Monday, February 27, 2012

Bread Winning - Pt. 2

Earlier today, I wrote about my first attempt at baking bread, that ended in an epic failure.

Today, I'm finally attempting again.  Wheat bread Take 2.  I will include the recipe at the bottom of the post.

Gathered up the ingredients...and this time I had bread flour!

First, I put hot water in a bowl, added the honey, and mixed it in.  I let it cool a little bit before adding the yeast.  I stirred it, covered it, and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Once the yeast was ready, I added the first bit of flour, then put the starter aside to rise for an hour.  When I pulled the starter out, it looked really good.  Bubbly, smelling of beer...

I mixed the remaining flour the recipe called for, plus the salt in a separate bowl, so the two types of flour were evenly balanced from here on out.   I slowly added in the rest of the ingredients, small handfuls at a time, stirring until it was dry enough to dump on the counter and begin kneading.  I added in more flour, but after 10 minutes of kneading it didn't seem like it could take much more than a little over half of the extra flour.  This time it resembled the dough my friend made when he visited.

I split the dough, and put it in the pan, and put it in a warm place to rise for another hour.

It had doubled in size, so I figured it was time to bake.  I baked it at 425F for 30 minutes, and tapped on the crust to see if it was done.  It sounded hollow, so I took them out.  After they cooled for a few I removed them from the pans and put them on the cooling rack.

DAMN IT.  This is NOT sandwich bread.  It is not nearly tall enough.  Fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu....Oh well.  At least it's pretty tasty.  Not the best bread in the world but obviously it wouldn't be, since I used a simple recipe without any extra added flavors.  Bread NOT winning.

In hindsight, I probably should have let the dough rise in a bowl after kneading, THEN punched it down and shaped it to be placed in the let it rise a little more.  I'm not sure if one hour was long enough for the second rising.  I think maybe there should have been a third rising after the shaping; I think maybe then it would have been tall enough to give me good sandwich bread.  I'm not really sure what went wrong here, but this is my 2nd attempt ever, and I'm going to keep trying until I achieve greatness!

If anyone has tips, please, don't be afraid to comment and help me out!  Maybe you can tell me what I did wrong.  I know it's not the recipe, because I've seen it done firsthand by someone with a good bit of baking experience. His bread came out amazing!

Now for the recipe I promised.  Thanks for your patience :)

Basic Poolish/Sponge Bread

ingredents for the starter:  
2 cups water
2 cups flour
4-5 tsp of yeast (2 packets)
2 tsp of sugar/honey/brown sugar

remaining ingredients:
4-6 cups flour
3 tbsp oil
1 tbsp salt

Heat water to 125F, add sweetener.  Let cool to 110-115F, add yeast.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in 2 cups flour; cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. 

Gradually stir in the flour until dough is able to be kneaded.  Knead for 10 minutes or longer if needed - until the dough springs back when you poke it.  Tuck edges under rounding it out, place back in bowl.
Cover and let sit for 1 more hour (or should at least double in size.  Mine seems like it could have benefited from a longer rise time).  

Once it rises enough, deflate and put back on your working surface.  

This is enough to make 2 loaves of bread.

For round loaves, form the dough into a smooth ball, tucking the edges under.  Score the top and bake at 425F for 45 min

For pan loaves, adjust cooking time depending on your pan.


  1. Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to bread baking. What you are trying to achieve is oven spring - where the bread continues to rise in the oven as it bakes and gives you a tall loaf, good for sandwich making. From what I've read, oven spring or oven shoot as it is sometimes called depends on what stage of reproduction your yeast is in. Some recipes have 2 rises, one in an oiled bowl, then punch down, shape and rise again in the baking pan. It's alot of luck in timing and learning from mistakes (which are usually still edible but not the perfection we are trying to achieve). Looks like you are heading in the right direction...only suggestion I might make is temperature. Have you tried 375 degrees? That is what I use for my regular yeast breads. When I bake my sourdough artisan loaves in dutch ovens I do the 500 or 450 degress since they are sealed inside a vessel that holds in the moisture. And at these higher temps I am still having issues with the bottom crust getting slightly burned(dammit!) Good luck with "take 3"!

    1. I could definitely try the lower temp. I was never really sure of the adjustments I needed to make because the person who gave me the recipe usually bakes the bread on a stone, as a round loaf instead of using metal pans. It seems like my bread didn't have much of an "oven spring" at all. It was pretty much the same size coming out as it was going in - and I was relying on that last bit of rising in the oven, too.

      How long do you bake your yeast breads at 375?

      As for the burning - have you tried lining the bottom of the dutch oven with parchment paper? I find that keeps biscuits and cookies from burning but I don't know what the heat limit is for use in the oven. It might work...

    2. I usually bake them for 20-30 minutes - that would be french bread without a pan, on a parchment lined cookie sheet(french bread recipe calls for 3.5 cups flour and I make it into 2 loaves). A couple times I forgot about it on the second rise and it came out sorta flat so I guess I missed out on the optimal yeast production time. Timing is everything, too little rise time or too much ruins the oven spring. My artisan sourdough I had been making in a covered corningware casserole dish because it was the closest thing to a dutch oven or clay baker. I recently invested in a cast iron dutch oven but haven't tried it out yet. Also may set it on a baking stone to prevent bottom burning. I did try parchment in the corningware and it helped slightly. The dutch oven is supposed to simulate brick ovens. It's fun to tweak recipes and techniques.

  2. One of the things I'd definitely look into is the size of your loaf pans. Most bread recipes are designed for 4 x8 inch pans. However, most of the pans I see for sale now are 9x5. Even if you hit the right part of the cycle to pop the bread into the oven, it's not going to be as tall as you'd like it, if your pan is too big. You might try a recipe and a half, if your pans are larger.

    Also, keep a bread journal. That way you can change variables one at a time and note the results without having to wonder exactly what you did lasst time. It sounds fiddly, but has really helped me be a better bread baker.

    1. My pans are 9x5, after looking at it for a while I considered using the entire recipe in one pan, but that might be too much. The recipe and a half idea sounds like it would work. I'm just curious because I saw my friend make a loaf with 1/2 the recipe like I did, but it was all with bread flour - and that sucker came out huge!! But I also recall that he let it rise for much longer than I did, and also a 2nd time as well.

      A bread journal is a great idea, I will have to stick a little notebook on my counter next to my recipe cards...thank you!

    2. Bread journal is an awesome suggestion! Like!

  3. Every one has great suggestions and you'll find when implemented they'll make a huge difference in the final product. I would like to add that once you get your rise on target, I suggest adding ground flax seed when you're kneading your dough. Wheat bread can often be dry and I have found the flax seeds give the loaf more of a store bought sandwich texture.

    Can't wait to see pictures of your new loaves.