To Artisan or Not To Artisan
I've been making and baking what everyone calls Artisan bread, with it's over night or multiple night retarding the yeast in the refrigerator and cooking in a dutch oven and all this other stuff for several months now. I'm on my 2nd jar of yeast and have gotten tot he point I've bought flour at Costco in the double 10 pound bag packs. It's looking good, with decent crumb and the taste isn't bad (the dogs go nuts for any bread I make and I almost never get to finish a slice myself) although I'm not getting the rise that the books say I should and others are getting (although I think I figured that out but I have to test my theory out)... but, it's missing something. I'm not sure what though.
So this morning I google through the internet for a French bread recipe (I really prefer Italian but it seams what's Italian is really French or it's pizza dough or I've been led astray most of my life on what I think is Italian bread) to try that isn't a overnight or biga or poolish like all of my books have. So I find one that takes about 3 hours from start to finish. It has the same increments, flour, water, salt and yeast and one more, vinegar. I thought, "Vinegar?" and passed it by, but then I went back and looked at it again and did a search on what vinegar brings to the bread. I found that it's used as a booster for the yeast and not for taste. So after printing off 3 likely recipes I decided to give this on a try. I mixed it up per the instructions (I've already gotten spoiled using weight measurements and this recipe didn't list by weight :D) let it rest about an hour, formed it into 2 long French shaped loaves, let it rest for 30 minutes and then baked it for 35. It did say to put a half inch of water in a baking pan for steam while the oven was cold, which I did, which was a lot easier than pouring it into a pre-heated oven and have it splatter, hiss and spit all over the place and I had more steam this way also. I should have given it 5 less minutes as the top was starting to get really dark and the internal temp was a bit over 200 when I took it out. The crumb was smaller than the other breads I've been making but had a much better texture and I feel had better flavor than most of the bread that the dough sat in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The only one I did that I would say was equal to in flavor or maybe a tiny bit better was the one that sat in the fridge for 5 days. But it was definitely better than the others I've done.
So maybe mom had it right... you mix it, kneed it, proof it, kneed it, form it, proof it and bake it. More work yes and it sure takes more than 5 minutes a day, but it still comes out as really good bread. Or maybe it's because I'm Scottish and Cherokee and don't have any European roots like so many do. After all, what kind of taste buds could someone have who's ancestors liked haggis. :D