Tag Archives: Jeffrey Hamelman Bread

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…..

Horst Bandel Crumb rye bread

Hamelman’s Horst Bandel Rye Bread in a Milk Loaf Tin

Horst Bandel black rye pumpernickel Jeffrey Hamelman

Photo by Brian

It’s that bread again!  (the long slow baked rye grain bread with the great back story in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman) which is one of the Mellow Bakers November breads.

I posted my last year’s version of this a little while ago but I have made it again – practice, munch, practice. It’s fun!

A little Swedish Kaviar

I had a long think about how you could manage this bread without a pullman. I think the answer, (and I will make it a third time to test it out by the end of the month I hope)  is to use a regular loaf pan and once the dough is in the tin, grease and flour a sheet of foil, and  place it over the top of the tin and either wrap the whole tin in foil tightly or tie it on with string round the rim of the tin. Alternatively if you don’t mind what shape your bread comes out, use any bake proof container that has a sealable lid, so a pudding basin or a cast iron pot or something like that.

Mise en place

The key thing is to keep the moisture in during the long gentle bake.

My other tips are

Rye grain

Raw and Cooked Rye Grain

  1. Make sure the grains (use wheat if you can’t get hold of rye) are well soaked and really well cooked so they are plump and moist and soft. They act as storage for the water during the bake.
  2. Old Bread Soaker

    Slice the old bread thinly and bake it a bit more in the oven before you soak it. Only use as much water as you need to cover it; you are only going to have to squeeze the water out later after all.

  3. The hardest bit is judging how wet to make the dough, too wet and the bread will never really dry out enough, too dry and it will be a bit chewier than you want.  That’s not very helpful but everyone’s combination of grains and breads is going to vary. I think I would want to go for a dough that I can shape into a baton that I can pick up without it breaking apart the moment I lift it from the bench, so go for firmer rather than wetter.

Another experiment revealed!

I have a milk loaf tin which has a clip on lid so I thought I would try it out in that. In my mind the bread would rise, slowly into the top half and I would have incredibly sophisticated round slices of bread, perfect for canapes.  The drawback, pretty major, of these tins is that you can’t open them to check on progress. There is a tiny peep hole in the top of the tin – once the dough is at the top you can see it. This dough didn’t get that far. I stuck a toothpick in the hole every so often to see if I could judge where it had got to, but it never got right to the top. In fact I overproved this one by about 6 hours (!) and you can see the results here. I don’t think it made any difference to the bread though, in fact it might have improved the flavour a bit.

What do you reckon to this one?

So I ended up with a half round loaf. This time it was completely cooked through and very even in texture. Still not as dark as I would like it to be to justify being called ‘black rye’.  I like the taste, much milder than I thought it was going to be; sweet and nutty and very fragrant.

Horst Bandel rye bread

Zeb's windowpane test!

Challah for Mellow Bakers

Journeying through the wonderful collections of breads in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman, from time to time I come across a bread that simply doesn’t resemble the bread I associate the name with. This challah is a prime example of this. Challah in my childhood was a soft, dense white bread, plaited tightly and tasting of poppy seeds. Whether England was still in the post-war egg rationed mode in the early 1960s, I don’t know. Today’s American challah bread I can only describe as a butterless brioche, light as an angel’s feathers and almost ethereal. I doubt my grandparents would recognise it.

I have put off making this bread. Everytime I looked at the recipe, I thought, hmm, I don’t have enough eggs, or I’m going to have to think very hard about braiding and so it has gone on till this morning, when there were indeed enough eggs and I had thought long enough about braiding.  It’s a bit like when you are learning to drive and it just seems impossible that anyone will ever give you a licence. You just have to look around you and say, “Hey, all those people can do it, it might be difficult, but it can’t be impossible.”

Celia has created a beautiful tutorial showing how to braid a Winston Knot. How could I fail with that guide?   I printed it off and kept it close by while I made the first braid. I almost panicked when at the bottom of page 1, I could only find page 3 –  I squawked and then found page 2 which had got stuck to the back of page 1. Disaster averted but it was close.

So here are the pictures of my challah adventures for Mellow Bakers this morning, not quite as hard as it looks but still required some serious concentration.

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I mixed the dough in a Kenwood mixer. I put the eggs, water and oil in first, added the salt and sugar to that. I added the yeast to the two flours separately and then added the dry to the wet, that’s the way the Kenwood likes it.  I also hand kneaded the dough for about 3 minutes once the Kenwood started rocking about. The dough was left in the fridge for a couple of hours, but there is so much yeast in it that it still had to be knocked down every 40 minutes or so. I am sure one could make this with less yeast!

I made the braids for the Knot 150 grams each and rolled them out to 60 cms long having been forewarned.  This left me with 800 grams of dough for the 6 strand plait so they were smaller at  133 grams each.  Even so both loaves were huge by the time they had proved and baked. I showed them off to my neighbour and then gave her the Winston Knot to take home. Too much bread for us and no room in the freezer for such a monster.

The other bread which was a 6 braided loaf was easy by comparison.

So don’t be afraid, well don’t be too afraid, if a braid-phobic like me can do this, you can too !  This was one of the October breads for Mellow Bakers. Thank you to all those of you who have already baked this, by watching and learning from you all I have gained so much.