Delayed post about a delayed bake
Two weekends ago, I brought some Portugese Sweet Bread dough home from a class I had taught about sandwich breads. One weekend ago, I baked the bread. This weekend, finally, I have an opportunity to post about it.
The class itself was about sandwich breads. We made ciabatta into ciabattini, or ciabatta rolls, and made the Portugese Sweet Bread into, um, rolls for hamburgers and hotdogs. The length of the class was long enough to allow us to bake the ciabattini on site but the Portugese Sweet Bread dough was taken by the participants to bake at home. Since my work schedule has been unusually busy of late, it was the following weekend before I had the opportunity to fish the dough out of the refrigerator and bake it. I opted to shape it in two loaves, rather than rolls.
I am often asked by students whether dough can be held in the refrigerator for baking at a later time. That question gets a confident "Yes". The follow-up question is usually "How long can it be held?" The answer to that question is a less-confident "It depends." Generally, it is safe to say that a 2-3 day hold won't hurt anything. Beyond that, it becomes a question of how quickly the dough was chilled, how long it took to get from classroom to home, and how cold each participant's refrigerator is. In this case, in a cold refrigerator with temperatures in the 34-37F range, I got away with a full week's delay and no appreciable degradation in the quality of the finished bread.
During it's long stay in cold storage, the dough had approximately doubled in volume so I started to shape it immediately after removing it from the refrigerator. That didn't go so well. The dough was so stiff that it balked at my attempts. So, I covered it back up with plastic and let it sit out at room temperature long enough to regain some flexibility. Once it had, it was shaped into two boules and placed in rice-floured bannetons to rise, with plastic wrap draped over the exposed surface of the dough to prevent drying.
The dough took nearly two hours to double in the bannetons; most likely because it was still warming during that time. Given the long hold in the refrigerator and the lengthy final fermentation, I was concerned that most of the free sugars in the flour might have been consumed by the yeasts. As a result, I applied an egg wash to the loaves before slashing them and then baking them in a dry oven.
I needn't have worried. As you can see in the photos, the slashed areas that are free of any egg wash are nearly as dark as the crust which has the egg wash. Oven spring was good but not explosive. The crumb, which I did not photograph, is very typical of this bread: fine textured with even distribution of small alveoli and slightly golden in color.
One thing you should know about me: if it were possible to rank artistic capabilities on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd score somewhere around a -2. Nevertheless, I played with some decorative scoring on these loaves (the results support my previous statement) and I am pleased beyond any reasonable expectation with the way that they look. Foolish, I know, but whoever said pride was reasonable?
One unanticipated result of this of scoring pattern, bi-lateral symmetry on two axes, is that it turns a round loaf into nearly a square loaf. Look, Ma, no pans! Yes, I'm aware that scoring affects loaf shape, but this was an outcome that I hadn't observed in previous bakes. Maybe it is because the others didn't have the secondary slashing between the primary axes. Or sunspots were especially active that day. Or...