Wednesday, June 16, 2010

the experiments continue

this crumb's not bad

we're keeping this cloche prototype in business and discovering The Joys of the Scientific Method too!

the last loaf i baked (not the rye sourdough and unfortunately not pictured here) was perplexingly sticky as dough, to the point of being unworkable. i avoided abject loaf failure, always looming on the horizon, only narrowly. after baking it in the cloche and tasting the result, i discovered the reason for the dough's weird consistency: i'd forgotten to add the salt. the always-reliable bread nerds at king arthur tell us that "bread baked without salt will have a flat and insipid taste ... salt tightens the gluten structure. when salt is left out, the resulting dough is slack and sticky in texture, work-up is difficult, and bread volume is poor." don't forget the salt.

this time, i didn't forget the salt. this is a white (93%) and whole wheat (7%) sourdough boule, 1.8% salt. slightly lower hydration ratio (63%) compared to the sourdough rye, but with a longer autolyse (12h), longer bulk fermentation with more folding (14h!), and a much longer proof (5h!). no kneading on this one, just many cycles of stretching and folding. i think the unseasonably low temperatures in massachusetts are messing with things. the crust on this one is great (crunchy, glossy, caramelised), crumb is good and improving (more uniformly aerated through the loaf, fewer dense spots), flavour is excellent (mildly sour, richly flavoured, a marvelous lactic aroma), but the dough is still too wet in the shaping stage and the shaped dough spread too much as it proofed.

the crumb issues are, i think, associated with the hydration ratio on the dough. a slightly drier dough may proof better and (maybe) yield a better crumb. next time around, i'll drop the hydration even more (maybe 61%). flavour is good, so i'll keep the flour types and proportions and the approximate autolyse/bulk/proof times.

a note on the cloche: so far, the cloche seems to be associated with consistently excellent crust and great oven spring (3 for 3) even when i do something boneheaded like forgetting to put in the salt and the dough spreads out into a huge puddle during the proofing. but you know what they say about the relationship between correlation and causation.

[another guest post from the sap also rises]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

sourdough rye boule

hello, hello. judy mentioned a cloche for experiments and now here, just weeks later, is an actual experiment. up above, for your viewing pleasure, is a 1.6lb 64% hydration sourdough boule. the flours were 80% white wheat, 10% whole wheat, 10% rye. the loaf was retarded in the refrigerator for 14 hours, shaped and proofed for 2 hours, and then baked in judy's cloche-style breadpot for 20 minutes covered at 500F, and another 20 minutes uncovered at 425F. this array of numbers is the hallmark of a bread nerd. if you are also a bread nerd, you may relish these additional details:

starter hydration = 70%
autolyse = 30 minutes
salt = 1.5%

during baking, there was a pronounced and pleasant lactic aroma, and the crust developed a warm brown colouration. waiting for it to cool completely was difficult, owing to the fragrance of warm bread that permeated throughout. the loaf has a crisp, robust, crackly crust rich with flavour, and a completely aerated, gelatinised, mildly sour crumb with irregular bubbles. if you are a bread nerd, you will have noticed the well-defined edges where the loaf was slashed open prior to baking, to allow for expansion of the dough. did you know that these edges have a special name in french that is all their own? i will tantalise you no longer: they are called grigne.

let us not forget the taste of this loaf: it is mighty tasty. in addition to being staggeringly delicious (especially with some sharp cheddar), this bread formula is also easy and accommodating to people whose schedules see them at home only in the evenings. more details and full instructions when i've baked this a few more times.

the breadpot cloche verdict:

  • the loaf: lots more oven spring with this cloche than with my previous duct tape and baling wire attempts to create a high humidity baking environment, often involving exciting times with preheated cast iron skillets and boiling water, ice cubes, spray misters, and pyrex bowls. judging by the rate at which the loaf is being consumed, the quality of crust and crumb far exceed previous attempts. 
  • usability: the cloche shape seems already nearly perfect. handle on the lid is easy to use even with oven mitts on. the slope of the base sides exactly contains a boule of the size i like. 
[vaughn, guest-posting from the sap also rises]