Ghost Loaf and the death of an oven

Last week I posted a recipe for wholegrain and millet sourdough, and mentioned that one of the loaves did not come out of the oven as I would have hoped.

pasty_loaf
The pasty ghost loaf. Over proofed, and worse!

The large loaf ended up with a pasty, dull coloured crust and an uneven rise. After thinking about the disappointing results from a few angles, I’ve decided that three factors combined to create the unfortunate looking “ghost loaf”.

  1. The dough was over-proofed – Although the dough was refrigerated overnight in the same manner as previous loaves, it was significantly larger, and probably took longer to cool in the fridge. This would mean that it was proofing for longer than intended. The deflated look around the slashed parts and uneven colouring also point to over-proofing. Additionally, in a seriously over-proofed loaf, much of the sugar in the bread that causes the colouring has been used up.
  2. The crust developed a skin– also during the refrigeration process, the dough seemed to have dried out. This made it difficult to cut, but also had an adverse effect on the conversion of starch to sugars in the crust.
  3. The oven temperature was not high enough – The other loaf baked from this batch of dough, as well as being smaller and the first out of the fridge, was baked in a cast iron pot. This would have created a more concentrated, hot, and moist environment, all of which would have aided the colouration of the crust. The next time I baked with the oven, I placed an oven thermometer on the inside. At maximum, the thermometer only reached 180˚C – it looks like my little gas oven has finally given up!
ghost loaf
The slash opened out, but it looks as though the sugars in the loaf, for one reason or another, were not caramelised

So, three factors combining to make this pasty looking “ghost loaf”. The loaf was cooked through, and actually tasted good,  but between now and when we get a new oven, it looks like we’ll be baking at low temperatures, or visiting someone else’s house to bake!

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Cinnamon Swirl Fruit Loaf

This is just a quick post with one of my favourite fruit loaves – a cinnamon, sultana, and walnut fruit loaf with a swirl of cinnamon sugar through the middle. Using plain (all-purpose) flour gives the loaf a flakier, more crumbly texture than strong bread flour, making this loaf somewhere between a loaf and a cake. It’s also great toasted with fruit jam.

cinnamon_swirl_fruit_loaf
A light, flaky fruit loaf with a swirl of cinnamon sugar through the centre.

Cinnamon Swirl Fruit Loaf – makes 2 loaves

  • 450g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 20g white sugar
  • 9g salt
  • 6g instant yeast
  • 5g ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 30g butter at room temperature
  • 110g whole milk at room temperature
  • 170g water at room temperature
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g currants
  • 100g walnuts, chopped
  • Additional 1/4 cup of white sugar plus 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, combined
  • Poppy seeds, optional
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the fruit, walnuts, and cinnamon/sugar mix in the bowl of a mixer or in a large bowl.
  2. If kneading by hand, combine the ingredients, then turn the dough onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes.
  3. If using a mixer, combine the ingredients with the paddle attachment on a slow speed, then knead for several minutes with the dough hook until the dough is elastic. Turn out onto the counter.
  4. Spread the dough out and pour over the sultanas, currants, and walnuts. Knead for another 2 minutes by hand to combine the extra ingredients. Shape the dough into a rough ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and bulk ferment for approximately 2 hours, or until doubled.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape into balls. Rest for 5 minutes. Gently press the dough into a rectangle, working with one piece at a time. Spread the cinnamon/sugar mix over the dough, and roll it up to create the swirl (see photo below). Pinch the seam together, shaping for a loaf tin.
  6. If using, roll the loaves in poppy seeds. Place into greased loaf tins (8.5 x 4.5 inch). Dust the tops with flour or mist with spray oil. Cover loosely with cling film. Proof for 1-1.5 hours until risen about an inch over the lip of the loaf tin.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180˚C with the rack on the middle shelf.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pans half way through.
  9. Remove to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before slicing.
cinnamon_dough
The dough, covered in cinnamon sugar, read to roll into a loaf

Wholegrain and millet sourdough

In the last post, I experimented with the amount of sourdough starter, and the effect that it had on the final taste and texture of the loaf. This time around, I decided to completely overhaul my usual method for sourdough, and try something new – a firm starter.

firm_sourdoug_starter
A firm sourdough starter, cut up and ready to go into the dough

Usually, I use between 20 – 40% of starter, made from a 1:1 mix of rye flour and water (for an explanation of the %, see my previous post on baker’s percentages). I find that this “100% hydration” starter give reliable results, but, as I’m always interested in finding out new methods, I decided to give the firm starter method a try.

The process began by converting my usual starter to a white flour starter – basically, feeding it with white instead of rye flour. The initial mix was actually wetter than I usually use: 130g of water to 100g of flour, making a foamy and light batter. This, as explained below, was finally built up into a firm dough, briefly kneaded, and then left overnight before beginning the bread.

Wholegrain sourdough dough
The dough with flecks of yellow millet

The bread itself rose very well (for one loaf, it rose too well, leading to an unsuccessful loaf that I will be writing about later!) and, after retarding overnight in the refrigerator, baked into a great looking loaf with a golden crust and light, open crumb.

wholegrain_millet_sourdough
The finished loaf – wholegrain and millet sourdough

Wholegrain and millet sourdough – makes 3 small loaves

Firm starter

  • 250g white plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 450g white starter at 130% hydration

Dough

  • 650g firm starter
  • 200g wholegrain flour
  • 50g millet meal
  • 450g white plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 19g salt
  • 420g water at room temperature
  1. This recipe takes a few days to plan ahead – I refreshed my starter with white flour on Wednesday, built it up to about 250g on Thursday, and made the firm starter on Friday. Mix the wet starter and flour together, and knead for several minutes to combine. Refrigerate the starter, covered, overnight.
  2. Cut the firm starter into pieces, and add the remaining ingredients. Knead for 10-15 minutes. Place into a bowl and bulk ferment for 4 hours.
  3. Divide and shape the dough into 3 small boules (at this stage, I shaped into one small and one large loaf – the large loaf, it turned out, was a bad idea…). Place boules into floured bannetons. Proof for 3 hours at room temperature, then refrigerate, well covered overnight.
  4. On the morning of baking, take the first loaf out of the fridge and preheat the oven to maximum with a lidded cast iron pot (“Dutch oven”) on the middle shelf. Bake the first loaf for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 15 with the lid off. Repeat with the remaining loaves, removing each from the fridge whilst one is baking.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour.
proofing_doughs
The risen dough (including the large loaf which later proved to be a bit tricky…)

Throughout this post I’ve mentioned a loaf that didn’t quite work. For reasons I’ll explain in a later post, the large loaf that is in some of the pictures did not come out very well – the interior was fine, but the exterior was pale and not very well crisped up. Trying out new methods sometimes gives disappointing results, but the small loaf came out very well!

wholegrainmilletsourdough
The small boule, which came out at about 500g. Great colour, taste and texture