Since I don’t have to work on the weekend I avoid that nagging pressure to interact with the other humans by baking bread. The rhythm of bread baking is such that it is both leisurely and consuming.

The first thing I did in the morning was cover 10 grain hot cereal mix with boiling water as the starter for the multigrain bread that was featured in Cook’s Illustrated a year or two ago. This is my go-to basic bread to have around the house, great for toast and sandwiches. The crumb is not so dense as a lot of multigrain breads thanks to copious amounts of white flour and instant yeast makes for a predictable rising schedule. The flavor is earthy, as multigrained breads should be, and tinged with honey. This recipe is simple, not very time consuming and reliably produces a pretty pair of loaves.


With that out of the way, I went to the store to get more flour (3 lbs was not going to cut it). I had refreshed my sourdough starter the day before and left it out all morning to bubble and grow. I needed to make pitas for dinner and I also wanted to make a couple of european-style breads. I like a loose crumb so I was aiming for about 66% hydration, and I wanted to use a pound of my starter, mostly to facilitate storing the rest of it in the fridge. I was figuring I wanted about 3# of final dough for my european breads and at least 2# to be able to make 8 four ounce pitas. Math time!

A pound of starter was 8oz water and 8oz flour. I wanted to end up with about 80 oz of dough and I was going to have 2/3 as much water as flour (and I like round numbers that my scale can handle) so I planned to add 40 oz of flour. That gave me 48 oz of flour total, 66% of which is 31.68, which I rounded to a nice even 32 (which meant I would add 24 additional ounces).

With my formula figured out, I proceeded to mix and knead the dough, adding a good amount of salt. With wild yeast rising times are pretty unpredictable, and salt inhibits rising, so I had no idea when the dough was going to double in size. I set out to work on some other things.

Around 5 p.m. I got tired of waiting and decided to weigh and shape my dough. I recently discovered that weighing individual dough pieces so they are the same really helps with the uniformity of the final product (durh) so I got out my scale. 1.5# of dough went to a boule which I left to proof in a heavily oiled and floured glass bowl. Three .5# pieces got rolled into baguettes and placed on my couche to grow. The remaining 8 4 oz pieces (plus a small leftover piece) I shaped into small boules to rest for pitas.

Mostly because we were hungry I rolled out the pitas within an hour of shaping the dough even though they had not grown much at all. Apparently, that is not very important with pitas. Here they are in the oven:

Pitas in the Oven

That is what we like to call pocket-city. Below you’ll see them in a nice little stack (wrapped in a towel to keep them warm and chewy):

Stack o' Pita

After dinner I decided it did not make much sense to wait up till all hours for the rest of my breads to proof in the meantime wasting all that heat in the stone in my oven, so the baguettes were transferred to a floured peel, scored and baked. For the record, they were underproofed, but I think they turned out fine.


Lastly, the boule. I apparently did not flour my bowl enough because this bread stuck to the sides and did not want to land on the peel. When it finally did, it was horribly deformed. It is pretty annoying to spend this much time on a piece of bread only to have some stupid mistake destroy everything you worked and fought for; much can be learned about life from bread baking, evidently. I made a feeble attempt at scoring this bread artfully to make the mistakes look intentional and then slid it onto the stone. I was surprised by a good amount of oven spring, but upon eating the bread the next day found dense areas that suggested underproofing. Great crumb for the most part though thanks to the relatively high hydration!

Boule and Crumb Shot

And so passed another Saturday.


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2 comments on “BREAD DAY”

  1. Uncle Don 21 January, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I think the crumb look excellent. Nice discussion of your procedure too. Now I should get inspired. Did make some sourdough bread for this weekend dinner celebrating Grandfolk’s anniversary. I have had the starter going since last summer.

  2. Linda Garces 5 February, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Hello Tom,
    I would like to know the issue of Cooks that the Multigrain Bread appeared. It looks inviting and since you said “easy” I think I will try to make it.

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