Thursday, April 07, 2011

An unremarkable week

The trees around here are starting to fill out nicely. Mrs PG's favorite, a fruitless pear tree is has lots of snow white blossoms on it presently. In a few days, those petals will start to fall and, you guessed it, look like snowflakes. The hack berry tree out front is starting to bud out about two weeks earlier than normal. The juncos have left for cooler climes but the goldfinches are now true to their name and are really distracting me from the keyboard when they fly up to perch on the feeder just outside the window. Things could be worse. I could be a journalist trying to get a straight answer from the members of Congress about solving the budget squabbles.
Last week didn't result in any spectacular breads. I did try to use a Pane Francese formula for a meal of pasta. Instead of simply stretching the dough out (Stiratto) in a long rectangular, crudely shaped loaf, I tried my hand at a baguette shape. That's going to take more practice. The bread tasted fine but there wasn't any open cell structure to speak of. Maybe it was the shaping and maybe it was the less than admirable slashing in the high hydration-73%- dough but it will have to take more practice.
I'm eating a pan loaf of a light whole wheat now. It's a good, not great technically, bread. The oven spring was much better than I expected but the crumb is too soft, almost fluffy. I used Hudson Cream AP flour, a Kansas product, so the oven spring is bonus. The fluffy texture of the crumb may or may not attributable to the overnight soak in the fridge for the whole grain flour. The loaf used 25% home milled hard red winter wheat so I expected more chewiness. I'll have to check for an answer over at TFL. The AP flour may be the cause due to lower gluten and protein properties but there is a possible solution by using a biga.
Bigas are a type of preferment that's really popular in Italian bread making. It's a low hydration, 60% water to flour ratio, preferment that helps develop the dough strength when using typical, low gluten Italian flours. They can be made with dry yeast or a sourdough starter. Either way, the biga requires a long, slow overnight build. I understand the requirements of the technique but I haven't applied it often.
I know that if I used bread flour that I could bypass the experimentation and get the results I want more easily. But what's the fun in doing that and how would I learn anything new?  I already know the minimum about the flat breads I intended to explore so the biga trials will take precedence.

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