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Answers to a Variety of Questions

Over the years I’ve been emailed asking all sorts of questions. I thought I’d provide answers to a few common questions:

  1. Does a wood-fired oven add flavour to the bread? No, a wood-fired oven doesn’t add flavour to your bread. The reason we, who are lucky enough to bake in a wood-fired oven, do so is the quality of the heat. It far surpasses any other way of baking bread. In my case, with my Panyol oven, I heat the oven by building a fire on the baking surface. When I’ve decided the oven is ready to bake I remove the fire, embers and ash and clean the baking surface. For all intent and purposes the oven is simply a large, ceramic container which is at baking temperature. There is no flavour in the heat.  Just the quality of heat.
  2. When retarding breads overnight, do you allow the dough to come to room temperature before baking? No. In theory, I go directly from the fridge to the oven. But, it takes about an hour for me to unload the fridge, take the bannetons out to the oven, clean out the oven and load the breads for baking. Out of curiosity I checked the dough temperature immediately the banneton came out of the fridge, 4.6°C (40°F). An hour later the dough temperature was 7.8°C (46°F). Not a huge difference.
  3. What sort of mixer do I use? My hands. I don’t own a mixer of any sort. Our style of kneading is very gentle. I recently timed my kneading: 5 batches of 2kg each took a total of 4½ minutes. We knead the dough 3 times, separated by a 10 minute rest, so it took me less than 15 minutes over a half hour period to knead 10kg of dough.
  4.  Do you adhere to a desired dough temperature? Definitely yes, and different for each dough.

    Above: Our newest recipe, New York Jewish Rye Sourdough with Caraway Seeds and Sea Salt

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