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Let Me Introduce Myself

My name is Jim… or you can call me “Bear”.

Bear was my callsign when I flew F-4’s and F-15E’s in the USAF.

  • I like to cook and have recently been really focusing on my baking.
  • I’m on a quest to perfect sourdough bread, croissants and pastries.

My intent is to share my love of baking and my journey to becoming a better baker.

Someday I’m going to not have a “job” and I will be able to devote much more time and attention to my baking than I currently am able to dedicate. When that time comes I’d like to possibly start a business. Until that time you’re welcome to come along on my journey of discovery. I’ll share my ups and downs as I go; both triumphs and those “Well, THAT was a learning experience!” moments!

Feel free to connect with me. I love to connect with folks that share my love of baking, that are learning and experimenting and that don’t mind sharing their experience(s).

My hope is that in a year or so I will have made new friends, learned how to be a better baker and brought smiles to those who I’ve had the privilege to walk this journey alongside.

New Recipe

I thought I’d try some different loaves using a mix of flours…

Why? You ask…

Well… I redid my pantry right before Thanksgiving and there was total chaos downstairs as I ripped out the contractor-grade wire shelving. During that process I found some 00 flour I had forgot I had. Then I saw an Instagram post where someone had used 00 flour in a loaf they made. I saw their baker’s percentages and thought “Why not?!”

Bakers’s Percentages

  • 00 Tipo flour 40%
  • Strong Bread flour 42.5%
  • Whole Wheat flour 15%
  • AP Flour 2.5%

Total of the above for this bake was 1000g (400, 425, 150 and 25)

I add 66% sourdough starter (100% hydration), 24g of salt and 585g of water.

Technically, if you include the starter amounts my total flour is 1330g and water is 915g so my hydration is 69% salt is 1.8%.

Method

I fed my starter this morning 1:1:1 starter/water/flour and put in my proving box at 84°F. It will sit there around 4 hours and double + in volume.

About an hour before I anticipate mixing in my active starter I’ll begin my autolyse adding 104°F to my room temperature flour and get it just over my desired dough temperature of 84°F. Typically it will be around 94°F and cool off over the hour.

Dough autolyse

I’ll mix in my starter then mix in my salt about 25 mins later. Then the dough is going to go into my tub / proving box to begin a series of coil and stretch folds every 30 mins over the first 90 mins.

Letting the dough bulk prove until roughly doubled in size. Once there I’ll divide shape and bulk longer at room temperature until this evening (probably until about 9pm and then bake).

Shaped, in bannetons and in proving box

I divided the loaves into two 1100g loaves, preshaping into rounds, rested for 15 minutes then final shaped into bannetons. I rolled them in rice flower to prevent them from sticking.

I had thought to bulk ferment in bannetons for a bit. Guess I could bulk ferment on my counter but I decided to go into my box instead. I’ll bake them later this evening.

A couple hours of bulk ferment

I don’t normally bake my loaves right after a bulk ferment in my box. Normally I let them ferment a longer time in my fridge. However, my fridge is full with Thanksgiving leftovers.

I baked at 450°F covered in my Dutch Ovens for 25 minutes . Pulled the covers and baked for a bit more (roughly 10 minutes). I put them on a cold stone to protect the bottom but allow a richer color overall.

Oven spring was really great! Good color. Not much dimpling since the outer layer wasn’t cold like it is coming out of the fridge.

Crumb Shot of Loaf

Taking Notes is key…

My baking has slowed down over the past couple of months. Life has twists and turns / ebbs and flows so I’ve dialed back a bit.

I’m m still baking weekly; just my experimentation and volume has decreased.

So thankful that I’ve taken notes and have enough “reps” that I’m able to be made ch more consistent. Technique can still be off from lack or recent “hands on dough” … but I’m still much better than if I left it to memory alone.

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat & Croissants

I’m thankful for my notes! This last batch of Pain Au Chocolat and Croissants would not have turned out as well had I not had my notes from previous bakes!

My biggest wins were a) proving time / visual clues and b) baking temperature and timing.

I actually let my pastries prove 5 hours from 7am to Noon. Mindful of the temp and clues I was able to be patient. Secondly, when I baked them it was exactly what I needed.

I was very pleased with how they looked going in and the bake confirmed!

Take copious notes about my bakes was probably some of the best advice I ever received (and accepted) for on my baking journey!

Enjoying for breakfast

Cheddar Jalapeño Focaccia

It’s been a while since I posted. Life has gotten really busy. I’ve been making sourdough bread weekly. Mostly Sourdough Pullman loaves.

Earlier this week I did make sourdough croissants. So I’m staying in the game there as well.

Decided today to take half my dough and make Cheddar Jalapeño Focaccia. The jalapeños coming from the last of the over 35 pounds of peppers (all kinds) from my garden.

Risen and awaiting toppings

The dough rose a bit more slowly than I anticipated. It may be because I had 20% whole wheat flour instead of only strong bread flour.

Dimpled with Cheddar and Jalapeños

I had preheated my oven to 450°F and baked for 15 minutes prior to checking, spinning and baking for an additional 10 minutes.

It came out really nice. I’m thankful that I take copious notes about my bakes and can reference them before baking. I’ve found my notes are one of most beneficial tools since I can build off what I’ve learned and not simply trust my memory when I do something infrequently.

It smells awesome! Can’t wait to taste it shortly!

What a difference a week makes…

Sourdough bread cooling…

Paying attention to technique works!

Currently I’m baking only once a week so my chance to “try again” comes once a week. Last week baked Batards for the first time in I don’t know how long. I’ve been focusing on Pullman loaves. The ear development didn’t come out as well as I desired. My hypothesis was that my slashing was too vertical and not at a shallow enough angle.

I used a different Lamé with a curved blade that rode more easily on the surface. Result: much better ear development!

I’m sure if I was baking hundreds of loaves a week this would be nothing. However, I don’t and I really want to be consistent even though I do small batches each week (and give most of it away).

BTW… regardless of the inconsistency of my recent bake’s ear development, the bread tastes awesome! It made a great base for Eggs Benedict last night!

Sourdough Bread Eggs Benedict!

Skills Get Rusty…

If you don’t practice your skills get rusty!

I’ve not made Batards lately. I’ve been making Pullman loaves every week and not shaped and slashed Batards.

Slashing needs to be at a shallow angle (16-20°) and NOT as vertical as I do with the Pullman loaves. The more vertical reduces the “ear” that is produced by the more shallow slash.

Sourdough Pullman and Batards

The ear development was minimal and almost reversed on the far right loaf above. Good blisters and color on the crust (haven’t forgotten everything).

I’ll need to remember to switch Lamé’s next time. The smaller is great for slashing Pullman loaves and decorative scoring. The long handled one with the curved blade for making shallow slashes.

Lamé’s

That said the bread will taste amazing! House smells wonderful right now. The bees is “talking” as it cools and the crust crackles.

Hurt me… I’ll need to make some more bread and try again!!

Same Dough / New Pastry

It’s been a while since I last posted. Life gets busy. Yesterday we celebrated my wife as she graduated earning her Doctorate.

Braided Sourdough Danishes

I’ve been exploring new ways to make Danishes with my same base laminated dough. I saw a post where another baker had used this technique and I thought I’d give it a try.

The technique involves making cuts down the sides like a centipede and then alternating folds of the legs over a filling.

Filling #1 was Chocolate (Nutella) and Pecan; #2 was Blueberry Preserves which I’d canned earlier this summer.

Danishes ready for Eggwash

The Danishes were chilled overnight, proofed in the proving box (84°F) the next morning, egg-washed then baked at 385°F Convection for 14?minutes.

Baked Danish Rolls

Overall I was pleased with the results. As expected a little of the Blueberry liquid leaked…but not too much. They came out quite nicely This will open up a whole range of other flavor profiles to attempt.

More to come in the future…

Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat and Kouign Amann

Baked Sourdough Pain Au Chocolat and Kouign Amann.

Pastries are cooling

I hadn’t made these I a bit and my wife really likes the Pain Au Chocolat.

They all start out with same laminated dough as my Sourdough Croissants. Different shape and inclusion of the chocolate for the Pain Au Chocolat and sugar for the Kouign Amann.

I have found that Cacao Barry Bittersweet Chocolate is the best. I buy mine on Amazon.

Bittersweet Chocolat

The bittersweet chocolat works well and doesn’t melt and ooze out. I roll in two bars and then a third as I finish the rolling.

My Kouign Amann doesn’t have sugar laminated inside. I go “low tech”. When making mine I just sprinkle on some sugar and pat it on. I smear the inside of a muffin tin with softened butter and coat that with sugar. The laminated dough is cut into 4” squares, pushed into each space and the four corners folded into the center. I sprinkle a bit more sugar on top. That’s it.

I proved each in a proving bag for a couple of hours and then baked at 385°F. The Pain Au Chocolat went for roughly 13.5 minutes. The Kouign Amann for a bit longer. I kept on opening the oven to check them and, as a result, dumped the heat multiple times. I just didn’t want to burn them!

Once baked I glazed them with apricot jam while they were in the tins. I left them in the tin for 4 minutes before removing. Next time I’ll only wait three minutes. They were beginning to cool and harden…want to get them out just a bit sooner to make them easier to remove.

BTW they tasted AWESOME!! Both my wife and I sheepishly looked at each other after we (evidently) wolfed them down! Ha!

Focaccia – Caramelized Onion, Rosemary and Course Sea Salt

Tried some different focaccia flavors caramelizing some yellow onion then adding some fresh Rosemary from my garden and some course sea salt.

Focaccia cooling

I think I should have pulled it 3 minutes earlier…darker than I prefer.

That said, I’m pleased with the other factors affecting my method.

Here are some pics of me making it:

I’ll taste and see. It was a good attempt…just need to be mindful of my baking time parameters if I want consistent results I prefer!

Savory Sourdough Danishes

Had a desire to make savory Danishes again. Think it was prompted by seeing my Rosemary in my garden take off growing again.

Savory Danish

Filling was caramelized shallots, brie, and figs topped with a fresh rosemary, black pepper and honey drizzle.

I must admit that drizzle is unexpectedly good!

BTW when I mentioned “caramelized shallots“ I put a “little” butter in the skillet, start to render the shallots and as the start to soften/brown I’ll deglaze the pan with a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar. Tasty!!

The figs were some that my father-in-law had put up last fall so they went on top of the Brie prior to baking.

Below are some pics of the assembly of the danishes. The egg wash and some fresh, course-ground black pepper have already been applied prior to adding the shallots

I baked them at 385°F (convection) for 13.5 minutes.

Savory Danishes cooling

I will admit that these are REALLY tasty! Definitely something to do more often for sure.

Next time I’ll need to try some different flavor combinations. Would love suggestions…

Sourdough Cherry and Apple Danishes

I decided to make Cherry and Apple Danishes in yet another experiment with my base sourdough croissant dough.

Cherry Danishes

Thought this time I’d cot out squares and create a pocket for filling by placing a cup in the center as they proved.

Nice hypothesis. Not so good on execution.

Here is where the method went a bit south:

  • Didn’t spray bottom of cups with Pam or coat with butter. Stuck to pastry. Thought about doing so … just ignored myself
  • Probably over-proved. Was using a similar time as for croissants. Didn’t need to do so since these were a single layer and NOT cooled.

Next time I’ll not use cups, prove a shorter period and make a pocket by pressing down with my fingers prior to filling.

Egg wash and bake as normal after filling. I cherry pie filling and apple pie filling. I did add some rum-soaked sultanas (golden raisins) to the apple pie filling.

Overall they came out nicely. A bit large…I keep on sizing these like I’m a 12-year old. Need to pare down and make a bit smaller next time! Ha!

After they cooled I made a cream cheese frosting similar to what I do with my cinnamon rolls and striped them.

My piping needs a bit of practice!

I’m pleased with my efforts. They’re going to taste awesome for Easter brunch!!