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In the Pocket
A Wordloaf August hiatus "extra"
(Yes, Wordloaf is OOO for all of August, but I reserve the right to send you emails as inspiration hits; I have a huge backlog of things to share, and it’ll make me feel a lot better if I get at least some of them out to you before we resume regularly-scheduled programming in September.)
Late last year I mentioned on Instagram that I was working on a pocket, physical version of the tables, formulas, techniques, and base recipes that I reach for all the time, and that I was going to make it available for anyone to purchase. At long last, that item is (nearly) available.
The Bread Baker’s Pocket Companion, as it is now called, is a 5x7-inch, 32-page booklet written by me and designed and illustrated by my amazingly talented friend Johanna Kindvall. We are putting the finishing touches on it right now, with help from a few baker pals who are giving it a proofread and a critical once-over before it heads to the printer.
The current version contains a mix of things you can find versions of here on Wordloaf in non-portable form, along with a few new, exclusive sections, including:
weight-to-volume (and other) conversions for hundreds of common baking ingredients
a flour protein-content conversion formula using vital wheat gluten
a simplified desired dough temperature (DDT) formula
baker’s math 101
sourdough starter care & feeding
folding dough 101
preshaping & shaping loaves 101
scoring loaves 101
recipes for four of the most popular recipes from the newsletter
The goal is to send it to Scout Books for printing by the end of August and to ship sometime in September. In order to determine how many to make in the initial run, we are running a pre-sale now. The cover price is $20, plus $3 for shipping in the US and $10 internationally. (Wordloaf paid subscribers: check the email header above for a code good for a 10% discount on the cover price.)
The booklet will also include two brand-new conversion methods, which I’m sharing below as a sneak-preview of some of the content you’ll find. I can’t wait to get the booklet in your hands, please preorder it if you really want one!
Adjusting Hydration for Different Flours
People often ask me how to adjust the hydration of a recipe for a new—usually more thirsty—flour, and the answer is always, “it depends”—depends upon how much water that particular flour requires to achieve a dough of a similar consistency, something you can only arrive at through experimentation, alas. For example, when I am converting a recipe using white bread flour into one using a high-extraction flour, I start by adding 5% more water to the formula, and then adjust from there until the dough feels and behaves comparably. Whatever number you land on can be considered the “ideal” hydration for that flour, at least in that formula and others like it.
However: once you know the “ideal" hydration for any particular flour, you can use that information to easily and precisely calculate the ideal hydration of a dough made from two or more such flours. The idea is simple: Multiply the percentage of each flour in the dough by its ideal hydration, and then add the individual percentages together to determine the ideal hydration of the new, mixed-flour dough. It is as if you are making two separate smaller batches of dough with each flour (on paper) and mixing them together in the actual dough. Don't worry if you are confused, this is definitely one of those methods that is easier to understand by example than by description.
For instance, say I have a recipe that normally contains 100% bread flour at 74% hydration, but I want to swap out 40% of that flour with a whole wheat flour that has an ideal hydration of 92%—when used by itself—in the same sort of bread:
60% bread flour x 74% hydration = 44.4%
40% whole wheat flour x 92% hydration = 36.8%
44.4% + 36.8% = 81.2%
That 81.2% should make intuitive sense because it is greater than 74% (since the whole wheat flour is thirstier than white bread flour is), but less than 90% (since only 40% of the flour in the dough is whole wheat).
(This is a method I learned from the esteemed Thom Leonard on the Bread Bakers Guild of America email list. Thom is the author of the classic, now sadly out-of-print The Bread Book, and a bread baker and grain expert who was one of the first to recognize the importance of developing connections between heritage grain farmers and artisanal bakers.)
Dairy Ingredient Conversions
The following "recipes" allow you to substitute one type of dairy for another: to make milk from dry milk powder, or to make something that will work similarly to yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk using yogurt or Greek yogurt. (These days, I only keep lowfat Greek yogurt on hand because it is what we eat for breakfast most days with granola and fresh fruit, and because it can substitute for so many other things so readily.). The ratios given are by weight; to sort out the final weights of each ingredient, just divide the desired amount by the number in parentheses and multiply the result by each of the numbers in the ratio.
(In other words, say you need 150g nonfat milk for a recipe and have nonfat dry milk powder: 150g ÷ 10 = 15; 9 x 15g = 135g water; 1 x 15g = 15g nonfat milk powder.)
nonfat: (10) 9:1 water-nonfat milk powder
sour cream or unstrained yogurt, from Greek yogurt: (4) 3:1 Greek yogurt-water
buttermilk, from Greek yogurt: (2) 1:1 unstrained yogurt-water
from unstrained yogurt: (5) 2:3 Greek yogurt-water
Or just “milk”. I never bother to make full-fat milk from nonfat milk powder for baking because there’s usually enough extra fat in any given formula that the type of milk doesn’t matter, but if you wanted to, I do have a formula for it, using butter for the missing fat:
whole milk (100): 87:9:4 water-nonfat milk powder-butter
(You can blend everything together in a blender, or just add the extra butter to the dough separately.)