Well, seriously crippled anyway. It locked up while mixing ciabatta dough, not a terribly demanding task. Shutting it off and starting it again will make it rotate once, before it stops again, making a grinding sound. I assume this is a gear problem, which is something KAs are known for. I have an inkling this might be the other shoe hitting the floor after black smoke came out of the housing about 8 months ago while mixing a double batch of dough.
While I’m sure the mixer is repairable, I’m thinking of using this as an excuse to get the Electrolux Assistent, which should solve my capacity problem and remove any risk of overloading the mixer. If I get the KA repaired, I’d probably limit it to non-bread tasks. If it turns out costly to fix, I might just replace it with the Cuisinart 7 quart, depending on how well the Electrolux handles other types of non-bread mixing.
I’ve had the KA about 5 years; it’s a 5 qt, 450 watt bowl lift model from Costco and supposedly has the metal gears, rather than the plastic of earlier models.
I was able to save the Ciabatta dough by incorporating a few extra folds; it turned out nicely, but I “sampled” it all up before taking any photos. I’m such a lousy photographer!
But my real focus on the past few months has been baguettes. I met a French girl at a dinner party a while back where I brought a loaf of cracked wheat, a variation on Rose’s recipe. She was stunned by the non-store-bought flavor and complained that she couldn’t get good bread in the USA. (I’m sure that’s not true in the largest cities.) She said she had to bring baguettes back from France and put them in the freezer. So I set my sights on providing her with a good baguette.
Rose said that it took her a couple of dozen tries to get it right; well, I have no sympathy. I’m now probably over a hundred and am only just now gaining an understanding of how to bring this off. My last attempt is attached below. Couple of comments: 1) I’m generally pleased with the way the cuts opened, but they aren’t quite evenly sized. 2) I’m generally pleased with the crumb. While many hobbyist bakers seem to think the bigger the holes the better, the professionals don’t seem to feel that way. Hammelman commented that a large hole is an indication of a shaping error.
The biggest challenge is to get the steaming right. My oven leaks steam as if there is no door, so I resorted to the technique of an inverted hotel pan, hole drilled in the side, and a handheld steamer to inject steam into the oven. I also purchased a new baking stone that is almost as large as the interior of the oven.
I am, BTW, signed up to take a weekend baguette-making course at the San Francisco Baking Institute in December. I think it will be great fun!
Wow, that is one truly lovely bageutte, so happy you posted! The slice picture showing the crumb makes me yearn for butter and a glass of white burgundy, sigh.
I agree with you on the size of the holes, I think they should be large for ciabatta and focaccia, but not as large as possible for everything. Yours look perfect
So, after 100+ loaves, what are the key points that work for you? Do you have a favorite flour? What type of sponge do you like, and do you favor room temp or time in the fridge? It sounds like steam is a must.
Wow, that is one truly lovely bageutte. So, after 100+ loaves, what are the key points that work for you?
Thank you Julie! It’s been very frustrating.
One of the reasons it took so much experimentation was that I was trying to understand how each variable affected the end product. I had dozens of inspirations about changes that would produce the perfect baguette but these inspirations all proved wrong.
In the end, I was failing mostly on something pretty basic…inadequate gluten development during the mixing phase. The reason this was an obstacle is that dough isn’t supposed to pass the windowpane test, since much of the gluten development takes place during a long fermentation and via some number of folds. How much is enough? The books are all over the map on this, from a three minute mix to about ten. The upper end scared me because I just kept thinking about the oxidation of the dough. And surely a lean dough wouldn’t need as much mixing as my sandwich loaves?
In the end, I had to overcome my prejudice against mixing and trust Hammelman’s theory, which says that it takes 900 rotations of the dough hook to achieve “moderate” gluten development, which is about what you want for an artisan type loaf when it comes out of the mixer. How long this takes depends on the RPM of your mixer, which you just have to know. My KA on setting 4 is just over 100 RPM, so in theory, it should take 9 minutes to achieve the moderate gluten development that Hammelman was talking about. This was about twice the number of rotations that I had been giving to the dough. So a good bit of my trouble had been due to a weak dough, which reduced the proofing tolerance of the dough, resulting in mediocre crumb and cuts that didn’t open very well.
So what I ended up with is a 1 minute mix with the paddle, 20 minute autolyse, followed by a 7 minute mix on #4 with the dough hook. Stretch and fold after 30 minutes, then another one after an hour, followed by another hour fermentation. Divide, light degassing, preshape, bench rest for 20 minutes, then light degassing, shape and proof for about an hour. I leave the hotel pan on the loaves for about 9 minutes in the oven, then remove it and place the loafs on a cooling rack for the remainder of the baking time so the bottoms don’t burn. I reverse them in the oven after about 5 minutes.
I don’t think the type of flour matters a whole lot. I used KA All Purpose, KA Bread Flour, KA European, and KA French, and didn’t see much difference between them. This sort of matches what I had read in one of my books that said that bakers tend to obsess too much about types of flour; while that is important in a production environment, which needs consistency, it’s not really very important to home bakers. In the end, it’s the technique that is the largest contributor to the quality of the end product. (For some reason, this reminds me of the quote by a famous general: amateurs talk about strategy, generals talk about logistics.)
Up until now, I’ve been focusing on the form of the baguette, rather than the flavor, but I have been using a 15 hour poolish, to which I add a few percent of high extraction flour for more of a wheaty flavor. I suspect that the best preferment to use is just what Rose and Maggie Glezer (Acme Bread recipe) advocate….a combination of poolish and pâte fermentée. However, I’d bet that an overnight stint in the refrigerator would accomplish the same thing as the pâte fermentée and be a lot easier.
Charles, so interesting to hear your take on baguette variables, thanks for taking the time to write that out.
When I make breads that require slashing, they usually end up deflated from too much pressure or don’t open up much, now after reading your comments I’m wondering about gluten development being the issue (in addition to slight overproofing). On the other hand, with Rose’s 100% whole wheat bread I’m running into the opposite problem- too much gluten for eating purposes. And like you, I think it has to do with figuring out how much development is going to take place during rises, versus mixing.
I’m so interested to hear you say that about flour types, I find I do have strong preferences. But I’ve wondered from time to time if that isn’t just related to slight changes in protein content and the fact that for a given recipe, there is a protein level that works best with the hydration given.
On the other hand, with Rose’s 100% whole wheat bread I’m running into the opposite problem- too much gluten for eating purposes.
Hmmm, are you sure this is a too much gluten problem? Usually with whole wheat, the problem is the opposite, which is why people usually add vital wheat gluten. I’ve never taken the percentage over 60%, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but the bran is a notorious gluten-killer. I would have said that too much gluten is a problem most whole wheat fans would like to have, like being too rich.
Hmmm, are you sure this is a too much gluten problem?
Well, uh, no.
Here’s the thing: this bread dough uses freshly ground wheat berries and then adds vital wheat gluten to lighten the texture. The first time I made it, I went nuts over it (so to speak, it’s walnut bread) and thought it was one of the best breads I’ve ever made, especially for pairing with cheese.
But then I had to go and change it- it makes such a large loaf, and I like to make two smaller loaves, one to eat right away and one to freeze. I’ve found that they need a higher baking temp as smaller loaves, I could use a bit more browning on the crust then they get in the shorter baking time.
Also, instead of kneading the nuts into the dough at the mixing stage, I’ve been adding them at shaping, pushing the dough into a flat rectangle, covering it with the nuts and then rolling it up like a spiral bread. My thought in doing this was that the nuts wouldn’t interfere with gluten that way, and they also wouldn’t end up on the crust, where they get a bit too dark/bitter for me. The recipe has two kneading times, one for dough with walnuts (10 min) and one for dough without walnuts, which I use (7 minutes) with this method.
But now that I’ve done all those things, the texture is off, the bread isn’t tender enough.
Thoughts on possible culprits:
-my half-recipe loaves are free formed, so there’s no support from pan sides. I’m fine with the shape- slices into little oblongs that are great with cheese, but not sure if it may also be affecting texture?
-for some reason I have a hard time limiting the rise to 1.5x. There’s usually one rise that goes to double before I catch it.
-maybe something about my process/ingredients needs less added gluten. I don’t get as fine a grind on my flour as Rose does, I can tell from the liquidy sponge.
Interesting problem, Julie! To test your hypotheses, I’d consider putting one of your half-loaves in a pan with sides and see if that changes the texture closer to what you had originally. And one way to test your too-much-gluten thought is to increase your mixing times, or add an extra stretch and fold….it seems to me that if too much gluten is a problem, then increasing the gluten strength would make it worse, which would be informative. And if it made it better, that would be even more informative. (Your photo of the free form loaf shows it to be flat; one symptom of too much gluten is a very round profile, so to me, this is not consistent with the hypothesis.)
Here’s a question: just like increasing baking powder can make a cake more tender, doesn’t it follow that the quantity of bubbles in a yeast leavened product can affect the tenderness? I’m wondering if, perhaps, that mixing all of the nuts with the dough incorporates more air into the dough than does adding them after the fact. Supposedly, the air bubbles created during mixing are the nuclei where all the CO2 migrates to during fermentation. Have you tried this method of ingredient incorporation with the original loaf pan size?
Interesting problem, Julie! To test your hypotheses, I’d consider putting one of your half-loaves in a pan with sides and see if that changes the texture closer to what you had originally.
You’re right- I should probably make one with my method, but in a pan, and the other according to Rose’s method, everything the same except pan size.
(Your photo of the free form loaf shows it to be flat; one symptom of too much gluten is a very round profile, so to me, this is not consistent with the hypothesis.)
Yes, I see what you mean about the flat shape. I’m thinking it’s either from the gluten being compromised by a rise going past 1.5x, or by nuts, or by being underdeveloped to begin with. It’s also a very, very wet dough. It’s sort of funny, it tastes like there’s too much gluten, but looks like there isn’t enough. I wonder if it’s too much, or enough, but compromised/weakened?
I’m wondering if, perhaps, that mixing all of the nuts with the dough incorporates more air into the dough than does adding them after the fact. Supposedly, the air bubbles created during mixing are the nuclei where all the CO2 migrates to during fermentation.
Great point. The reason my dough is so very wet is that my flour is more coarsely ground than Rose’s, or at least I’m assuming that’s the case as my sponge is really too liquid-y to whisk and incorporate air the way it’s supposed to (many of her bread sponges get whisked for 3 minutes before fermenting to incorporate air, for the reason you mention). So, in addition to the nuts creating air, mine wasn’t able to hold on to the air incorporated during the whisking of the sponge.
Have you tried this method of ingredient incorporation with the original loaf pan size?
The first time I made it I did knead the dough with the nuts in it. It was wonderful bread.
Thanks so much for all your insight. I’m not as experienced with bread as I am with pastry.
It’s sort of funny, it tastes like there’s too much gluten, but looks like there isn’t enough. I wonder if it’s too much, or enough, but compromised/weakened?
You can taste gluten? Or do you mean you feel the texture? I assumed when you said “too much gluten for eating purposes”, you mean it was too tough. It wouldn’t surprise me that lots of gluten can form, but then is chopped up by the bran action. Gluten formation appears to be a chemical reaction and the bran isn’t likely to be able to split a chemical compound, but it might inhibit them from forming cohesive sheets that are needed to trap lots of gas. Sort of like throwing a rubber balloon into a paper shredder; lots of rubber that can’t be inflated.
As an aside, one of the Cooks Illustrated people explored whole wheat bread and decided that the soaking of bran overnight reduced its ability to cut gluten. I’m not a huge whole wheat fan, so I haven’t really experimented with this much. That particular writer also said it eliminated most of the bitterness, something that came to mind as I was reading Rose’s article talking about how the bitterness was due to rancid flour.
BTW, I pulled the housing off the top of my mixer and I can see the stripped gear; it’s called the “worm follower” and some of the teeth are worn completely away in one spot. There is metal dust and chips embedded in the copious quantity of grease. The replacement part is only 7 or 8 dollars, but I also had to order a can of food grade grease for almost $20. To be on the safe side, I also ordered a spare worm gear itself, just to have on hand, because I’ve heard that this can go out, too. So all the parts are about $55. I might have them by Friday!