Neil Robinson

On the trail of great bread!

August 28, 2014
by Neil
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Maintaining My Starter

For those people who have received some of my starter, I thought it might be helpful to discuss how I maintain it.

To refresh the starter (but only for refreshing it and not for baking next day), combine 30g of starter with 85ml of water. Whisk them together until the starter has dispersed in the water. Add in 50g of white bread flour and 50g of stone ground whole wheat flour. Whisk the lot together again until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated and the result is a thick paste.

Discard the unused starter from the original batch into your organic waste (or use it for some other purpose).  Clean the container and then place the newly refreshed starter back into it. If you are not going to bake in the next day or two, put it into the refrigerator. It will keep in there for weeks without refreshing, though it may develop some alcohol and become a bit grey on the surface.

When preparing to bake, take 30g-60g of starter from the container, refresh it as outlined above with 170ml of water, 100g of white bread flour and 100g of stone ground whole-wheat flour. Once it has risen thoroughly and is bubbly on top it is ready to make bread (usually around 5-8 hours depending on whether it was in the fridge before and how warm the room is where it is rising). To make the bread take out 200g-250g of starter and place the rest back into the refrigerator for next time (unless you expect to bake within the next 2-3 days).

That is pretty much it. Happy baking :).

May 1, 2014
by Neil
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Stone-Baked Sourdough and Yeast Hybrid Loaf

Having experimented quite a bit with pure yeast doughs I got to know them and although they gradually developed a sourdough-like character after days in the refrigerator, they still seemed to be lacking compared with my normal sourdough. I went back into my library and had another read of the book “artisan breads every day” by Peter Reihart. I eventually made a recipe that was a synthesis of what he had in the book and my own experience of sourdough baking. This one used 250g of my own starter (a wet starter, not the more solid motherstarter that Peter uses). The full recipe is:

  • 250g starter
  • 750ml water
  • 150g whole wheat flour
  • 850g white bread flour
  • 11g yeast
  • 19g salt

After mixing it up I also did several turns, but I left it out too long before refrigetating and it grew very quickly even after I put it in the refrigerator. I ended up using half of it the same day for baking. The result was very good. It produced a huge loaf with amazing oven spring. The picture below doesn’t really make it easy to see just how big this one became. The structure was good, with irregular holes with caramelization in the larger holes. It was, as usual, delicious :).

Sourdough and yeast "pan au levain"

Sourdough and yeast “pan au levain”

 

April 29, 2014
by Neil
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April 2014 2nd Experiment with Stone-Baked Bread

For this attempt I used less water and slightly modified the amount of whole wheat versus white bread flour. The recipe was:

  • 750ml water
  • 300g whole wheat flour
  • 700g white bread flour
  • 11g yeast
  • 19g salt

The first loaf I baked with this was done on the following day and the crumb was similar to typical sandwich bread. The taste was fine, but it did not deliver the results I was looking for. Baking with it a few days later produced a better result, more in line with my ideals of an artisan bread. Overall, this time the oven spring was better, the loaves rose higher. The pictures speak for themselves.

30% whole wheat and 750ml water loaf

30% whole wheat and 750ml water loaf

This came out a bit oblong because of the score pattern.

30% whole wheat and 750ml water loaf sliced

30% whole wheat and 750ml water loaf sliced

This later version has a clearly irregular hole structure and produced a superior product in terms of taste to the one baked only the day after. The experiment was inspired by the book “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”.

 

35% whole-wheat 800ml water loaf sliced

April 29, 2014
by Neil
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April 2014 Wet Dough Experiment with Whole Wheat Flour and Yeast

After my previous attempts using recipes I found in “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”, I decided to modify the recipes to be more in line with the amount of dough I usually make and also I wanted a larger whole wheat percentage in the loaf. I increased the flour amount to 1000g, and then checked the amount of water required. That turned out to be in line with my expectations (750ml), but since I wanted to make a more whole wheat version, I decided to use the following amounts:

  • 800ml water
  • 350g whole wheat flour
  • 650g white bread flour
  • 11g yeast
  • 19g salt

This ended up producing a slightly too wet dough, as it turned out. I had forgotten that I wasn’t using 100% whole wheat or rye and that even in my normal sourdough recipes I only use 750ml of water. As a result the first loaf ended up being a bit too flat and did not rise enough in the oven. To deal with that I ended up working the dough a bit and that helped to improve the oven spring. The taste was still great, but the format was not what I had wanted. See the result here:

35% whole-wheat 800ml water loaf

35% whole-wheat 800ml water loaf

As you can see from this image and the image below:

35% whole-wheat 800ml water loaf sliced

35% whole-wheat 800ml water loaf sliced

The internal structure as a result of spending several days in the refrigerator was pretty good, but the loaf didn’t rise enough. Another experiment is coming though :).

 

April 27, 2014
by Neil
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Light Rye Yeast Bread Baked on Stone

As a follow up to the previous post about using a wet yeast dough, stored over several days in the refrigerator, I decided to try another variant using the same basic recipe from the same book, “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. This time I went with around 150g of rye flour instead of the usual whole wheat/rye mixture I used the first time. The results were very good. I don’t use carroway seeds in my ryes, primarily because my kids won’t eat the bread then (I personally love it that way).

The results were just as good as the previous round of baking, as can be seen from the photographs that follow.

15% Percent Rye Loaf

15% Percent Rye Loaf

15% Rye Loaf, Sliced

15% Rye Loaf, Sliced