By Dusty Dowse
Some time back, the topic of bread for the Common Kitchen that feeds the Fair volunteers came up at a steering committee meeting. Folks thought it would be neat to be able to bake bread on site. Turns out there was a way. As a long-time MOFGA member, a bakery owner and a board member of the Maine Grain Alliance (MGA), it was logical for me to step up. MGA has a portable wood-fired oven made locally by Maine Wood Heat. These folks were happy to offer us one of theirs to use as well. I put together a team of bakers, assembled tools, arranged for flour donations from King Arthur, and we were good to go. Each year we bake large quantities of bread for the Common Kitchen. The two recipes I came up with use organic white flour, with either whole wheat or whole rye. You can use either interchangeably in this master recipe.
As I am MGA’s education director, I can’t help using this opportunity to help home bakers in their efforts to improve their product. First is to use the preferment. The recipe below use a version of what is termed a “poolish” – flour and water with a small amount of yeast that ripens overnight. This step greatly improves the quality and flavor of the dough, and the bread keeps much longer. Second, I recommend using a kitchen scale that reads in grams and has a tare function. Almost all bread cookbooks over the last many years give recipes in weight, using baker’s percentage (not needed for the recipe below). Finally, I suggest you begin baking in a Dutch oven. I give the instructions here. The results will equal those of the finest artisan bakeries.
Recipe by Weight
Use either whole wheat or rye; both work fine. Follow instructions for the volume recipe below using these amounts instead. This makes two loaves, each 1 lb. 8 oz., or 680g.
This Excel spreadsheet will be available on the MGA website in due course. It allows changing the size of the loaf and the number of loaves easily – an advantage of using baker’s percentage.
|Total Flour (g)||100%||788||g|
|Total dough (g)||1360||g|
Recipe by Volume
This will produce two slightly smaller loaves, each about 1 lb. 6 oz. (525g), which matters at baking time.
1 ½ c. white bread or all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. water at room temperature
¼ tsp. instant dry yeast
Hydrate the yeast in the water. If using regular dry yeast, hydrate in ¼ cup of the water warmed to 95 F. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
2 to 3 c. white or all-purpose bread flour (see below)
1 ½ c. whole wheat or rye flour
½ c. water
2 Tbsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
Mix the yeast into the water. Warm to 95 F if you don’t have instant dried yeast. Add to the poolish and stir in. Add the salt next and stir that in. Next add all the whole grain flour, mixing it well. Begin adding the last of the white flour until you can no longer stir it, then turn out on a floured board or table and begin kneading, adding flour as necessary to control stickiness. Try to keep this amount to about 2 cups. Another important principle of getting artisan bread quality is to keep the hydration level high, so learn to live with sticky dough. Kneading will take about 10 minutes; you will feel the dough “strengthen” as you go along. Put the dough in a bowl large enough to accommodate about three times the volume of the kneaded dough. Primary fermentation will take about 1 ½ hours at about 75 F. Another artisan baking trick called the “stretch and fold” comes in here: Fifteen minutes after starting this fermentation, turn the dough back out on the board, pick it up from one side and let it sag down. Fold this over, making a rough ball again, turn it 90 degrees and repeat for a total of four times. This will vastly improve the strength of the dough and will let you use higher levels of hydration. This should be done twice more at 15 minute intervals.
After 1 ½ hours, turn out the dough once more, divide it in half and do a rough pre-shape into a ball. Shaping is crucial and is best seen. I am preparing videos covering shaping that will be available from MOFGA’s online Fair and on the MGA website. Poorly shaped dough will not bake into nice, full loaves and will be flat and heavy. The final shaping should take place after the pre-shaped loaves sit for about 20 minutes to let the gluten relax. After final shaping, allow the loaves to rise once more, or “proof” seam side up for about one hour. This can occur in colanders lined with lightly floured tea towels and covered to prevent drying out. If you plan to use a Dutch oven, you can bake only one loaf at a time, so after about 45 minutes, put one of the loaves into the refrigerator to prevent it from over-proofing.
You are now ready to bake. About half an hour prior to the dough being proofed, turn the oven up to 500 F and pop your Dutch oven in to heat. When it is time for the bread to go in, gently put the first loaf in seam-side down. Be careful of the edges! Then score the loaf – i.e., slash the surface about ¼ inch deep with a razor blade or very sharp knife. This allows the loaf to open up and get fluffier when it hits the heat, and artistic license is encouraged. Turn the heat down to 450 F, put the cover back on and bake for 20 minutes. After this time, take the lid off. Continue to bake until done. If using the recipe by weight, this will take about 20 more minutes – possibly half that for the smaller loaf done from volume measurements. I suggest using a quick-read kitchen thermometer to ensure you have a fully baked loaf. I bake to an internal temperature of between 205 and 208 F. Thwacking the bottom of the loaf and listening for a hollow “echo” works as well but takes practice. If you have an oven light, check the loaf periodically once the cover is off. When it starts to brown more deeply, this indicates that you are close to being done.
Remove the first loaf, recover and reheat the Dutch oven to 500 F and repeat the process for the second loaf.
Instructions are the same for the recipe given by weight.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven or are not ready to make this jump, simply bake both loaves on a cookie sheet at 400 F for about 45 minutes, checking for doneness as above. Time will vary by oven, so stay alert.