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Help with bread!

I have just recently started trying to learn bread making. I have tried many recipes and fiddled around, and now I am looking to get a specific result. With no knowledge I have to resort to doing a bit of research, but I feel clueless.

The bread I am trying to make has a very strong yeasty flavour. The crumb is kind of tough and the holes are big. I have had this bread before in Montreal, but at the time I wasn't really cooking so I never bothered to "remember" what it was. Some kind of hardish wide baguette? Sourdough-y? I don't even know what I'm looking for.

So far I have tried using a sourdough starter and something called a "poolish", but the taste is still not strong enough. My bread crumbs are really small and fluffy, and I have read that if I make my dough much wetter the crumbs will be larger. As for less fluffy more chewy, I have no idea yet how that works.

I was wondering if someone who knew a bit about bread making could point me towards a strong flavoured, hardish bread recipe, or give me some pointers and explanations on how to get closer to such a result.

Thank you in advance:)

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  1. It sounds like you are on the right track with a sourdough starter, but if you're using a brand new starter it hasn't had enough time to develop the stronger flavor you're looking for. The longer you keep it, the stronger it will keep (generally). Until then, you can try increasing fermenting times, and be sure to give your starter plenty of kitchen counter time rather than putting it in the fridge right after feeding. It should have several hours at room temp before you use it as well.

    You're also right that you'll want a very wet dough to get the chewy, denser consistency you're after.

    I would recommend you looking at either the King Arthur Flour cookbook (very basic and easy to follow recipes and instructions) or the Bread Bible (more complicated as the science of bread making is explained, but still very user-friendly). You might also try a search for sourdough on the Fresh Loaf website--they have some really nice recipes.

    1. One of the most frequently cited (on Chowhound) as a great resource is Peter Reinhart. He's got several great books, and has a blog, though I've not read it here's the link:

      http://peterreinhart.typepad.com/

      Definitely check out the Fresh Loaf website that Transplant_DK mentioned. You might also want to take a look at Nancy Silverton's "Breads from La Brea Bakery", which I've found is a great resource too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: janniecooks

        I second the motion suggesting information from Peter Reinhart. I have his book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." if you continue (cactusette) to bake bread, I suggest you get a copy of his book.

      2. Amy from Amy's bread has a great cookbook out with all her recipes. I use to make them all the time and they would come out perfectly. Try looking on line for her. hope that helps and keep trying.

        1. The bread you've described sounds uncannily like what I've been making recently. It's an adaptation of the infamous "no-knead" bread described here:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/din...

          But the adaptation has the following ingredients:
          210g Strong white bread flour
          45g wholemeal flour (I use wholemeal bread flour)
          45g German rye flour (I assume a dark variety)
          50ml red wine
          210ml water
          1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
          1 teaspoon salt
          (you could try just under 1/4 teaspoon yeast & 1.5 teaspoon of salt for a stronger flavour)
          Then follow Mr Lahey's instructions. It is a ridiculously simple process.

          The recipe I've used is here:
          http://blog.xuite.net/jane7443/bake/1...
          I used translation tools as I don't read or speak Chinese

          1. The keys to getting the characteristics you want are high hydration, proper shaping, slow proofing, and steam. You should also forget about adding whole wheat of rye flour. They'll keep you from getting an chewy and open crumb. Start with 100% white flour and, once you've achieved the results you want, move on from there.

            The easiest way I've found to steam my bread is to cook it in a pre-heated dutch oven. Removing the lid after 20 minutes. You also need to completely cook the bread. That means cooking it longer than you think.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SnackHappy

              I've also advocated the pre-heated dutch oven (or casserole pot) method which is what Mr Lahey suggests but using rye and wholewheat doesn't keep me from getting an open and chewy crumb.
              I've substituted a malted flour for the rye (in the UK there's an exceelent stone ground malted flour with an oak smoked flavour) but the texture wasn't much different.
              One thing I do know is that the flavour is much fuller - more like that described by cactusette - than with just the white flour.
              Anyway, the first photo of the rye/wholewheat/wine slow risen bread in the Chinese language link is very accurate - and that is not a bread with a close crumb... especially if you're patient and let the bread rise for the recommended amount of time and don't manhandle it.

            2. I was recently on the same quest. I live at 8500ft and it is tough here. I tried a couple dozen recipes to no avail, then I hit upon Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their site is here http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/ and you can get the book on Amazon and many bookstores.Here is a link with pics and the basic recipe so you can try it http://fitfool.livejournal.com/242729...

              1. You need an older sourdough starter and a higher hydration dough. Are you kneading? Have you tried the stretch and fold method?

                I third Peter Reinhart's books, solid.

                Here's the link to the fresh loaf posters have mentioned, it's a fantastic bread bakers resource:

                www.thefreshloaf.com

                I think you'll definitely be able to find technique info and ideas for the type of artisan bread you want to make there.

                3 Replies
                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Yep, that's the link where you'll find all the help you ever needed for bread making.
                  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/
                  Great forum, fantastic blogs and you can search for just about any bread topic imaginable.
                  Hey, bushwickgirl, love that grinch pumpkin avatar

                  1. re: todao

                    Thanks, sweetie, wait for the one I have planned for the day after Halloween!

                  2. re: bushwickgirl

                    My starter was left about 2-3 days on the counter. I am kneading but haven't tried the stretch fold method yet. I actually *just* found a demo of it on video, and it seems interesting so that is definitely something I will try as well. My goal is to make all my breads the way I want them and never have to buy bread again. For financial reasons and taste bud reasons.

                  3. Thank you everyone you have given me a lot of info and material...I'm going to be less on the "what the hell am I doing?" track and more on the "guided learning" track due to all the links and book suggestions. My first try I think will be the Lahey method and I'll take it from there using your suggestions and a bookstore:)Wish me luck!

                    (once I'm done consuming my three loaves of bland sourdough bread...because I don't like to waste)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cactusette

                      I do wish you luck and a great journey. Btw, I just bought "52 Loaves: One Man's Pursuit of Truth, Meaning and a Perfect Crust", by William Alexander. Not really a "how to," more a "why should I" guide, and great read, philosophical, humorous and insightful.

                      Jacques Pepin said " 52 Loaves reflects precisely the frustrating and infuriating-if not impossible- process of creating the perfect bread."

                      Might be a book you'd want to have around for support, you know, on the days when the bread doesn't work out so well.

                      1. re: cactusette

                        Buona fortuna! (Good luck!) Another good book for baking is entitled 'The Italian Baker' which was written by Carol Field, 1985. EdwardRHamilton.com may have a copy...that's where I got mine a few years ago at a much reduced price. The author instructs the baker how to mix dough for many recipes by hand, using a mixer, or using a processor.

                      2. I had good luck a while back using Mark Bittman's (knead version) recipe and Julia Child's method (or maybe I have that backward) whose ever method it was, it requires a bit of attention at first, brushing the soon to be crust with water every 10 minutes for the first half hour of baking. makes it very crunchy, still didn't get the interior quite right, but haven't had my own "test kitchen" for a while. as I'm moving into a semi-perm place soon, I should try again.