What Makes a Successful Bread Experiment?

For years now I’ve been an amateur bread baker that keeps trying the new and upcoming thing that runs across my computer.  In the 90s I started with a focaccia recipe I found on USENET and Julia Child’s baguette recipe scribbled out of my mom’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  In recent years I’ve picked up no-knead recipes, sourdough recipes and the like.  I’ve also taken to radically changing some recipes with expectations on specific results.  I see others doing the same thing in my groups.   As we move around and try things the question becomes: “What makes a successful bread experiment?”  Obviously if it turns out exactly as you intended that’d be a success but is that really it, or do we sometimes see a success staring right back at us but we don’t know it.

Bread Experiment 4 and 5 Final Result

One loaf was already gone by the time I got this shot of the one remaining Yohan Ferrant-based whole wheat bread and two Tartine loaves, all baked in the new dutch oven…

Bread Experiment: Yohan Ferrant’s "Do Nothing" Bread

I never heard of Yohan Ferrant’s “do nothing” bread until the post showed up showing pictures of another member’s experiment with in back a few days ago.  I love no-knead bread, and the it sounded like this was very much like the NYT recipe but without yeast and with whole wheat flour.  I decided to follow the recipe exactly as stated on The Northwest Sourdough Blog’s article on the topic (link) and video here.

Bread Experiment: Dutch Oven

When I first started baking bread from the New York Times “no knead” recipe and the Tartine book I used a modified dutch oven type of configuration.  I didn’t actually have a dutch oven, so I had oven safe bowls and a frying pan.  I got good results not not exactly the look I was going for: I didn’t get the tearing or the oven spring.  I’ve experimented with several ways of adding steam to the oven, using cast iron dutch ovens et cetera to try to get those perfect ears.  What I really needed, it seems, was a better size dutch oven and to keep it simple.

Bread Experiment #1: Cloth Lined Proofing Containers or Not?

My first attempt to get better tears, ears, and loaf aesthetics is to determine if the skin of the dough created by the proofing container changes whether it is cloth lined or not.  I have bannetons as well as some other containers that I use to make loaves. Sometimes I just dust a cloth with flour and use that (although I probably need stiffer clothes to do that for real.  I sometimes get ears but mostly don’t.  This experiment is to look at whether there is a measurable difference in the loaves by comparing one proofed with lining an one proofed directly in the container.  Ideally I would be doing this with identical containers, but since I only have one of each oval and rectangular that will have to do.  My hypothesis is that not using the liner will make the skin slight thicker since it won’t retain as much moisture and therefore I will get more tearing and ears (the good kind) without it.

Bread Experiments On the Horizon

This blog is/has been mostly about fitness and diet related experiments, thoughts, et cetera.  However as I’m getting back more to my favorite hobby of bread making I’m planning on honing my technique and really start nailing down a more diverse range of recipes.  Yes, I’ve had some good success with my basic Tartine Country bread and variations of loaf shapes related to that:



Yes, I’ve had good success with related bread products like English Muffins, sourdough pancakes, and pizza/flatbread:



But I not only want to nail these down even more, I want to get into a larger variety of whole grain breads and other products.  I’m going to start approaching those with the same fun but systemic approach I’ve used for other experiments.  It should be tasty.  I’ll just need volunteers to help eat all the proceeds of these experiments.

Sourdough English Muffins

While it may seem anti-healthy to some people, especially Paleo-inclined people, one of my hobbies is bread making; specifically sourdough bread.  In order to do that you need a starter for leavening of that bread.  it is the equivalent of yeast in a traditional recipe, but it using wild yeasts.  One of the downsides to this is that you have to feed it every week or two.  The question then becomes one of what to do with all of the excess every two weeks.  Pancakes are a great option, but one that I recently made and am sharing is a recipe for sourdough English muffins.  I got the original recipe off of a website, but I’ve since lost track of it so can’t give them the proper references that I would like to. The below recipe makes about a dozen muffins.

Picture of Me (Hank)


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