This weekend I decided to try Hamelman's Country Bread in the shape of a boule. However, I lack proofing baskets, and as I proceeded through the recipe, a nagging thought kept injecting itself: So, how do plan on keeping your boule from turning into a pancake?
I baked only one loaf, so I scaled down his recipe thus:
Flour (sir galahad) 454g 100%
Water 309g 68%
Salt 4g 1.8%
Yeast 1/4tsp instant dry .6%
The pre-ferment is a stiff pâte fermentée:
Yeast 1/16 tsp instant dry
Final dough: DDT = 75° F
Yeast 1/4 tsp instant dry
The pâte fermentée is made up 12 - 16 hours prior to the final dough. Final mixing involves incorporating all ingredients except the pâte fermentée on speed one, and then cutting in the pre-ferment in chunks as the dough comes together. Increase to speed two and continue for 2 - 3 minutes (or longer). Hamelman's description of the final dough is "supple and moderately loose, with moderate gluten development." My own experience was that while the dough had developed some strength, it was still relatively slack.
2 1/2 hours, with two folds at 50 minute intervals.
Shaping and Baking:
Pre-shape, cover with plastic and bench rest for about 20 minutes. Final shaping into boules is followed by placing the loaf into a floured banneton or a couche. Final fermentation is approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour. Bake is at 450° in a pre-steamed oven that is steamed again once the loaf is loaded. Baking time is approximately 35 minutes.
The moment of truth for me came at the shaping stage when I had to decide what to do with this boule I had created. It was clear to me that with a final fermentation time of an hour or longer, even a tightly shaped boule would begin to imitate ciabatta dough, and I do not have any bannetons. But as I surveyed my kitchen, it occured to me that I did have a fairly sturdy sieve, into which I could fit a floured tea towel. That revelation then raised the question, how to suspend the sieve so that it was level/ A 2 qt. calphalon pot volunteered and I glimpsed a true jury rigged solution to my problem.
I heavily floured the tea towel with rice flour, which I've discovered is much less absorbent than AP - I haven't had anything stick to surfaces I've dusted with rice flour and this was no exception.
The result is a boule which, though it spread some in the oven, does not resemble the pancake I had dreaded as I began my project. The country bread has a pleasing taste - thanks to the pre-ferment - and makes a nice (if not so wide) sandwich bread.
Meanwhile I've made a note to add bannetons to my Christmas list. But in the meanwhile, I'm happy with my sieve and makeshift proofing method!