The Quest for Better Bread: Part 1
My journey begins here, where I began to experiment with flours. I really don't know much about bread at this point in my writing, but sure have fun learning and making my necessary
nistakes mistakes. The Quest for Better Bread: Part 1
Weizen Brotchen - German everyday wheat rolls.
Give us this day our daily bread. The good stuff, please. If you don't know the "Good Stuff", it is a crying shame and I pity you. Although, your ignorance may be bliss, as every expat from Europe in America is looking for the bread that reminds them of home. Whether it is a crusty baguette, an Italian loaf, Challah bread, or a chewy Naan... it just seems impossible to bake here without spending the money on imported European flour.
The short answer is the flour here in the USA is higher in protein than the flour in Europe. While flour in the USA is measured by its gluten content, the flour in Europe is measured by its ash content, or what's left after it's burned. So, old world recipes tried here are doomed from the get go. The comparison of flours is apples to oranges, and "All Purpose" (AP) flour is abysmal for yielding a good loaf. So too is "Bread" flour, which is even higher in protein and gluten content, and would send a person with Celiac disease into a swollen ankled, bloated, anemic fart-fest followed by days of constipation. When it comes to good bread, less protein is more, um... better.
The 'soft pretzel' sucks.
If you are the type of person that needed the crust cut off of your wonder bread, just stop reading this now. It's going to get ugly for you. The lead-in notwithstanding, I'm not going to get into proper pretzels now, but the crust will be a topic. You can't get a crispy crust with too much protein in the flour due to Amylase (an enzyme that breaks down starch into sugars) and Glucose forming a sticky bond and trapping moisture on the molecular level. Since "crispy" usually means "dry" this is not what good bread wants or needs.
Let's be frugal about this...
While anyone can easily whip out their credit card and start shopping for proper European flour for bread (such as German type 405 or Italian Tipo 00) to solve this issue, the expense is not one I'm willing to justify. While 1 Kilo (2.2 lbs) of flour for $11 USD is on par with the finished crappy-product per loaf, it does not include the time and energy spent creating the satisfying loaf, roll or Amuse-bouche. I have decided to use one recipe and adjust until I get it perfect, after all - that is what scientific approach is. Control the variables and observe, then eat your work. Okay, the last bit is a bonus... maybe.
This recipe is a WEIZENBRÖTCHEN recipe I gleaned from a blog online here. Please, drop by and visit the inspiring article.
- 500 grams flour (Tipo 00)
- 10 grams salt
- 300 ml warm water
- 4 grams sugar
- 8 grams yeast
- 40 grams oil
For my first batch I substituted flours to lower the gluten & protein content as follows: 100 g cake flour (Pillsbury), 100 g wheat flour (King Arthur), 300 g AP flour (King Arthur). Let's look at the method, which is one of the variables I will not change:
- Day 1- PLace the warm water, sugar and yeast into mixing bowl and stir a bit. Place all other dry ingredients into separate bowl and whisk together. After yeast proves out (10 minutes or so), add oil and turn mixer with dough hook to medium low speed. Incorporate flour slowly. Dough should be sticky after 2 minutes of run time, but yielding from the edges. if stiff, add water 1 teaspoon at a time to soften a bit. Knead or mix for another 4 minutes on medium speed. Remove from mixer to floured board and stretch flat, then fold in thirds. rotate 90 degrees and repeat. With lightly oiled hands, place into bowl to rest for ten minutes, then repeat this process three more times for a total of 40 minutes rest and fold. Place into lightly oiled bowl or container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Oh look, a picture!
Rising to the challenge? We shall see.
- Day 2- Remove from refrigerator to floured board, divide into 12 even pieces. Stretch tightly forming into balls, making sure to seal the bottom. Brush with egg wash and dip into seeds if desired. Place on parchment on baking sheet. Allow to rise until doubled, about 2 or so hours. Preheat oven to 430° F with a steam pan in the bottom (empty) and middle rack ready for the bread. Place rolls into the oven and pour 1 cup (or so) boiling water into steam pan. Shut oven immediately. Bake 9 minutes, turn and bake 9 more. When time is up, turn off oven, crack door open and let rolls remain for 10 more minutes. Remove and cool.
After cooling for 10 more minutes, the heavenly smell wafting through the house led me to the butter dish. Cutting the first sesame covered roll in two, I smeared with anticipation. The inside is chewy and the overall texture was soft. The salt is balanced with the flour. It is too soft. The crust was not a thunk when tapped, nor a flake dropping off. No crunch. A ho-hum dinner roll, far from the expectation of old world glory. Bake, er... I mean back to the drawing board.