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Coconut Bundt


There are times I wish I lived in another century, but then I remember that I wouldn't enjoy all the remarkable progress the humans made since then. But I can close my eyes and dream that I was leaving in a countryside castle and enjoyed the style of those times. Then I can just open my eyes and I am back to our times. So convenient right?

I leave you to imagine the same and and a bit more... a bundt cake made with coconut.


 


Plum Dumplings


Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 550g boiled/steamed potatoes
  • 150g all-purpose flour
  • 80g sugar
  • 2 yolks
  • a pinch of salt
Plums:
  • 20 small plums
  • 40g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Coating:
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • 60g butter
  • 60g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


Directions:
  1. Prepare the plums by cutting them only on one side to remove the pits. You should not cut them in halves completely, the 2 parts need to stay together to maintain the integrity of the plum.
  2. Add over the sugar and cinnamon and stir the plums with your hand. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the coating by melting the butter in a pan and adding the bread crumbs.
  4. Toast the breadcrumbs on low heat and stir until the colour is a beautiful light golden brown. 
  5. Turn off the heat and add the sugar and cinnamon, Set the pan aside and let's start the dough.
  6. For the potatoes, I prefer to peel them first and steam them. Smash or grate the potatoes (without peeling obviously if you chose the boiling option)
  7. Add over the sugar, yolks, flour and salt and mix. You should be able with all these ingredients to form a sticky dough using your hand. If it feels too wet, you may add one extra tablespoon of flour. It is not recommended to use a mixer at this stage to avoid gluten formation and because the dough will turn too elastic and very sticky.
  8. Portion the dough into 35g balls. This is the quantity needed to cover the plums.
  9. Dress each plum with the dough from a ball, sealing well the dough around. Repeat this for all the plums.
  10. Boil 2-3 litres of water in a pot and add 10 dressed plums using a slotted spoon.
  11. Let them boil on medium heat until they float, then remove them to a plate. Put the second batch of plum balls to boil in the pot while we are coating the first batch.
  12. Roll the hot dumplings in the toasted breadcrumbs until they are completely covered. Proceed in the same way with the remaining plums.

You can serve them warm or cooled.


Recipe inspired from here.

Lemon Bundt Cake

When autumn starts to install, I too begin making bundt cakes.

I made this cake recipe for the occasion of my daughter's birthday. To be sure it would be a successful cake, I did it 3 times. The first time was a catastrophe. If you recall, I have a bundt cake book that I love in terms of a combination of ingredients but it is way unbalanced when it comes to quantities. So, every cake is a real challenge. But I do not give up, because this is how I learn to adjust the recipes. The more I fail, the more I search for the mistake and I fix it with the next bake. This is how I grow my experience with baking.

The first one rose nicely in the oven but when cooling it fell down to a level lower than before the baking. I've learned 3 lessons: first, the butter needs to be at room temperature when I bake this type of cake,  second, never trust the timing mentioned in the recipe book and third, if you feel there is not enough flour to make a consistent batter, simply add it. My cake was undercooked in the middle and overcooked on the crust. The combination of those factors led to the cake falling down. 

The second bake was a control bake and is the one you see in the photo. It turned out with a great crumb, exactly as I wished for. The third one was the cake that my daughter brought to school for her birthday and went exactly like the second one. 

I learned my lessons and I've put another brick in my baking experience.

50% Semolina Sourdough Bread


Semolina is my new obsession. I knew about semolina since I was a child and my mother was making milk porridge with it. It was one of my preferred breakfasts. Little did I know that it will later become one of my favourite ingredients for bread.


To make fantastic sourdough bread with any kind of flour you need to understand its characteristics.

Semolina (or semola rimacinata di grano duro) is made from hard wheat not from the common wheat usually used for bread flour. Semolina is very popular for making pasta, couscous, and porridge but it can be successfully used in bread as well.

Semolina has a coarser texture than classical flour but should not be confused with rice or corn semolina. Semolina comes from durum triticum wheat and when ground in a coarser texture is called semola rimacinata. If it is further ground to a very fine texture, it is called durum flour.

Besides its texture, semolina has a pale yellow colour, has a more earthy aroma and it is rich in proteins but forms a low-quality gluten. This makes the dough less extensible and affects its structure.

However, there are some tricks that you can apply to overcome this issue.

  • First, you can improve the structure by adding strong bread flour into its composition and this is exactly what we'll do today.
  • Then, you can make a longer autolyse of 2-3 hours to develop the gluten to its maximum potential.
  • or you can increase the mixing time too for the same goal.

I invite you to watch the video of this bread to learn more tricks about it.


Nettle Aloe Vera Shampoo bar (version 2)


This is the second version of the Nettle Aloe Vera Shampoo bar and the last one in the series of recent soaps/shampoos.

Compared to the first version, this one is made in 3 layers (for decoration purposes) with rosemary, cedar and lavender essential oil. Made only with fantastic oils and butter for your hair, enriched with vitamin E.

Autumn soap

 Sometimes, when verifying the pantry I find some stuff stored that I should better use before expiring. This is the case with some special oils and butter. This soap has some interesting oils inside (avocado, coconut, grapeseed) and is flavoured with cinnamon and cloves essential oils. Almost sounds like autumn right? In one month we will be there ...

Nettle Aloe Vera Shampoo bar

Maybe once or twice a year I make my own cosmetics. My affair with homemade soaps and shampoos started some years ago when my childhood friend taught me how to do them. Since then I only use homemade staff.

Solid shampoo bars are my favourite because I can customise them to what I want. They are all natural and made by my own hands.
Recently I have done 3 types and I will share them here with you.

Tart Tatin in the style of Wiliam Lamagnère

 

I am rarely highly impressed by recipes but this one was a love at first sight. The idea of rolling the apple sheets is brilliant not only from the practical point of view but also from the way it looks.
I'm sure that everybody made an apple tart at least once in life as it is such a common desert and I thought I cannot be any more impressed. But this one, first is a French-style apple pie, known as Tarte Tatin, usually made with caramel sauce and turned upside down after baking. Second, it has such a special design that you'll rarely see entering a classic pastry shop. Third, although seems fancy and complicated, it is super simple in terms of preparation and the number of ingredients used.
What was more complicated to figure out was how to cut the apples into such long sheets. Cutting them by knife is almost impossible. Using a potato peeler maybe can help a bit but it can be frustrating. You need a special cutter for them. The French chefs know this cutter well to create all sorts of fancy fruits and vegetable decorations but the price for one is way too high for a simple home baker like me. I found however a cheap plastic alternative (compared to full metallic French versions) with a good blade. How long this will be working well, we'll see, but for its first usage did its job perfectly and I am happy about it. However, I am not sure how often I will use it in the future.

I was mentioning earlier its simplicity. This tart is about a puff pastry sheet, apples and a caramel sauce made from sugar and butter. It takes longer to bake properly (about 2 hours) and it needs to rest for at least 4 hours (or better overnight in the fridge) to set properly. Yes, it takes a long duration but there is not much work time consuming for the baker (assuming you have the right tools to make the apple sheets).

Now that I tried it, I feel I want to do it again and my imagination has just opened to lots of new designs.

The tart itself is wow just the way it is. If you haven't tried it before, I highly recommend it. The taste is fantastic and deep. It is sweet but not extra sweet. I think that sugar can be even more reduced and still keep it delicious.

 

Lavender Cake

Lavender is such a beautiful plant to grow in your own garden! When the flowers are blooming the life turns to a blue-violet color.

It is not the first time I use lavender in cakes, I've done Lavender Muffins and I loved their subtle flavour and aroma. Here I come now, with a little cake that turned out to be a great success as my kids loved it from the moment they've seen it. It was difficult to keep it for myself for some time just to film it and photograph it.

Rhubarb - Plums Tart

Oh no, not rhubarb again!
Last year I bought a little rhubarb tart and plant it in my garden. It grew up bigger the previous summer then, it almost disappeared during the winter. I knew that it should be harvested starting the second year, so I waited patiently. This early spring it grew up big, very big and I harvested it now for the 3rd time. This is how, here is the third rhubarb tart I make this summer! I took 2 big stalks, but not enough for a big tart, so I had to complement it with something else. I had in the fridge some very very sour plums, almost impossible to eat. It was the perfect element to add near the sour rhubarb in my tart. 
I planned to fill it in with my classing almond filling. But oops... I only had 70g of almond powder left. What to do? I added coconut flakes instead. I think this is the way we all do (don't tell me otherwise as I won't believe you), we replace things in the recipes that we miss. Unless you plan very well in advance you need to improvise, but improvise wisely with things that can work. 

Red Berry Cheesecake in Instant Pot

I do not know why but I was always afraid of cheesecakes. Not to eat them but to make them. They crack, they are runny sometimes, and there are multiple ways you can get it wrong with a cheesecake. Well, Instant Pot opened a door for me. I hated the classical way of putting water on a tray and putting the pan inside a classical. What if the pan is not leakproof? Then, handling a hot water tray is not very pleasant. With the Instant Pot, things are simpler and with fewer negative surprises. But this is not a commercial post for the instant pot, it is just my opinion. You can definitely bake this cake in a normal oven too.

I made this cake in 2 versions, one including milk (or sour cream) and one without. The first one leads to a more creamy texture and the second one is more crumbly. The first one is soft, and the second is drier. I liked them both but my daughter detests cream texture in any cake. You can guess then which one was her favourite. 

You can do this cake without the fruity layer but it adds a full dimension to the taste of this cake. The first version I made was with strawberries, and the second was with raspberries. Both are exceptional and red berries are just an idea, you can use any fruit you want!

Sugar in this cake is kept to a minimum but it is just enough to enhance the taste of the cake. If you prefer very sweet cakes, feel free to add as much sugar as you like. Personally, I like cakes but I also like to stay on the healthy side of eating. Most of the time I do not eat the cakes that I make, they are for my kids but if I really want to eat a slice I would choose one that is the most appealing to me and this one was irresistible.

I hope you will like it too...

Instant Pot Cranberries Yoghurt Cake

I love baking in general, but steaming was not necessarily my daily way of cooking. I challenged myself to try pressure cooking lately and a whole new world opened to me. In fact, cooking with pressure was not a new thing for me. My mother gave me a big pressure cooker pot as a present at my wedding. I need to recognise it was a love and hate relationship... I was using it for a while then it was staying for months on the shelf. Now that I think back, I think the main reason was the practicality of that pot.
So, two lovely ladies told me about their experience with the Instant Pot and I convinced myself I want to try it. I can say it was a real turning point in how I am preparing my daily meals. In a short description: healthier and faster. I added as well to my family meals new dishes that looked so complicated before. Now everything happens in one pot...
I love to explore, to test the limits and I tried to bake cakes in it also. I understood what works in it and what is not. Instant Pot cooks with steam and moist types of cakes are appropriate. I baked a classic bundt and turned out OK but it was too dense for my taste. Then, I tried a creme caramel and worked perfectly. This time I made the yoghurt cake with a recipe from my mother. Of course, I had to adapt certain things but I am happy with the result.
This type of cake is usually baked in the oven between filo pastry sheets. I used a biscuit layer instead. I replaced raisins with dried cranberries (to be more accurate I think the ones that I have are actually lingonberries - in French is "airelles", please correct me if I am wrong).
What I love about it is that it is super simple to make it and it is firm enough to keep a slice on your hand and walk away. I gave it also to my kids at school as a snack.
You can play with some decorations and it will look as fancy as you wish.
If you do not have dried cranberries, use raisins or any dried fruits. I haven't tested but I think it works perfectly with fresh berries also. Good idea, I must try this too, could be very interesting.
This cake can be called a pudding. It works with the same principles, a cereal that expends in a diary liquid. What is special though is that I use homemade yoghurt, not milk. Almond essence and lemon zest give a specific and fantastic aroma to this cake.
It will for sure enter into my regular bakes due to its simplicity and delicious taste.

Here are the ingredients...

Rhubarb tart

 

Last spring, I've bought from the weekend market a little plant of rhubarb. It was a small plant and the guy selling it to me has warned me that it could grow up to 1m in diameter. All OK for me, I planted it in my garden and started to grow: unexpectedly big up to 2m in diameter at least. I knew that in the first year I better not harvested it, so I waited calmly for this year to come to taste it. Over the winter, it almost completely dried and I thought I lost it. But when this spring came, it was growing again at least as big as last year. This time... I had in mind a tart and now was the right moment.
A simple tart but with a lot of new things for me. First, it was about baking something with my own grown rhubarb. Second, it was my first tart baked in the wood-fired oven. None of these I've done before. The oven was low in temperature after a previous bake so I can almost say I did a slow bake. It started somewhere at 190ºC and went quickly a bit lower than 130ºC. I can call it a slow cook almost as it took about 3-4 hours to finish it and that with the tart shell already pre-cooked.
I was expecting the stalks to be redder but the lack of sun and good weather of this year had for sure an impact. Nevertheless, I had to try it!
The tart was incredibly well received by my daughter who enjoyed the sweet-sour taste of it and she commented that remembers the three kings' cake. Of course it does, as the filling is very similar to that cake, being based on almond powder. Just when it was gone I realised that I did not save a piece for me to try. Well, the plant is still there with big leaves but I won't dare to cut more stalks to not kill the plant. So for me, the next attempt to taste it will be next year.
Here is the simple recipe.

Rye - Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread


Take a bread recipe, make it until you are satisfied with the result and then you can play changing the flour. This is what I am doing with this recipe: I changed the spelt flour with rye flour in my previous recipe. The result may have the same look but there are big changes to the dough and I'll explain why. 
The spelt flour makes the dough very elastic while rye is fermenting faster. Rye flour is also more absorbent (at least mine because it is partially whole rye).
So, the spelt version needed more coil folds to build the structure while rye has already a good structure feeling stiffer. Fermentation time was reduced also.

If the aspect is similar, the taste is slightly changed. Rye flour comes with a more rustic taste while spelt has sweeter influences. Do I like one more than the other... hmmm... difficult to say. They are both sourdough bread and the taste is amazing in both cases. The differences are just a matter of nuances.



Here you can find the recipe:

Spelt - Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

 When you make a dough combining multiple types of flours you should be very careful about the effect each dough has. Usually, if you put a type of flour in a percentage lower than 10%, the influence is minimal in the dough consistency and mild in the taste. When you increase this percentage, the characteristics of this specific flour start to be noticed. 

I made this bread with 3 types of flour: whole wheat, spelt and bread flour. Whole wheat is more absorbent and impedes the gluten network to develop easily. That's why a trick is to hydrate the whole wheat flour the day before so that the bran is softened through better hydration. The spelt flour adds elasticity to the dough. This means that you can stretch it more. The extensibility of the dough then has to be created by adding an extra coil fold. (the 4th one). The bread flour I used, although with 13% protein content was also very extensible and less absorbent than others I normally use. With these characteristics, making this bread is tricky.

First time I tried it I was not very happy with its dough structure and I over fermented it. The bread was perfectly eatable but for sure, was not what I expected it to be.

With the lessons learned from this first failed attempt, I focused on improving 2 things: dough handling and reduced fermentation time while keeping the list and quantity of ingredients exactly the same. To build a better structure, I added a 4th coil fold. For the fermentation, I definitely understood that this combination of flours, had to have a higher ph than 4.15 (as my previous test was). I shaped it then at ph 4.33 and put it in the fridge at 4.25. Only these 2 changes transformed a recipe from zero to hero.

This is a perfect example of improving the method and not changing the ingredients or their quantity. The method matters! There are many methods out there that make fantastic loaves of bread but you need to master yours and know the implications of changing it.

Chocolate festive cake

 

Chocolate festive cake


This was the cake for my husband's birthday last week. It was also the test cake for my son's birthday cakes. All the 3 followed the same principles, one sponge cake cut into layers with chocolate ganache between them. Similar compositions and tastes but three different looks. You may find the ones of my son in my previous 2 posts. 


Every cake had a different target: this one to look more festive, the "5" cake to be a child's cake and the last one to be easily transported. Which one do I like the best? Difficult to say as I associated them with special occasions. Doing all of them in one week was a marathon but with every challenge like this comes a lot of lessons learned.


The first lesson learned was to master the sponge cake both in cocoa or classic versions. Learning its tricks took me sometime over the years and now I can happily say that I feel comfortable baking them.


A second lesson learned was to play with ganache. This thing is super sensitive to temperature and depending on the purpose you might want a thicker or thinner texture. I found myself putting the bowl sometimes in the microwave to heat it a bit and sometimes in the fridge to cool it. It is however the easiest cake filling that you can do (after the basic whipped cream of course). I like simple things for basic staff and focus more on the artistic part of it.

You may find the complete recipe for this cake below.

Race cake


This was the anniversary birthday cake of my son. It took me a lot of time to prepare it and even more to make all the decorations. do I regret spending so much time on just a cake? Not even a minute. I made it with all my heart and I would do it again if needed.

I divided the making of this cake over 2 days: on the first day, I baked the sponge cakes and prepared the ganache, on the second day I shaped and layered them and prepared all the decorations.

The decorations took me almost a full day and I was helped by the little one, placing the big white and black squares on the side. My daughter participated also in the decoration process so it looked more like a family cake.

But a good cake doesn't only have to look nice it also needs to taste good. The combination of cocoa sponge cake and chocolate ganache is heaven. The guests appreciated the cake to be light, not overly sweet and delicious. The kids invited to the party loved it too, as most of the plates I cleaned up after were empty.

I was very careful with the sugar on this cake. There is a huuuuge (for me at least) amount of sugar paste (~750g) to cover the cake. The sponge cakes have 200g of sugar each, but I used only 1.5 sponge cakes, so I can make a total of 300g. There is also a good quantity of sugar in chocolate and there is no need to add more. Then another 100g for the syrup. If you start counting, the sugar sums up, however, remember that chocolate in its pure state is bitter and children do not love it like that. So a certain amount of sugar in this cake is a must. The trick was to find the right balance and I can happily say it was perfect.


Chocolate coated bundt cake

Last week it was a marathon of cake baking for me. With 2 anniversaries in the family, I managed to bake 4 sponge cakes for 3 finished festive cakes. It was a successful challenge and, as the time was so short, there was no place for tests or failures.
I went with the version of the cake that I master the best: the sponge cakes. The one you see in this post is the last one, made for the anniversary of my son at the school. It might look simple but is not. Basically, it is a sponge cake with the bottom cut in through the centre of the cake to introduce a chocolate filling, then covered back with the removed parts of the cake. The glaze was practically painted with warm chocolate ganache, as it was too thick to reveal the beautiful shape of this bundt. A thinner glaze would have worked better but I had to choose one that hardened to avoid transport issues.
Unfortunately, I do not have a photo with the inside as it was not cut by me but I will repeat this process with a future cake for you to see.

Happy birthday, my little bunny! I do not know when these years have passed since you arrived in this world, but you brought so much happiness and joy into our lives!

What is the deal with Open Crumb Sourdough Bread?


Open crumb is a dream for any baker for its imposing outside and inside look. 

It is a wish for a professional baker, as bigger loaves are quickly sold. 
Open crumb is a pride for a home baker, prooving high baking skills and mastering the fermentation process.

But open crumb is not just about the look. 
Pushing fermentation to the maximum means that the sugars in the dough are more consumed turning the bread less caloric. This means healthier bread.
When I started making sourdough bread I wished I had all the details to understand how it works. It took me many years to practice and observe the dough. It took me many books to read, articles or posts to digest or videos to watch. The trick in all this way was to pay attention and learn from my own experience.
I have never followed a baking school, everything I know is self-learning. There are many materials out there to learn from, free or paid, covering from the basic to the most scientific explanations. But the most important is to practice what others say and develop your own baking skills.

What I love the most about sourdough baking is that you never feel you master it completely and there is always something new to learn from every bake. Unfortunately, is not that simple to follow exactly a recipe, you need to learn to read plenty of signs that recipes do not mention. You need to develop a feeling for the dough. This happens with your eyes and with your hands.
On the way, you need to understand WHY every step is done and what it brings. Otherwise, why do it?

Open crumb was and still is for me a challenge. The truth is that I do not chase it every time. There are other types of bread catching my attention too from different perspectives. But open crumb is about perfecting the fermentation which is the most important in the sourdough baking process.
It is the jewel of a baker although I know many who will not make or buy an open crumb but a more dense one.

I tried to gather in this video all my lessons learned and share them with you. I hope that you take a shorter way to perfect open crumb than I took, and I offer you what I wish I had known 8 years ago when I started baking sourdough bread for me and my family.

However, this is not the bread to spread butter on.  Pick rather a sandwich loaf.

It is instead the perfect bread to accompany a soup or another dish.


Here is my conclusion gathered in a list of SECRETS for achieving open crumb:
     1. Use stronger bread flour
     2. Use a healthy sourdough starter
     3. Use higher dough hydration (>70%)
     4. Develop a strong gluten network
     5. Extend the fermentation to the maximum without over fermenting
     6. Learn how to read the dough
     7. Improve your dough handling skills
     8. Use steam for baking

Rum Raisins Mini Cakes


The reason why alcoholic drinks go into cakes is mainly for aroma. Do not worry about alcohol, it will just evaporate during baking so it is fully safe to give these cakes to your kids or to eat them before driving.
When it comes to rum, my mind goes to pirates. I am not a big fan of this drink but I love the aroma. For cakes, you can use rum essence in general which is much more concentrated in terms of flavours but the drink itself can go as well. Rum and raisins are an undisputable match, both the taste and flavours go so well together.

This is a simple cake and I noticed that it match better small moulds, rather than big ones. It has a tendency to retract a bit when cooling no matter the baking time. They go well in cupcakes, mini cakes or bundtlettes moulds. However, the taste and texture are just perfect and I invite you to try it...

Open Crumb Sourdough Bread

Do you believe in baking moods? Do you believe that your mood will influence your baked food? I don't. However, there are many times when I am not too much in a baking mood but I have to bake bread to feed my family. The results are most of the time in line with my mood. Other times, when my baking motivation is high, the results are diverse: worse, medium or over expectations.

Lately, I haven't been very inspired to bake bread but I did it anyway because we needed it. But baking for me is a passion and when I feel tired or uninspired I just need a break to recharge. 

This is exactly what I did. Last week, I took a little break from everything, from job, from baking, from other passions and generally from the daily routine. Instead, I visited a dear friend, brought the kids to a zoo and to an animal wild park. These few days made miracles, and everybody from the family enjoyed it. In the last day, I felt I missed my kitchen and trying new baked things. Yes, that was exactly what I was looking for and this little break put me back on track as I came home full of energy and with plenty of new ideas.

I switched to a new recipe that I believed it would fit to my open crumb purpose. I went for a 20% whole wheat, a high hydration bread closed to 80% and planned to change some variables to see how the results would influence my loaves.

These photos are probably speaking by themselves. Leaving the modesty behind, I call this one of the best open crumb I've ever made. Open crumb for me was never the perfect bread I can produce. Open crumb is about mastering the process in order to control the results. But perfection comes with the process, not with the end result. There is no such thing as one perfect bread, there are many perfect loaves but depends on the occasion and what you are trying to achieve. There can be perfect sandwich bread, perfect rye bread, perfect whole wheat bread and so on,  and yes, there can be the perfect open crumb bread. This is what I was targeting, this is what I've got. Was this related to my high baking mood? It is an interesting link but I believe in science and practice more than in the alignment of the stars in my horoscope. 

Do I master the process then? Well, this comes with consistency in baking and most probably I have stepped with the right foot ahead. However, the journey is much more enjoyable than the result itself, right?

To my classical process, I made little changes and I will take them one by one to speak about these changes. In my next bake, I will try to isolate the variables to see the direct impact on the final product but for this bake, they worked very well together.


1. Hydration of the whole wheat in advance.

Hydrating the whole wheat flour in advance is not new to me. I've done it before and the results were noticeable. There is a simple logic behind it: whole wheat contains the bran of the wheat grain and it is taking much longer for the bran to hydrate than it takes for the flour. This recipe contains 20% whole wheat flour. So, the day before making the bread I hydrated the whole wheat with almost the same amount of water (reaching 100% hydration for this mini dough)and left it on the counter in the kitchen overnight. My kitchen is cold these days during the night, it barely gets 15ºC so no worries about extra enzymatic activity in the flour through my 8 hours time sleep. During the summer, I would put it in the fridge to stay safe.

2. More frequent coil folds

The bran from the whole wheat acts as a barrier in the gluten formation. Reorganising the dough more often helps with the structure and makes that only the strong bonds are kept and the weak ones are rebuilt into new stronger ones. I had started with the idea of making one coil fold every 30 minutes. This resulted in 8 coil folds. I have never done so many for a dough. As a practice, it was a little disturbing to babysit the dough every 30 minutes with a coil fold but well... when you are motivated you are not too much bothered.

3. Increased fermentation.

Pushing the fermentation to a higher extent is one of the key elements in achieving an open crumb bread. I knew that and the most tricky question is how much? What was the sweet spot? I usually put my loaves in the fridge for the retard when the ph is around 4.2. But what if I would stretch it up until 4.1? Would this be too much? Could I push it lower than 4.1?

4. Optimise the time between scoring and baking.

One of the things I've noticed is that my 2 loaves that I bake together look different. They come from the same dough so fermentation is not a high factor. But my usual process is to decorate and score the first loaf and then pass to the second and put them both together in the oven. I also tried to put already the first one in the oven after the scoring and decoration were over but it was not the best process as this first loaf would bake alone without steam until the second one was ready to go in the oven. So what I have tried was to decorate both the loaves, pass to scoring both and then put them in the oven. In this way there was no bread waiting for the other after scoring.


All these changes had for sure an important role to play in the process but some probably influenced more than the others.

Let's analyse a bit each of these changes.

The hydration of the whole wheat flour in advance was for sure a good idea. I felt in my hands a dough that was not breaking easily. This is for sure a keeper for my next attempt.

The frequent coil folds had a good impact in organising the dough and it made a fantastic net in the crumb. But, man... 8 coil folds... is a bit overkill. More coil folds is a good idea but distanced at 45 minutes maybe it would be easier (hoping that it won't destroy the beautiful crumb) next time.

Fermentation was an absolute key here. With a perfect gluten development, the fermentation at 4.14ph when shaping and 4.11ph when putting it in the fridge was matching perfectly. I am sure it would accept  even a bit lower ph but not without an impact:

  • bigger holes. I actually do not want them bigger, I want a slice still to remain tangible without seeing everything through it. Like this, it is perfect to accompany any dish and even to spread butter on it. Larger holes would make the loaf only suitable for soups and won't be able to hold anything soft on it. 
  • losing the ear. It is very probable that with a higher fermentation when exposed to heat, the bacteria won't have enough power to open an ear. Even if this is just a visual aspect and I know people who would avoid bread with ear when choosing from a shelf, it is for me proof of catching the sweet spot of fermentation.
With my next attempt, I would not change the fermentation, I would stick to those ph numbers to guide when to shape and when to put the dough in the fridge.
The last is about making the steps of decorating and scoring for both the loaves. It was a clear indication that my loaves looked different because of the waiting time. Now that I know, I will keep this lesson learned.

These were my conclusions, and now I am ready for the next bake. So curious if I can get consistent results!