Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Practice Pain Italien

   While I'm disappointed that the peonies in the yard are making a hasty exit, the garden is yielding my first pickings of leaf lettuce. There's been about 5" of rain over the last eight days and the lettuce responded with vigorous growth. There were no pretensions of precision when I planted my lettuce. I put a tablespoon of cane sugar in a bowl and put in some lettuce seeds. They were from the last two years so I had an excuse for my heavy hand. Then I took said bowl and went out to the garden to spread the mix down the three foot long row. The sugar made it easy to see where I had sewn seed. I moved the dirt back on top of the row, watered in the seeds and waited for the bountiful harvest. It took awhile but it has come around. The first planting is Parris Island Romaine and the second is Green Ice. It won't last long into the heat of summer but the first pickings from the garden are always the sweetest, regardless of the crop.

This afternoon's bread is my first, but very casual, attempt at a Pain Italien loaf, something that the French boulangers near the Italian border pride themselves on knowing how to do well.
Once again, I stepped over the edge of the cliff and decided to use my own ideas rather than a fixed recipe from someones book. It's not perfect but not bad either. First of all, because the recipes I saw called for using AP flour, I thought a poolish or biga was in order.

I started with a 78% hydration preferment build. After mixing it up, I left it on the kitchen counter at room temp, 71F, for a few hours before putting it into the fridge overnight.
I'm not crazy about all white flour bread so I measured out some wheat germ and stone ground whole wheat flour to add some color and texture to the crumb.Then I added some non-fat dry milk and olive oil to help keep the crumb tender.
The result was two baguette looking loaves, one 245g and the other 275g after baking. Without adequate steaming, the crust wasn't up to Parisian standards for baguette color. I suspect that 50 minutes of proofing was inadequate for an open crumb. I could have done much worse.  
The crumb has turned out to be soft and on the sweet side. With a few changes, I think that I could get closer to the ideal. Practice makes perfect so whenever I plan to serve a pasta dish, I'll have a good reason to revisit this recipe.


Poolish:

103g AP flour
80g water at 85F
                                                                  1/8 tsp, maybe a gram or so of active dry yeast.
Hydrate the dry yeast for 10 minutes in the water then mix in flour. Cover and leave at room temperature, 70-74F, for 2-3 hours and then refrigerate over night, taking out to the counter at least two hours before mixing dough.

Main Dough:
225g AP flour
20g stone ground whole wheat flour
5g wheat germ
165g water at 85F
5g non-fat dry milk
8g olive oil (1/2 Tbs)
7g kosher salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast

I baked the loaves in a perforated two loaf pan. The slashing patterns showed up in a somewhat exaggerated manner but I don't mind. This was the first time I got a recognizable baguette type loaf without major league agony. There's work to be done but the result is encouraging.

The last loaf was Friday's work. It too was under proofed which means that I have to get over my worries about that. As the average temperatures rise, the challenge to find the sweet spot with the proofing dough will be more amusing than before. Thank goodness I can eat the less than perfect loaves and consume the evidence.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.










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