I must be a glutton for punishment. After six months of trying to improve my baguette making skills, I'm already raring to head off on a new "quest" after just one weekend of "free" baking. However, I can't decide between two possible quests, and I'm looking for some advice. Also, much like with Saturday Baguettes, I'll be posting my results regularly as a commitment mechanism, so if there are folks out there who would be more interested in reading about one or the other, that's important to me too.
Here's my options:
Quest #1: Ciabatta:
I've made a number of ciabattas over the years, with fair to middling success, but I've never really gotten it right. By "right" I mean a very open crumb, nutty flavor, and thin, crisp crust. This is a typical ciabatta of mine:
Crumb decently open but not as much as you'd expect in a ciabatta, crust a little thick and chewy, flavor pretty good, but not always great. This is my typical ciabatta experience, although often the crumb is tighter than pictured here. The results are pleasant, but short of what a ciabatta can be.
The first step in this quest would be settling on a particular ciabatta formula to work with -- I've tried Peter Reinhart's formulas from both The Bread Baker's apprentice and from Artisan Breads Everyday, Hamelman's formulas for Ciabatta with Poolish and Ciabatta with Olive Oil and Wheat Germ, and the "quick" Cocodrillo ciabatta that's been floating around TFL. None have reliably yielded good results.
The next big milestone will be working out the fine art of transfering ciabatta to the oven. I can't tell you how many times I've had promising looking loaves foiled by my ham-handed flip-and-carry.
Quest #2: Sourdough dinner rolls
This would be a quest of a very different flavor than the previous one (literally and figuratively). I'm a big fan of crusty sourdough dinner rolls, but I've never had much luck making them. Adapting a standard sourdough recipe doesn't work well--the chewy crust and crumb that frequently go with a sourdough boule make for hockey pucks in the dinner roll context.
I'm looking for a roll with a thin, crisp crust, moderately chewy crumb, and a nice sourdough tang. This quest is more of a recipe development quest than a technique mastery quest.
I have a prototype recipe that I've made a couple times, with somewhat mixed results. It's been hard to get both good flavor and thin crust in the same roll. On the other hand, if the last batch I made is replicable, this could be a very short quest:
Thoughts? Suggestions? Which of these would you most like to read about sporadically over the next few months?
Happy baking, everyone,