Friday, January 02, 2015

Baking the New Years' Day Morning Away

 One of my Christmas gifts was an Emile Henry baking stone. Instead of being the usual tan colored composite stone that quickly acquires a black smudge embedded into the area most used during backing, this stone has a glazed surface that is said to be dishwasher proof and one can cut directly on the stone. I'm not interested in using the stone as a cutting board but it does clean up quickly with a little soap and a hot water rinse. It also has handles molded into the ends of the stone. They're handy when moving the stone but cut into the useful baking surface.

I've finally figured out that the glaze means it requires a different plan for baking bread. My old stone seemed to draw more moisture out of the baking dough because the material is porous. That porosity is why you should never use soap on that or similar stones. The EH stones still transfers its heat to help with the oven spring and caramelize the bottom of the loaf but my early results from baking on this stone have all had much more moisture in the crumb. This moisture isn't a bad thing. I think that I will have to change the initial oven temperature from 450F to 460F or even 475F and use a longer bake after the turnaround, perhaps 25 minutes rather than just 20 at 425F.

The first two loaves are breads that I baked for a Christmas gathering at my MIL's apartment on Christmas day. The loaf on the right is a light rye (20% rye flour) with caraway seeds and the other is not quite a pain au levain since I used a retarded proofing before baking.
The next loaf was the first one into the oven this morning. It's a sourdough with a multi grain soaker that both Mrs PG and I think was quite successful.The crumb on this one was also quite moist but not in the least gummy due to under cooking the loaf. The crust was firm and left some shattering crumbs on the cutting board when I sliced the loaf.

145 g at 100% hydration

40 g nine grain cereal
34 g water

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g home milled whole wheat flour
All of starter
All of soaker
9 g kosher salt.

The last loaf is just an experiment that I baked with some left over pizza dough. My idea was to proof the loaf with the seam side down to see if I could get a spectacular split on the top of the loaf during baking, It's not particularly dramatic but the concept works. I think the dough needs to be more highly hydrated to get "the look".

Outside my window, climbing through the pear tree, is a red squirrel that is truly determined to feed on the remaining sterile seed pods.  It is truly a daring little rodent, traipsing down branches of questionable strength to munch away. I've seen it hang upside down by its rear paws to find another gnosh. Occasionally a grey squirrel, which is uncommon for this neighborhood, will show up but the red squirrel and his kin are aggressive towards that interloper and drive it away.

Goldfinches, nuthatches, titmice, and purple finches have returned to our feeders over the past few days. I expect larger numbers of birds to show up as the weather worsens starting tonight. The forecast calls for a light glaze of ice tonight followed by four inches or so of snow tomorrow evening. Then the bottom of the thermometers will be tested as the really cold weather returns starting Sunday morning. Don't expect to see me wearing shorts when I'm on the way to the gym.

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