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Archive for the ‘baking technology’ Category

Brushed up

with 12 comments

My blog hibernation resulted in increased productivity. My baguettes are currently going through changes as I am trying a new technique of steaming. I find this very interesting, bordering on exciting.

In a brave effort to achieve the results of a professional bread oven, I have tried numerous approaches to make better baguettes, the last one being brushing the tops of the loaves with water in the first minutes of the bake. The results were quite flat loaves with a gray, dull and soft crust. The loaves flattening is an indicator for reduced surface tension, so that was something useful, because baguettes tightening up and becoming almost perfectly round is a common problem in domestic ovens.

The latest change made the difference. Apply water along the slashes of the baguettes for about 4-5 times for the first 5-8 minutes of the bake. Overdoing it will result in unattractive crusts, but using a brush that has only touched the surface of water and wetting only the inside of the slashes, i.e. the dough that is rising out of the center of the uncooked dough, turns even slack doughs into fluffy baguettes. I never had success with yeasted poolishes until now, first picture is such a dough.

Well, ideally. there are fine points because nature is not cheap like that and it’s not self-working. I admit this is not pretty nor elegant, either, it’s a trick. But since I found the results so remarkable I had to inform everyone.

Zeb (Joanna) from Zeb Bakes was kind enough to try it, cf. her blog post. Thanks a lot, Zeb.

(Probably going to add to this post over the next days or weeks.)






Written by theinversecook

17 July 2010 at 21:16

Baker’s math – a handful of practical examples

with 7 comments

A bit of number crunching is a baker’s daily business. Here are a few calculations I feel myself forced to use rather frequently (except the last one, which is more of a very theoretical nature). Note that these calculations do not work for volumes like cups (or handfuls, gills or shovels) but only for weight / mass measures. I like to use g and kg, but if you prefer ounces, stones, atomic mass or any weight unit, fine. Weight reflects the number of molecules of the ingredients that connect with each other. Volume doesn’t.

Straightforward scaling, etc.

1. How do I calculate the hydration of a dough?

Answer: Hydration is given by weight of water to weight of flour (and all other dry mass that will bind water except salt and yeast). Example: The recipe uses 600g of flour and 400g of water. The hydration is 400 / 600 = 2/3 = 0.666… = 67%. Note that liquids in general are not 100% water. Full fat milk for example has about 87% of water. When calculating hydrations, you have to take this into account where large amounts of it are used.

2. I got a recipe from the internet that uses X grams of flour but I want make a loaf using Y grams flour. How to fix this?

Answer: Scale every ingredient with factor X / Y. Example: The recipe calls for 700g of flour, but you want to use 500g of flour. Multiply every weight in the recipe with 500 / 700 = 5 / 7 = 0.71…

3. I made a dough with a hydration of X %. If I use Y lb. of flour, how much dough will I have not taking into account salt, yeast and all other small quantities?

Answer: You will have exactly (1 + X/100)*Y lb. of dough. Example: Hydration is 68% and 1 lb. of flour is used. This will yield 1.68 * 1 lb = 1.68 lb. = 1 lb. 10.9 oz. = 762g of dough.

More hydrations

4. I have a recipe here that uses a hydration of X %. I want to have exactly Y kg of dough, neglecting salt, yeast and other small quantities. How much flour do I need?

Answer: You will need Y / (1 + X/100) of flour. Example: Recipe has hydration of 70% and you want to make 300g of dough. Flour needed is given by 300g / 1.7 = 176.4g.

5. I wanted to make a dough with X % hydration and used Y g of flour. Now I accidentally added Z g of water, which is way too much. Since I can’t take out the water, how much flour do I add now to get the correect hydration?

Answer: You will have to add (Z / X) – Y of flour. Example: 500g of flour is in the bowl and you want 65% hydration. You accidentally added 430g of water, which is too much. Then you must add (430g / 0.65) – 500g = 162g of flour.

Further playful examples

6. During baking dough for a medium-sized loaf of bread will lose 20% of its own weight. I am using a hydration of X % and need the baked loaf to weigh Y g. How much flour do I need for such a loaf?

Answer: You will need (1 / 0.8) * Y / (1 + X/100)) lb. of flour. Example: You want 750g loaves and are using a hydration of 71%. You will need (1 / 0.8) * 750g / 1.71 = 548g of flour.

7. I want to test the effect of a specific ingredient on height of finished loaf of bread baked in a rectangular tin (which then is a measure for dough volume). I have made 8 different loaves using the following quantities of the ingredient: 0%, 2%, 4%, 6%, 8%, 10%, 12% and 14%. I have measured the height and have the feeling the greatest height is somewhere in the middle, but where is it exactly?

Answer: If the greatest height is somewhere in the middle you probably have results like shown in the picture below. Even with such a small amount of samples it is possible to graphically determine the maximum by drawing the resulting curve. In this case the best bread volume would be at around 5% of the ingredient.

Written by theinversecook

28 May 2010 at 18:56

Mein Saftkorn

with 3 comments

The color of this bread’s crumb is not a photoshop lie (and I hope none of my pictures are). I added about 2% of “Quellmehl” – a special kind of rye flour used for coloring breads available through a few mills. My bag of it seems to last forever and indeed, the need for color is not really given for a home-baker. Adding more than 2% makes the bread taste flat and musty.

I like the soft and moist crumb and the sharp bite of the crust, helped by rolling the dough in Hafergrütze before putting it into my wooden frame. Hafergrütze consists of coarsly cut hulless oats. Before the opening of “Netto” markets in my vicinity, AFAIK it was available only in Northern Germany. I’ve used it in this bread and was only able to get it through Ulrike from Küchenlatein.

Quite delicious. Almost as good as pancakes. And this concludes the small series of rectangular breads.



Slices, two of them

Mein Saftkorn

rye sourdough

  • 100g rye flour, Type 1150
  • 80g water, 20°C
  • 5g mature rye sourdough, hydration: 100%

Let stand covered at room temperature for 16 hours or until it looks inflated and smells like sourdough (a sort of pleasant sweet’n’sour smell of ripe apples and slightly yeasty)


  • 25 sunflower seeds
  • 50g linseeds
  • 100g water
  • 7g Roggenröstmehl (a darkly coloured roasted rye flour)
  • 7g salt

Let stand for at least 5 hours, covered.


  • 75g rye flour, Type 1150
  • 175g whole-wheat flour
  • 75-100g handwarm water to make a soft and sticky dough
  • a handful of toasted hazelnuts (approx. 30g)
  • 4g fresh yeast
  • soaker
  • rye sourdough
  • Additional rye flour and Hafergrütze or oatmeal for dusting

Mix to a smooth dough, let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Shape and proof for 45-60 minutes at 24°C in a loaf pan or wooden baking frame. Bake at 230°C for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 190°C and bake for further 40 minutes.

Written by theinversecook

16 February 2010 at 19:50

La Cucina Italiana – Lievito madre: prepararlo in casa

with 7 comments

On the site of food magazine ‘La Cucina Italiana’ two lengthy videos about making a wheat-based sourdough, the lievito naturale, might be of interest:

Video 1 (parte prima)
Video 2 (parte seconda)

(Recipes on the corresponding pages, parte prima, and parte seconda)

The second video shows that the baker apparently ‘washes’ the starter by putting pieces of it into a bowl of water, like mozzarella balls. I am puzzled as to what might be the purpose of that handling.

Written by theinversecook

26 December 2009 at 14:44

The basis of minimal and “no” kneading

with 4 comments

In the Google books preview of the German book “Handbuch Backwaren Technologie” (a +1000 page whopper) there is an image that caught my interest.

Source: Google

The subtitle says:

“Spontaneous forming of gluten structures during hydration of a wheat flour particle on water surface”

Me thinks it is the spontaneous (not instant though) bonding ability of this proteine that makes less or “no” kneading of bread dough effective. The article does not say anything about strengthening gluten networks, as far as I can tell.

Written by theinversecook

8 June 2009 at 19:01