Monday, April 25, 2011

It's a slow Spring out there

The weather is gray and wet today. Fortunately for the KC area, the jet stream is to the south of us. That's not so fortunate for the St Louis area and east. The cool temperatures remain and I'm reluctant to put out my tomatoes and peppers. The soil is much too wet. I have scattered some grass seed to fill in the areas damaged by the moles tunneling through my yard. A hairy woodpecker and a nuthatch have flown into the bird feeder this morning as well as some goldfinches that have been absent over the past few days. I need to buy some nyjer thistle feed for their dedicated feeder. The snow peas have begun to emerge and if the temps go up, I will soon have have to thin them out. I overplanted due to the age of the packaged seeds.
My search for an authentic Pugliese formula was a disappointment. There seemed to be as many recipes as there are Nonnas with access to an Internet connection. Some dictated using a biga that was more of a poolish at 100% hydration than anything else. Others wanted to add 60ml or 1/4C of olive oil to 500g of flour. After all my research, I gathered that it was a foccacia dough that was shaped into a batard. So I decided to develop my own formula for a faux Pugliese.
I started with a 100% hydration poolish with less than 1/16 tsp of yeast that I started on Tuesday night. That set on the counter for about 12 hours. It was peaking around noon on Wednesday when I mixed it as a 1-2-3 loaf. I compensated for using 1 TBS of olive oil in the water. I used about 10% WWW along with the AP to try to get a more complex flavor. Even though I used 10% Heartland Golden Buffalo WWW in the loaf, the flavor was just meh, not offensive but not newsworthy. Despite the 71-72% hydration, the crumb wasn't open and there were no signs of gelatinization in the interior holes. It looked like white bread. While it might have been the short patent AP from Hudson Cream, this bread may need as little handling as possible to develop the Italian openness in the crumb. I don't have an explanation for the indifferent flavor other than using only 4g of salt when I could have added 6g to get the standard 2% salt weight. I usually use a little less salt in my loaves and haven't run into this before to this degree. Perhaps the blandness in perception was due to my preference for a sourdough loaf over a yeast loaf.
The other loaf last week used the same AP and 25% Norm's Flour WWW. I used a two stage build on the starter but only presoaked the WWW for an hour. I substituted 1/2 TBS maple syrup for honey but the flavor wasn't noticeable. It turned out well and we should finish it today. Perhaps I should gather that the AP isn't for all applications.
It does just fine for a Neapolitan style pizza crust. This time around I used rye as my bench flour when doing a very short knead before bulk ferment. That turned out to be good move and worth repeating. Just a little bit of rye does a lot for flavor in my breads so I'll add that to my list of gimmicks and tricks to use when baking.
It's time wander out to the kitchen to start a new loaf and see if I can develop one that merits a glamor shot.

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