...although not necessarily with the BEST response!
If anyone ever tells you that weather patterns, especially pressure changes, don't impact baking, then please laugh in their face, or, at the very least, snort derisively...
I am one of the poor sots who gets migraines with sudden pressure changes, and (of course) live in one of the worst areas of the world for frequent and immense pressure changes. This week we had some spring weather finally rolling in, along with some storm action, and the barometer was all over the place. I was having a hard time with it, but tried to soldier on and follow my plan for getting a levain built on Tuesday, then doing all of the mixing and bulk ferment on Wednesday, and then proofing in the fridge for a Thursday bake. My intention was to do a couple of loaves --- a 100% whole grain inspired by Yogi's blog http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/51063/defense-whole-wheat (I went with 78% hydration, but mixed the grains to be 55% fresh milled hard red wheat, 20% whole spelt, and 25% fresh milled rye but done in a loaf pan instead of free-standing), and more of a "daily" loaf at 50% whole grain based on Danni3ll3's basic formula (no porridge / soaker - but did add in some toasted wheat germ).
So, there I was, meandering around the kitchen in a pain-filled haze on Tuesday, intent on building the necessary levain for the two loaves. I started out okay with the first feed (planning on a 3-feed build), but got a bit distracted by watching the starter respond in tune with my headache to the pressure changes: instead of slowly warming and gradually growing in volume with the first feed (but not necessarily doubling in 4 hours), it was quite obviously puffing itself up as the pressure dropped, and almost tripled in volume within 4 hours. I apparently panicked at this sign of excess life, and threw fresh-milled rye flour at it in vast volumes with what I can only suspect was the intent on satisfying the nutrient needs that such ferocious growth must generate...
After feeding the "beast", I had a nap, and awoke an hour later to see that it had responded to the fuel and the still dropping pressure by expanding even more --- but fortunately the nap brought me back enough to reality to throw it in to the fridge to try and slow it down (instead of randomly feeding it even more). It still kept growing in the fridge (prompting my husband to ask me if I had a containment plan for the strange alien life-form I was harbouring, since it obviously was intending on escaping the current housing). All was well for the night, however, and nobody escaped during the dark hours (except, perhaps, any working brain cells that I might have left).
Wednesday morning I rose to confront the now rather over-sized beast in the fridge. Instead of using actual sense to determine that anything left-over could be kept for a future bake, I went in to frenzied calculations of what I would have to bake in order to use it all up that day, without impacting the timing of the bake by massively increasing the percentage of levain to total flour. I ended up increasing the size of the 50% wheat loaf to 750g total flour weight instead of 600g, stayed with 600g for the 100% whole grain pan loaf, and decided that I needed to make another complete 750g loaf and chose to go with a version of txfarmer's Banana Light Rye (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/27666/banana-light-rye-and-banana-quick-bread) but calculated up to 750g flour weight, increasing the rye percentage, and including some toasted almonds. Perfectly reasonable, no?! Two people should be expected to go through bread using 2100g of flour in a week, right?!
I got all of the mixing done, was happily doing my scheduled stretch-and-folds, when it gradually dawned on me that I didn't have any proofing basket or container that would work for these 750g loaves (I'd proofed on the counter using random boxes for side-support for previous loaves, but my counter just doesn't fit in the fridge...) My still pain-hazed little brain cell figured that this would be no problem - that I could just pick up a couple of bannetons while doing a grocery run while the three sets of dough were doing their nice, gradual room temperature bulk ferment.
Stretch-and-folds finished, my husband (who knows enough to humour me when in pain-haze) took me to pick up the bannetons and then out grocery shopping and all seemed well... until we got home and I realized that the pressure was still impacting the dough, and I just got lucky and got home just before all 3 over-fermented and exploded out of their containers! Quick beat down and pre-shape done on all of them, a rest (for the dough - I was fretting to much to rest), a final shaping, then in to the new baskets (with parchment paper since I didn't have time to prep them properly), and in to the fridge. Phew! Disaster averted!
Thursday morning dawned with no storms in sight, and the pressure just starting to settle in to a more steady reading. I rather gingerly planned on doing the 100% whole grain pan loaf first at a straight 375 degrees and no steaming (based on some recommendations that I'd seen on here to bake whole grains and pan loaves at lower temps for longer), and to do the other loaves afterwards. As the oven was heating, I hesitantly checked the dough in the fridge to see how it had fared (I was terrified of seeing 3 over-proofed puddles), and was pleasantly shocked to see that they had all expanded more than usual, but would all be fine with an hour or so at room temperature to proof a little bit more. I still wasn't thinking well, so totally forgot to score the pan loaf (oops!), but did get them all baked off and safely out to cool.
The 100% whole grain doesn't look all that pretty, especially with the blow-out from oven spring, but turned out with a fairly tight, but creamy and delicious crumb. I used 5g each of white and red rye malts, along with 30g toasted wheat germ, and think that I'll try the higher temp with steam next time. This is my favourite from this week (but I love the sourness and tang of whole grains and sour starter), and got a solid "pretty good" from my husband (who doesn't have the same preferences).
The 50% whole grain, turned out as a "THIS needs to be our standard loaf" from the husband, with a great light tang and a sturdy but tender crumb:
The extra, panic-fueled addition to the crew was the banana loaf. I had already used the formula a couple of times (at the smaller size, but with slightly more rye than the original) and felt pretty comfortable with it. The oven spring this time was much larger than previous times, but it has gone to visit the in-laws so I don't have a crumb shot:
All in all, it seems like the wild reactions of both the baker and the dough turned out okay in the end. At least one of these massive loaves has left the building, so I really was left with just a bit more than was originally planned, and won't need to be looking at buying a bigger freezer... yet.
Cheers, and hope you all have as much fun with the journey as I'm having!
PS - although my lousy photography shows the top crusts as very black (Burnt Crunchy Bits!), it really is just a really deeply caramelized brown and not really burnt. Really tasty, though!