Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At long last bread ( a long post)

Although I baked the NoKnead bread recipe immediately after it appeared in the Times I soon left it behind in favor of kneaded breads and other baking adventures. When Judy offered me this chance though I happily volunteered. I was in the 2nd wave of pots and had various family and work stuff that slowed me down but I finally post.

Even before I received my pot I did some practice rounds. It had been a while. (Did I remember how "shaggy" the dough really was?) My first try was with some French SAS yeast that was still good by date but clearly had lost it's lift. I don't have a photo of that mess.

New yeast . I used an old Copco enameled pot that I thought I had used previously. I got a pretty bread with a perfect crust . Not as "holey" an interior as I would love but yummy.

Richard then delivered this beauty to me. Oh my goodness, just lovely. Seeing pictures in previous posts I was thinking a lot about handles and lids but these looked beautiful and functional. Hooray.My only concern was that it looked small.

I baked a loaf. I followed the original NYT recipe with 1/4 t yeast because I used all white flour in these test bakings. The loaf looked good, but seemed to not be browning well. I took it out after 55 min total and it was just not quite done enough and had not risen as high as I had hoped . The very center was a little mushy but I didn't think I could have baked it longer.
It came out of the pan easily.
I baked a second loaf and it had a beautiful crust. It was also not as round and high as I hoped
and it too had a mushy core, not really raw but different than the crumb surrounding. I don't think it was undertimed and I got to thinking about volume.

The original NYT article says to put the loaf in a 6-8qt casserole/cast iron pot. Other articles said that the size didn't matter too much but when I measured out my beauty it only held 2 qts.

That makes it only 25% or 33% of the ideal. I am thinking that the air space around the covered loaf must have some effect on the outcome.
I spoke with Judy and decided to try a side by side from one double recipe to limit the variables.

I used a big red cast iron that hold 7 quarts and my Judypot. (which I think looks like a bird,maybe Breadbirds for a name.

I switched oven position during both the covered and uncovered bakings.

My bread from the larger pot clearly was bigger . My little pot still had that tiny soft core. I think the energy that is expanded while covered in the space must be turned inward in the little pot. This might not be as useful a characteristic in breads as it is people. I will next try the judypot with a 1/2 or 2/3 recipe to give it more space.
I havn't been part of the comments yet but here are some of my thoughts:
I look at too many school supply catalogs to think Motzpots is a worthy name of these bakers.
Something more elegant. I added the BreadBird thought after I wrote this but I still like it.

I was going to link to the hydration article in the NYT but you have done that for me. All this thinking about volume and hydration is liking taking a class.
As much as bakers buying for themselves I see the pots as a lovely gift. In light of my volume problem I would be looking for some consistency in the volume versus the recipe. Bread baking is an art but there is also chemistry and many people may want to bake without a great deal of experimenting.
My white pot has some beautiful signs of use, it is aging well.

1 comment:

  1. I baked a double batch as well. I used my 2 quart Le Creuset and the Terra cotta pot of Judy's. I mixed the batch and thought it was too dry. The next day, it was so wet I added more flour, probably too much. After baking the two loaves, we had a taste test between the two. We found the bread baked in the Le Creuset had very rubbery hard crust. The bread baked in the clay pot was much better. I think the unglazed texture of the clay really sucks the water out of the bread faster than the enamel pot. Both loaves cooked the same amount of time, 30 minutes at 450 covered and 15 minutes uncovered. Both breads were cooked thru, slightly tighter cells due to over kneading when I added the extra flour. The bread in the clay pot was better tasting and had a better color as well. My choice would be to cook this bread in the clay pot over the enamel pot any day of the week