BlueZebra's Baking Banter
So I decided to start a baking blog for this BlueZebra to keep track of my baking progress. Hopefully, some of the pros will stop in and offer their helpful suggestions and I will then have it compiled onto my site.
I am also going to ask Bill if he minds if I copy/paste his starter information to my blog so that I will also have it at the ready.
Tomorrow I am going to ignite the sparks that will hopefully lead to my first sourdough starter. I plan on using Mike Avery's starter recipe and instructions (he's at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/index.html  ) and will also keep my eye peeled on the test being conducted between Tatooedtonka and JMonkey, which started today. I will also check on Bill to see how his new starter is going too.
One thought. Last night I made pizza dough using the PR Neo-neopolitan pizza dough recipe found on Floyd's Pizza Primer thread here at tfl.com. This is the second time I made this dough. I am a bit confused about the instructions for dough development since I don't own the American Pie book by PR that has the recipe in it. Floyd's recipe says to rapidly stir the wet dough mass then set it aside to rest for 3-5 minutes, then to repeat this process. Then to split it up into bags and refrigerate if not using immediately.
I followed these instructions last time and although the end pizzas were really good, I ended up having to knead the dough at the last minute which threw my dinner timing off. The dough wasn't developed at all and had no extensibility or elasticity. It had no "oomph" and was very flaccid and brittle. So this time, I decided to experiment on my own. I kneaded it in the bowl (which I will discuss in a minute) after I did the brisk stirring procedures. Then I put it through 3 french folds on the counter at 30 minute intervals. Then I put it through a bulk fermentation. And then split it up into 4 pieces of dough. Put two of them in oiled bags and into the freezer and kept two pieces of dough out.
Wow the difference was incredible! The first ball of dough fought me as I was making it. It was soft and had a beautiful texture but it obviously needed a rest to get over the final fold and the splitting. This was evidenced by the fact that doughball #2 did get a 60 minute rest as I worked with dough #1 and made and cooked the first pizza to give to Brian. Brian's crust did not have near the oven spring despite the fact that I wrestled it into shape and proofed it for 30 minutes on the parchment. He did say that the bottom was very nicely crisp. But that the inside was a little gummy. I baked it longer too. It baked for about 8 minutes at 550 and was brown on top. The dough was only about 1/8" maximum in the center going into the oven.
My dough had a 60 minute rest and was beautiful to work with for final pizza formation. I did not let it proof on the pan. I formed the pizza. Topped it. Baked it at 550 for about 8 minutes and it was great! Crispy bottom but it did have some gumminess in the center. I am thinking this is a drawback in this recipe. If I blind bake the crust without toppings for a couple of minutes, I'm afraid it will be too tough and overcooked. But, I will try this next week with one of the doughs as a test. I will cook the second one next week at a lower temp (like 425) for a longer amount of time and see what happens.
Now for the breakthrough: The dough was very wet. Not as wet as the pagnotta dough but still wet none-the-less. I worked it with vigor for about 2 minutes then set it aside for 5 minutes. Came back and worked it again for 2 minutes (at this point I was already seeing good gluten development). Then I set it aside for 20 minutes. When I came back, I decided to fold in the bowl. Knowing that it's actually the stretching portion that helps to develop the gluten, I used my big rubber one-piece spatula and in a folding motion, would sweep around to the bottom of the dough and pull the dough up as far as I could before bringing the pulled section down and over onto the middle of the dough mass. Each time I did this, I gave the bowl a 1/4 turn. I worked the dough like this for about 3 minutes. I lost track of how many stretch and rotations I did. But it was uber easy and very therapeutic.
The difference in dough texture from beginning of this step to the end of it was incredible! Night and day. The elasticity of the dough was really beautiful and towards the end I could pull the dough up so much higher with the spatula than I could in the beginning (before the dough showed signs of tearing). When I touched the mass in the bowl it immediately sprang back at me. So I covered the bowl and set it to rest for 30 minutes. Then came back and began the folding steps. I started the dough late and didn't have time to do a preferment. I started at around 2:30pm. It gave me plenty of time. It was a beautiful and bubbly dough. I think I will try the ciabatta dough by working it this way. The dough definitely seemed to like it!
Another important note: I was really skeptical that 1 tsp. of idy yeast would be enough for this recipe with 5 cups of flour, but judging from the action of the yeast in my dough, 1 tsp was plenty! The flavor of the pizza was very nice. It did not brown very strongly so I think I will try adding some malt the next time I make it (which will be Friday after next...Friday being pizza night at the zebra pen).
I also made pasta dough last night. I felt like a real chef! I made it at the same time I began my pizza dough then set it to rest in the fridge until time to form it into sheet for fresh ravioli. I didn't use a recipe! Hard to believe! I just put about 1-3/4 cups AP flour in a bowl and put 2 good pinches of kosher salt in the flour. Made a well in the center of the mixed up flour/salt and cracked 2 large eggs into it. I used a fork and started beating the eggs up in the well and started pulling bits of flour into the center, still beating. When it was thick enough I turned it out onto the counter and did the Mike Avery fold and knead. Turn 90 degrees fold over once and do a strong frissage, then repeat turning the dough 90 degrees. I only worked the dough maybe 2 minutes. Then covered with a bowl and let it rest at room temp for 30 minutes. I came back and worked the dough another 2 minutes and by that time, the gluten had developed although it was still tender to the touch. I refrigerated about 3 hours. Then took it out split it into two batches and started putting it through the pasta roller. Make sheets out of it and set them aside to dry a bit. Then filled and sealed and let them dry a little longer. They were delicious and the pasta was a great flavor and so easy! It made 18 very large raviolis. So we definitely have leftovers!
My filling was fantastic. I had an empty larder so had to used creativity to come up with the filling. I made roasted garlic, gruyere, parmesan, craisin and pumpkin filling in a sherry cream sauce with bacon crumbles and fresh parmesan to finish it. Wow! it went so well with my green olive, onion and mushroom pizza!!! Add a cabernet sauvignon to that and I would serve that meal to company any night!
OK so what am I learning so far (in the last 6 weeks or so that I've been trying to become a home baker)? I've learned that the best thing a newbie baker can do is approach the bread with confidence. It isn't like a pastry. It isn't so fragile. And the recipes are fairly forgiving. I've also learned that the best way to learn about the feel of a dough is to make it a few times. Confidence is built through repitition. I don't pretend to know when every dough had been worked enough. In fact, I'm fairly sure I'm still underworking the dough, but the recent results this past week indicate that thanks to Mike Avery and many of the people here at tfl.com, I've experienced a huge breakthrough in baking.
Tomorrow I start the sourdough samba. I will spend today trying to think of a brilliant name and will send my hunter and gatherer out to procure suitable jars for the incubation! It's only proper that he have some role in this creation process! ;) I might even give him a vote on names!