I felt like making bread today, and Laura felt like eating bread today, so I thought it would be a good chance to create a simple formula that encompasses my earlier post on the twelve steps of baking.
Consider it like a practical exam that you get to eat. The pretty cool thing about baking bread is that even if you mess it up, you’ll still probably have a pretty good loaf of bread on your hands. Unless you really mess it up. Like add so much salt that you kill the yeast. More on that later.
So, a quick review on the twelve steps:
- Scale Ingredients – Measure all ingredients before hand to help avoid mistakes. Use weight measures instead of volume measures for accuracy.
- Mix – Combine your ingredients in the proper order and mix on a low speed to incorporate. Then mix on a higher speed to develop the dough’s gluten.
- Bulk Ferment – This is the primary fermentation that develops the most flavor in the dough. Most bulk fermentations last a total of two hours.
- Punch and Fold – An important step, although it happens in the middle of the third step. This redistributes the yeast and the heat in the dough and adds to the gluten development.
- Divide – This step is only necessary if your dough recipe makes more than one loaf of bread, or if you’re making small rolls.
- Pre-shape – Helps further develop the dough and makes it easier to do the final shape.
- Bench Rest – Pre-shaping works the dough, so a bench rest is necessary to relax it enough for the final shape.
- Final Shape – The shape you make your dough into will be the shape it will resemble when it is fully baked.
- Final Proof – Though not technically the final fermentation of the dough, it’s the one you have the most control over. Knowing when your dough is ready requires sight, touch, and practice.
- The Bake – This is where the dough you have watched grow from infancy to adolescence embarks on its final journey to become fully matured bread! Remember, a hot oven and steam are essential for that final fermentation that occurs and gives the best oven spring.
- Cool – Let the bread cool completely before eating. Some breads, like traditional sour rye’s, actually have a “cooling” period of up to 12 hours, not because it stays hot for that long, but because the bread actually gets better with a little age.
- Store and Eat – Pretty self explanatory.
So now let’s take theory and turn it into practice. Since we’re starting with just the basics, I’ve formulated a simple whole wheat recipe using the straight dough method with no autolyse or preferment. These are slightly advanced methods and we can get to those later.
100% Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Makes one 1 and 1/2 pound loaf
When we learn about formulas, I’ll start putting recipes in a true baker’s formula format. Until then, I’ll just add the percentages in parenthesis
- 11.7 ounces of whole wheat flour (100%)
- 8.4 ounces of water (72%)
- 3.3 grams (about a teaspoon) of active dry yeast (1%)
- 6.6 grams (about a teaspoon) of salt (2%)
Why do 3 grams of yeast and 7 grams of salt both equal a teaspoon? Salt has a much higher density than yeast, so a teaspoon of salt weighs about twice as much as a teaspoon of yeast. This is actually a reason why volume measurements can be so inaccurate. However, accurate scales for measuring just a gram or two can be very expensive, and not really practical for the average home kitchen. Unless you’re a drug dealer.
- 13 grams of honey (4%)
- 20 grams of olive oil (6%)
- 2.3 ounces of rolled oats (20%), plus a handful to garnish
Let the baking begin!
- Scale all of the ingredients. It’s best to keep them separated, for the most part, although I put the honey and oil together.
Scale the ingredients
Add the ingredients into the bowl of a Kitchenaid style mixer using the straight dough method:
- Yeast (stir to dissolve)
Water and yeast, stir to dissolve
- Whole wheat flour
The flour creates a barrier to avoid adverse effects to the yeast before mixing
- Olive Oil
The remaining ingredients
- Mix on speed one for about two minutes with a dough hook to incorporate.
- Mix on speed two or three for about 8 minutes to develop. Dough should be springy and not tear away from itself when pulled on.
It may require a few more minutes of mixing to achieve this. Try pulling a window. It won’t completely form a window because the oats and whole wheat prevent gluten from developing that far, and will tear before a full window can form. However, enough gluten will develop that it will still be able to stretch fairly thin without completely tearing.
Oh, yeah, that's it!
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured bowl. Don’t use oil this time, like we did for the pizza dough. A very light dusting in the bowl and on top of the dough is plenty. Cover with a plastic grocery bag and bulk ferment for an hour.
Start the bulk ferment
- Punch and fold! Here’s are some actual pictures to demonstrate, instead of that bad drawing I did.
Fold the dough
- Place back into the bowl and cover again. Continue to bulk ferment for another hour.
- Dividing won’t be necessary, so we’ll skip to the pre shape. Place the dough skin side down on the counter. Press some of the air out very gently and start by taking the side of the dough that is closest to you and rolling it towards the center of the dough. As you do this, you will also turn the dough ever so slightly and then grab the next side that is closest to you. Repeating this process using fluid motions will roll the dough into a ball tightly and ensure a nice tight skin. When finished rolling, you can pinch the center closed so that it doesn’t try to unroll itself, and place it on the counter with the rolled side down and skin side up.
Preshape into a boule
- Cover your nicely rolled dough and bench rest for about twenty minutes.
- At this point, you can decide if you want your dough to be rolled into a rounded boule shape, or if you want to turn it into a football shaped batarde. If you want a boule, repeat the process you used to preshape the dough. I will turn mine into a batarde, for demonstration purposes.
- Start by flattening the dough gently and elongating it slightly and vertically. The vertical sides should also be slightly angled towards the top, almost like a long trapezoid.
- Starting from the bottom, begin to roll upwards keeping the surface tension tight. This isn’t going to be rolled like a Pillsbury crescent, so begin turning the corners in so that it begins to shape like a football. Continue to roll like this until you reach the top.
- When completely rolled upwards, turn the shaped dough with the seam up. Flatten it and fold it in half horizontally to hide the seam. We’re going to create a new, straighter looking seam by pressing the seam together with the back of our palm against the counter space.
- You should have a nice football shaped batarde. It takes practice, do don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t look quite right. To garnish this, sprinkle a handful of oats onto a plate. Spray the top of the dough with a little water from your spray bottle and press it gently into the plate to get the oats to stick. This is a good time to preheat your oven and baking stone, as the proof will take about 45 minutes. 400 degrees F should do.
Wet the surface and roll in the oats
- Now we will proof this baby! You can do this on the counter, covered with a damp towel, or you can put it on a plate dusted with a little flour, also covered with a damp towel, and put it on your preheating oven to make it go a little quicker.
Ready to proof
- Your dough should be about double in size. Poke it gently. Is it firm? Does the dough spring back when you press it? It’s not ready. Does it seem very airy and light? Does the dough collapse a little when you poke, or your finger indentation stay in? It’s over proofed. The dough should still have good surface tension, and your finger indentation will spring back slightly, but still stay part way. It shouldn’t collapse unless you handle the dough too roughly. It takes some practice getting the hang of it.
- When it’s ready, you’ll need to make a slash or incision into the dough to prevent it from bursting from the oven spring. This is the hardest thing to replicate at home, as it almost never turns out the same as those beautiful slashes on the breads from your local bakery unless you have the special tool they use called a lame (LAHM). A razor blade, exacto, or other very sharp knife will do the trick though. You can get creative when slashing your dough. A simple cut down the length will do the job, but you can do multiple, angled slashes, vertical or horizontal slashes, or even simple shapes.
- Transfer the slashed loaf to your baking stone by gently rocking it to one side and slipping your hands underneath it to pick it up. Alternatively, you can use the same method to transfer the dough to a cut out piece of sturdy cardboard. When placing the dough on the stone, “roll” it on to avoid trauma to the dough as well as burning yourself. But do this quickly! Spray the heck out of the inside of your oven with the spray bottle and shut the door! You don’t want that heat to escape. Steaming should take place when the dough first hits the oven. Another spray can be done within the first five minutes afterwards, but anytime after that is moot, as your window of opportunity for steam to be effective has passed at this point.
- Check your bread in ten minutes. It won’t likely be done, but may need to be turned. Another five minutes or more may be needed to get the bread to color.
- When the bread is done, pull it out, preferably with a pizza peel. You know the drill, let it cool completely.
- Slice open your bread! Examine the crumb and texture. Take a bite. Enjoy your hard work!
This 100% whole grain bread has a pretty soft crumb
Hopefully this was good practice to get the twelve steps down. It’s been a while since I’ve baked a loaf, so it was good practice for myself as well.
Just needs some butter!
In fact, I was reminded of how important scaling ingredients is today. What is also important, maybe just as important, is tasting the dough just after it is mixed and ready for the bulk ferment, which I always do. Doing so revealed that my dough was way too salty. I looked over my formula, and my math was correct, as well as all of my conversions. However, despite my correct math, I still had a brain fart and ended up measuring a Tablespoon of salt, instead of a teaspoon. That’s three times the amount.
Now, salt does three wonderful things for bread. First and foremost, it flavors the bread. Unsalted bread tastes terrible. More than that, however, it also contributes to browning by encouraging the Maillard reaction (often confused with caramelization), and it keeps the yeast in check. Yeast and salt don’t like each other. Without salt, yeast will run rampant and uncontrolled, resulting in over proofed and yeasty tasting dough. However, too much salt will kill the yeast in the dough, and the dough won’t rise.
I decided to give my dough the benefit of the doubt, just to see if there would be any activity in it within the first hour of the bulk ferment. As I suspected, my dough was dead, and I had to start over. This is one of those cases where a little mess up completely ruins the entire product, but because I tasted my dough, I caught it early and avoided wasting a lot of time.
Next step in our Bread Baking Fundamentals will be baker’s formulas. 😀
By the way, here are some conversions that will help you in the future. I
may make made these into a separate page to make it easy to link to later.
Weights and Measurements Conversion Table
1 pound = 16 ounces
1 ounce = 28.35 grams
1 Gallon = 4 quarts
1 quart = 2 pints
1 pint = 2 cups
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
1 fluid ounce = 2 Tablespoons
1 Tablespoon= 3 teaspoons
Water, Eggs, and Dairy:
1 Gallon = 8 lbs
1 quart = 2 lbs
1 pint = 1 lbs
1 cup = 8 oz
1 Tbsp = .5 oz
1 cup = approximately 3.5 to 5 ounces
1 packet active dry = ¼ ounce or 7 grams or 2 ¼ teaspoon.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast = 3 grams
1 teaspoon of instant yeast = 1 and 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast = 0.8 teaspoon of instant yeast
1 Tablespoon of salt = 20 grams
1 teaspoon of salt = 6.7 grams