Crazy home baker

Today I used a hand-held cement mixer to incorporate the 50% hydration levain that I usually use to a 60% hydrated autolysed dough.

Although I love working my breads by hand, I must admit that I'm not always satisfied with the quality of the final dough mix. Two preferences keep me doing the same moves over and over despite not being satisfied with the end result: 1) I prefer the use of a stiff levain for my breadmaking; and 2) I fall in love with my dough at some point during the mixing and I refuse to browbeat it into submission by slapping it silly all over the counter. Indeed, I feel a deep sadness coming over me whenever I witness, mostly on Youtube, bakers working their dough hard. I understand why they do it and I respect that. I can't help the sadness. I like to simply gently stretch and fold my dough a couple of times and that's that.

 And then there's the question of whether to buy a real mixer or not. I just threw away a cheap Cuisinart dough mixer that I bought not long ago. I thought it would help with the mixing of the levain and the autolysed dough, and it did ... for a short while. I'm not about to buy another cheap mixer only to throw it away in a few months. And I don't want to spend 4 to 5 hundred bucks to buy a large mixer - no funds but more importantly no more room on my kitchen counter (or anywhere else in the house) for yet another contraption.

For some time now, I have been thinking about the cement mixer that we have been using to stir paints mostly and at some point, when I was preparing home-made food for my cats, to mix the various ground meats into a slurry.  [I think nobody would want to come eat bread at my house now.] Anyway, I thought that perhaps a little nudging of my beloved dough with the thoroughly cleaned cement mixer would not be so bad. And that's exactly what I did - nudging, I mean. I did not mix the dough too hard, just so that it got a few good turns in the bowl. I simply made sure that both the autolysed dough and my stiff levain (and the added salt and maple syrup) became just one big lump. I wasn't quite sure when to stop since the movement of the cement mixer is nothing like that of a regular dough mixer. Visually, when I decided to stop, the dough in the bowl was just ugly to look at. No smoothness whatsoever.

I decided to stop nonetheless (owing to point 2 above - I was starting to feel bad for my dough). I transferred it onto my work surface, not quite sure whether I would have to scrap the whole batch or what. I gingerly folded the rather spiky dough, literally a couple of times, when lo and behold, it just fell into shape. I can't quite remember how that happened. I only know that the feel of the dough was gorgeous. I had never felt dough like that before.

The dough is now slowly fermenting in the fridge. Tomorrow, I shall shape it into two loaves and bake them in clay pots, oven starting cold - like I usually do. All being well, I'll post a photograph.

I don't think anybody would want to try such a crazy experiment. I just thought I would share this with you ... for laughs.


You've been watching Jimmy's Food Factory, haven't you?! You'd rather give it cement shoes than slap it around? That's hilarious!

This whole experiment is indeed hilarious. The loaves came out rather nice though. It was good not to see streaks in the crumbs. I don't know whether the photos will show here.



If they do not, they can be seen here.

Thank you for pointing me to Jimmy's Food Factory. I had not heard of that series. I took a peep on Google. I guess I do sound like him. I'll take a closer look some time down the road.



Update: If someone could let me know how to embed photos here, it would be appreciated. Thx.

Hello Gene

In this particular area you have to have the photos on the web either elsewhere, as you have, or in your gallery on this site.

You need to have noted the URL or have copied it to the clipboard before you start in the edit panel.  Then when you want to put in the pic, click in the insert image icon (yellow square with mountains and sun) and fil in the URL and other stuff as required.




The other alternative is to copy/paste.  This looks a bit funny if you view the html as the image is converted to heaps of 'random' characters but the image comes out alright.



Hope this makes sense and helps.


Thanks Farinam! So here goes: photos of abused dough.





Hi Gene,

Maybe your beasties are into S&M.  They don't look as if they were too unhappy about being 'abused'.

Keep on bakin'


Gene - if you really love stiff starters (I work with 100% hydration which is a breeze both to make and use but regularly I also incorporate 80% hydration motherdough so I know the problems) you might try mixing the starter into the water before you add the flour and autolyse. Then you just add the salt after autolysing and proceed to the choice of knead / no knead / S&F or mix thereof without having to worry about the incorporation of stiff starter into the autolysed mix. I always incorporate my starter before autolysing and it works well for me. Just watch the timing of the fermentation as the autolyse is then part of it without salt slowing the activity.

My problem is that I have now become rather a fundamentalist when it comes to sourdough. I have the Raymond Calvel book, which I am trying to memorize in order not to stray too far from his "teachings" ;-) I'm joking of course but still there is a small element of truth in what I just wrote. If and when I become more confident, I shall try adding the starter before autolysing. I have read about a few bakers who have done just that, like you say, with success.

Hi, I think I know the machine you are talking about. And I've been thinking of getting one to help with big batches of starter and a cake doughnut project I have in mind. My question is did you buy a good one or one of the $99 dollar type? I've been looking at those and thinking that there must be a difference between those and the $400 Makita version. Cheers, Chow

Hi Chow,

I have no idea how this machine will work with lots of dough or with pastry. This was a first for me and it so happens that it worked. I would not think it a good idea to use it for an important bake. As an experiment, yes, where there is a possibility that we may have to scrap the whole thing. Anyway, here's a couple of pics of "the machine". My husband is the tool guy here. I just use his tools for purposes they were not designed for ;-) Still I know that we don't buy expensive tools. It can't have cost that much.

Hello Gene,

There seems to be a problem with your photo links (at my end at least).  I notice that they are stored on another site.  Not sure whether that is the problem or not.  I will do some more digging to see if I can find out where the problem lies and let you know.



Hello again Gene,

There does seem to be something wrong with the links.  When I try to follow them to your source it defaults to the WindowsLive login page.  Your earlier photos follow the links just fine so something must have been garbled in the process.  If all else fails you could upload them to your gallery here and use that as your source.

Hope this helps.


Me again /:-{)}

The links definitely don't seem to point to anything real.  The image size shows as 0*0 px.

On the topic of image size, I notice that your earlier images are fairly large.  I usually reduce mine to (say) 800*600 px before I use them just to save on bandwidth and to speed up load times.  Not compulsory of course, just a suggestion.


Thanks, Farinam! I have no idea what could have gone wrong. The photos did appear when I first wrote those posts. I am thinking that perhaps, as you said, the photos were too large and the SD Companion's server may have "removed" them. I take your point on that score and I shall reduce my photos from now on.

In the meantime, I have made public the folder where the photos are kept. They are here.

Do you know whether there's a way to remove those above that are not working? I tried to find an edit button for those posts and could find none.

Anyway, thanks again!

Hello Gene,

I was able to fix the references for you, so the pics now appear in your original post.  Not sure what went wrong with your original entry.  The URL was obviously different but whether that was to do with the change from private to public I am not at all sure.


 This was a great read, and from the pics, it looks like you're doing great.  I wish my 100% hydration starter to 65% loaf looked this good. May I ask what your temp and time baked per weight of loaves is?


Ok, first things first. My starter was 50% hydration.


Percentages of ingredients used:

Baking was done in a Romertopf clay baker in oven starting from cold up to 425 F, covered for first 25 minutes, uncovered for remaining 20 minutes. The two loaves were of unequal weight: 650 g and 850 g. Both were cooked for same time and at same temperature. The smaller loaf obviously was a bit darker. I am trying to find another clay baker of same size as my larger one. I've not been successful yet.