Greetings from Tux, Austria
Well hello, hello!
I've been a lurker for some years now. My bread banantics (yes, made up word!) began in 2017 with a pursuit of SF sourdough, a flavor that I had deeply missed from childhood. I liked the fact that if I wanted San Francisco bread in Austria, I didn't have to go far and even in my jammies. As I dove deeper into the world of bread-making, Uncle Google lead me to The Fresh Loaf. Yay! Off and on, I visit here to be awe-inspired, find answers, and also to delightedly stumble across a few other Austrian residents. Cool!
I am a fan of Forkish's first book FWSY. (Did you see his house when it went up for sale?! Golly, a built-in brick oven in the living room.) I return often to that book even though I have a small collection of others. Hamelman is my other primary cross-reference, but I don't own a spiral mixer and nor a bakery so it's not my go-to, get-the-home-job-done book. I put aside baking for a few of years. Other stuff to learn. Then, I got back into the dough thing when I picked up a KoMo stone grinder (COVID lockdown anyone?). Grains on tap meant a world of greater possibilities. Then followed the pasta thing, which injected a completely new dimension to our dining repertoire. My husband patiently ate my dough expeditions to the raviolis, good ol' Cantonese wonton, dumplings, roti, and tortillas. Tortillas? Yeah. I was tickled pink that masa flour could be had, and I did miss a good tortilla. It's all dough, right? And you definitely can't find a tortilla at an Austrian mountain hut!
When Uncle Google coughed up a link one day to Farrell Monaco's archeological re-creation of bread from ancient Rome, I was hooked all over again. Farrell's enthusiasm, humor, and research skills really impressed. When I baked my first Vesuvian bread (a wheel, divided neatly into 8), this simple bake intrigued me. In Austria, you can enjoy a delightful variety of small breads, single servings. Rolls are pretty universal, but I often wondered why the isosceles triangular shapes. Maybe, because they were once upon baked in the same style as the Romans?
In the near term, I've happily returned to baguettes. Austria offers a mind-bending variety of tasty breads, but I absolutely missed a real baguette. Encouraged by a deeply discounted Emile Henri baguette pan, I hit the bread road. My baguettes always sucked in the past. I could never get that score right. I ditched the knife, bought a bread lame (thank you Baker of Seville!), and studied over and over Markus Färbinger's baguette shaping video. Finally, I've been able to regularly bake delicious, sourdough baguettes with better statistics on the aesthestics.
The bread that brought me back to The Fresh Loaf for a look around is called the Ottotondo. It is the marketing name (Eataly in Munich). If you have tasted this loaf and figured out a decent approximation in the home oven, I would be eager to hear your method. The marketing claim behind the Ottotondo is that it is an 8 day sourdough. Maybe I have mistranslated it, and that it is meant to be edible for 8 days? There is no overpowering sourdough flavor. It's just a grand, classic Italian bread. I discovered what type of flour the bakery uses (100% Burrato farina from Mulino Marino--fabulous whole wheat flour, btw), but who is leavening it? I tried using a biga twice. Kept it for 72h. Without a spiral mixer, I could only make up a smaller % of the final dough as my biga, and then I had to play some tricks with my biga to get it to mix nicely. A bake on a stone produced a tasty bread, but wasn't quite there. There was a discussion here on a 90% biga, but I admit that I'm still reluctant to try again. I won't be looking forward to the dough fight to squish in that last 10% of water.
So, this intro has been quite long enough. Why do I like baking bread? Largely, because I love bread math. It's like the math games in elementary school. The first thing I look for these days are the % tables. It makes breaking down the dough methodologies a lot easier. A happy marriage of the arts & sciences!
Thanks for reading and maybe writing,