Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baker's Bail Out Loaves Do Boffo Bake Sale Biz

I didn't start out with the intention of baking three loaves for the bake sale at Cushing Hospital. However, as Woody Allen is alleged to have said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". The original intention was to do two loaves, shape and proof them in my bannetons to give them that nice "Artisan" appearance and tell the nice ladies that price the goods to mark them at an exorbitant $8 each. I was confident. I had the formula sketched out in my head, had some basic math to check the formula, soaked the whole wheat flour overnight in the fridge, built a two stage sourdough starter, and had all the ingredients on hand. That's where the mistakes started.  
I should have written down everything and done a mise en place before launching into the procedure. As I started into mixing, I decided that I'd use my water to loosen up the starter as I always do. Fortunately, I held back some of the water from the mixing bowl. I knew I could add it later as needed. This is where the second mistake occurred. I had forgotten to account for the water in the soaker so there was now an extra 104g of water and I hadn't added the planned maple syrup or sunflower oil yet. After turning on the mixer, I noticed that the dough was really wet when it should've been slightly tacky after a minute of mixing. It was time for an autolyse, so I covered the bowl, set the timer, and headed for the calculator. The dough was at 79-80% hydration, almost ciabatta dough territory and almost impossible to handle. Baker's math told me that I had to add at least 150g of flour to bring the dough down to where I could work with it I used a mix of whole wheat, because it absorbs more water than white flour, and all purpose, hoping that intuition would pull a rabbit or some loaves out the mixing bowl.
Mixing the dough wasn't fun. There was too much and I had to stop the mixing frequently because the dough kept climbing the hook. I hadn't ever had a problem like this before but there was 1950g, almost 4.3 lbs, in the bowl. I finally got the nerve to pour the dough on my floured work sheet, gave it some quick kneading to get it into a ball, and put it into the bulk fermenting bowl. I knew I was baking by the skin of my teeth or seat of my pants.
I managed to do a couple of stretch and folds over 2.5 hours and by the end of the bulk ferment, I knew I had to do pan loaves rather than using bannetons. I have three 8"x4" pans that I don't use on a regular basis but this was their time. I scaled out the dough, shaped it, and then wet the top before rolling the dough in some rolled oats. After covering the tops with oiled plastic wrap, I took the loaves downstairs where the temp is still around 64F for a slow proofing. I hoped for 3 hours which did work out. I brought up two loaves and preheated the oven to 475F. As the pictures demonstrate, the slashing wasn't all that good. The dough was still on the wet side due to hydration and I hadn't figured out how to overcome that. I still haven't. The first two loaves took about 35 minutes to bake to an internal temp of 205F. The third loaf only took 30 minutes to reach 205F internal. I just used a wire rack to cool them.
Before I bagged the loaves, I used my Open Office software to prepare a label to be placed in the bag with the loaf. I listed all the ingredients and gave them the name of "Yankee Farmhouse Loaf". It must have been the maple syrup that lent me the creativity for the name. It was either that or eccentricity.
Mrs PG took the loaves down to the hospital around 9AM. When she dropped by later to talk to a friend at noon, the loaves had already been sold for the less than exorbitant price of $6 each. Not only had I bailed myself out of what looked like a massive fail at first, I also learned something from the experience. Even if it was the second time I had to learn the lessons. I'll get you, my few and faithful audience, an update on what is going on outside later on after some sleep and some judicious editing.

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