Experimental Baking for Tonight's "Taste-and-Tell"

Tonight we are having the first "Taste-and-Tell" event for the Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers. Each baker brings a loaf of his/her homemade, yeasted bread and tells how the loaf was made. Everyone has a chance to taste the bread, ask questions, and give feedback.

Last night, we were up late, baking our loaves for the event.

I continue to work on my challah, using what has become my go-to formula. In terms of shape, I attempted for the first time a six-strand braid called the "Winston Knot" (described on pages 306-7 of Hamelman's Bread):

Before baking, and after:

(You can see that I re-used the parchment paper from Sunday's heart-shaped challah.)

Lately my challah has been looking better than it tastes. This time, I am hoping it tastes better than it looks. We will find out tonight, when we cut into the loaf.

I have also been struggling with keeping the braid loose enough that the loaf has room to expand while it bakes. As you can see in the photo (above right), the braid ripped open, I am guessing because the braid was too tight.

The challah's crust (again, above right) is a deep chestnut color where I applied the egg wash. As the loaf expands in the oven, areas of the dough that were hidden deep under the braid when the baking began begin to be exposed to heat. On the surface of the baked challah, these areas are pale yellow and nearly crustless--without the deep chestnut shine of the egg wash.

Husband (aka, baguette master) decided to experiment with an 85% hydration baguette. What this means, in short, is that these baguettes have a higher water content than most, and the dough is consequently very soft, almost runny. Before baking, and after:

Due to a last minute adjustment, the baguettes contain a small amount of whole wheat flour. (I accidentally used too much of our remaining bread flour in my challah, and left too little for husband's loaves.)

Because of the baguettes' high hydration, I am expecting to see an extremely open crumb--that is, the soft inside of the bread should be full of large holes--and to bite into a crunchy crust. We will find out tonight.

The formula for the high-hydration baguette:

Percentage Weight Ingredient

50% 250 g bread flour
50% 250 g water
0.2% 1 g fresh yeast

46% 230 g bread flour
4% 20 g whole wheat flour
35% 175 g water
1.3% 6.5 g fresh yeast
1.8% 9 g salt

For those of you new to reading bread formulas, the trick is that all of the flour adds up to 100%. (Give it a try, double-check for yourself: 50% + 46% + 4% = . . . ) Then, using the weight of the flour as a benchmark, the other ingredients are compared.

For example, in the baguette formula above, the total weight of flour used is 250g + 230g + 20g = 500 grams. The total amount of salt used is 9 grams. If we divide 9 grams of salt by the total flour weight (500 grams), we get 0.018, or 1.8%, which is the percentage of salt shown in the formula above.

Try this exercise for the other ingredients--water and fresh yeast--and use the formula above to check your work.

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