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Jun 29, 2010 07:35 PM

Bread making help?

Hi, I've decided to make bread at home, planning to experiment with Italian and French artesian style breads. We eat organic, and I'm done with paying $4 and up per loaf. Also giving up on the bread machine because 1. loaves are too small 2. annoying spinny thing at the bottom of the machine that you have to pry out of the loaf and 3. result is not so appealing.

I started with Ruhlman's "Ratio" bread recipe. He gave some kneading times, and said to extend, so that you could pull the dough into a windowpane. I found that to get to the "windowpane" stretchiness I was more than doubling his kneading time. (using a kitchen aid stand mixer) Tried the dutch oven technique adding olives and walnuts, it came out pretty well. Then I thought I'd do the basic recipe baked on a pizza stone, to get a better feel about how to modify. The bread didn't rise too much, and was very dense. However, nice crust and still good to eat. I'm in FL, so my kitchen is always 78 degrees this time of year and very humid, which may affect the flour, and the dough sitting on the counter. Also not sure if I overworked the dough. He doesn't give specific times for the dough rising, any advice? Anyone else tried the basic Ratio recipe with different results?

Any other basic recipes to try? (from Epicurious or CI in particular?)

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  1. I can assure you that you didn't overwork the dough because if you had you would have seen an excess amount of liquid during the rise. I am wondering how long you let the dough ferment before forming it, and how long did you let it rise before you baked it?

    I like to rise doughs for 8-12 hours in the fridge in the summer, or 2-3 hours on the countertop. Id also go another 60-90 minutes post forming on the countertop. If you ferment in the fridge you need to add more time because it will take longer for the yeast to rejuvenate and the dough to come back to temperature.

    CI's baguette recipe is a classic.

    1. Here's some thought in regards to bread doughs made with all purpose or bread flour.

      For the first rise on dough you want the dough to double in size. At 78 F, I would guess the doubling would be around 2 hours, maybe 90 minutes.

      What kind of yeast are you using?
      Active dry yeast is best dissolved in warm water, around 110F. Too hot, the yeast dies. The mixture will become foamy in about 10 minutes.

      Instant yeast doesn't need to be dissolved and can be added to the dry ingredients. Sometimes I will dissolve like active dry yeast as a check on the yeast.

      How does the dough feel after kneading?
      Most bread doughs should feel satiny smooth and kind of soft, at least that's the feel I shoot for.

      How are you measuring out your flour?
      Too much flour can through off your ratio.
      I found that weighing gives me the most consistent results. When using measuring cups, I found the spoon and level method gives very consistent results, 240g. That's spooning all purpose flour into a measuring cup and leveling.

      Windowpane - for me I found that it's overkill for most breads, especially if you're using a KitchenAid. The only time I do the windowpane check is when I make pizza dough.

      4 Replies
      1. re: dave_c

        Thanks for the tips, Kelli and Dave! I'll check out the baguette recipe. I let the dough rise on the counter, I think maybe I overdid the rising time. Also, the flour was very near it's expiration date. I made some ciabatta yesterday, came out great. Used fresh King Arthur flour, and yes, the dry active yeast. On a friend's recommendation, I cut the rise time in half, due to our temp and humidity down here.

        1. re: MCFAC

          If the dough rises too much, you will punch the dough down before shaping into the final product. Also, most recipes call for a much shorter second rising (15 minutes) before baking.

          A book I like is "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Reinhart.
          You might be able to review a copy from your local library.

          It sounds like a fun time trying the different bread recipes. A hands-on immersion course in bread making. Good times!

          1. re: dave_c

            Another point to note is that the amount of water to add into your recipe and the rising time is dependent on the climate you are baking in. Humidity, Temperature all play a part in the baking process requiring you to tweak your methods ever so slightly all the time.

            1. re: theperfectcookie

              So higher humidity, less water? Another funny thing, I used Ratio to also make a pizza dough, noticed that the pizza crust at the top of the slice tasted a bit like a soft unsalted pretzel. Can't remember ever having that taste eating a pizza before. Thought it might be just me until DH commented on the pretzel taste. It's pretty amazing what a few simple ingredients can do.

      2. Don't you think that Ideal Temp and Humidity should be 70F-75F & 40-48c/o Humidity ?
        It's my guess !

          1. Check out - it's a forum like this one, but for baking only. Plenty of amateur and pro bakers on there to answer all your questions. I've learned a lot there.