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]

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