The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

quest

  • Pin It
Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

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,


-Ryan

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Victory is mine!  If you haven't been following my occasional series of posts, six months ago I set out to improve my baguette skills by making a batch Hamelman's "Baguettes with Poolish" every Saturday and blogging about it here.  I haven't been entirely rigorous about the blogging, but I've kept up the baking, skipping only one weekend in all that time.  Here's what I said I wanted to achieve in week 1:


My objective: produce a reliable, tasty and beautiful baguette through practice, trial and error. I don't really imagine that I will truly master the baguette--better home bakers than I have tried in vain, I know. But I'm hoping to turn what is usually a hit-or-miss process into something I can do over and over again well, if not perfectly.


I submit to you that I have achieved this objective.


Exhibit A: Last week's bake (week 26 if you're counting)




What is notable about this batch is not how well they turned out, per se (though they aren't bad, eh?), but the fact that I did several things wrong, and they still came out quite well.  The plastic wrap stuck to the baguette in the middle, making it hard to score, I forgot to turn the oven down from the pre-heat temperature for the first 6 minutes of the bake, and I purposely omitted the "leave in the oven with the door cracked" step because I needed the oven.  And still they were good.  Crust was a bit chewy, but it was thin, the crumb was nice and the flavor was great.


Exhibit B: Todays bake


Exterior


 


Crumb:



 The scores didn't come out quite perfectly--the baguettes took longer than usual to proof, and may have stil been a little under-proofed.  But everything else was spot on.  Crust was thin and crisp, crumb open and creamy, flavor sweet and nutty.  If every baguette I ever make again is like this, I'll be happy.


More to the point, if every baguette I make again is a random draw from the last 4-5 weeks of baguettes, I'll be more than happy.  There is still room for improvement, but at this point I think the benefit of making my baguettes a little bit better is less than the benefit of making a wider variety of breads (or even a wider variety of baguette recipes), and much less than the benefit starting a new quest (I have a couple in mind, but that's for another post).


Thanks to everyone who has followed along with my occasionally long-winded adventure, and thanks especially to those (Larry in particular) who helped point me in the right direction early in the process.  It has been a wild ride the last 6 months (not least due to the birth of my daughter in week 6).  Sometime soon I'll write up a post specifically reflecting on the lessons I've learned from Saturday Baguettes.


Happy baking, everyone,


-Ryan


 

Subscribe to RSS - quest