Well, my new chicken brick arrived the other week, but it's been crazy-busy chez Casa Witty and I've not really had the chance to post... Anyways, here is my new brick - it's the Mason Cash one, bigger than the one I had. I think it will easily take a kilo of dough, though this time I stuck to my standard-sized loaf.
Last night I finally got the chance to road test this pot properly with an adaptation of my "bread-in-a-hurry" recipe. As I was in less of a hurry, I could slow the whole process down somewhat and try something I haven't tried before - in this case, a poolish.
100g strong white flour
100g tepid water
pinch of dried active yeast
All of the poolish
105g strong white flour
205g light rye flour
4g dried active yeast
140g tepid water
60g oil (I used rape seed)
45g wholemeal rye sourdough starter
40g oat bran
1 tbsp malt extract
I set the poolish up about six hours before wanting to make the dough - basically dissolved the yeast in the water, added the flour, gave it a good mix, then left it to its own devices. Six hours later it was pillowy, squishy and nicely bubbly.
In terms of the dough, I used my usual method, which is activate the yeast in some of the water, wait till it froths and then simply mix everything together. Once everything was nicely mixed, I kneaded the dough for 15 mins before leaving it alone in its bowl and bag for a bulk ferment at room temperature - it took around two and a half hours all told.
The next step was to knock the dough back and shape into a batard. I've recently bought a silicon baking mat as an alternative to a board for kneading / knocking back / shaping bread. The reasoning was that it was less of a palaver to set up and then to clean afterwards as I have limited space in a very small kitchen. I found that it's nigh on useless for very wet or sticky doughs (yes, I did end up making one hell of a mess there), but for a bog-standard bread dough of 65 to 70 % hydration like this one is, it's just the ticket. The mat does what I want it to do, but the added and somewhat unexpected bonus is that I barely need to use any flour for dusting.
Once shaped, into the banneton and plastic bag the dough went for its proof - about an hour at room temperature.
The instructions with this particular chicken brick are quite clear that putting a cold brick into a hot oven will cause it to crack, so I put the brick in the oven sans dough while the oven preheated. There's more of a knack to getting dough from a banneton into a hot brick than into a cold one (at least I didn't burn myself this time), but as the bottom half of this particular brick is glazed, there's no need to grease it. I put in a dusting of flour in the brick before turning the dough out, but to be honest, I wonder if I really need to bother with the flour next time...
So in went the dough, which was then scored with a razor.
The lid was clapped back on the chicken brick and into the oven it went. I didn't change my bake time, namely 25 mins @ 230C with the lid on followed by 20 mins @ 200C with the lid off.
I like to think I got a very nice loaf of bread out of it...
The bread smelled wonderful - there was more of a tang and nuttiness to the aroma than when I last made this particular bread (same ingredients but no poolish). I even woke up mum with the aroma LOL...
In terms of eating, the bread had a lovely crust - sort of a combination of crisp and chewy and a beautiful soft, even crumb. The crust flavour was good with slightly malty overtones. The crumb had a more subtle flavour, but certainly one that was more pronounced than the same bread made without a poolish.
It's the sort of bread that you could just sit and eat spread with butter, although it did go down rather nicely with some Sopocka (Polish smoked pork loin) at lunchtime... Actually, it reminded me very much of the bread I had when I was last in Poland...
I think this just shows how minor changes to a recipe can alter the flavour of the bread. I'd never tried a poolish before, but it's definitely something I'm going to explore in the future. I'm going to bake this bread again later in the week, but give the poolish another couple of hours as well as reduce the yeast in the dough significantly.
As for the reason why I've not posted too much of late, it's just that I got tied up into the preparation for the Supreme Cat Show - it's the feline version of Crufts. The girls, mum and I had a fabulous day out. Lexi was awarded the reserve Grand Master certificate, but Poppy surprised me completely by winning the reserve Imperial Grand Master certificate in a huge and very competitive class in which I was expecting her to finish plumb last...
The show was themed "Witches and Wizards", so I entered the decorated pen competition. I didn't win anything there, but had great fun preparing the pens and great pleasure seeing the public enjoy them. Lexi's pen was themed on Wicca:
While Poppy's pen was based on the Weird Sisters from Macbeth:
At least I'm done sewing, beading and painting for now, so I can get some more baking done :-)