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Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips Logo2012-12-05 - Not Dead Yet - Breads, Pizzas, Lore and More

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Not dead yet! It has been, perhaps, too long since I shared my thoughts. A few people have sent me notes asking if they could help me. While my wife often says I'm beyond help, I am always happy when people send me bread stories and pictures (make sure you tell me if it's OK to share the story, pictures and your name), or to get questions from readers.

A few other people asked if I was still alive. I'm glad, very glad, to say, yes, I am still alive. I hope to be able to answer that question in the same way for some time to come.

So, what's the deal man? Part of the issue is that I haven't been baking for quite some time. Yeah, I could point out that it's been summer in Texas for quite some time. If you live here, you understand the concept behind the phrase "Endless Summer". Truthfully, it is hard to bring yourself to bake in the summer. The house is, if not air conditioned, hot and baking will make it hotter. If your house is air conditioned, baking fights the benefits of air conditioning, and raises one's power bills.

But really, that's not a reason. If you want to do something, you find a way to do it. If you don't want to do something, you find a way to not do it. Like going to the gym. If you are a professional baker, you have the extrinsic motivation of a pay check that guarantees you'll be baking. If you're a hobbyist, you are dependent upon intrinsic motivations. You have to want to do it. Yeah, summer CAN get in the way, as can road trips, and the day to day things we do. Still, if you want to do something you find a way to do it. When someone tells you they want to do something, but they don't do it, believe the actions, not the words.

Put another way, sometimes, the muse is just occupied elsewhere. The muse may have finally crossed into my life again! It happened about the time I warmed the last of our frozen sourdough Kaiser Rolls. We made thousand and thousands of them when we were running a bakery, and they are delicious. It's a toss up between the Kaiser rolls and our Bagels which I like more! And then, I ran out of frozen pizza dough. And, there were a few really attractive recipes that showed up on my screen. So, my starter has been fed and fed and is a lively beast again!

I started making 4 dozen Kaiser rolls. It was an excuse to use the still pretty new FAMAG 8s mixer. It handled the dough without slowing down at all! No strain, no muss, no fuss! I REALLY like the mixer, even if it is a bit more than I really need! Pleasant Hill Grain sells the mixer and they have been great to work with. I've been working on a video of the mixer that I should release "real soon now". Most of the rolls have been frozen and are delighting us on a regular basis. When we want rolls, I grab them out of the freezer, run them under the kitchen sink to make them nice and wet, and then bake them in our toaster oven for 5 minutes at 400F. No need to defrost them. They are lovely in 5 minutes, hot inside with a crisp crust, very much like they were on bake day.

Playing with recipes - The first recipe that I started working with is from Sourdough and Olives, and it is their Sandwich Bread with Rye and Oats. It makes a lovely bread! Sourdough and Olive's Sandwich Bread with Rye and Oats

My first batch turned out well, despite more than the usual number of missteps. The dough was in the bulk fermentation or first rise, and was moving slowly - it's quite cool now. One thing after another happened, and I forgot all about it and went to bed. I'd planned on loafing the dough before bed and letting the dough rise slowly overnight.

About 3 AM I woke up, gripped with fear! I was forgetting something! What was it? Oh, yeah, the bread! I leapt out of bed (it was a slow leap, my bones aren't as young as they once were) and dashed (again, a slow dash) to the kitchen where I saw I was just in time! The dough had doubled in size (pro-tip - if you let your dough rise in a calibrated container, you can tell how much it has risen!) I plopped the dough onto the counter, scaled it, loafed it, and was back in bed by 3:15. It wasn't my best loafing job, but it did do what needed to be done.

Recovering an over-risen dough. In the past I've made similar mistakes and let the dough over rise in the bulk ferment, or even once shaped. The dough weakens, and the results are sub optimum. Many times, you can knead the dough, shape it, and let it rise with acceptable results. Sometimes the gluten structure is damaged and the dough is just too weak to do anything with, so more extreme steps are needed - often you can knead more flour into the overly slack dough to give it some structure, shape it and let it rise again. If the dough is too far gone for that, you can add it to later batches of bread as "old dough". You can add about 10% old dough to a batch of bread without problems. The old dough adds a lot of flavor to a new one, and many bakers keep old dough intentionally.

The dough rose nicely and went into the oven around 9:00. It baked beautifully and we've been enjoying it for a few days now. The oats help keep the crumb nice and moist, the crust was very crisp, and the taste was wonderful - the rye and oats added richness, depth and nuttiness to the bread! Next time I make it, I'll add it to our roster of recipes.

A quick note - somehow I never photographed the loaves of bread I made! So, I borrowed the picture from Sourdough and Olives. A nice loaf, and a nice picture!

Black Garlic! We've seen a number of articles about black garlic, how to make black garlic, and how to make bread with black garlic. We LOVE garlic, so we were enthralled by the idea of black garlic - garlic that has been fermented so long it turns black. It is a mellower, deeper and funkier taste. Making your own can be done in a yogurt maker or bread proofer. However, it takes a long time, about 6 weeks if memory serves - we'll be sharing a few ways to make it in our Facebook group, Bake With Mike.  As I was deciding whether to make some, we found some in a nearby Whole Paycheck Market! And that was all the inspiration I needed - I made a black garlic and charcoal bread! It's from a YouTube video by Pablo de Pasquale.

The dough was an absolute joy to deal with, light, fluffy, so well risen! Once baked it wasBlack Garlic Bread beautiful!

Sliced black garlic and charcoal breadWhen we cut into it the black elements weren't as well distributed as Pablo De Pasquale's version, but it was nice enough.

While we liked the black garlic taste, we weren't enthralled by it. It was good, but not so good we want to go our of our way to buy, or make, more black garlic. This could be due to a lack of taste on our part.

What was odd was the bread had a somewhat gritty texture. We're thinking that's from the charcoal. I later used this recipe, without the charcoal and black garlic, but with the Nigella seeds to make rolls for our Thanksgiving dinner. They were lovely, and people loved them! I put some unusual twists in them, so I'll make them again and post them to sourdough home.

Pizza. YEAH! PIZZA! Paulie Gee mentioned Reuben Pizza and that inspired me. I realized that we were out of frozen pizza dough, so I had to make more pizza dough. Normally I make a lot of dough at once and then freeze per-portioned dough balls. This time, I wanted pizza faster than sourdough would have delivered it, so I used our straight yeast based pizza dough, and replaced about 1/4 of the white flour with rye flour- hey, a Reuben calls out for rye! I was, again, surprised by how much flavor the yeast pizza dough delivered with just a quick rise and yeast.

I topped this one with a touch of olive oil to keep the crust from getting soggy,Reuben Pizza a cup of rinsed and drained sauerkraut, a generous layer of sliced deli-corned beef, and then shredded Swiss cheese topped it. 15 minutes in 550F oven and the top was bubbling and browned in places. The crowning touch was decorating the top of the pie with Thousand Island salad dressing.

It was very, very nice! Here's the rye pizza dough recipe -

Volumetric Measure (Cups)IngredientGramsBaker's Percentage
1 2/3 CupsWater380 Grams60%
2 TBSPOlive Oil31 Grams5%
3 7/8 CupsAll Purpose Flour (1)510 Grams81%
1 cupRye Flour (2)120 Grams19%
2 tspInstant Dry Yeast (3)12.5 Grams2%
2 tspSalt12.5 Grams2%

(1) You may use bread flour, high protein flour, typo 00 flour - whatever you have, though you may need to adjust the water to compensate
(2) I used freshly milled whole rye flour. You may use light rye, medium rye, dark rye, or whole rye - whatever you have handy.
(3) You may use 1.3x as much active dry yeast or 2 1/2 times as much fresh yeast, by weight

Knead the dough until well developed, cover and allow to rise until light and puffy, around 2 to 3 hours. Shape into pizza shells, top and bake in a pre-heated 550F oven. We've had good results refrigerating and freezing this dough, just give it lots of time to recover at room temperature!

Well, I think I've wasted enough of your time now.... so until next time, may your dough always rise, even if you let the bulk rise go on too long!

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