Tuesday, November 1, 2011

tree branches

i am most drawn to the rusticity of bread. i adore the way that the loaves can blend in to nature with their craggy crusts and misshapen ways. is it a stone? a tree branch? or a boule? maybe a baguette? i like to ask. if i cannot tell the difference, i know i've done something right.

today i made tree branches, their gnarled ends and weathered barks. and i made some changes, as promised, a little more whole wheat flour (added in the levain), a different kind of yeast. i also let the poolish bloom at room temp in 3 hours rather than refrigerating it overnight to coincide with the completion of the levain. this poolish was far more bubbly than the last, but i still like the crust of the last batch better, and i think it might be because of the active dry, and possibly the refrigerated poolish (more experiments to come).

speaking of refrigeration, i did a long cold proof, a whopping 9.5 hours, to see just how much flavor i could spank out of that dough.

i also did a little reading about yeast, and reinhardt uses rapid rise or fast acting v. active dry, as suggested in the Tartine book. i'm an experimental type of gal, and, well, i already tried active dry, so i thought i might give these baguettes a kick in the pants, and boy, is there a humongloid difference between fast acting and active dry. in no time flat it became all bubbly and knotty-like.

i must confess, i did not reduce the amount of fast acting that reinhardt dictates when subbing it for active dry. i'm a rebel. i like to live on the edge. plus, i'm all about hi-def, and if i can amplify my bread in any way, well dammit, i'm down for that pursuit.

i wish i could have photographed the dough during the bulk fermentation, but i flipped the fermentation sched to evening so i could bake in the morning and give the misshapen loaves to my neighbors, fresh out of the oven. it was just too dark, so you will have to use your imagination. here, let me help: it looked like the elephant man's head.

i have a couple more ideas to experiment with before i move on to the renditions of baguette in the next few pages of Tartine. i want to see which method will twist best into tordu, fendu, fougasse. but for now, here's the method for our hi-def tree branches. i will see you back at the page in a week!

baguettes in hi-def

timing the poolish to arrive as the same time as the levain is a little tricky. here's how i scheduled things:

levain at 11:30 am - 8:30 pm
poolish at 5 pm - 8:30 pm
mix together levain, poolish, 600g of water & the flours; autolyse 8:40 pm - 9:10 pm
salt + 50g water, and 4 series of turns (every 40 minutes) 9:10 pm - 12:10 am
divide, shape, bench 12:10 am - 12:45 am
first batch of 3 in fridge at 12:35 am/second batch of 3 in fridge at 12:45 am
proof first batch till 10:00 am
preheat to 500 degrees with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven
bake till brown (first 16 minutes with steam) at 475 degrees
preheat to 500 degrees with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven
proof second batch till 10:55 am
bake till brown (first 16 minutes with steam) at 475 degrees


200g h2o
100g KA whole wheat flour
100g KA AP flour
15g active rye starter

200g h2o
200g KA AP flour
3g rapid rise yeast

all of the levain
all of the poolish
600g + 50g h2o
650g KA AP
350g KA bread flour
25g salt


crust: really shattery and crisp. but i think that the crust of the last round was more glassy. crumb: open, soft, great gelatinization. nice and chewy. the last crumb was more open, i believe. but no complaints with this one either. flavor: mmmmm! (the neighbs all loved their bread). just a hint of sour. i loved the overnight proof. ease of handling dough: si simple (that's french for 'so simple') notes & changes: i think i like the active dry yeast better than the fast acting yeast. fast acting made the dough more...bloated? i also like the crust better with the last batch. and im not sure if refrigerating the poolish helped contribute to the lovely crust of the last batch, so i will have to do another round with a non-refrigerated poolish using active dry yeast and an endured bulk fermentation. oi. that's the thing with bread. so many small variables, right? so far i prefer the last round best, though this batch was pretty outstanding as well in terms of flavor. i think that aesthetically, the last ones were more appealing. a lot more rustic. i don't really have any desire to make the 'perfect' shaped baguette. i like the look of one that's a cross between a baguette and a ciabatta. i was a little annoyed that these came out so much more uniform. ah, well. a couple more tweaks before i move on!

to the staff of life!

this post was shared on wild yeast blog's yeast spotting.

all formulae in this post are derivative of those found in the Tartine Bread book. I urge you to get your own copy.


  1. Hello,
    Your rustic, weathered, gnarled tree branches are beautiful - what a lovely post.
    :^) from breadsong

  2. Everything looks fabulous! I have been playing with sourdough. My daughter is in culinary school and they were doing sourdough so I inherited some. Your loaves are lovely. I would love some kind of long enamel pan with a lid to bake it in like I do my European style bread but haven't seen anything like that yet.

  3. thank you breadsong and jacqueline.

    jacqueline, all day today i was wishing i had an $10,000 professional bakers oven with steam injection. they really should come up with something for the home baker, right? a wolf oven with a steam option? how many of us would grab one of those!

  4. Beautiful loaves and fabulous photography! I love Tartine breads.

  5. I love your experimental bread blog. And these look scrumptious.

  6. Great post! Got to you via foodgawker. Check out The Feed – We are a new food content platform to submit your work – submit a post to generate more traffic and awareness to your site.

  7. Gorgeous loafs. I can just imagine how scrumptious it must be!

  8. I know what you mean about baguettes. Many times as I'm making baguette dough, I'm determined to make baguettes and then when it comes time to shape them, I suddenly switch and make boules.

    Your baguettes look brilliant!! And I love to hear that your baguettes had only a hint of sour. (I received Robertson's wonderful book for my birthday and have been trying to get up the courage to capture yeast again.)

  9. I forgot to add the following:

    How very interesting about your suspected differences between active dry and instant yeast. I also wonder if different brands of dry yeast make a difference.

    Have you tried using fresh yeast as well? (I now can't remember if Robertson talks about using fresh yeast in place of dry.)

  10. in the end, i always find that i'm happy i made baguettes: more to share, and i love the crust! but i totally get the desire to shape them into boules :) i'm such a lazy baker.

    ive not tried fresh yeast, and did some reading about different yeasts in one of reinharts books. he prefers fast acting, but uses a fraction of the amount that you would if you were using active dry. he made it sound as though fresh yeast was sort of a throw away. apparently its not very potent, so, whats the point (??) that's the impression that i got (it sure is a cool looking/feeling product though). from what i can see, chad only uses active dry.

    dive into the book, but be prepared to experiment. i use it as a template, and then do my own thing. there are just two errors in the book that i can see so far, forget about the polenta bread. i tried numerous times, and it does not work (i have received other comments as well about the same), which is why i created my own formula that came out smashingly. and, be sure to increase the water by at least 100g in the baguettes. im certain that that was simply errata. all books have a few.

    read about yeast strengths before dabbling. if you use fresh, you will probably have to increase the percentage. i believe it was crust and crumb (or apprentice) that discussed the conversion and the strengths of each type of yeast.

    happy baking!

  11. This looks so delicious. You are a pro! Would love for you to share this with us over at foodepix.com.

  12. by all means, foodepix. share away!

  13. Francis-Olive, these beautiful baguettes don't fit into the dutch oven. So how are you getting the steamy environment during the first 20 mins?

    1. Hey Les! I would mist the dough itself with a fine mister (just after you load them in), and I would a pan heating on the floor of the oven, then fill a glass measure up with ice, then water, then dump this into the oven prior to loading in the dough, then again after the dough was loaded.

      hope this helps! but now, there is no fabulous way to get steam in the oven, sadly.



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