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    The New Look

    ABB has a new look, courtesy of the fabulous Atahualpa theme. (http://wordpress.org/themes/atahualpa) I was dissatisfied with the way the old one was looking, but couldn’t find a theme I liked.

    This theme is fantastic. Looks good, is easy to use and is infinitely customizable. It’s free and has a large support forum and installed user base.

    Hope you like it as much as I do.

    Slight Revision of the Site

    I have changed the navigation on the site from a drop down horizontal menu to a more traditional vertical menu. I placed it on the left hand side of the page so it will be easily visible.

    Quite a few visitors took exception to the drop down menu, saying it was difficult to use, didn’t work well, etc. Since the customer is always right, the drop down menu is on its way out.

    Try the new navigation and see how you like it. You can tell me which you prefer at johnfrum@optonline.net.

    If no one objects too loudly, I’ll cut over by February 20 or 21, 2013.

    Cheers, and thanks for visiting.

    Sourdough Starter — Quick and Easy

    I’ve just activated a new starter and thought I’d post what I did to get it going. There are several good starter sources, but I’ve always preferred to do my own, partly because that’s just the way I am and partly because I want a starter that reflects where I live, which is Central New Jersey.

    The process is dirt simple.

    20 grams of water, 10 grams of bread flour and 10 grams of whole wheat flour.

    Put these ingredients in a container, mix it up, slap a cover on it and let it sit for 24 hours. You’ll maybe see a bit of activity after the 24 hours, but you may not.

    Throw away most of the mixture — keep about 10 grams, about 2 teaspoons — and add 20 grams of water, 10 grams of bread flour and 10 grams of whole wheat flour. Mix it up, cover it and let it sit for 24 hours. After this time, you should see some activity. This is called a refreshment of a starter. Now it’s time to go into fast mode.

    For the next week or two, repeat the throw – add – cover – wait process every 12 hours. You should wind up with a very active starter that smells really good, not sour or acidic.

    At this point, you can use the starter, keep it going or put it in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days or up to a week, then do the refreshment again, let it age for an hour on the counter and put it back in the refrigerator. Some people leave the starter in the refrigerator for a week or two. You can try that and see how it works for you. I’m currently on a refreshment schedule of every 7 days.

    Not elegant, not a famous name starter, but it will work and work well to help you make a natural levain bread.

    Sourdough, in Spite of the Heat

    The daytime temperature here in New Jersey has been breaking all sorts of records lately, which makes any sort of bread baking difficult. I’ve been making pitas, English muffins and other simple breads, trying to keep the kitchen from turning into a sauna — or maybe a steam room.

    We got a break these past few days, so I sprang into action (not quite a spring, since sourdough takes quite a bit of time) and made a sourdough using my newly started starter. I’ll describe the starter in the next post. Let’s just say that the New Jersey “ambiance” and good whole wheat and bread flours made for a very active starter. I dug out my traditional recipe and went to work.

    I made two large roundish batards of 1500 grams / 3.3 pounds each. Continue reading Sourdough, in Spite of the Heat

    New Forum

    I hope the third time is charmed!

    There’s a new forum on Artisan Bread Baking dot Com with a new forum package. Take a look, sign up and get started.

    I’ve set up several categories for posts just as a start; we can add more and different categories as we need them.

    There is a category for members to post pictures of their breads, whether triumphant successes or door-stop failures.

    There’s going to be a learning curve, so please bear with me for the first few weeks as we glide over the bumps in the road.

    If you have comments, suggestions or problems, either email me at johnfrum@optonline.net or register and post a comment in the Message to Management category.

    New Bread in Town

    Just posted a series of me making Buttermilk Bread, from George Greenstein’s “Secrets of a Jewish Baker.” This is a very nice sandwich loaf that happens to toast up well. Pretty easy to make and almost non-fail.

    If you have the book, be sure to read the section on the page where I discuss the error in the book.

    A Different Picture – Image Method

    Starting with the Joneses 100% Whole Wheat recipe, I’ve decided to use Weebly for at least part of my web site. For the near term, I’ll be using it as the display method for the images of baking and other efforts. This represents a change in the way the images will show up, but I think, (hope?) it will allow visitors to find what they want to see easily while allowing me to cut the time involved in getting a recipe published from many hours to one hour, which means more new things for people to see, read and try.

    One of the nice things about the Weebly platform is that it will allow visitors to move from picture page to picture page without gong back to the main site. I think this is valuable, but time will tell.

    Take a look.

    A New Post — 100% Whole Wheat Bread from Judith and Evan Jones

    Just made this lovely bread. It’s quite quick and easy and tastes good. It has a slight sweetness to it and toasts well.

    Take a look. I think you’ll like it.

    It’s in All Recipes, Easy and Whole Grain.

    A New Bread — Brazilian Fruit Bread

    I just posted a new bread, Brazilian Fruit Bread. I made it for Easter for friends who were entertaining future in-laws from Brazil. Everyone loved the bread, but the Brazilians said they had never seen this bread in Brazil. Who knew?

    You can find it listed under All Recipes, Sweet Breads and Festive Breads.

    I’ve tried a new layout on the page. Let me know what you think of it.

    Collapsing Centers

    A poster on a discussion board I frequent posted a note about a loaf that looked fine until it started to bake, then sagged in the middle of the loaf during baking.  The poster was using a bread machine that would bake 2, 2.5 or 3 pound loaves and the effort under discussion was a 3-pound loaf.   The question was not only what happened but if it might be related to the size of the loaf — was a 3 pound loaf actually too big for the machine.

    I’m not an expert on bread machine baking, so I am operating at a disadvantage here.  Other responses were to cut the yeast, cut the water, etc.  All over the lot; not surprising, since this seemed like such a strange problem.  Actually, it wasn’t a strange thing at all, just a bit of a twist on the flying crust, tunnel crust, problem.

    Here’s what appeared to happen.

    First, the bread machine is a closed environment, so the dough crust doesn’t dry out during final rise.  This means that if the dough expands and then the crumb falls back, the crust can follow, instead of being stuck up in the air high and dry, as in a flying crust.

    Second, the bread machine warms up as the dough is sitting in it, while an oven is already heated when the dough in put into the oven.  This means that the bread machine dough doesn’t get a blast of hot air first during baking.  The dough continues to rise normally until the bread machine reaches a critical temperature, then goes into high activity as it gets heated, then dies.  The continuation of the normal activity leads to a bit of over rising, much like a loaf of dough that has been left on the counter a bit too long.

    Third, I wasn’t sure what the hydration of the dough was, but in general, the potential for a flying crust seems to go up as the hydration goes up.  I don’t think the bread here was particularly wet, so there isn’t anything to change in the hydration.

    The combination of the first two things appears to have caused the collapse in the center of the loaf during baking.  What happened was a flying crust that didn’t fly, that crashed back into the crumb.

    My recommendation was to cut the yeast a bit and, if possible, cut the final rise time a bit.  The goal is to reduce the amount of final rise enough to make the dough capable of expanding without then falling back.