Brain-Dead Bread: 'Nother Out-take
Hoo boy! Where to start with this mess?
Covey may be on to something with his "Start with the end in mind" mantra. I thought I knew what I wanted - sourdough bread. Apparently I should have given it just a little more thought.
Anyway, I pulled the starter out of the fridge on Friday evening, carefully weighed it, and then glugged in about twice as much water as I intended. So then I had to put in an equal amount of flour. Muttering about my clumsiness, I stirred it up and left it to do its magic on the counter overnight.
Next morning, it was rarin' to go. Amazing what a 10-degree jump in the house temperature can do. So, instead of the second refreshment that I had expected, I needed to get some dough going. There was some white WW left, so that went into the mix, along with some rye. Added some more water, stirred it up and left it to sit until I got back to the house at lunch time. The only smart thing that I did in this whole exercise was to write down how much stuff I was putting into the dough.
Upon returning, the dough was more than doubled, so it was time for a decision. A rustic bread or French country bread sounded good. After casting about a bit, I came across Floyd's recipe converter and started making the necessary additions for a rustic bread. Well, most of them. The dough was far stickier than I expected, even allowing for the hydration level and the rye flour. Nevertheless, technique would triumph! Stretching and folding to tame the savage dough! I even eschewed the floured work surface, opting instead for the bench scraper and wet hands. Big mistake! The dough just never did feel right, even after 4 stretch and folds over a 2-hour span. It just stayed gloppy, even though it got progressively firmer. And it stuck to everything, wet or dry.
Finally, I shaped into some rough loaves, halfway between a baguette and a batard and arranged them in a make-shift couche made of parchment sprinkled with semolina. About half an hour later, when I checked to see how far along they were with the final ferment, it occurred to me that I never had added the salt. That might explain some of the dough texture issues that I had struggled with. At that point, though, I wasn't about to try working in the salt.
Eventually, I preheated the oven and stone to 425F, slashed the two loaves and put them in the oven with steam, and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I pulled out the steam pan and turned the temp down to 375F, setting the timer for 20 minutes additional baking time. Well, actually, I set it for 20 hours. About 40 minutes later, realizing that mistake, I hauled the two loaves out of the oven. The internal temperature was north of 205F and the crust felt rock hard. Croutons, anyone?
But wait, there's more! Remember that I said two loaves? Well, there was a third. There wasn't room in the refrigerator to retard it, so I thought I'd take my chances on over-proofing it, expecting that it would go into the oven in just another 30 minutes. Yeah, well, that turned out to be more like 50 minutes. And its warmer now, too, remember? So, it was truly over-proofed. It didn't quite deflate like an air mattress when I tried to slash it, but it was close. Besides, a skin had formed, making the knife drag more than usual. But, what the heck, the oven was ready, so in it went. It, at least, got the right baking time at the right temperatures.
The outcome was decidedly mixed. The over-baked loaves actually turned out better than I expected, thanks mainly to the high hydration level of the dough. A sprinkle of salt, a dab of butter, some sturdy teeth, and it is decidedly edible. The third loaf, which was over-proofed, struggled up out of it's initial ciabatta-like appearance, but never really achieved its pre-slash height, much less any real oven spring. Here's a pic:
The front loaf and the cut loaf are from the first, over-baked pair. Look at how thick that crust is! The rear loaf is the one that over-proofed before baking. You can see that the slashes never really opened up.
The flavor, at least, is enjoyable, being mildly tangy.
Bread making may allow for a wide range of variation, but there are some things that just have to be done the right way at the right time. Oh, well, maybe next time I'll have my head in the game.