Friday, December 26, 2008

Breadmaking for the lazy.

I find myself in Connecticut, separated from the 'Ley-made sourdough starter but with all this bread-making time on my hands.  But, of course, also, I am commitedly lazy.  Luckily, there is a solution: no-knead bread.  Even better: eight-hour no-knead bread.  NEVER COMPROMISE.

This recipe is delicious and easy, and makes a non-overwhelming, small loaf.  I will write it up in 7th grade lab report form.  Also, I'm converting the original blog post's recipe into numbered step form because that is easier for me to refer to.

This bread will be delicious, and not involve kneading.

1.5 C bread flour (we used King Arthur)
2.25 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
1 tsp salt
0.75 C water at room temperature
a sprinkle of cornmeal
Oil (we used tea oil, but olive oil or vegetable oil is probably fine)

1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, and salt.
2. Stir in water.  "Dough should be shaggy and a little wet."  There is no better descriptor in the world for this consistency than "shaggy and a little wet."
3. Place in a large, well-oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap.  Let rest for 8-10 hours (like while you sleep.)
4. The dough should be dotted with bubbles.  Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a ball (you may need lots of flour.)
5. Let rest for 15 minutes uncovered.
6. Cover dough with a dishtowel or other cloth (not a terrycloth towel for some reason.)  I think you might should flour the cloth too.  Let rise for 2 hours.
7.  30 minutes before the 2 hours is up, place your dutch oven/casserole/covered oven-safe pot into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
8. At the appropriate, preheated time, remove the receptacle (I used a casserole) from the oven and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.  Place the loaf inside and bake for 25 minutes covered.
9. Then bake for another 20 minutes uncovered.

Results and Analysis

Eight-hour no knead bread, exterior.

Eight-hour no knead bread, interior.

It all turned out to plan.  The crust was a tiny bit on the chewy side, but whatevs.

Pretty great for a first try, and it was wicked easy.  I'd recommend everybody to try it.  Next time, will try spraying with water while it's in the oven to see if that will make the crust crustier.  May also try mixing in other kinds of flour.

Next time: a cautionary tale on impatience and sourdough!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yogurt is not bread in the same way that bread is bread

But, if you bring milk to almost boil for 10 minutes without boiling it ever, stirring pretty regular, and cool it to between 110 and 115 degrees and keep it there for 12 hours, after adding about a brimming handful of yogurt, you will end up with as much yogurt at you had milk originally. It doesn't matter if it's nonfat milk. I know what you're thinking. Keep an eye on things or you will have either cheese, sour milk, or poison at the wrong temperatures. I don't have any pictures for you or myself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Amount of Starter

8% of bread-mass: roughly 12-hour rise time, depending on temperature of dough and amount of starter fermentation.

30% of bread-mass: roughly 2-hour rise time, depending....

You can ballpark from there. And test it first: for a while my breads were rising really really fast, and I had to just add about a tablespoon of starter to 5 cups of flour to get a reasonable rise (remember, more rising time means more flavor—of course, it can go terribly wrong, and you end up with a very sour loaf, but then, my starter never seems to yield much sourness).


50% hydration: a fairly strong, dense loaf that will hold its shape and will be easy to score. It holds fixin's like olives and raisins really well and makes good, sturdy sandwiches even when sliced thin. This dough won't stick much, so it'll be really easy to knead. But the final product can also be a little tough.

100% hydration: a dough like a thick batter that tends to have a large, irregular, gummy crumb. You have to pour it onto the stone and don't even think about scoring it. This is a light, good dipping bread with an incredible oven-spring (the rise that happens after you put it in the oven and before a crust forms) because the high water content means a lot of evaporating water that pushes up the loaf along with the gasses of the hyperactive dying yeasts. Dough like this can be really hard to work with, but if you use oil or water to keep your hands not-sticky, and fold instead of knead, then you'll be okay. Wet doughs don't need as much kneading, since gluten-chains form more easily in a high-hydration environment.

You can ballpark from there.


More salt means a longer rise, since salt kills yeast. About a teaspoon is plenty for a 5 c. loaf. You can ballpark from there, remembering that more rise time means more flavor, but you don't want to kill the yeast. I haven't played to much with this aspect.

Proofing Temperature

Above about 85º Fahrenheit, you're starting to kill your yeast; below about 60º, you get good bacterial development with retarded yeast development, which means more sour flavor. Here's a nice graph that someone else made:

The author's conclusion is that higher temperatures yield better bacteria flavor, because when the yeast starts to get past they dying point, the bacteria really take off. The trouble is, I've heard that these higher temperatures also can produce "off" flavors, so I don't know that it's the best idea. I'll try it, but for now I like good long rises, though I don't normally put the bread in the fridge

Putting bread in the fridge can roughly quintuple the rising time. Use your own discretion.

Baking Temperature

A high temperature means a bigger oven spring, and a darker crust. Depending on the size and shape of the loaf (higher surface-area-to-volume and lower weight values means faster, higher-heat bakes).

A long, thin, light baguette can bake as high as 550º.

A very large, dense boule can bake as low as 325º.

You can ballpark from there, but I generally make smaller, 2 c. batards that bake nicely at 450º

Softness! Tenderness!

Oil or Eggs will tenderize the dough, which is especially nice for whole wheat flours, which seem to toughen doughs. 1/4 cup of oil or 1 egg will do the trick for a 4 c. loaf, but of course these things will also flavor the dough, so you want to be selective. They'll also make the crust less crusty. Also, oil sometimes makes a loaf harder to shape, because in getting a nice tight loaf, you need to form a good seam, and the oil can keep the loaf from sticking to itself.


Bread flour has more protein (more strength and gluten power) and pastry flour less protein (less toughness, more lightness, very little rising power) than all-purpose flour, which sits in the middle, and can do all jobs reasonably well. They're all roughly the same price, so it's not a huge burden to get one of each if you think you're going to use it, and have the storage space.

Everything but white flour loses flavor as it oxidizes and goes rancid (especially whole wheat) if you don't either use it right away or put it in the freezer. As far as I can tell, the freezer doesn't affect taste.

Wheat flour, like most non-white flours, seems to be thirstier and denser, so needs more water, and you might be selective about your expectations for the loaves you make (some of my big irregular crumb loaves turn out kinda weird with whole wheat flour, like they don't hold together int he same way, whereas my denser, fruit and nut or olive loaves really benefit from the hearty flavor and texture of whole wheat).

Rye makes a more "sour" sourdough, and in small amounts is just a nice flavor.

But! most flours don't have gluten in them, so if you add too much, your loaf won't rise properly. Rye, buckwheat, teff (I think), shouldn't make up more than about a quarter of the loaf, I think (I mean, experiment with this and prove me wrong!).

I'll make a list of the haves and the have-nots at some point, along with flavory attributes.

that's it for now!

Starter Instructions

I was going to smear some starter on black velvet and take a pic under UV light, but the Baltimorioles' photo was perfect enough. . .

The plan was to give them some starter, then the information to upkeep the starter in the manner to which it has become accustomed, but I let it slip, and I'm hoping that their starter isn't dead or poisonous yet.

Though I didn't get the original recipe from Sourdough Home, it still houses the best and most sensitively explained methods for making and keeping-up a starter, as far as I can tell, along with other sound bread advice:

But if you can't tear yourself, away from the pics here, I will explain:

To start:

Add equal amounts (by weight, where flour weighs roughly half as much, in a sifted, spooned cup, where a sifted, spooned cup is a king's measurement cup of flour that has been sifted into a separate container, then spooned into the cup, due to the tendency for flour to get compacted when you scoop it—frankly, I don't have the sifter, scale, money or patience necessary to do much of this right now, so a great deal of fudgework can be applied to all of the recipes on the site, starting now, until I tell you personally that I have acquired the all-of-the-above to begin sifting and spooning my flour. Though, keep in mind that I spoon my bags of flour habitually and compulsively in my own, non-baking time) (and you can use as little as a tablespoon of flour for this) (and actually, you don't need to be that exact with this stage in the process anyway, but it'll be nice to know in the future that you have a 100% hydration starter, so you can be really certain about the hydration—and repeatability—of future recipes) (also, I'm really excited for the day when blogger allows footnotes, rather than just expansive parenthetical tangents) flour and water to a very very clean container. Plastic is okay, but not preferable, due to its porousness; it is a grease magnate!

So you let it sit for a day. You eye it suspiciously for long stretches, rocking with a shotgun on your thigh, though your chair is not actually a rocker. When you look away, the yeasts rappel in from the heavens and start an insurrection. They foment change, they work with certain agents in the bacterial underground and gain a following among the abject margins; they have a week before you selectively kill them.

So you double the amount of flour and water in there, the second day, to feed them, to lull them, and then cast half into the trash. Right now it's a melee of undesirables, the resistance still underground, so you could get very sick from tasting the mixture at this point, each drop a game of Russian roulette on the tongue. Seriously, don't taste it; it will smell terrible anyway, most likely. And while you're doing all this, make sure to keep the sides of the container relatively clean, because if starter gets on the sides, it will die and mold, and then the mold will infect the rest. Bad news.

Repeat second-day activity of doubling and casting-out until a week has passed from when you first played god with this little world. By now, your careful encouragement of the bourgeoisie of saccharomyces and lacto-bacilli has kept them afloat over an unincentivised, impoverished, pitted-against-self underclass of protein-eating bacterial, rival fungi, and other species of life vilified because you have a specific purpose in mind. You summer in the Bahamas; you use a narwhal tusk to clean your fingernails, and you should also be getting a sweet-sour "sourdough" smell from the starter at this point. Ooooh! I forgot, make sure you cover the starter enough so it doesn't dry out, but leave enough of an air vent so it doesn't start to smell to alcohol-y; the yeasts produce alcohol when they eat the starches in the flour, the bacteria eats both the starch and alcohol, producing acid, lactic and otherwise—I could be wrong on this; please correct me in a castigate, pedantic and/or patronizing tone—but! if there's too much alcohol, something happens... maybe it kills the yeast, who at that point would be swimming in what amounts to their own feces? I mean, how would you like it?

So now you have starter, but you don't want to feed it every day, because that produces a lot of waste (btw, if you have extra starter, you can make sourdough pancakes, English muffins, crumpets, etc etc no problem, but you maybe don't want to have to do that all the time). So, though some people say you should wait a month before putting it in the fridge, so you've made sure to cultivate the proper culture in there, I have no problem with popping it in the fridge and just feeding it every five days or so. Sometimes, if it looks like there isn't enough activity, or isn't a sour enough smell or taste, so you think you might be right back where you started, with a bucket of wet flour instead of starter, you should leave it out all night, and let it get nice and bubbly again before popping it back in the fridge. Again, cleanliness is key. You don't have to be super-anal—ahem—but you want to transfer it to a new container every week or two, just to keep things on the up-and-up. I use Tupperware, because you can sit the lids loosely, then cover them with a towel, and it lets just the right amount of air into the container. When you're making the starter to begin with, you might just cover it with a towel, because good ventilation is more important at that stage.


So now you just keep things clean and do the double/discard motion every once in a while. but if you're like me, you'll compulsively make bread instead of attending to your responsibilities, and you'll find the need to replenish your starter, rather than cast anything out. In that case, just double your flour/water mixture, and leave it out all night. You're set!

Also, if you're going on vacation, as I am soon, you can throw the whole thing into the freezer (after a feeding, so you know it's real healthy, mind you), and thaw it out when you get back.

Bad signs:

If you get mold, gross smells, changes in color or anything weird, there are ways to revive the starter, but until I have experience with that I won't recommend anything. Sourdough Home has some of what sounds like good advice for that kind of thing, so you can go there for answers.

And if you want any starter, let me know, if you don't want to go through the whole process. I have some in new york and will be in LA with some in a few days. I mean, if someone really wants some in India soon, I might offer, but I think customs and security would have issues with me just waltzing on the plane with a bucket full of bacteria, and I'm definitely not going to swallow a condom full of starter just so you could make bread.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This thing didn't come with instructions.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I made the recipe for cornbread in the New Moosewood Cookbook. It did not taste good. It had a very baking-soda-y taste. We ate all of the cornbread anyway, except for the last piece, which sat in our refrigerator for weeks and weeks. Something had to be done. The following was done:

Unfortunately, the cornbread survived relatively unscathed.

So the experiment was repeated, with slight alterations based on my vague understanding of the physical world.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rye Must I Chase the Cat? There's no easy answer.

I'll assume you know the basics, where the basics—as always; as before our births, yours and mine—are defined in terms of your familiarity with this particular discourse, meaning: we will talk about the intentions of vaguely defined public figures from our bellies, deeply certain, deeply angry about what we've willed ourselves to know; we will scoop the bottom of the trough, sometimes, back to day one, where still mispellings sit untended; we will gather words tighly from just above our chests, letting the air out in a race, praying to look intelligent, or at least to survive wholly from one instant to the next in the body-shell:

That is,

60% hydration [100% flour (3/4 white-bread, 1/4 dark rye), 60% water, by weight]
more salt this time—a full 1/2 teaspoon for 2 cups of flour total. I realized my eyeballing was woefully conservative.

Squashed against the table.
Silk-ball treatment.
Turn a light switch on and off and consider the time it takes to be thoughtful.

2 pre-risings (one of which had to be retarded in the fridge, in the 80's "Let's get retarded!" kind of way, because I had to go to work, and the first rising took a full 12 hrs, because of the salt—please refer to blogue 1, in which the mythology of Sodium-Chloride and saccharomyces, the seeds of its own destruction within, was sown). The first rising was, again, 12 hrs; the second, 6hrs; the third, after shaping, 3 hrs, though I think I could have given it a little more, seeing as it kinda exploded in the oven. As a side note: not a sour loaf. I'm beginning to think that my starter is all yeast and no lactobacilli.

500º oven lowered to 450º Steam-inferno. Baking stone. And so on, and soon.

Use the honey-tarragon-orange butter on this one; it's the superior butter. Brings out the sweetness in earthy loaves, and blooms its own mild herbal warmth on more light blends.

I'm freeze-drying my loves to build a spacecraft. The hull was complete until Sun Ra mocked it and I felt so bad; his is made of spelt and kamut.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Goose Loaf

2c. bread flour
10 tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. starter (will get to that soon)

This loaf showcases my #1 stunna scoring technique, which yields the charming bushtit-like appearance of the loaf. I was trying to replicate the layer-cake look that some specialty loaves have, but I think part of my scores were at too much of an angle to really work. I made a kind of spiral over the top of the loaf, the idea being that each inner layer rises a little more than the one before it, because it has to support less weight (and may benefit a little from the layer around it). Next time I'm going to try concentric circles and see what happens, especially when I score directly perpendicular to the surface of the loaf, rather than at the usual bias.

So anyway, this loaf was baked from a roughly 60+% hydration white dough. You can knead it until it gets like a silk balloon (the trick to kneading is, as mentioned before, to remember that you're stretching and folding an ergodic mass into what should ultimately be an onion-like arrangement of many sheets of taut gluten—try not to tear your gluten sheets; this means letting the dough rest when it looks like you're bursting through them).

After that, I let this dough go through 2 preliminary rises, first to double its volume, then to triple, punching them down each time, before shaping it into a slightly oblong boule and making my clumsy little spiral score. I highly recommend playing with scoring techniques. Just remember that in general the loaf spits at the score, so it moves both up (as it rises) and perpendicular to the length of the score (as it splits). Maybe you want to double the recipe, then split the dough into two and practice two opposite scorings on identical loaves to see the difference. Maybe you want to drop everything, a metaphor, and live without lying forever.

My spread for this one (anticipating a sour loaf, after the 8hr 1st rise, 3hr 2nd rise, and 1.5hr final post-shaped rise), was cinnamon-ginger butter. For some reason I think cinnamon goes really well with sourdough. The loaf didn't turn out sour, but then, I'll die someday anyway, forgetting all I know about baking, and I made this spread a tad to sweet to compensate.

Cinnamon-Ginger Butter

1/2 c. butter
1 tbs. fresh ginger, minced
a few pinches of cinnamon—you should play this by ear; it's very easy to overdo.
a couple tsp. brown sugar—also easy to overdo; you don't want the sugar to overwhelm the saltiness of the butter, which will bring out the sourness (and different kind of sweetness) in the dough. Very delicate stuff.

Mix it all up! Since my loaf wasn't very sour, I'm considering adding a little lime or apple-cider vinegar (or just apple-cider) to the butter. Lime will tilt it to the tropics, apple-cider to Americana. Very delicate stuff.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wheat Slipper

So, you try, roughly, the same recipe as the first, only lower the hydration (where the hydration is the total amount of liquids divided by the total amount of flour—all measured by weight—multiplied by 100; that is, 100g flour and 85g water is an 85% hydration mixture. This is standard baker's percentage, as far as I can tell, where flour is the yardstick by which we measure all things; it's like, you grew up in a house with flowers for wallpaper, and suddenly any place with paint is unfamiliar) to 85%—maybe, impossibly, without changing the amount of water or flour, somehow—and use whole-wheat flour in place of half of the regular bread flour. Also, slightly more impatience than last time.

Authentic Knead

This one you knead in the traditional fashion, as long as you keep a lightly floured surface, and try to brush off any excess flour as you fold the dough over the top, so you don't keep incorporating more and more.

But What Are We Looking For?

Also, having added more impatience from the beginning, you don't let the loaf proof for very long, and it doesn't really develop the flavor you're looking for. This is upsetting. You probably only give it about 8 hours total, the last 1.5 hrs after you shape it into a boule that quickly goos out on the floured linen and collapses when you try foolishly to move it with your hands to the baking pan.

Still, what an oven spring! It's about 1.5 inches tall when it goes in, and actually makes a reasonable loaf (minus the perrineal ridges on top, due to the stickiness issue).

My Advice, My Advice

My advice is to make the following immediately, while the loaf is in the oven, just after you've done your watering thing:

1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
1-1/2 teaspoon honey
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (acidic is nice).

You fluff the butter with a mixer, and whip in honey and juice, then add tarragon and mix more gingerly. I mean, you don't have to be too careful but you don't want to bruise the tarragon.

This loaf would be nothing without this butter. You put it in the mold of your choice when mixed, and refrigerate (you can cover it with some of the paper that was wrapping your butter initially). By the time the loaf is cool, you're in butter town, child.

Scoring isn't everything.

But it's something (isn't everything? No.). The thing is, you want to score the loaf quickly, with a watered or oiled or lightly floured very sharp blade, without fussing over it too much. At an angle, like you're separating meat from the bread-bone, so it can truly unfurl.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sourdough Ciabatta

~1-7/8c. bread flour and ~1c. water (100% hydration)

~2 tbsp. (about 8% of flour weight) very-wet rye/white starter (maybe 150% hydration)

~1 tsp. (about 1.5% of flour weight) salt


Very messy to handle. This will take about 10-12 hours.

You mix the flour, water and starter in a bowl until it's incorporated,

then turn out on a table and smear it bit by bit firmly between your hands and the surface. You do this. You do this until the dough seems of reasonably consistent makeup.

Then you autolyse (i.e. rest) the dough for 20 minutes, for the chains of gluten to grab one another and prepare to be manipulated into layers of sheets of chains of delicious.

It's time for the yeast and lacto-bacteria to begin to think of their place in the world.


This is a strange thing in front of you. It doesn't hold quite together. It's not napalm, though it clings to your body and the wooden table in the house you pay to live in.

Wet your hands. It makes a layer between you, so you don't get so close that the fibers wrap around the trough of your fingerprints. Stretch it to one side and fold it over from the bottom, 2/3 of the way across. Stretch it from the other side and wrap it like a package. You'll find that it clings to itself. Now rotate 90º and do it again. And again. And again. Don't tear the dough too much. If you just feel abusive and tear-happy, you should put the dough down and come back to it when you've had time to think about what you're doing. Add the salt during the folding, bit by bit. Yeast and salt are mortal enemies, and salt always wins, so you want to make sure the yeast can hide in gluten caves before you introduce the salty dogs of war.

You're not going to get to a point where the dough is that same silky baloon you're used to. It's always going to be a wad of wet flour. But it should cohere at least enough to fold. If it doesn't, add more flour and let tha
t rest a spell with your already dough, so it too can deeply bond with it's brothers.

If you have a dough scraper, you will be happy.

Let it all rest for a couple hours.


See, what I did was go to sleep, and wake up every couple of hours to do a bit more folding while the being proofed. It's okay if you fall asleep for three or four hours. Just get back to folding it again.

You can do this folding thing as long as you want, as long as you kick the air out of the dough-mass a couple times, and it still keeps rising—I mean, it's so wet that it's more just that bubbles are getting trapped in the dough than a straightforward rise, but you get the point. The volume will at least double later in the process, when your folding has made enough semi-sheets of the glute.

The longer you do this, the more flavor the bread will get. I did it about 10 hours.


Don't punch the air out of the dough the last time. Preheat your oven towith both the baking surface (I use a baking pan, because that's the only baking surface we have right now, but a baking stone would be ideal. If you have a linen and peel, all the better—you'll probably get a better texture than I did, but you can make do with whatever you have) and a recepticle to create steam. I've heard that a pan full of rocks in the bottom of the oven is the best, because the rocks retain a lot of heat, and boil whatever water you put in there. I just put a metal pot in, which does the trick well enough for now.
Take out the preheated pan (30 min is a good amount of time to preheat the oven to 550º with this stuff. I've heard of people doing it much longer, but is good bread worth our country's natural gasses? Yes and no.) and put some cornmeal or your favorite floury non-sticking substance (oil, I'm guessing, would oxidize and stick, so don't use that—I think some people use non-glutenous rice flour.) on the pan. Turn your dough onto the pan (or use your peel to get it there), trying to flip the dough upside down from it's proofing side, so the bubbles from proofing don't carry your crust to other lands. Dust the top with flour, throw the whole shebang in the oven, and toss 1/4c. of water into the pot that's been pre- heating in the bottom, to create the "steam inferno." Turn the oven down to about 450º. Add more water every 2 or 3 minutes, into the pot, or directly onto the floor of the oven, or sprayed onto the sides of the oven, to maintain a consistent steamy atmosphere.

Don't spray your lights in there. You will have bread in shattered-glass sauce.

After the first 10 minutes, stop adding water, and take your pan of water out. The dough should have had a nice oven spring by now, so admire it and fantasize about its flavor.

Bake until the crust is as dark as you like it. You can use an instant read thermometer to get the right temperature (btw. 200 and 210ºF). Usually I like to take the bread out of the pan after there's a little bit of color on the loaf, just to get an evenly done crust.

When it's a nice rich-but-not-burnt brown, pull it out of the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let it cool so it's just a little warm to the touch, so you don't release all the moisture when you cut into it. Also, you'll get to listen to the c(r)ackle of the bread while you wait.

Serve with honey-cornmeal butter. Or olive oil and balsamic. Or yogurt cheese and strawberry jam with cracked pepper and mint. Or tahini, agave nectar and fennel-seeds.

It's not a very sour bread.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's complicated.

I'm starting out slow, counting strands of gluten, not loaves.
Sheets of gluten; tomorrow.

I made a little world of lactobaccilia and saccharidaes,
beside myself, here, occasional swaths to devour.