Improving My Bread Baking Part 1: King Arthur’s In Search of the Best Rustic Loaf

Is baking bread challenging for you?

It is for me. As I’ve recently discovered.

And since I’m not that good at it, I’ve made it a goal of mine to be able to produce artisan quality bread loaves by the end of the year.

I wanted to share my experiences trying to bake various loaves, all of which tasted good, but could use improvement.

Especially in terms of overall shape, texture, and flavor.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my progress and what I learned with each batch.

This post will kick off the series with my first attempt using: “King Arthur Flour’s In search of the best Rustic Loaf…

Factors that will affect the way your bread turns out include –

  • yeast activity
    • including whether or not you add sugar to feed your yeast
  • water temperature/ambient temperature
  • bread flour and how well it hydrates
    • other ingredients/flours that may affect the moisture content
  • your technique
    • rise time
    • kneading
  • oven temperature and preheating time
  • anything else?

For this first attempt, I mostly followed the recipe as written and weighed everything out to the gram.

The only changes I made were:

  • using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast (if you use active, proof in water first-  you’ll do this for both the sponge and the dough)
  • reducing salt by 1/2 teaspoon
  • increasing the water for dough by 1/4 cup

I made the sponge using my Zojirushi Virtuoso bread machine.

This is the sponge 12 hours after I used the dough setting on my machine (I let it rest overnight)

The dough in between the first and second rise

By the time I had finished the first rise, I had an extremely wet and slack dough that did not hold it’s shape. When I took it out of the bowl for the second rise, it spread like out like a pancake. *facepalm*

Two reasons it was so wet/slack:

  1. Too much water. I added an extra 1/4 cup, since in the recipe notes it said to add extra water if you want to have more bubbles in your bread.
  2. The bread flour. Different flours absorb different amounts of water, and I think mine was already at capacity, hence, the really sticky and slack dough.

The final baked bread loaf or rather, disc. Frisbee anyone?

The bottom crust

The lessons I learned from this attempt were:

  1. You want a tacky dough, not sticky.
  2. And, just as important, it should keep it’s shape somewhat after you shape it into a dough ball/loaf. As in, not move on it’s own after you form it.
  3. Don’t spray so much water before baking. I did get a good brown crust on the bottom. But on the top not so much. I may have gone a little spray crazy and over sprayed the top of the bread, which is I think what prevented it from getting a nice brown color on top.

Baking bread notes

  • To enhance the crust, I used the ‘falling oven technique’ where you start the oven at 475 for the first 15 minutes and then drop it down to 425 for the remaining bake time. See the recipe link for detailed procedure.
  • To determine when I should stop baking, I used a thermometer to check the internal temp which was about 200 degrees before I turned the heat off.
  • I did talk to King Arthur and they said you could let the internal temp go up to 210 if you wanted to, so I’ll need to experiment and see how that impacts the end result.
  • Overall, the flavor was good, rich, and complex. One a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best, I’d rate it conservatively at a 7 or 8.
  • The texture was dense and the air holes not very big. The top crust was missing, so the only crunch I got was from the bottom.

So that was my first attempt at rustic bread. What do you think?

Have you encountered similar problems or do you have other tips I could use to make better bread?

 

The bread disc sliced so you can see the crumb… irregular holes and nice crust on the bottom, on top, not so much

 

In case you missed them, here are some of my other baking posts-

 

 

inspired by kingarthur

 

 

 

Yo! I'm Pat. I have the appetite of a shark. And with that, I strive daily to improve my skills and satisfy it with tasty food. My site is focused on Japanese cuisine, hydroponic gardening, and points travel. First time here? Learn more about me.

If you like Japanese food and want to learn how to make it, I'm in the process of developing an online course with a planned launch date of December 1, 2017. For details, read what I have planned!!

   

14 thoughts on “Improving My Bread Baking Part 1: King Arthur’s In Search of the Best Rustic Loaf

  • March 28, 2017 at 9:24 am
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    Frisbee bread! I love it. I’d be proud if I could make something even that good! Baking the perfect loaf of bread isn’t easy. I pretty much just stick to making flatbreads like chapati haha. Looking forward to seeing more bakes! 🙂

    Reply
    • March 29, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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      Thanks elle! I need to improve my chapati skills too. I actually just bought some atta flour just for chapatis! Have any tips?

      Reply
      • March 30, 2017 at 6:29 am
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        Hmm…well, I’ve found that the firmer the dough the better. I try to add as little water as possible, which helps the chapati puff up better. Also, when I’m rolling out the dough, I keep a little extra atta flour on the side for coating my rolling pin and work surface so the dough doesn’t stick. I’d love to see a post on your chapati sometime! That would be very neat!

        Reply
        • March 30, 2017 at 7:11 am
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          Thanks for the tips!! I’ll write one once i can perfect my technique????

          Reply
  • March 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm
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    Hmm…There are a lot of good recipes out there. You can start with one you think you’ll like and follow the recipe the first time. Then you can start to experiment. White flours are better at absorbing moisture than whole grains, so reduce liquid a bit for whole grains. Texture, if you want softer, sandwich bread texture you can get with gluten and “yeast feeders,” which King Arthur used to sell and may still. For that holey country bread, have a look at some of Julia Child’s bread recipes. I love rapid rise yeast. I just toss it in with the flour, nuts, and seeds and everything rises beautifully. Good luck.

    Reply
    • March 27, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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      thanks for the note Lisa, I’ve been working mostly with King Arthur’s recipes, but am going to start branching out. Someone recommended I get the Tartine book which I recently obtained, but haven’t tried anything from there yet. I’ll also take a look at Julia Child.I recently got her French cookbook and made beef burg. and crepes suzette both of which turned out amazing! Appreciate the feedback and tips, definitely things to keep in mind as I work on my next loaves~!!

      Reply
      • March 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm
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        If you like a good chewy whole grain loaf, you can also try the recipe in Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, which is a hilarious rant with some very good recipes, including a magnificent one for gingerbread…

        Reply
        • March 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm
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          Ive added her book to my cookbook list, thanks for the tip!????

          Reply
  • March 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm
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    It takes a while to get the hang of bread making. Only you will figure out what texture works, regardless of the word used. Keep at it. You will improve. How did,that first loaf taste?

    Reply
    • March 27, 2017 at 5:22 pm
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      Thanks for the note Elizabeth! the first loaf turned out good, but not anything extraordinary. I still have a lot of work to do, Even having remade this rustic loaf again I made noticeable improvements in the crust, texture, and flavor, but think it still has room for improvement. Will keep trying and sharing my progress!

      Reply

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