Panned loaves (to paraphrase) don't get no respect.
It's the crusty, lean, free standing loaves that we tend to think of when we invoke the term "artisan bread."
But, as others have pointed out - it isn't the bread that should receive the term "artisan" - it is the baker.
I did a lot of bread baking during my "childhood" and that time was spent mostly in the 1960's. It was a different time. I learned to speak French early in those years, but Paris was an impossible dream. It had not yet become the place that I know almost better than the city where I live (or at least where I own property) - where I drop by once a year (barring extraordinary circumstances) to do the chocolate shopping (and take in the sights - I haven't become quite that blasé).
Of course, in those years, the taste of a real French baguette was unknown to me - and to the vast majority of the people around me.
What I baked was panned loaves. They were plump and brown like genial friars with a taste as heavenly as the personages they resembled.
I have eaten my share of sour bread, of terrine with crusty loaf, of peanut butter on baguettes, and even fresh Poilâne miche (not completely sure why people pay vast sums to fly it all over the world, but that's me). Yes, there are pannini and those things you get from vendors in France with a couple of slices of something on a baguette or ficelle with not much else. But sometimes you just want a "sammich" - on soft bread. You know you do. You just won't talk about it in front of your foodie friends.
At the end of last year I was visiting family in Southeastern PA - land of my birth - and found myself adrift in the world of mass produced bread. Apparently a substantial amount of money is exchanged for this stuff, but I really couldn't eat it. I could have written up a formula for an enriched loaf using the limited range of ingredients and equipment at hand, but after spending quite of bit of effort working on pre ferments/lean loaves/fresh milled I have become interested in the formulas I remember from my youth. You know those books (well, some of you do) - the ones from the "Ladies Farm Journal" with their tips on pleasing your man (making yeasted pancakes will do it, so I am told) and their enticing promises that this bread "always sells out at bake sales." The target audience was rural women - whose major charge in life was the daily feeding of a large, physically active family- with limited resources. They had to know what they were doing.
The formula I ending up using produced some pretty nice bread and as I returned to the wild West I had to wonder what I could do to goose it up a bit.
Since 2011 is my year to change and develop formulas for lean breads, I thought that I might add this to my baking plan. I tend to be a patient formula developer - tweaking one factor at a time and evaluating the change. I bake only once a week, so things take some time. Since there are many recipes for lean loaves n these pages I have similarly decided that my 2011 blogging project will be to chronicle how I work with this old formula and what it eventually becomes. I have also decided to abandon my ill fated attempts at photography. I have never been interested in taking pictures as my frustrated friends who are constantly saying things like "You spent three months in Malaysia and Thailand and never took any pictures!" could tell you - and I am singularly bad at it. These are panned loaves. They will look like a standard panned loaf of bread. They will have a fine crumb. I know that in the world of blogging if there are no pictures the blog is somewhat disappointing. Well, I'm writing this as much for me as for the one or two people who actually read my blogs. Perhaps if I get some real "show off" loaves I will find someone to help with the photography, but I just don't have it in me to do it myself. We all have our limits.
The first step was to bake the formula mostly as written and to get the thing converted to weights so that I could analyze the baker's percents. So here is the first formula with my notes.
0% of flour pre fermented (I include this because it may change in future iterations)
Ingredient Wt Baker's Percent
Rolled Oats 4.5 oz 20%
Steel Cut Oats 3 oz 13% (The original formula called for all rolled oats. This variation was mine)
Boiling water 20 oz 89%
Shortening 1 oz 4% (I used leaf lard)
Non Fat Milk Powder 1.2 oz 5% (The original called for 2 cups of scalded milk. This is just a substitute for the scalding process)
Salt 0.65 oz 3%
Molasses 3 oz 13% (We "Dutchies" love our molasses!)
Instant Yeast .25 oz 1% (Instant yeast was also my variation. Of course instant yeast was not available when the original formula was written. It called for Active Dry Yeast dissolved in 4 oz of warm water which I have included above as part of the boiling water)
KA AP flour 22.5 oz 100%
Combine the two types of oats, boiling water, milk powder and shortening. Allow to cool to lukewarm. (this would be a "soaker" except that it is not hydration neutral - whatever liquid is not absorbed by the oats is very much needed for the hydration of the final dough. I may rework this in future iterations).
Add the salt, molasses, yeast, and flour. Mix 5 minutes on the single speed of the spiral mixer. (The original called for adding only "some" of the flour to the oat mixture and beating - by hand - until the mixture was quite elastic. This is a great technique for getting some gluten development before the kneading process when you don't have a powerful mixer at your disposal and it is what I used when I was away from my toy. But since I have the big toy - it is a shame not to use it. Of course, the rest of the flour would be added and the dough kneaded until "smooth and elastic.")
Let rise until doubled - 2 hours at cool room temperature. One fold. Let rise again - about 2 hours at cool room temperature. (The original called for one rise of about an hour at 80F - no fold or punch down. The fold and the second rise seemed like an obvious change to me, since most of the old formulas I baked called for a punch down and a second rise.)
Shape and place in greased pans. Proof (1 hour) and bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.
So easy. Honestly. I haven't put that little effort into baking a loaf in awhile.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with this bread. It had a mildly sweet taste, was soft and moist with a moderately soft crust. I was a bit concerned that the steel cut oats would be too hard, but they added a soft crunch to the bread and were very nice. The molasses gave a nice color to both the dough and the finished bread.
But naturally, there were things that could be better.
Bearing in mind that this bread had to stand against an assortment of levain based breads when I was tasting, I missed the kind of depth that a levain based pre ferment brings to even commercially yeasted breads.
I also have a lot of milling products (like bran and high extraction flour) that I could incorporate if they would be an improvement. Although tempted to do cracked wheat as an inclusion, I am going to stay with the steel cut oats, as oats add not only a subtle sweetness but their own share of healthy oat fiber (not that I am baking for health, mind you, but if it can taste good and be healthy, that's win-win) and really the inclusion of oats is the basis for this variant on standard white bread.
The formula does not leverage any ingredients local to the Western US - other than wheat, of course.
I have all that triticale that I was going to mill, but haven't - yet. I thought it might perform better in panned breads. Maybe that can be included.
Looking at the formula, the hydration seems high, but it is offset by the oats (now we know why the BBGA wants the soaker to by hydration neutral - so that hydration is more easily understood by looking at a formula. There is always a reason...) My "guesstimate" is that the hydration is between 58-68% (remember to add in the molasses!) which is well in the region for panned breads, so I won't be playing with that just now.
Same with the fat content - that's pretty standard for a good old loaf of bread.
The salt and yeast seemed high until those troublesome oats were factored in. Yeast still seems high to me - there is a real candidate for reduction.
My bread testers tell me not to change a thing - they loved it. But I still think I can make it better.
So I am considering what to do. Yes, I could make a whole lot of changes at once, but I gotta be me. My instinct tells me that working some levain into that formula somehow (without making a pure levain based bread) would make a big change without using a lot of ingredients, but I have a week to think about it. We shall see.