This is Part 2 of a 2 part post. Part 1 is here. It refers to the 2004 Edition of Bread, not to the new Edition.
Jeffrey Hamelman has really tried to make these formulas accessible to everyone by giving separate columns for those working in US lbs, in the Metric system and for home bakers who like to use the volume system of cups and spoons. The trick is to figure out which column is easiest to work from for you.
At the top of the page under the title of each recipe are two little lines that give you some important information
- the first line tells you how much pre-fermented flour is in the recipe – useful for comparing recipes which look similar at first glance.
- The second line tells you how much dough you will get from each of the three columns of figures that JH provides and an estimate of the number of loaves.
Put that together with the following totally thrilling factoid, not obvious to me at all and only discovered recently hidden away in the intro to the Miscellaneous Breads section.
The three columns are built up as follows:
- US = is always based on 20 lbs of flour
- Metric = is based on 10 kgs of flour
- Home = is based on 2 lbs of flour or 7¼ cups of flour
The final weights of the doughs made from the formulas will vary of course depending on what else goes in the loaves, but from this simple fact you can see that the Home column will nearly always give you two large loaves of around one and a half to two pounds in weight or three medium ones. The Misc Breads don’t follow these rules though.
Each time I tackle a new recipe I have to decide as follows:
Either I weigh out the ingredients in ounces using the Home Column and then press the convert button on my scales and write it down in grams in case I want to make it again some day. Very boring.
Or I use the Metric column and divide all the numbers in it by 10 and end up with a dough weight that is very similar to the Home column. Very boring too.
If it is a recipe I am not sure whether I am going to like or worse that I am the only one who is going to eat it, then I halve the quantities again and get myself down to the equivalent of one large loaf.
It is all too easy to make mistakes and the best thing is to just grit your teeth and write the whole lot out before you start. If you are like me you will regularly swap the water figure for the flour figure and then you are in trouble. This is not a book to have beside you on the worktop with a light dusting of flour and bad light. On the other hand it might be a great book to have on a Kindle or an iPad.
This is what I did with the Baguettes with Poolish recipe.
To make baguettes that fit into my oven which isn’t that wide I had to scale down the Home Column by a half. I then converted it to grams for future reference.
I made notes when I made these last time that went something like this : I wish I did this for every bread from this book, it’s a bit like writing a book from a book. I read the recipe through, converted the numbers into something I could work from and stuck my note on the worktop. I try to always weigh everything out before I put it together, that way I don’t forget the salt!
- Make a poolish with 150 grams of water, 150 grams of bread flour, and a pinch (1/8 tsp) of active instant yeast.
- Mix it up and leave it for 12 hours. Then add the poolish to 150 grams of water, 300 grams of flour, 10 grams of salt and a 1/2 tsp of active instant yeast.
- Mix as per instructions if you have a stand mixer. If mixing by hand, do what you know how to do. Desired Dough Temperature 76 F. Fold a couple of times during the first prove to improve the strength of the dough.
- This will make three thin baguettes, or two bigger ones.
- Leave to bulk prove for two to three hours, depending on time and temperature, if your dough is cooler than the DDT it will take more like three hours to prove.
- Shape to fit your oven space,
- Leave for another hour or so for a final prove on a floured tray or couche cloth, heat your oven up to 240 C.
- Make sure your steam tray is in there. Pour boiling water in the tray before you put the baguettes in and then again after you have put them in. You want lots of steam.
- Slash the loaves properly, spray water on the tops and particularly in the slashes themselves and bake for 18 minutes or so. Little baguettes only have room for four or at the most five slashes.
- If you can figure out how to introduce more steam during the first five minutes of the bake then that is a good idea! Remember to wear oven gloves, it’s very hot!
Whatever recipe you choose to make, if you use the home column or the Metric column divided by 10, you will end up with, somewhere from three and a half to a bit over four pounds of dough.
A bit about converting fresh yeast to dry yeast
When you read these recipes you will notice one key thing. For the big quantities the US and the Metric columns JH gives us the yeast measurements for fresh yeast, but for the Home Column he gives us instant dry yeast. But the percentage doesn’t change. Now I don’t know about you but my scales don’t measure to 0.1 of an oz very accurately but don’t let this put you off.
The information is in the book, you just have to remember where you saw it. Have a look at P 358 of the book and there our author gives the conversions of dry yeast ounces to teaspoons. So 0.1 oz is 0.9 tsp. He also gives the conversion of fresh yeast to dry yeast as 0.33. This means that if your recipe has fresh yeast you take a third of that in dry yeast.
My other warning is that it is incredibly easy to turn over two pages instead of one and as many of the recipes usually start on the right hand page and finish on the next I have often ended up in the wrong recipe. Kind of exciting though!
My this is dry stuff, I can feel my own eyes glazing over and at this point I wonder why I recommend this book. I would love to redesign it for readability and usability and I suspect many people feel the same way. Maybe I won’t recommend it in future. I don’t know, how do other people cope with this book? I think I look on it as an encyclopedia more than a stand by me in the kitchen sort of a book. I suspect that I joined Mellow Bakers to force myself to come to grips with it as I knew that the recipes held treasure that I wanted to bake. OK that’s it for now. I promise that I will be shorter and snappier next post. The photos here are all mine, but they are from various batches of baguettes I have made, not all of them with poolish, some sourdough, some paté fermentée. For the proper baguettes with poolish photos, pop back to this post.
If you want to read a totally brilliant blog post by the way, head over to thekitchensgarden and read the story of how Celi melted her mother’s silver teapot. It’s great!
Celia has asked me to add a direct link to the errata pdf that is on the Mellow Bakers forum for this book. So I have uploaded it to the Library on this blog. Please help yourselves. Hopefully more recent editions of this book which has been reprinted numerous times will not have these errors any more, but if you get an old copy it is worth having the errata pdf to refer to. It’s not as bad as it looks!
PPS April 2013
Please Note: There is a new and updated edition of this book that came out in 2012 in the USA and at the time of writing is available in the UK too from the usual online source. So unless you are using the original edition, this post may not be relevant to you.
August 2015 I think the Mellow Bakers forum site has now been put to rest, so apologies if anyone follows any links and they don’t go anywhere. As and when I revisit old posts I will edit them accordingly. If you want to ask me something about my bread baking, the best place to find me is on Twitter @Zeb_Bakes.