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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo

2020-07-26 - If It Wasn't For Bad Luck!

Hello Bread Heads!

Class notes - The LONG awaited better Internet connection is here at our house! As a result, we are starting to offer classes again. We are delighted! Our current game plan is to send a "care package" to students in the USA containing all the non-perishable ingredients they need, a pizza stone and other odds and ends needed for the class. Our trial run with a pizza class on our old Internet connection went well, except for the Internet connection, so we have high hopes.

Because of the logistics of getting the care packages out, we are cutting off class registrations 10 days before class. We may change our class model, depending on how it works out, and student feedback.

At this time, we are still having classes on Saturday mornings, however that is a holdover from when we were working and offered these classes as a side gig. Now that we're retired and many people are quarantined, we could offer classes any day of the week. And, we could offer multi-day classes. Today we mix the dough, tomorrow we shape the loaves, the next day we bake the breads.

If you have ideas about what you'd like to see, drop us a note - just replying to this email should do the trick.

Bad luck and trouble - I recently heard "Born Under a Bad Sign" by Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn and it started me thinking. Everybody and their cat has covered that classic blues number at one time or another. It's a real winner!

And it reminds me that quite often when someone cries about their bad luck, they created it themselves. The dough didn't overhydrate itself. The dough didn't overproof itself. And, for that matter, the dough didn't use the wrong flour all by itself! But, when you pick lemons, make some lemon curd! Or lemon tarts! Can we talk....

Disaster 1 - It seems we ate all our our bagels! When we teach a bagel class I try to make about 3 dozen or so for our freezer. Bagels freeze very well. Even more important, they thaw very well! So, it was time to bake some bagels.

So I dragged the bucket of high protein flour to the kitchen, along with the buckets of bread flour and rye kernels for other baking projects. Almost predictably, I grabbed the bucket of bread flour to make the bagels instead of the high protein flour I should have used. However, once you add the water to the mixing bowl, you're pretty well committed - throwing away flour is a sinful waste, and the trash collectors really hate picking up a container with raw dough in it. So... it was time to put on my big boy pants and make some bagels.

July 25th Bake Bagels and Light Rye Breads

Long time friend of the newsletter Tre' Landrum mentioned that he's been using a stretch and fold technique to make as many as 100 bagels at a time! I was amazed, i hadn't thought bagels were a good candidate for stretch and fold. On the other hand, bagels are the mixer killer, so I wanted to try it. Some people use nice gentle little stretches where you pick up the dough and it stretches itself. Not so much with bagel dough. It is thick enough that it just laughs at you. So, I used the stretch and fold technique I documented here years and years ago. Dump the dough onto the work table, stretch it from the underside until it is about 1/3 the height where it started. Look for clumps of dry flour and cope with them, then fold it like a letter, bottom up and top down. Then fold in from the sides. Put the dough back into the rising container, cover the dough, and let it rest for an hour. Repeat every hour until you have given it two more stretch and folds. Let it rest another hour.

When I shaped the dough into bagels I noticed they didn't shape as well as when I used high protein flour. They were lumpy. Despite being unhappy with them, I let them rise, covered, for two hours, and then slid them into our wine cooler for a long slow overnight rise. (My experience is a refrigerator is really too cold. Also, I can control the temperature in a wine cooler without warming the food in a fridge to unsafe temperatures.)

The next morning, the bagels were not as smoothly shaped as usual. You could even say lumpy. Still, I boiled them. And they looked kinda puffy, which also concerned me. Next I baked them. As you can see, above, they were hardly disasters, but they weren't as good as usual. The crust was nice and crisp, but the crumb was softer and less chewy than I prefer. ....Bad luck and trouble been my only friend....

Disaster 2 - I picked up a copy of "Flour Lab: An At-Home Guide to Baking with Freshly Milled Grains" from Amazon and it is a very promising book on the joys of using freshly milled flour. I milled the Red Fife wheat I needed, mixed the dough, let it rise as they suggested, and then put it into the fridge for an overnight rise. About an hour later, our air conditioner died. The home warranty company and repair company duked it out and just 16 days later, we again had air conditioning. When your kitchen is 95F/35C, the idea of heating the oven is less than attractive. So, the dough stayed in the fridge. Ignored, but not forgotten. I figured it was a lost cause, but that I'd bake it. I pulled it out of the oven, shaped it into sandwich loaves, and let it rise. The rise was slow, but it DID rise. And then I baked it. The result was one of the more flavorful and moist whole grain loaves I've baked. Once we eat the loaves, I'll try again to see what happens when you follow the directions. But I was delighted at how well the loaves turned out.

As you might have guessed, writing a newsletter wasn't near the top of my priority list either. Mostly, we sat and sweated, drank lots of fluids, and read.

Anyway - a bit of irony. During the great air conditioner outage of 2020, I took a pizza class from Scott's Pizza Tours. During the Covid-19 crisis, the tour part of his business has suffered so he has been teaching pizza classes. I learned a lot. And had to bake two pizzas in a 525F/274C oven. in a 98F/37C kitchen. The pizzas turned out great, and I coulda baked the bread, but I just wasn't thinking about it.

Ham, Pepperoni, Mozz, and Mushroom pizza
Disaster 3 - At this point long term friend of the newsletter Joe is throwing his shoes at his computer. He thinks one should never admit mistakes., Ever. Even if you learn from them. Sune, the Foodgeek on YouTube, has a number of nice videos, and recipes. He used a recipe that was about 20% home milled rye flour to demonstrate dough stretch and folds using different techniques, like the dainty coil folds, one handed stretches, and two handed stretches that really would NOT impress my bagel dough. Still, Beth loves rye bread and it had been too long. I made a guess about loaf size, scaled the formula, mixed the dough, did coil stretch and folds, let the dough rest, shaped the dough, put one load in a loaf pan and one in a brotform. I covered them and put them into the wine cooler. I should have baked the next day, but events swept me up - the installer came by to install our new Internet service (more about that later). So, the bake was delayed another 24 hours. As I pulled the bagels out of the wine cooler I noticed the rye loaves had over risen and collapsed around the loaf pan and brotform.

Bad luck and trouble been my only friend..... At that point, all I could really do was promise to use less dough next time, dump the dough onto the counter, knead it, add a little flour to firm it up, and put it back into the brotform and loaf pan for another rise.

I attended to the bagels, and when I was done with them, the rye bread was nicely risen. The brotform raised loaf went into a Dutch oven to bake.

Sune's rye load, mangled by Mike

Much to my great delight, it turned out pretty well, The crumb wasn't as open as I'd have liked, due to my kneading the over risen dough, but it tastes great and had a decent crumb. Beth was happy that I FINALLY made another bread with rye in it.

Still, when the dough is ready to bake, you need to bake the dough, even if you don't feel like it. Even of you have something else you'd rather do. Or need to do. But, as the saying goes, better late than never! And the new Internet provider is delivering what the rest only promised.

Yeah, we often make our own bad luck, but it's what happens next that is really important! So, until next, time, may your dough always rise, no matter what you did to tempt the fates this time,


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