Saturday, October 18, 2014

A New Semi Semolina Loaf

I've been persisting at learning the method of making bread by hand and with minimal handling.Once again I've failed to reinvent the wheel while baking bread but I have found something on my own that works for me. Now, I might have read about this somewhere and it finally popped into action by fortunate accident but I'll take it.

It's another step in my procedure but this one doesn't involve another dish to wash which is a good thing.

1.  Prepare your starter or preferment. Lately I've played with a biga level-60-68% hydration, when the final dough is around 70-72% in hydration, a poolish level hydration- 100% hydration, when the final dough is around 66%, and 125% hydration when the final is 61-63%. Baker's choice here folks as long as you've done your bakers math. Overall, I try for a 68-69% final dough.

2. Add the flours that absorb more water than the white flour to a large mixing bowl, such as whole wheat or rye. Add all the water, warmer than room temp-90F or so, to the bowl, whisk lightly for ten seconds to be sure all the flour is wet, and then add the starter or your preferment. Whisk briefly to blend the bowl's contents and then let rest for a few minutes. You can scale the rest of your ingredients at this time if you haven't already done so.

3.Mix in the rest of the flour until you have a shaggy mass, cover and autolyze 20-30 minutes. Mist the top of the dough and add your salt over the top. Then, using your hands or a dough whisk, mix in the salt. Do a four way fold on the dough and turn smooth side up, cover and rest for twenty minutes. The dough will probably be sticky. If so, put a little olive oil on your hands when handling the dough.

4. Do three turns of the dough in the bowl at twenty minute intervals. Twenty minutes after the last turn, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface for a stretch and fold. Let the dough continue proofing in an oiled bowl or container until doubled in size.

5. Preshape, rest for 15 minutes, shape and place in a banneton or couche for a retarded fermentation in the fridge.

6. Remove the dough from the fridge and let dough finish proofing at room temperature. Before baking, preheat your oven and baking stone to 460F for 30 minutes. Slash, mist with water or ready your steam device, load, and lower the temperature to 450F for 15 minutes for an unbaked loaf around 720-750 g. At 15 minutes, turn the loaf around, lower the temp to 425F, and at least 20 minutes or the internal temperature reaches 205F. Smaller loaves obviously take less time in both stages. The semolina loaf, for instance, took 12 minutes at 450F and 20 minutes at 425. We like crust here at Casa PG.

7. At the  end of the bake, turn off the heat, crack the oven door open with a hot pad or wooden spoon, and leave the loaf in for about five minutes more before removing to cool on a wire rack. Wait at least three hours before slicing.

OK, so that won't win a Pulitzer prize but I found it to work for me. The crumb is very tender, moist, open, and sweet. The pictures tell the tale of what I achieved as a raggedy home baker so I know the procedure can be repeated. Refer to "Baking by Hand" by A & J King for one of the sources that motivated me and you may find a detail or two I forgot to mention.

Semi Semolina Bread

70 g at 100% hydration

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
100 g semolina
200 g water at 90F
All of starter
6 g kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

The other loaf today is a variation on my house loaf designed to test the use of a more firm starter and a slightly higher hydration main dough. This attempt with a casual approach also worked though I concluded that I need to once again cut back on the size of my loaves until I achieve better shaping technique. It has the same desirable, YMMV, qualities for a loaf of bread that the previous "hand made" loaves displayed.

Handmade House Loaf-Variation #2

150 g at 66% hydration
75% organic AP/ 25% white whole wheat

Main dough
270 g bread flour
90 g home milled white whole wheat
250 g water at 90F
All of starter
8 g kosher salt

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Hand Made Sourdough Loaf

Two loaves in a row can best be described as kind of "meh". It's not that they tasted bad but I was less than excited with the appearance.The first one was a lean sourdough with about 28 g of wheat bran added in a soaker format. I'm not sure whether an addition of active dry yeast in the final dough would have produced a better oven spring or not but I doubt it would've hurt.However, I ran out of wheat bran on that loaf so it may be a while before I experiment with that again.
This second loaf was a sourdough pan loaf with a bulgur soaker. I used 60 g, about 16% of the flour weight, 42 g of water, and a smidgeon of salt for the soaker. The hydration ended up at 68% and would have been a bit taller with some ADY thrown in. The bulgur left a soft sweetness in the crumb and added an interesting texture on the crust.I suspect that I'll revisit this bread in the next few months because I've got a lot of bulgur in one of my freezers.

Lately, I've been reading a lot about making bread with as few gadgets and tools as possible. The trend started after I bought "Baking by Hand" by A & J King. "In Search of the Perfect Loaf" by S Fromartz kept the ball rolling. I really enjoyed that one even though it's not a bread baking book per se. Mr Fromartz does include some recipes which look promising but it was the details and descriptions of how he made bread that were fun to read. Once upon a time, he too was a raggedy home baker.

The books got my enthusiasm up so when I dug out my starter stock from the fridge to bake a sourdough crust pizza, I built a little extra to feed a starter for this loaf and to continue the supply.

By the time I was ready to pre-shape the dough for this loaf, I noticed that it was cooler the room temperature. I have no explanation for that and no reason to suspect that my using a wooden mixing bowl would be the cause. In any case, I shaped and put the dough in my oval banneton for five hours in the fridge. My curiosity got to me at about 5AM so I put the loaf on the counter to warm up and finish proofing. That still took six hours.

My confidence in using this hand made loaf method has been restored because this loaf is one of the best I've done for a while. We agonized through seven hours of waiting before slicing and were richly rewarded. The crust was firm but not shattering and left a great taste in our mouths after chewing. The crumb was really moist even though my hydration estimates have it around 70%, maybe a little less. I have the starter for another loaf using the same procedures building up presently. This will take some time to master for consistent results and though it seems easy to me right now, I suspect that proper technique is paramount. If I can learn this well, I should be able to teach the technique in a casual classroom situation.

150 g at 100% hydration,
75% organic AP/25% WWW

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g home milled white whole wheat
220 g water at 85F
All of starter
8 g kosher salt
1 Tbsp organic honey

As the days grow shorter, the plants in the yard are fading fast, and the nights are getting cooler. That last aspect has become a problem for the neighborhood. The local red squirrels have taken to warming themselves during the nighttime on the top of power transformers, including the one in my front yard. The unfortunate result of this is that some of them are making themselves into electrical conductors as they climb around the transformers. Their careers as conductors are spectacularly short in that they end up electrocuting themselves. The local electrical utility, Westar, has tried to put shields in place to stop the death wish gestures of our furry friends, but they persist. Fortunately, the local feline population have been removing the singed remains of the victims.  

The last picture in today's post includes my 5 liter colander full of chile de arbol peppers from this year's overachieving plant. I only picked the peppers that were at 2 1/2" long and even then, I estimate I had well over 200 in the colander.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.