Last Friday's baking
My work schedule is set up so that I get every other Friday off. Or, as my employer puts it, I'm on a 9/80 work schedule. That means Mondays through Thursdays are 9 hours a day, one Friday is 8 hours, and the following Friday is off. I love it. Having a 3-day weekend every other week is a wonderful thing.
So, this past Friday, I got to play with some new recipes. The first bake was an Irish soda bread. It turned out wonderfully, in a craggy sort of way, with plenty of spring in the oven. We took it to a neighbor whose mother had died a couple of days previously. Consequently, there are no pictures. It was well received; so much so that I’m not sure any of the extended family actually knew of its existence.
The second bread that day was something I'll call an Irish oatmeal porridge bread. It features cooked steel-cut (or pinhead, or Irish, or Scots) oatmeal, some bread flour, some whole wheat flour, plus some molasses to help boost the flavor. If you aren't acquainted with steel-cut oats, they are fairly analogous to cracked wheat. Each oat kernel is broken into 3-5 pieces as they pass through a set of rollers at the mill. The texture is quite different from rolled oats, even the old-fashioned variety. The cooked porridge is more nubby, a bit more al dente.
The dough was a bit drier than I expected. There are two factors that may have been in play. The first is that much of the liquid in the bread is contained in the porridge. If one were to measure the pre-cooked and cooked weight of the porridge, they’d know how much water is lost during the cooking. Of course, one would have to think of that in advance. The second factor is the AP flour in this particular batch of bread. It’s the Eagle Mills Ultragrain flour, which contains 30% white whole wheat flour along with the usual patent flour. The extra fiber content makes it more absorbent than a typical AP flour. Which of those was the greater influence, I can’t say. What was clear was that the dough required more water, probably another 50-60 grams worth before it softened to something less than bagel dough. Note that the dough didn’t feel particularly dry but it was quite stiff to knead.
The dough was bulk fermented in a covered bowl, then shaped into a loaf that went into an 8x4 loaf pan. The final proof, covered, went until the dough crested about ¾ of an inch above the pan rim, at which point it went into the preheated oven for baking.
The first impression is favorable:
Hmm, perhaps a bit lopsided:
Well, yes, a longer final proof would have been a good idea:
And the crumb:
If you look closely enough at the crumb, you will notice a compression zone where the dough was in contact with the pan. It appears that the outer extent of the loaf suffered some compaction before the top tore loose and released the pressure. The rest of the crumb is very uniform and is a splendid base for my sandwiches this week. The bread is firm and moist, probably an artifact of the moisture in the porridge, as well has having a degree of chewiness that is definitely due to the steel-cut oats. The molasses, which is one of my favorite flavors, is front and center in both fragrance and taste. I suspect this would also be very good toasted, with nothing more than butter spread on it.
I also managed to squeeze in a batch of sandwich rolls on Saturday, yielding 6 hotdog buns and 6 hamburger buns. All in all, it was a fun time in the kitchen this past weekend.