Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Overnight Started Bread

It took a bout with pneumonia for me to realize I am High Maintenance when it comes to very few things. I'm not one of those gals who has to get my nails done, or primp just right to leave the house. Usually. I do have my moments, but on most days it's jeans and a nice shirt. I wear make up. I don't need top of the line fashion or hand bags to match every outfit. I don't have 40 pairs of shoes. Last I counted. When it come to bread however, I have issues. It's part of my psychic makeup. Probably stems from years of growing up with a "make your own bread" mother. Yes, I know. A lot of people blame their moms for mental issues. This just happens to be a good mental issue. We make bread. We do. Not to say that growing up I didn't ever see this bag:
Or ingest this junk on a regular basis:

My mom worked and we had some weeks where it just didn't happen. But...when I was old enough to bake the bread, I did. Mom was great about teaching me the basics and I can say that I am very glad to have that legacy. We bake the bread. So...when I was sick with pneumonia and my dear sweet Ace brought home the bag of bread, I didn't complain (much). However, now that I can stand up, I am making bread. Then flopping back in bed because I still have the persistent cough, but I can't stand not having my bread any more!

It just so happens that one of my all time favorite bread recipes is made in 2 stages. It's called Overnight Started Bread

You start with some ingredients the night before and get them fermenting. This gives the bread a lot of advantages over regular bread recipes. It has a longer shelf life (this stays moist and delicious 5-8 days). It also has a very deep well rounded flavor. Not like any of the quick rise breads that taste a little flat and mono-dimensional. Not this bread. It is amazing for flavor. If only for those two reasons, this would be my favorite bread. I do however, love the versatility in the time frame needed to make the bread. Just perfect for a zany crazy mom/chef who sometimes gets her schedule interrupted by LIFE. Love it for the flexibility. Also great for a chef who happens to have pneumonia and can only be in the kitchen a little bit at a time before running completely out of steam. Yea. Love it for that too.

This is a bread that has all the benefits of a bread that has fermented for a long period of time... moist, mild flavored, great keeping quality and texture. It also has the benefits of a quick rise bread. A sponge bread is one that a portion of the dough is started prior to the main dough. I have several hundred recipes with this method of dough preparation, but this is by far my favorite. Why use a sponge? Well for one thing it has time to start some enzyme action that you would never get in a quick rise bread, amylase and phytase-- to name two. Amylase is the enzyme that releases sugars from its storage form (starch). Phytase enzymes are responsible for the break down of phytic acid and allow easier absorption of minerals, and vitamins not normally easy to break down and digest in bread. Plus, the fermentation process conditions the natural protein in the wheat called gluten. This sponge like mesh is responsible for the trapping of gas that leavens bread. Cutting corners in this fermentation process or not allowing this process to take it's full round on the gluten will not allow the mesh to become as strong and elastic as it could be. Meaning? This method is awesome! I will walk you through it as best I can.

I got this recipe initially from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. I mentioned it before in the posting: Sprouted wheat bread day 3 in a food processor . Great book. I did adapt this recipe a little to be dairy free. The book called for milk. I used potato instead. Other than that it's the same recipe. You will need:

1/4 tsp yeast
1 cup cold water
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in an 8 cup mixing bowl (non metal works best)...about 5 minutes. Cover and leave in a cool room until you are ready to bake the bread, 12-18 hours. If you will be leaving it for more than 18 hours, it may be stored in the fridge part of the time, or stir after 8 hours. This will keep the yeast happy, moving it to greener pastures and evaporate any alcohol produced by the fermentation process that would otherwise hurt the yeast's ability to raise the bread.

After 12-18 hours it will be really puffy and smell like a good yeasty bread dough. Remember to keep it rather cool during this overnight period.

Get out your liquid measuring cup...the one that is clear with writing on the side. You will also need a measuring spoon. The ones made with writing on them for baking, not just the flowers or whatever on your silver spoons...

Get out your mixer.
To your kitchen aid (or mixer bowl) add 1 1/2 cups Luke warm water, 2 T honey and 2 tsp yeast.

Put that sponge you started 12-18 hours ago in the bowl.

Wash your hands. Now don't be scared. You will have to touch the dough. Actually you will have to really get in there and mix it up with your fingers. Break it down.

This may be my favorite part.

Woosh it around (very technical term I know) until it is smooth and batter-like. Yea. Batter-like is a word.

Now get out your whole wheat bread flour. I grind my own (Flour making day...flour power.), but you can buy it. As long as it is fresh.

Here's a peek into my flour bin. We're gettin' a little low...

Don't mock me, but I am going to show how to measure flour. Someone asked me and I don't want to assume too much of anyone reading my blog. If you are seeing this for the first time, I'm glad to help. The rest of you can just sit tight and humor me. I love everyone wherever they are in the learning process here. So here's how it's done:

Lightly scoop up the flour...don't bang it or try to pack it in there.

Get a butter knife.

Set it up on it's spine so the blade is pointed up:

Hold it flush to the top of the measuring cup and push off the extra flour so it is flat:

Like this. See?

Add 4 cups whole wheat bread flour and 1/4 cup oil (preferably expelled pressed or extra virgin) and 2 tsp salt. Mix on 2nd speed in the kitchen aid. The dough should take only 10 minutes of efficient kneading to attain supple perfection--600 strokes by hand (which I didn't do today). Form into a ball. This makes a balloon like structure that helps hold in the fermenting gasses and helps the texture of the bread. I rinse out the kitchen-aid bowl and put it back in there. Place it smooth side up.

Then I lightly spray the top of the dough with water. This helps it to stay moist, which ensures no lumps of crusty dough in my bread, just a nice even dough.

Keep that spray bottle around too. I use it a few times during bread making.

Get it pretty wet. Look how shiny. Oooo. I'm easily entertained.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to raise at room temperature (75-80 degrees) about 1 and 1/2 hours. Sometimes it takes 2 hours if the room is cold. It helps to measure the temperature of the dough if you want to be sure. This can be done with a meat thermometer. This one was right at 85 degrees internal temperature so it took almost exactly 1 and a half hours. If it is cooler it will take longer.

It has raised about 2 inches from the top of the bowl. See the tiny belly button dot where I poked it with a meat thermometer?

When you just can't resist it anymore, go ahead and giggle and poke it with your finger.

If you don't have to use much effort, it gets those creases right around your finger, and it leaves a hole when you remove your finger, then it is ready to punch in the head.

So, punch it down already. Expel as much air as possible. This moves the yeast to greener pastures, releases trapped alcohol, and evens out the dough temperature. It's not just for the fun of punching something (though it is elating to punch something sometimes).

Reform into a ball and place back into the bowl. Spray with water again and cover with plastic. Allow to raise again. This time it should take about 1 hours. Less if your house is warm.

I had to show how the gluten strands are showing here. It's really something wild to see...

Like an alien in my kitchen...that we eat. Toasted. Mmm. Alien...

Okay, so cover the ET blob with plastic. In the meantime, lightly oil 2 standard size loaf pans. I also lightly coat them with a little cornmeal. I use 8inch by 4 inch almost without exception. This size makes great shaped loaves (see Sandwich Loaf Molding and baking for more details on this phenomenon).

Once the dough has risen to within 2 inches of the top of the bowl again, or passes the finger poke test (yea, I know, not again a technical term). The actual technical term is the "ripe test". Just poke it. It works...
Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a clean counter top that has been lightly misted with WATER.

Why did this picture just make me giggle with joy? I'm either really nuts or really love bread. Not sure which... Please look at this and find joy...

Mmm. Dough. Okay. Now get giddy crazy and divide the dough in half. It should look like this if you get on your knees and peek up over the edge of your countertop...

Now go here: Sandwich Loaf Molding and baking . It will lead you in all things right and good with makig this bread into a sandwich loaf. Go ahead now. Don't be scared. I will still hold your hand and walk with you.


Heffalump said...

That looks good! What I really want though, is the recipe Grandma Wanberg used to make her wheat bread. No one had it after she died and I still think about it often.
(I'm your cousin Dalan's wife by the way...)

Chef Tess said...

So cool to have a comment from so far away! I miss you guys! I am almost 100% certain that the recipe she used was the one called 5 day bread dough (the one my mom developed) except she used 100% whole wheat, which is what I do and love it. I will post a link to it on Dalan's page.

Unknown said...

I went to buy potato flakes and there were lots of extra ingredients listed on the box that I didn't want to add to my bread... can you substitute grated raw potato or mashed potatoes?

Chef Tess said...

Niki, Yes, you can use mashed potato. I wouldn't use raw. Great question! If you do use homemade mashed, just be sure to make them pretty thick.

Emma said...

If you're really a professional baker, why don't you use a scale for measuring flour? It gives much more accurate results.

Chef Tess said...

Emma, Very good question I'm so glad you asked. I don't think my abilities as a professional baker are in question in any way. I originally wrote this blog for a basic reference to very beginner bakers, as the great majority of them I found had never seen or heard of a kitchen scale and didn't have one on hand it became necessary for me to lay my pride aside a bit and make this more accessible to the masses. I'm not in any way trying to make it an inaccessible art only available to the very elite bakers who happen to have a baking scale, but to the regular cooks who may be learning for the first time. Most of the people I teach are also on very tight incomes and in such a situation I don't think it very gentle to require something like a scale just to learn. I do have years of practice as a professional baker and though scaling is a wonderfully accurate way to bake bread, for the intents and purposes of this blog, I am trying to keep it very basic and help my students also learn to recognize they don't have to be a professional to bake bread.

Olivia said...


1. The whole wheat bread flour you're calling for is just whole wheat flour, right? Because I know there is whole wheat "bread" flour. Make sense?

2. What if I don't have potato flakes or mashed potatoes, can I use something else? Like milk or even powdered milk?

ivana said...

Ciao Chef Tess!

I really think, that every person can learn from your wonderful Blog!
Many compliments!
I'll watch sometimes...

Have a great Week End!

Linda Winkler said...

You don't say which beater attachment to use to mix the dough. The dough hook? or the flat regular beater? Also, what if you want a lighter bread that's at least half white flour? Any changes?

Chef Tess said...

Use the dough hook yes. As for the half white/wheat I would have to change the recipe a bit for that. I recommended using my 5 day bread recipe for such a bread.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is silly that someone would call you out for not using a scale. You don't really need to measure flour for bread dough, let alone with a scale. I always just dump or scoop in bits of flour as needed, with breif resting periods during the kneading process. This resting gives the dough time to pull together. As a result, the dough often requires much less flour than one might imagine. This in turn, will make for a nicer more supple dough. I think it is important to pay attention to your dough as you work, and adjust when required. You never make exactly the same bread twice, but that is the beauty of it. Many people make the mistake of trying to force a given amount of flour into a dough because the recipe calls for it. The resulting bread is often a disappontment. When it comes to making bread, I think that the way the dough is handled, matters much more than perscision. Good bread takes time and care. There is no way around it. I am glad that you showed the correct method for measuring flour however, as it is vital for cookies, cakes, and such things. I use this method often, when a scale is not on hand. To be honest, I have had very few failues, and even fewer complaints about the end product.

Chef Tess said...

Amen! Thank you! I think you accurately put into words what I've been trying to get at all along. Yes...bread is a science...but it is also most definitely an art. In a professional bakery where larger scale production is necessary, the scale method is always the most accurate. However, for students, I'm much more concerned with them getting a feeling for how the dough should look and feel.

Audrey said...

You said that you altered the recipe to use the potato flakes instead of milk. How would I change this to use powdered milk with it instead of potato flakes? Thanks :)

Chef Tess said...

Audrey, use 1/3 cup powdered milk instead of the potato. Xo. Great question!

Audrey said...

Thanks, that's what I thought, but I wanted to make sure :)
I am enjoying your site, I have been having problems with my bread not rising properly lately and it has been really helpful to read your articles about bread making. I have been making our families bread (from fresh ground hard wheat) for over 5 years now and I think, based on what I have read here, that I just started to get a little lazy with my proofing and molding techniques.

Chef Tess said...

Even I get lazy sometimes...but it sure helps to have good friends along to remind us that it's worth the effort! Keep it up darling!

emmers said...

I made this bread yesterday, and though my husband laughed as I was swishing around the sponge from the night before with my bare hands, he wasn't laughing anymore when he ate the finished product. This is the most tender and moist bread I have ever had. YOu would never believe that it is whole wheat!!