And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."
The Fox to the Little Prince from The Little Prince - A. de St Exupery
And so after a weekend break from bread baking which was spent in Berlin, I resumed my quest for good bread. The Berlin museums, in particular the Pergamon Museum, did a most satisfactory job of compensating for my lack of baking. I spent Thursday and Friday building up my levain……and off I went, like the fox listening out for the wind in the wheat.
And so it came to pass that The Husband was taking a day off training on Saturday as he had a race on Sunday, so he skulked around the kitchen reading out interesting snippets from his book. He was happy as larry. As for me, frankly, trying to focus on S&F and dough texture while paying attention to the failing 32nd Panzer Division is an act of true devotion. With my best "I am really interested, darling" voice, I asked a few questions to show I was listening. Big mistake, this resulted in an erudite lecture on the Battle of Berlin which must have been very edifying for any person who was still actually listening. I was in pre-shaping phase and trying my best (with success) to avoid using flour, having shamelessly traded marital devotion for wet hands and a tight boule shape!
The Saturday bread is the Gerard Rubaud mix, based on MC Farine, Shiao Ping and David's various formulae. I left the final levain build at RT overnight and autolysed in the fridge overnight (ca. 8hrs, at 10C/50F) including the spelt and rye but not the toasted wheat germ. Overall good gluten development in 4 S&F with a total BF of ca. 4hrs, then preshape and bench rest, then straight into the fridge for 12hrs. I think I may have overproofed this, as it just flattened out in the DO and had virtually no oven spring. The flavour is fantastic though, nice pronounced sour tang but the nuttiness of the wheat germ and flour mix comes through. So a visual failure but a gustative success.
Sunday was a very different matter. The Husband was up at 5am for his "70.3" (half ironman) race and so there were no book readings or history lessons. The second bread is a sesame bread from E. Kayser's Larousse du Pain. I played with the flour mix here which is supposed to be 80% white and 20% spelt, and decided to work with 30% white, 20% rye and 50% spelt. I toasted the sesame and then soaked it for 4hrs. For 500g total flour, he calls for 100g sesame which is rather a lot. Total hydration was about 74%, he calls for 1.5g instant yeast as well as 100g levain. This is a rather quick bread, he does not propose an autolyse but I did one nonetheless for 45mins. Then add in the sesame, salt, instant yeast and mix with the pincer method. (At this point, I rather pathetically thought to myself that I had gone from a panzer Saturday to a pincer Sunday, and promptly congratulated myself on having eschewed a career in comedy). Then 1.5hr BF, preshape and 15min bench rest and a 2hr proof. The kitchen was extremely hot (ca. 27C/80F) for London. The photos in his book show a relatively compact bread with a tight crumb, so I was happy with the crumb here but again I did not get much oven spring. It is rather a runt of a loaf, and I suspect this was also slightly overproofed.
The flavour is slightly creamy and very very nutty; the sesame really dominates. At this point, I realised that I don't really like sesame that much which goes to show that enthusiasm can definitely overrule intelligence. Never mind, The Husband wolfed down three slices with a selection of cheese, jam and butter after his race and declared his undying love (again). What a marvelous bit of luck I have, with The Husband that is - rather than the bread. And so while I sulked about the lack of oven spring and The Husband discoursed on his swim in the Thames at 6am, we sat on the patio, with a glass of Meursault in one hand and a slice of the GR sourdough topped with bottarga and olive oil in the other, as the late afternoon ushered in billowing grey rain clouds and a gentle breeze.
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
"Please-- tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop where one can buy friendship…"