Country Bread – Hamelman Style

country bread hamelmanCountry Bread is my second bread this November for Mellow Bakers. The others are the Horst Bandel rye bread and a brioche which I am saving for the end of the month.

If you want to join in with this escapade,  you can get advice, give advice, and talk bread in general on the Mellow Bakers forum. We’re very nice and friendly, jump in at any time, bake any of the breads you fancy, either one for this month or a previous one. Then post on a blog or on the forum direct. You can upload pics if you feel like it. And if you need cheering up,  you can always visit the bread disaster thread too and see my very first loaves.

The Country Bread is a plain dough made with white bread flour, water, yeast and salt.There are no enrichments, no milk to sweeten and soften the crumb, no butter or oil to coat the gluten strands, no egg, no malts.

The recipe uses a paté fermentée, as we have done previously when making Rustic Bread, or for pizza. I quite like using old dough in new dough usually but on this occasion I wasn’t that excited by it if I’m honest, the difference between this bread and the Rustic Bread is gigantic.

sticky dough country bread hamelman

One of those wet and sticky doughs...

Tiny amounts of yeast, long prefermentation of half the flour in the final dough, fairly wet, quite a lot wetter than the doughs we have been making up to now. Needs lots of stretches and folds to bring it under control and I suspect the temperature control is fairly important too otherwise your timings go way off. Drop the dough temperature by four degrees and your proof time will need to be extended and so on.

I used my local supermarket, Waitrose Organic strong bread flour for this bread. You need something with a reasonably good gluten level to cope with the long prove time.

The loaves I made here are certainly good enough to eat, but in a way they remind me of loaves I made when I started out. They stuck a little in the banettons, probably because I dusted them with wheat flour and not rye flour and they spread a lot when I inverted them onto the peel, the knife dragged when I slashed them so I knew they weren’t going to open up properly. They recovered fairly well in the oven; the Angel of Spring doing her thing as always.

If this had been one of the first breads I had made I would be really pleased with this – but I know I can make better tasting bread than this. So before  anyone says, oh they look fine, I agree!  Yes they do look fine and rustic and all that sort of thing, I am not complaining, just telling you how it tastes from where I am, the photos don’t tell the whole story after all and sometimes the photos make the breads look better than they really are.

Great texture, shame about the flavour

Taste wise:-  This is a bland bread with a good open crumb, irregular holes and a chewy crust. Maybe it needs a little more salt, maybe I should have added some of my sourdough starter to it to give it some flavour, it needs something, the long pre-ferment didn’t do anything for it tastewise.

The biggest effect of the long pre-ferment and proves is on the texture of the bread, which is very similar to what one get with a white sourdough. So if you want a bread with the open, slightly chewy texture of a typical sourdough but a very mild flavour this is the one for you. It’s not the one for me. If I’m going to spend that much time monitoring a dough, stretching and folding and so on, I want to get great bread, not just a good enough bread.

… Looking forward to making that brioche, a few quick marches to burn off the calories first…..

28 thoughts on “Country Bread – Hamelman Style

  1. Abby

    Well-said and totally agree! “Fine” is a perfect descriptor…but an awful lot of work for a bread that tastes “fine.” And so much less character than so many of the other breads…. Can’t wait to hear about your brioche…I just loved that one!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’m looking forward to the brioche – I keep reading different recipes for brioche and I remember Robin making it in the summer, he air kneaded it.. I think I might do it in the mixer ;)

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Fair comment, but if you offer to come over and turn the taps on and answer the front door I’ll air knead, name the day…. you owe me anyway ;)

  2. zorra

    Me again, you know what I added 50 g of whole wheat flour in the preferment. Perhaps this makes the difference.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I was wondering why the Rustic bread was so lovely and this wasn’t and I think you’re right Zorra, whole wheat flour, or a little rye or any wholegrain flour, even 5 – 10% makes such a difference to the final flavour of the bread for me. I keep reading about people getting wonderful flavours from straight bread flour but I haven’t managed it yet. I have tried flours from Shipton Mill and I nearly always buy organic flour from the supermarket if that’s all I can get hold of, so I don’t really know what else to do ?

  3. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Ok, it does look great, but I know what you mean about the taste – I’ve had a few loaves like that myself. I almost don’t make a yeast based dough anymore unless it’s for pizza or will have fillings – I find the flavour of the yeast too obvious now that we’re all so used to sourdough. Or perhaps more accurately I find the lack of sourdough flavour too obvious, because to me, a plain yeasted loaf does indeed taste bland. These days I almost always add a little spelt or rye to my sourdoughs as well (or chestnut flour! :)). xxx

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I make a fair bit of yeasted bread but the all white breads I make usually have some dairy in it in some form or other, whether it is whey from yoghurt or milk or something like that. They give you either sweetness or lactic acids or butteriness or something else to enrich the taste, maybe I am just spoilt. I can’t taste the yeast at all in this bread, there is very very little yeast in there. Anyway it is just one bread of many, and there are so many great formulae in that book, you can’t expect each and every one to please :)

  4. drfugawe

    Ah, the longer we bake, the more perfectionist we become. Yes? But I’ll bet it goes deeper than that – I’m putting my $ on the flour. And the reason I say that is that every time I’ve upgraded my flour, my breads have gotten better. Was that a premium flour?

    Also, this fact comes to mind each time I grind up some wheat in my machine – the taste is just so much fuller. And finally, I think our our best breads are those we’ve baked over and over, until at last, we’ve worked out all the rough edges.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You know Doc, I’m still a baby baker in terms of my years doing this, not in kindergarten yet ;) I would love to be able to turn out my ‘best loaves’ every time, but I don’t and I don’t lose sleep over it usually. I like to think I use good quality flours, I never buy cheap stuff, but maybe we don’t have the range you do? I use Shipton Mill or the organic ranges that you can buy in the supermarket usually. Presumably when you grind your own wheat you use more of the whole grain, or do you sieve all the bran out? I have a little hand mill; I made some Einkorn bread (post here) with some grain with it. I haven’t tried it with wheat yet.

      I agree totally that breads we make ‘our own’ are the best – practise, practise :)

  5. cityhippyfarmgirl

    That is a wet sticky dough. I don’t think I have played with one that wet before. The slash looks good, no evidence of a drag from my view. I still haven’t worked out my slashes yet. Sometimes they open and sometimes they don’t but not sure what I am doing differently.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Wet sticky doughs are brilliant for getting big irregular holes and airy bread, but they have to be handled a bit differently, lots of stretches and folds and they behave in the end, shaping is a bit like fluffing up a pillow inside a pillow case if you want to retain the aeration. There are so many different bits of advice about slashing out there, makes my head spin Brydie :)

  6. azélias kitchen

    hi Joanna just came in to see if you had baked anything and please to see it, read your comments on lack of flavour and as I was reading the replies I could have said everything Celia did above on yeast doughs v. sourdough for blandness. I too now can not find a yeast loaf interesting no matter where I buy it or restaurants I eat them unless flavoured with something (as you know I make them too).

    It’s not even that I have very sour breads as my normal loaf is just 50:50 white/wholemeal but still even a white simple sourdough just taste of bread, at least what you want bread to taste like normally. And don’t even get me started on Toast!

    In the summer we were in a lovely restaurant good food and good bread, but to me it tasted bland….in fact I would go as far as saying it has now ruined bread in restaurants/hotels for me which I use to enjoy. Also in the summer was in central London bought a lovely French country style looking loaf with lovely crust but just had a slice and that was it. I saw Dan putting up the photo of the chickpea loaf…sounds interesting. Lovely looking crust you have on that loaf.

  7. heidiannie

    I made a batch using old bread last week that totally disappointed. In fact, I just cut it into cubes to make bread stuffing for Thanksgiving. I’ve been making bread for a LONG time, and have some old standby recipes that always please, but NO ONE has great bread all the time. There are too many variables that we can’t control and too many recipes that just don’t please all palates.
    I like a salty, yeasty, chewy, crusty ,flavorful bread. And I love tasting other’s loaves because they all taste different.
    At least at home we are only making a couple loaves at a time, so we don’t have to deal with a lot of bad bread all at once.
    Don’t save this recipe- feed it to the birds- rejoice in all the great bread you make!
    At least that is what I tell myself when I am unhappy with the results. :)
    Thanks , Joanna, for being brave enough to share your disappointments.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Heidi I have to confess, I have been eating it, grumbling occasionally and it is fine for toast, it has great texture, so covered in butter and damson jam, I am quite content. And if I use this formula again, I would add a little rye or spelt or something to get the flavour I want. The methodology is perfectly sound. Baking my way through a whole great big book like this, one is bound to come across breads that don’t please, I am just documenting them as I go forward on this slightly crazy’bake the whole book’ project. Anyway I have some punchy light rye and a mixed rye and spelt and wheat in the oven right now. Like haircuts, there is always another loaf! If I didn’t write up the ones that I failed with, or which failed to please I wouldn’t have the whole picture to look back on one day.

      I learn more when it doesn’t go right, makes me think :)

  8. Niki

    Hi, Joanna – I followed through from a comment you left on my site (about candied orange peel), and I’m so glad I did. I am just beginning to make forays into the world of bread-baking, and I can’t wait to read ahead and see what sort of tips you have to share. Thanks for your kind words on my blog!

  9. C

    It’s a shame the flavour didn’t do it for you on this one, but as you say, you’re never going to be pleased with all of the recipes you try or even all the bread you bake from one recipe.

    I’m quite pleased with some of the bread I bake now but as it is all yeasted (and probably quite heavily as I’m not organised enough to have long periods of proving etc) I’m sure it would probably taste quite bland to someone used to sourdough. I keep meaning to really get into sourdough, but as yet it has intimidated me quite successfully! Although I sometimes think I want a white loaf I actually prefer the flavour and smell of a wholemeal or part wholemeal loaf. Perhaps I’ll go back to white some day…. it seems to go in phases.

    I do find all your baking adventures inspiring though – you’re always making me think what I could try differently next time!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I make loads of yeasted breads and I too prefer breads with some wholegrain flour in, I tend to prefer a part rye or spelt to wholemeal but that’s just me. I am terribly fond of breads that use milk or whey or yoghurt as the liquid and we are just munching our way through a batch of brioche…. mmmm – none of those are bland, I don’t know why this one was, it’s a mystery to me.

      Sourdough is just yeast in ‘wild’ format. It’s like the difference between wolf and poodle, in other words not much…. the only ‘hard’ bit is getting it going in the first place. Would you like me to send you some dried starter one day to play with to see if you can get it to go? At most you risk wasting a bag of flour in the process… :)

  10. Pingback: L’hebdo du pain // Weekly Bread (n° 13, 21 novembre 2010) – VOTRE PAIN

  11. spiceandmore

    Interesting…thanks for being candid about the taste of the loaf. So many food blogs just equate a good picture with success. I appreciate reading about your experience and the discussion that followed with people talking about the grain or the sourdough…or the yogurt etc like you did. The wonderful world of baking eh?! :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I am surprised it has generated this much comment too Spicegirl – but it’s great to hear people discussing these things. I would love to get everyone together in a kitchen and see what we came up with bread wise, I am sure it would be fabulous :)

      1. spiceandmore

        Now that would be fun. We would definitely come up with something totally fabulous! Or perhaps we would be too busy talking to cook? :)

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  13. Anet

    Hi Joanna, happy thanksgiving from the US.
    All of the above comments ring true to me. Baking bread takes so many parameters; it’s a matter of taste, preference, flour, the yeast one uses whether wild or dried and how active it is, the humidity of the day, practice with baking breads . . . the list could go on. I appreciate all the many bakers can put these variances into words for me!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi there Anet. Happy thanksgiving to you too. I’m just trying to raise a loaf from Doc’s starter which he sent me…. it smells quite different from my home grown one… very interesting… :)

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