Formula Development VI – The Interminable Journey
Here's where the long slog starts.
In the world of the internet six weeks is a long time and six blog installments on the same old bread is reaching interminable. Yet I haven't even started to get down to work on this formula.
I have such admiration for those bakers who can bake a bread, make a variation, and then pronounce it "perfect." "Perfect?" the little voice in my head asks, "You mean nothing could be better? Nothing? Think again." And 'though my faithful limo driver and bread tester has pronounced that what is now known as my "Bear - guettes" is "The bread I will eat in heaven" I'm still not happy with the results (I'm tweaking around my baking temperatures and times and getting some interesting, but to be held private for now, results.) I only stopped on my original levain baguette formula because it seemed like two years was a long time to dwell on a thing and I had to let go. (Yes, the doctors at "The Place" are busy working with me on this problem.)
Not that any of the result of my past 5 variations on this bread has been inedible or really even anything but pleasant eating. But "perfect?" No.
Success however, sometimes lies not in "trying harder", but in trying "softer." I was beginning to get snarled up in my own attempts and I felt it. So I decided to take a deep breath and follow some simple rules:
- 1. Look back to where you started
- 2. Do some research (Or what I like to call "steal from the best"), and
- 3. Keep your eye on the goal
I should have added "Check your math" or rather "Double check your math" because I was convinced that I'd done checked it.
Which is why I've been writing up these little adventures - it serves to force me, even if a few days too late to make sure I've got things right. And at no point in the scaling and baking did I see the mistake. In fact I discovered it as I was writing this.
I looked at my original formula and realized that I had been drifting a bit on hydration, so I rejiggered the formula so that I was adding the same amount of boiling water to my oats as the original (It would have been easier if that whole mess was "hydration neutral" but as good as that standard is, I'm leaving the practice for another day) with my beloved triticale preferment staying at a 60% hydration which is just a bit on the dry side for a panned bread - so I figured the hydration of the whole would be close to the original.
On LindyD's prompting I looked at Mr. Hamelman's formula for oatmeal bread - which differs significantly from mine, particularly in his choice of flour, his treatment of the oats, the type of oats he uses, and lack of the tribble friendly pre ferment. "Why not just bake his formula?" the alert reader might ask. Well, somewhat out of mule headed stubbornness, but mostly out of a belief that his formula is as frozen in time as my original starting point and in the infinite alternate universes which have been born and died since he wrote the formula, we in this one might have learned a thing or two. Besides, this whole exercise is formula development - not formula duplication. I was inspired by his use of whole wheat flour, though. So I decided to add in a portion of home milled to the mix.
Since the molasses had been such a vital part of the original formula, I was determined to re introduce it - but gradually.
Then I screwed up on the math. I failed to check a couple of formulas in my trusty spreadsheet that ... Well, I can make up a good excuse why it was easy to make the error, but I did it, okay, I made a mistake.
So I'm not publishing the formula for this bake - because it is not what I intended to bake, nor should it be what anyone tries to bake (if you were baking along).
But you gotta love this bread because even with my serious math error the stuff came out OK. Tasted fine. A little bland perhaps, but looking back on the nature of my mistake - to be expected. Nice crumb. I did take a picture and have posted it below. Tan loaf. Fine crumb. Sometimes mistakes are the eureka moment that we need. Not this time. It was just a mistake.
So next bake, as my penance for making a formula mistake I'm baking the same (well, not really the same) formula again with the math corrected. Ah, the mill grinds slowly, but it grinds exceeding small. I'll post the real formula next week.
Hopefully I can continue to tweak the molasses and deal with the troubling issue of "inclusions" in the not so distant future.