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notes on baking four loaves at once (old)

Bill Evans, wje@acm.org

This is an old version of the recipe, before switching from refined sugar to honey and from high gluten flour (whose supply has become unreliable since the Russian blockade of Ukraine's winter wheat) to all-purpose flour. For the current recipe, go here.

Prepare the dough in two batches, two loaves per batch. I found two loaves about as much as my 5-quart KitchenAid stand mixer could handle.

You want to be finished preparing the second batch as soon as possible after preparing the first batch. To help this happen, before you start working on the first batch, do a bit of second-batch preparation by placing the correct amounts of sugar, salt, and instant yeast in a small cup or bowl. Later, while preparing the second batch, when you've placed the flour into the mixing bowl, you can just dump the other dry ingredients in.

When you've prepared the first batch, place the dough into two loaf pans. An easy way to divide the dough equally is to weigh it. With my recipe, two loaves weigh about 1500 gm, so it's about 750 gm per loaf.

Then cover the two loaves with a moist tea towel. Then repeat for the second batch, covering with another moist tea towel. If you're heating the water before adding it to the dough, you may want to heat it for a shorter period of time for the second batch, to reduce sticking to the mixing bowl, the dough hook, the pans, and your fingers.

If, after reading the narrated recipe at http://www.mariposabill.com/breadnarrativehg, you've decided to use dry, floured tea towels at the end of the first and second risings, you really only need to use one dry towel. Without removing the loaves from the oven, you can remove the moist tea towels. Then use the fingers of one hand to reach in and pull the pans together (so they're touching as much as possible), and then put one floured tea towel over them all.

During baking, it's important to use care in placing the loaf pans into the oven. Leave plenty of space around the sides of each pan, so the hot air can flow around each pan.

After about 20 minutes of baking, rearrange the pans so that the ones closest to the front of the oven are now at the rear of the oven. The bread closer to the rear of the oven bakes faster, and you don't want variation among the loaves.