking. There’s a subtle but important difference.
A question I get asked a lot by home Bakers and consumers is, what is the best way to store bread during the time it is to be eaten?
Many suggest the fridge but I tell people that the fridge is a bad choice. Some look at me like I’m from another planet. There’s a good reason for not using the fridge.
If you’ve looked at any quality bread recipes or books you may have noticed that dough temperature is nearly always included.
An often asked question is whether it really matters. Do we really need to bother with temperature? Is it just for professional bakers or those pedantic and fanatic personality types? I’m sure those personality types would revel in those details, but that doesn’t necessarily mean bread dough temperature is not important. So how important is it for the home baker? To answer that question we should examine the role temperature plays in influencing fermentation and bread quality. Lets start with some fundamentals and elaborate from there.
Home baking or ‘amateur’ baking – in the true sense of the word – has it’s own idiosyncrasies in a domestic kitchen and some require a little more thought or improvisation.
How to generate steam in a domestic oven is one of those things I get asked often. There are lots of ideas advanced on how to best generate steam in a domestic oven for baking bread. Some seem to be easily achieved with good results, others are terrible and really don’t do the job as they are based on inaccurate understanding of the role and effect of steam on bread dough. However, before I pen a few ideas how to make steam at home it would be good to understand just exactly what steam in the oven does and how it improves bread quality.
There is much confusion over malt – not ‘single malt’ – but malt added to bread dough. The two main classifications of malt are, ‘diastatic’ and ‘non-diastatic’.
Many a home baker is suspicious of “diastatic” malt flour until they learn exactly what it is…. I’m just guessing, but I think it’s because the word ‘diastatic’ sounds a bit like an ‘additive’. Fear not…. it’s simply grain – wheat or barley – that has been sprouted. Yes, that’s right!
This is my first post, and unlike Boris, my perspective is from a humble home baker. I’ve been baking now for a few years and in spite of being a professional software engineer, I’ve managed to crack through the ‘bread ceiling’ and come up with some good and consistent results.
This Christmas we (both Boris and my families) decided to visit the Tasmanian highlands for a couple of week’s holiday and I thought it would be a great idea to bring Steve along. Steve is my sourdough starter.
‘Stones’ are almost indispensable when it comes to home baking, especially bread. Most home bakers have heard this but are not sure exactly why. The complete answer is twofold.
Firstly, to produce ‘naked’ bread – baked without a tin – would mean baking on a tray. The dough has the tendency to ‘flow’ and flatten when baked on a tray unless the water in the recipe is reduced. That’s fine for some bread and rolls but for many it’s a reduction in quality since the water content has an influence on the crumb texture and of course the flavour.
The final touch to your dough just prior to entering the oven is one of those moments that gives the inexperienced home baker performance anxiety. Understandable really, since many a nice loaf has been made to appear pretty average on account of the slashes.
Slashing is a bit like engraving or Japanese ink art on silk. Once you’ve executed it you can’t change it. It’s there for everyone to see, good, bad or ugly! There’s no fixing it, you just have to live with it.
I was recently down in Tasmania for a bamboo fly rod makers weekend – “Cressy Cane” – at the Brumby’s Creek Lodge.
I was surprised to find there were quite a few home bakers amongst the group as well as other anglers who attended.
Two of the blokes presented me with a sourdough starter they had been using in the past. These starters were in the fridge a little too long and a bit neglected. But I was keen to try one of those starters out and see if I could make something that would impress them and the guests.