Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lessons in temperature and time

It would be easy to say that there are no mistakes in baking bread, only opportunities for lessons that haven't been been recognized yet. But most of us have or will soon enough "brick" a loaf so there's no need to go all existentialist about having created something the birds wouldn't eat. Despite appearances, I found lessons in this loaf. Not ground shaking or paradigm shifting lessons but enough to take what I read in books and place them into real life baking.

My first lesson was derived from starting this loaf  with an hour long, honest to goodness autolyse; just flour, water, a good mix, and time. I had some clean up shoveling to do Friday morning so I mixed the ingredients to the well known shaggy mass and left them covered while I worked outside. When I got back, I added the starter and a little bit of honey and mixed at first speed. After a few minutes, I added my salt and moved up to second speed. The resultant dough was really easy to handle as I prepared it for bulk ferment. The hour long time worked out well.

The second lesson was an excellent demonstration of how temperature affects fermentation. In order to fit the proofing stage of the loaf around preparing supper, I set the shaped dough in a towel lined colander and bagged it. The bag was then taken downstairs to my 60 F basement with the intention of bringing it back upstairs in four hours. As things turned out I didn't quite find myself on that proverbial paved road but it was actually more like 6 1/2 hours before I recalled my dough. An old fashioned poke test determined that I was right on the mark and there was no time like the present to preheat the oven. Such a good lesson. A ten degree temperature difference made it possible for the dough to proof for twice as long as normal and for an escape from an imminent instance of brain flatulence.

So, a dough that was around 72% hydration turned out to be a loaf that didn't flatten while being loaded into the oven.The dough that proofed for six hours still had enough sugars to caramelize during the bake for a handsome looking crust. I've got to do this kind of lesson again before the basement warms up but I don't need the snowstorm to recreate all the conditions. I do want to recreate the fine appearance  and flavor of the bread.

Starter
150 g at 75% hydration

Main dough
300 g bread flour
100 g bolted Turkey Red flour
( or other high extraction flour)
285 g water at 90F
10 g kosher salt                                                                                    
                                                                                  15 ml (1 Tbsp) raw honey
                                                                                  All of starter

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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