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!

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