Are you kidding me!?!?! This is astounding! I am 73 years old and having been cooking for 50 years. To say I am jaded would be an understatement.
Too many promises of spectacular outcomes for recipies fall woefully short of their hype. THIS is for real! I just tried my first pizza with the Baking Steel you recommended together with your fresh tomato sauce recipe. It simply blew my family aWAY! Who knew we could get these results in a home oven (and an undependable one at that).
While awaiting delivery of my baking steel, I tried your darling and simple bread recipe of your mother’s you shared with us. Another real winner. My persnickety grandsons were on hand when I pulled the little loaves from the oven. They slathered bread on slice after slice until there was not a crumb left!!!
You rock, my dear. I’m a fan forever.
Oh Amy, it is so wonderful to hear this! I am so happy you are liking the Baking Steel. I feel the same way about the steel — I’m heading out of town tomorrow to visit a friend for a few days, and I am traveling with my steel…that’s normal, right? I am so happy, too, that you liked that sauce. We have been loving that on pasta all summer, too, but I particularly like it on the pizza. And finally, nothing makes me happier than when the peasant bread recipe comes out well for people…it doesn’t always, unfortunately, so I’m still trying to figure out a way to make it foolproof. So happy your grandsons approved! Thanks so much for writing in.
I received an email from the Baking Steel Company to tell me that you and the company are partnered for you to invent recipes for the steel. I have purchased the steel and haven’t mastered the pizza as yet. As a side note I have purchased 2 pizza rounds and both broke. One of them broke the first time I used it. I paid over $60 for it from a reputable home sales company. With the steel at least I don’t have to worry about breaking it!!!!
I, too, have made your mother’s peasant bread. My husband loved it!!!
Marla, hi, and yes, it is true! I am hoping to contribute every week to the Baking Steel blog. I absolutely love my Steel, and it makes more sense to post over there, where everyone reading likely owns a Steel. And that is terrible about your stone! I don’t think you have to worry about that any more
As for the pizza, what dough recipe are you using? I am partial to the Lahey recipe as well as to tipo 00 flour. And I always use parchment paper on my peel…kind of wimpy, but it works. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Do get compensated on the Steel Plate? I want to purchase one but cannot find on your site where to order one, or do I order from the Steel company and mention your name so you receive the credit?
Thank you so very much for a speedy reply…
God richly bless you and your precious family…
Honey Irvin 11-20-13
Honey, I don’t, but you are so sweet to inquire. I get compensated for the posts I write over on Baking Steel, however, and I absolutely love the company — Andris, the owner, is awesome as are all of the people who work there. So yes, definitely order a Steel from their site: http://bakingsteel.com/shop/
Thanks so much for your kind words.
In your blog post
you need a tiny edit. In Step 5, you say “Place dough onto parchment paper-topped Steel.” At this point in the process, the Steel is pre-heating. You should say, “Place dough onto parchment paper-topped peel.”
Great stuff, regardless
Ahk, thanks for catching that, Mark! I will email my friends over at Baking Steel. Thanks so much for letting me know! Do you have a Steel?
I do have a Steel (Modernist Cuisine variety). It’s been eye-opening — I got it to take my pizza making up a notch, which it certainly does, but it’s my crusty bread that has really hit professional quality as a result. I’m a huge fan of the Steel.
Nice! I need to explore more breads on the Steel. I made one loaf of chocolate bread on the Steel, and it worked beautifully, but I’ve been meaning to try the Lahey bread, too. Maybe this weekend. A friend just emailed me a photo of a very nice looking Steel-baked calzone. I am dying to try!
Here’s a pic of my latest effort:
I was a tad disappointed that the crumb wasn’t a little airier, but it’s still awfully good
oh my gosh, what a beauty!! that is unbelievable. it could be in a professional baking cookbook. so, do you slash the dough with a razor blade? I love that look! And are you using a long slow-rise dough like Lahey? I need to do whatever you are doing immediately!
Sorry for the delay – inbox got full.
I’ve been messing around with crusty bread for a while, so I have developed a routine. I do something similar to Lahey but not quite the same. You should get good results with the Lahey method, though.
I start with a biga/poolish: a 100% hydration “dough” (equal weights water and flour) with a little bit of yeast that I let ferment overnight. I typically use 100g of each (my scale is from when I lived in Switzerland, so I go metric) and something like 1/8 tsp of yeast (not fast rising). You want a really bubbly mess when you start making it into a proper dough.
For simplicity, I make the biga/poolish in my stand mixer bowl directly. It’s a sticky mess that you don’t want to have to transfer if you can avoid it.
After 8-10 hours, I bring the flour/water ratio to where I want it for the final dough. For me, that is usually a 66% hydration level (2 parts water for one part flour by weight). The photo was for a 600g flour total, so I’d add 500g flour and 300g water, so that in total, counting what went into the biga/poolish, I have 600g flour and 400g water. This gets a rough mix — not a full kneading yet, you just want the flour and water fully combined — and then I let it rest for 15 minutes or so (I read somewhere that this allows for better hydrolysis — I think it helps). After the rest I add the salt (I go for 2.5%, which is a little high — that would be 15g in this example) and knead in a stand mixer for 5 minutes. I use the second speed.
Now it’s time for rising and folding. The kneaded dough goes into a lightly oiled plastic bowl, covered, for an hour, at which point I fold it (google for details). Rest one hour, fold again. Rest one hour, split dough into two, lightly work into balls that go into lightly floured brotforms for the final proof.
Once the dough is in the brotform, start preheating the oven (425 F) (one hour from oven on to ready) and obviously the Steel. After one hour, turn a brotform over onto a floured peel or parchment, slash the dough with a lame (or sharp knife or simply a razor blade), and transfer to the steel to bake. You’ll want some steam in the oven to get a good bounce and crisp crust. You can do this with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven or you do what I do: use the top from a cloche (also preheated) and do the first 15 minutes with the cloche, and then 15 minutes without to fully brown the loaf. Rotate the loaf once halfway through browning if you’ve got a spotty oven.
Using a cloche lid captures the steam as the bread gets going so you don’t need to add steam to the oven.
66% hydration level (2 parts water for one part flour by weight)
66% hydration level (2 parts water for 3 parts flour by weight)
I’m sure you got it if you are used to working with baker’s percentages.
No worries! I totally know how that goes. I had to set aside time with kids away so I could focus on all of this good information. Thank you so much! You are a serious pro. I am so impressed. Your method of making a poolish reminds me of what the baker did when I worked at a restaurant in Philadelphia — she always made her starters the night before using equal parts by weight water and flour (no yeast), and then she would use that starter in all of her breads. She used percentages too, and while reading this is definitely making me have to concentrate, I think once I give it a go, it won’t be too complicated. Thank you for sharing your method and recipe and gram measurements. I weigh as much as I can in grams now — so much more accurate than ounces.
I am going to email you, but you are making me want to buy a few more pieces of equipment. I love the idea of using a cloche top. I have a cast iron pot that might be able to serve the same purpose? If not, I am happy to do the steam pan of water, too.
Thank you again for such a detailed and helpful comment. I cannot wait to try your method!
Happy to share. Great bread should be
Regarding the biga/poolish thing, this sort of approach is rooted in the sourdough world for the most part. If your baker friend wasn’t adding yeast, but still getting a proper rise, then she was capturing local airborne yeast. Serious (high volume) sourdough bakers will just use a bit of today’s dough as the source for tomorrow’s yeast using a biga/poolish — add the dough into a flour/water misxture for the overnight ferment. It’s that little bit of today’s dough bringing the yeast to the party tomorrow
Regarding using the cast iron pot as a cloche top: think carefully about how you would wrestle with it when it’s 425 degrees. I was thinking about using my dutch oven in just this fashion, but it would be unwieldy. The cloche top has an actual handle — you’ll want to be sure you can move it when you need to.
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