"It IS all about the TASTE"
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  • Bread Dough Hydration (Baker’s Percentage)

    One of the key items in gaining a desired crust and crumb is the level of hydration in the dough. The percent of water to the amount of flour is the hydration level or the “Baker’s Percentage”.

    From Wikipedia:

    Baker’s percentage is a baker’s notation method indicating the flour-relative proportion of an ingredient used when making breads, cakes, muffins, and other pastries. It is also referred to as baker’s math, or otherwise contextually indicated by a phrase such as based on flour weight. It is sometimes called formula percentage, a phrase that refers to the sum of a set of bakers’ percentages. Baker’s percentage expresses each ingredient in parts per hundred as a ratio of the ingredient’s mass to the total flour’s mass

    For example, in a recipe that calls for 10 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of water, the corresponding baker’s percentages are 100% for the flour and 50% for the water. Because these percentages are stated with respect to the mass of flour rather than with respect to the mass of all ingredients, the total sum of these percentages always exceeds 100%.

    Flour-based recipes are more precisely conceived as baker’s percentages, and more accurately measured using mass instead of volume. The uncertainty in using volume measurements follows from the fact that flour settles in storage and therefore does not have a constant density.

    I.E. Use a SCALE!, do nothing by cups / tablespoons / pinches….

    Basing on my standard dough recipe, I.E. 500 grams of bread flour, the following can be assumed:

    Water in ml Hydration Texture Notes
    275 55% Stiff:Very firm, dry and satiny; not tacky dense crumb in breads such as bagels, pretzels
    290-325 58-62 Standard:Tacky but not sticky; supple dense closed crumb, in breads such as sandwich bread, rolls, French and other European breads
    325-400 65-80 Rustic:Wet, sticky airy crumb and large, irregular holes, in breads such as ciabatta, focaccia, pizza

    Stiff Doughs:

    Working a stiff dough requires a large amount of strength and as these are so dry, an incredibly long kneed time. I almost always use a stand mixer for this on very low, as anything else tend to burn on the motor or strip the gears. Great for very dense, chewy breads, bagels, pretzels.

    Regular Doughs:

    This dough is a pleasure to kneed, supple, silky, slightly tacky, gives us a good rise, stand up well to slashing, with a small crumb. Think Baguettes, crusty dinner rolls, loaves for sandwich.

    Wet Doughs:

    Very sticky stuff, can not be kneaded, use a stretch and fold. This will yield some of the most interesting boules, loaves, and rolls. Crispy crust, irregular crumb, greate for ciabatta, focaccia, pizza, and my favorite, crusty yeast rolls.

  • Chicken and Dumplings

    Absolutely perfect weather. For pneumonia… Cool to cold, bit of damp, and just enough sunshine / warmth to make think you can tough it out with a light jacket. (GUESS WHAT? You can’t, you will get that most miserable of all things, a spring cold.)

    Time to fight back a bit, time for soup, chicken soup, and If I am going to take the time to do that, I’ll go Full Valhalla, and make dumplings as well.

    I always have chicken stock in the fridge, (unless one of the lair denizens have drank it straight. Yes, they do that. 3/4 cup of Stock, bit of pepper, a mushroom sliced, and into the microwave for 60 sec. A fast meal)

    From Wikipedia:

    Chicken and dumplings is a dish which consists of a chicken cooked in water, with the resulting chicken broth being used to cook the dumplings by boiling. A dumpling in this context is a biscuit dough, which is a mixture of flour, shortening, and liquid (water, milk, buttermilk, or chicken stock). The dumplings are either rolled out flat, dropped or formed into a ball.

    It is a popular comfort food dish, commonly found in the Southern and Midwestern United States, that is also attributed to being a French Canadian meal that originated during the Great Depression. Chicken and dumplings as a dish is prepared with a combination of boiled chicken meat, broth produced by boiling the chicken, multiple dumplings, and salt and pepper for seasoning. In some areas, this meal is known as chicken and sliders.

  • Ciabatta – Revisited

    My last several forays into breads have been less than satisfactory, a combination of being out of practice, old flour, old yeast, and a starter that was “ok” but not great. And as one of my loyal critics have said the posts lacked that “RogueChef” flair.

    Time to get serious..

    I have some “Pâte Fermentée”, or “old dough” from my last experiment in baguettes, as per wikipedia:

    Old dough (pâte fermentée) may be made with yeast or sourdough cultures, and in essence consists of a piece of dough reserved from a previous batch, with more flour and water added to feed the remaining flora. Because this is a piece of old dough, it has the typical ingredient of salt to distinguish it from other pre-ferments. Once old dough had rested for an additional 10 hours of age, the French named it Levain de Chef.

    I’ll use that, along with a new dough in an attempt to sort out a few Ciabatta loaves. I’ll also incorporate a good percentage of whole wheat flour to add some taste and texture.

    Using Paul Hollywood’s dough formulation, I’ll replace 100g of the strong white flour with a whole wheat flour. (Yes, I dare take liberties with his formula, he may take liberties with any of my recipes he cares to.)

    As the weather has take a turn for the cold and nasty, this will make a great accompaniment for a hearty soup or stew.

  • Why Sourdough Bread

    A comment from an associate sparks this missive. In a simple question of, “What is it about you and sourdough? Next thing you’ll be posting about is Sourdough donuts.”

    Close, but not quite.. I’ll get to the donuts later, but first I’ll answer “What is it about you and sourdough?”.

    Why am I on about sourdough, let me count the ways.

    1. Better Nutrition
      1. During the slow rise / autolyse phases more minerals become available
      2. The gluten breaks down, making it more palatable to the gluten intolerant
      3. The long rise pre-digests starches, making the bread more easily digestible
      4. The starter / rise process also lowers insulin response
    2. The long rise allows me to include whole grains for better taste
    3. Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself.
    4. FLAVOR!!
    5. Sourdough improves the texture of whole-grain and fiber-rich products.
    6. The starter imparts a unique flavor to the bread, based on the wild yeast and bacteria that inhabit the starter.
    7. Sourdough preparation is more lengthy (soaking, rising, etc.) “Less time looking for a cigarette”

    Now all that rise time, kneading and stater, seems to put a few people off. But I find it is well worth the time invested..

  • Sour Dough Focaccia

    By J.P.Lon - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2144836

    As I build and feed my starter, I need to dispose of excess starter. One could simply toss down the drain, but that is a bit wasteful. So I’ll just use it.

    Fairly plain and simple is a Focaccia. But as all things sourdough, a long slow rise to develop taste, texture and crumb is a requirement. If one is going to bake sourdough on a regular basis, one might want to keep a small cambro of sourdough resting in the fridge. For now, I’ll use a good bit of starter for some taste, and a touch of yeast to give this a bit of a lift.

    From Wikipedia:

    Focaccia (Italian pronunciation: [foˈkat͡ʃːa]) is a flat oven-baked Italian bread product similar in style and texture to pizza doughs. It may be topped with herbs or other ingredients. Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs, and may at times be topped with onion, cheese and meat. It might also be flavored with a number of vegetables. Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread. Focaccia al rosmarino (focaccia with rosemary) is a common focaccia style in Italian cuisine that may be served as an antipasto, appetizer, table bread, or snack.

    The common-known focaccia is salt focaccia. Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs, consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, salt and yeast. It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread.

    Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking. In the northern part of Italy, lard will sometimes be added to the dough, giving the focaccia a softer, slightly flakier texture. Focaccia recipes are widely available, and with the popularity of bread machines, many cookbooks now provide versions of dough recipes that do not require hand kneading.

  • Ciabatta

    Given my starter will not be ready for at least 5 more days, and given that I am already in a full blown nicotine fit, time to bake some bread.

    Looking for a straightforward, simple recipe, that will yield a decent loaf and provide a nice crispy crackly crust with a good crumb. Sounds like a job for Ciabatta.

    From Wikipedia:

    Ciabatta was first produced in 1052 by Francesco Favaron, a baker from Verona, in collaboration with Molini Adriesi who provided the flour to produce the bread. Favaron named the bread ciabatta as he said that the shape of the bread reminded him of the slipper (ciabatta) of his wife Andreina.

    Cavallari, owner of Molini Adriesi, called the bread ciabatta Polesano after Polesine, the area he lived in, and registered it as a trademark. The recipe was subsequently licensed by Cavallari’s company, Molini Adriesi, to bakers in 11 countries by 1999.

    Many regions have their own variations on the original recipe or a bread that closely resembles ciabatta and has become accepted as a variety of ciabatta; the ciabatta from the area encompassing Lake Como has a crisp crust, a somewhat soft, porous texture, and is light to the touch.

    The ciabatta found in Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche varies from bread that has a firm crust and dense crumb, to bread that has a crisper crust and more open texture, and in Rome, it is often seasoned with marjoram.

    New variations of the recipe continue to be developed. Wholemeal ciabatta is known as ciabatta integrale, and when milk is added to the dough, it becomes ciabatta al latte.

    The sons of Francesco Favaron of Pan Technology confirm that their father personally invented this bread. Pan Technology is a private school devoted to bread, pizza, and pastry, located in the Veneto region of Italy. Favaron stated that he developed the idea of ciabatta in the 1960s by experimenting for years when working in the city of Milan. The manual produced by Pan Technology includes 1028 formulae for Italian regional breads, one of which, it is claimed, is the original ciabatta formula. Cavallari and other bakers in Italy were concerned by the popularity of sandwiches made from baguettes imported from France, which were endangering their businesses and so set about trying to create an Italian alternative with which to make sandwiches. The recipe for ciabatta came about after several weeks trying variations of traditional bread recipes and consists of a soft, wet dough made with high gluten flour.

    Umm, a wet dough, with high gluten flour, this is gonna be wall paper paste. Better to not try and shape..

    I remember a Master Class show, with Paul Hollywood, and Mary Berry, from the Great British Baking show… Maybe a few hints lifted from there .. and a few ideas lifted from else where on the net.