Friday, March 6, 2015

Intimate Look at the Autolyse

Simple as can be
Add a phase to your dough making that takes an extra 30 seconds of effort, maximum, and assists with strengthening the dough. Well, 30 seconds of effort and up to an hour extra of waiting. I usually autolyse for only 20 to 30 minutes, but I've heard tell of up to an hour.

So, there's no reason why not, other than being in a rush, which I can respect as an excuse, being that you might have stuff happening in your life other than dough and bread.

All that autolyse means is to mix the water and flour - without anything else - and leave it for that 20 to 30 minutes so that these two ingredients can do their forming-the-gluten dance. It is written in various books, websites, etc. that an autolyse also reduces kneading time, though I usually do not knead.

Purist - no salt
Let's get one thing straight, it is not an autolyse if salt is added. The whole point is to allow the flour and water to mature a bit before putting in the salt.

What the autolyse is nice for is to form and strengthen those gluten strands in doughs that you might not want to knead, such as those with a mixture of rye and wheat, or to reduce kneading time for any dough. I find that autolyse also works well with no-knead dough and with dough that will be manipulated with a stretch and fold, or a few.  Really, there's nothing bad that can come of it.

Never regret it.

One tiny drawback
One small, really, tiny, drawback, which is that the autolyse will cause those gluten strands to get a bit tight - in a silly putty sort of way. This will mean good exercise for those who use their hands to mix in the dough ingredients after the autolyse, though likely irrelevant, save for an extra minute or two of mixing, for those who use a mixer. If you are hand mixing, get ready to put down the whisk or spoon or whatever it is you employ; wet your hands and plunge them right in that dough. Your evolutionary tool, those being your hands, will do a better job and be faster at mixing the full dough following an autolyse than any tool, save for that mixer, if you hesitate to be at one with a nice dough.

What if a mistake is made?
I sometimes start a bread in the wee hours of five or six in the morning, before the brain turns on. I have meant to put together an autolyse and mistakenly added the sourdough starter. I let this go on the theory that the starter is itself only flour and water, just more advanced, and that nothing terrible will happen if the natural yeast gets to work a little early. So this becomes a bit of a preferment instead of an autolyse. More on preferments on the bread lingo page.

However, adding the salt by mistake means you should cut your losses and just mix up the whole dough. The salt inhibits gluten development just a bit - the whole point of excluding it from the autolyse or a preferment. Don't cry or stomp feet. A slightly different bread will result and try the autolyse the next time.

So how is this different than a soaker? 
A good question (if I say so myself). A soaker is a mixture of something and water. A soaker is meant to soften some substance - seeds, grains, even flours - that is better off not going as is into a dough. Soaking periods are generally a few hours to overnight and sometimes salt is recommended so that gluten (or whatever) does not develop prematurely. So, yes, perhaps an autolyse could be considered a type of soaker, I suppose, though I have never seen it described as such. 

As with every other field of human endeavor in the Western world, every specialty has its own terminology so that we can feel special and informed for understanding the lingo, or excluded until we do. No need to be intimidated, bread making is pretty easy and the taste of a good bread is all that matters when you sit down to enjoy it. 

Nice to see a beautiful crust as well.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bread Number 71: Rye-Einkorn Beauty, But All Purpose Einkorn?

Disaster struck. No beer in the house for the planned second beer bread. Not that there is always beer in the kitchen or in the basement, but usually there is some bottle of craft brew around. I will wait until the spouse buys some; in the pantheon of household tasks, as the beer drinker, he is tasked with beer purchasing. 

So a different type of bread would be made; there was rye flour and rye starter, and the package of einkorn flour that I was curious to open and try.

What do you mean it's not whole grain?
I recently spotted, for the first time, in the local Whole Foods, a store that is a mix of a locally-sourced food emporium and a corporate food behemoth, a package of einkorn flour. Before I set out to work with this flour, I was blissfully unaware that there is more than one type of einkorn flour. Without looking closely, I purchased the "all purpose" variety, a euphemism for a white flour, cleansed, if you will, of most fiber and nutrients. I just assumed it would be whole grain, like everything else in that small part of the baking aisle. Somehow, it seems wrong to sell an ancient grain in a form fit for Wonder Bread.

Ingredients and instructions

94g water
39g rye starter
113g rye flour

Mix and cover. This is not a sponge that will get bubbly. Indeed, I find rye starters a bit frustrating because their expansion is so reserved. No need to worry; if you skimp on this phase, more time will be necessary for the dough to rise. Just a matter of when the fermentation will occur.

221g water
114g einkorn flour
232g bread flour
9g salt
8g caraway seeds (plus more later for sprinkling before putting dough in oven)

Mix, cover, and let rest. This dough rested longer than expected because, I am supposing, I could have let the sponge develop for more time. The dough seemed to be at its peak at 5.25 hours. Nice and big and puffy.

Warning - weird bag of flour makes numbers questionable
My ingredient numbers might be off on this bread, not because my measurements were inaccurate, but because I was working with a King Arthur bread flour package that was especially thirsty. In a bread I make each week, flour from this particular package required a good 50 percent more water than usual, though I always use KA bread flour for this bread.

Also, einkorn flour is said to require less water than wheat. In this recipe, previously using whole wheat instead of einkorn, I generally use 207 grams of water, though for this specific dough, with the weird bread flour package, I used more. I am guessing that with a typical bag of bread flour, from 20 to 50 grams less of water would probably be needed.

Pause - benefit of making same bread over and over
Here I was, making a bread with einkorn flour for the first time, adapting a recipe - bread #27 - I have used about 10 times. I had to feel my way with the water amount because this is not a dough I know intimately. But the reason I could make my weekly challah perfectly even with an extremely thirsty batch of flour is that I know exactly how this dough should be at every step. After 15 years of almost weekly practice, one gains confidence. It was easy to see that the dough needed a whole lot more water. 

So, when trying out a recipe that turns out terribly, do not immediately blame yourself or the instructions. It just might be that one of your ingredients is not acting within the average in some way, thus, throwing off the entire bread. Such a challenge gets easier to spot and rectify with experience.

Pause here for Purim baking
After 5.25 hours, instead of pushing on to prepare for baking, I put the dough in the fridge. I was in the midst of hamentaschen baking for the Jewish holiday of Purim, with a deadline for sending a package to the daughter in college. Needed to roll out the hamentaschen dough, with my grandmother's rolling pin and her yellow baking bowl, and to fill each cookie (pastry?) with fillings modern and old-fashioned. Poppy seed filling, traditional, one daughter's favorite; apricot for my other daughter; and, of course, a universal preference for chocolate.

Morning brain - another pause 
Next morning, instead of trotting off to work, we have another two-hour delay due to ice. Winter this year is reluctant to leave this. As I write, we are expecting not one, but two more storms this week. We are not in Minnesota, here; we should be noticing signs of spring already. 

Because bread is on the brain, I wake up an hour earlier than usual, despite the two-hour delay, and get the bread baked before my usual start of work. 5:45 and I am in the kitchen, brain on autopilot, preparing the dough for baking.

I sit in the kitchen, reading Michael Pollan's Cooked, the part about a perfectionist chef describing a restaurant that operates with precision timing and operations, down to how to load the dishwasher. I realize I am completely deficient on this score. I mostly perform tasks with a "good enough" attitude, or, at other times, I experiment, flirting with failure to move outside my comfort zone. That's what 108 breads is all about. I go for the quirky, but reading at 6 a.m., I feel as though, perhaps, I have never, except for motherhood (where perfection is impossible), reached the point of loving something so much that I take joy in the the consistent performance of a task down to the last detail. 

Maybe it was a little early to be so hard on myself.

Baking preparation
I take the dough out of the fridge, sprinkle flour on a large cutting board, then on top and on the sides of the dough. I do a stretch and fold, cover, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. 

Shape the dough. Then I put a well-floured kitchen towel in a small wicker basket. I also sprinkle some caraway seeds on top of the flour. Place the dough, bottom up, in the towel inside the basket, and cover. Let rest for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a baking stone and the top of a la cloche, if you have one. (Otherwise, place a pan on the oven shelf below where the dough will be. Right before after putting the dough in the oven, place a cup of water or ice in the pan. This will provide steam for the dough to rise. The la cloche does the same thing without risk of steaming in your face or ruining the oven. It creates a mini-Roman oven in your oven.)

Thank goodness for parchment paper
I put a piece of parchment paper, that miracle invention, on the baking peel, and, in order:
(1) Turned the dough, right side up, onto the parchment paper. 
(2) Generously sprinkled water on top of the dough.
(3) Threw some caraway seeds on top as well.
(4) Did a quick cross-slash cut into the top after that.
(5) Put the dough in the oven. 

Reduce oven heat immediately to 460 degrees. At 15 minutes, reduce again, this time to 440 degrees. I removed the parchment paper at 40 minutes. Total oven time was 51 minutes, but I should have left it in for another three minutes. Just a tiny, tiny tad underdone.

Isn't that beautiful?
Gorgeous oven spring and a great taste, but I'm a pushover for anything with rye and caraway seeds, despite the all purpose einkorn and the need for a few more minutes of baking. This is why I cannot be a perfectionist. I like this really good bread quite a lot; it doesn't have to be perfect. 

P.S. I received a note saying to try stretch and folds even with rye doughs up to 50 percent, so I will try that next time with this bread and report back here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Intimate Look at the Stretch and Fold

Not a yoga position
On the advice of my writer pals, I am going to be taking an in-depth look at a few important aspects of dough development. The stretch and fold is a prime example. Though it sounds like a yoga position somewhere between downward facing dog and child's pose, it is not. Like its sister method of kneading, the stretch and fold is a type of dough manipulation that aerates and strengthens the dough. In other words, the end result should be a better bread for taking the time, actually very little time, to do this.

Actually, I had no idea I would have this much to say about a simple, easy procedure.

What is a stretch and fold exactly?  
There are two ways to do a stretch and fold; both, big surprise, involve stretching and folding. One method is to hold up the dough in one's hands and the other is to lay it out on a board or on the counter. For simplicity's sake, I will explain the board method first. 

Before doing anything with the dough, depending on whether the dough is very wet or not, put water, for wet dough, or sprinkle flour, otherwise, on a large cutting board or kitchen counter. Then put water or flour all over your hands. The last thing you want is to get dough all over the work surface or your hands, so be generous with the water or flour.

How do you know if the dough is wet? Does it stick all over your hands in a gloopy mess or promise to do so when you touch it with one finger? That is wet dough.

Gentle, very gentle
Remind yourself to be gentle with the dough so that you do not rip it or, at least, greatly minimize ripping. The point is to stretch, but not break, the gluten strands. Lay out the dough and gently flatten it into a rectangle or somewhat rectangular shape. Stretch out each long end as far as it will go, again, without breakage.

After this initial stretch, fold those elongated ends as if making an envelope. First, fold one end to the midpoint and then the other end over the first. Now, turn the dough 90 degrees and stretch out the other two sides of dough. Fold in again the same way.

In the air, using hands
The air method is much the same, except without putting the dough down. This is easier than it sounds. Stretch and fold the same way described above.

What kind of doughs?
I do stretch and folds for most wheat-based breads and spelt. Do not stretch and fold after initial mixing for rye breads, even those that are only 30 percent rye. Rye is fragile.

Stretch and folds can be done after the initial mixing of the dough and, at a later phase of dough development, before shaping the dough. I do not do a stretch and fold at this point for spelt doughs or ones with any rye flour.

For most doughs that are majority wheat flours, whether white bread flour, all purpose, or whole wheat, I stretch and fold in the hour and a half after mixing the dough, between two to four stretch and folds, usually three or four. 

I also often do a pre-shape stretch and fold with all doughs. For any dough with up to 30 percent rye or for a 100 percent spelt bread, I only do the pre-shaping stretch and fold. My rye advice is to be taken lightly because I have not gone beyond 30 percent rye at this point.

Post-mixing stretch and fold
I mix the dough, cover, and let rest for at least 15 minutes. All stretching and folding should be done within the first two hours after mixing, but definitely the first one by 45 minutes in. I always wait at least 15 minutes between each stretch and fold, or almost 15 minutes if some craziness or rushing is necessary for non-bread-related reasons.

Notice when doing a few stretch and folds that the dough strengthens and will not stretch as far as it had at first. After these stretch and folds is the bulk fermentation period, otherwise known as the first rise.

Pre-shaping stretch and fold
I generally also do a stretch and fold prior to shaping the dough, in which case, I let the dough sit, covered, for 15 minutes after the stretch and fold to allow the dough to relax prior to shaping. I generally do this stretch and fold on a board.

Relationship to kneading
I am not a kneading expert, but I have read quite a bit and watched what seems like hundreds of kneading videos. In terms of numbers, after porn, I think there are cat videos and then kneading videos. The kneading ones are mesmerizing, especially if you can find the one of the French guy who kneads as part of a demonstration. He's up to elbows in a huge basin of dough. Wonderful. (If you are looking for a cute pet video, there's a wonderful one of a guy on a cargo bike with his two little dogs enjoying the ride to the dog park, all accompanied by lovely and lively French music.)

From the little I have gathered, stretching and folding is as effective as kneading and a whole lot less work. I find, as well, that there is much less anxiety. Somehow, as I'm leaning into the dough, pressing hard, pulling it, and doing this over and over for 10 to 15 minutes, I am consumed by the doubt that I am kneading correctly, whereas the stretch and fold is so simple an act that my confidence is let unharmed, or, at least, in its usual, below average state.

Other perspectives 
If you would like to see a stretch and fold in action, here's a video from NW Sourdough that's short, sweet, and gives slightly different instructions for this technique than I have. I also have learned quite a bit from Breadtopia. His bread making videos are wonderful, and he does demonstrate a stretch and fold when he uses the technique in some of his start-to-finish films. You just have to find the stretch and fold a midst the eight-or-more minute videos.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bread Number 70: Celebrating with Beer - in Dough and Otherwise

Just pour the bottle into the bowl
So weird to actually open the beer bottle, in this case, Brooklyn lager, and just empty it right into the dough bowl. Great smell. 

Maybe it was the beer that explains why this dough rose so slowly, or perhaps, it was my unwise use of a just-fed starter instead of having the patience to wait to make the dough until the starter was ripe. Definitely, the cold winter temperatures contributed to the slow rise as well, a total of 27 hours. Mind-blowing, yes, and a testament to my ability to be patient, at least on occasion.

Beer is welcome as a fun way to experiment as I approach the final third of the 108-bread project. Will also taste good to eat the beer bread with beer. I drink about one to two beers a year. An exact level of thirstiness is necessary; somehow, wine requires no such limitations. Of course, for those for whom any beer will do, this might seem like an alien attitude.

Two more breads - number 72 - until I hit the two-thirds mark. My daughter tells me to plan a celebration for 108 and immediately a party at a bakery or a bakery tour come to mind, closely followed by the idea of a bread-maker gathering. Or maybe just a quiet breakfast of homemade bread, nice tea or coffee, and some fine music, Sinatra, perhaps, and something good to read. I like my bread that way. 

Ingredients and instructions

352g beer
70g starter (120 percent hydration, with big qualification; details below)
100g whole wheat flour
16g flaxseed meal
20g rye flour
389g bread flour
11g salt

Mixed all flours, flaxseed meal and beer (love writing that word in this context), covered, and let sit for 30 minutes. 

Added starter and salt. Mixed and covered. Did two stretch and folds, the first at 15 minutes and the second another 15 minutes later. Covered and left out overnight. 

This was Oscar night, which I totally enjoy. Two reasons: Commenting on dresses and listening to thank you speeches. Warms my heart to hear appreciation for parents, spouses, and opportunities, as well as curiosity about what political outbursts celebrities will engage in. Since I do not read People or pay much attention to celebrity culture, the Academy Awards is the perfect dose.

Starter and long, long rise
Though this recipe includes a healthy amount of starter, 70 grams, I do believe the exceptionally long rise of 27 hours was partly due to the state of the starter and not only to the winter temperatures. Instead of feeding the starter and waiting for it to get all exuberant again, I began with impatience. I fed the starter, adjusting it to a pretty high hydration percentage - estimating 120 percent - and put the almost just-fed starter into the dough. I waited only a half hour in a 65-degree kitchen.

I thought the rise would occur overnight because the outdoor temperatures had increased considerably; we were up to the 30s or 40s. I suppose, however, that the kitchen was nearly as cold as ever in the wee hours. By morning, the dough had hardly expanded. I went off to work, leaving the dough in the heated kitchen, with adult offspring in the house. Called this adult, who sweetly tolerated her mother, and texted a picture of the dough. It needed more time, so I took the chance that the hours would be too many until I returned home from work and asked for the dough to be left out.

Kitchen heat turned off, then six hours later, turned on for the evening. Returned home, immediately checked dough, but did not look fully ready to cease bulk fermentation. Left dough out until bedtime and then put it in my heated closet. As I was bringing the bowl through the bedroom, spouse noted my increasing bread craziness. Woke up at 12:30 a.m., and carried the dough to the refrigerator. Finally, it appeared ready, but this was not my time to move on to the next phase.

Tending to the dough
The next morning, I shaped the dough, without even a stretch and fold. Placed the dough on a well-floured kitchen towel and put it in a small wicker basket. Covered and left in fridge for 12 hours.

Returned home from work and preheated oven, with top of la cloche and baking stone inside, to 500 degrees for one hour. I took the dough out of the fridge immediately prior to baking, stopping only to put a nice set of cross slashes into the top of the dough.

Left the temperature at 500 for 20 minutes, then reduced to 470 degrees. Total baking time, 51 minutes. Lovely oven rise that only a majority white bread flour dough will produce. Divine crackling sound emanating, hissing practically, from the just-done bread. 

Incredible, great taste with a hint of the beer. I never would be able to identify the beer taste if I did not know there was beer in the bread, but the taste had a different twang than a long rise sourdough - a more complex, maybe a two-layered, twangi-ness. And twangy is not a technical term, yet.

Next up: plan to eat the bread with beer: A big yum, I'm sure.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spelt favorite: hot vs. cold kitchen

Kvetching in the cold
I have been sleeping with socks, undershirt, thick fleece pajamas, and even, last night, a scarf. Our old house is good to about 25 degrees, okay at 20, but not fit for single digits and zero-degree temperatures. Not at night with the heat turned down. Not with 1928 windows. Yesterday, I put the rising dough next to the warm oven just to give it a few extra degrees of warmth. Maybe I just wanted to keep checking it so I could stand in the  warmest spot in the house.

I made my favorite spelt bread - bread #34 - with adjustments for the cold winter in which we find ourselves - luckily not in the six feet of snow of Boston or in the relentless freezing tundra of Chicago, but in Washington, DC (one block away), where the weather reporter tells you to bundle up at 30 degrees. The last time I made this bread it was 80 degrees in the still of the night and 95 or 100 during the day, a whole different experience. [Photo should say cold vs. hot kitchen, but wishful thinking took over.]

Temperature down, starter amount up
I quintupled the amount of the starter from 10 grams to 50. This time, the dough took longer to rise in a kitchen that was probably 65 to 70 degrees (next to that warm oven), but not much longer - 12.5 hours in the summer kitchen with 10 grams of starter vs. 13.25 hours in the winter kitchen with 50 grams of starter. I adjusted the flour and water accordingly.

Snowing again, but changing to sleet. Looks like North Dakota out my window. 

Temperature up, motivation up
Yeah! 24 hours later, we are up to the freezing mark. The house feels warmer. Layers are shed. I wake and remove the dough from the fridge to begin baking preparation with a stretch and fold. Yes, only a one day respite before normal winter set in again, but we had hours of 56 degrees and sunshine. Shoveled snow in a t-shirt.
275g water
51g starter
425g spelt flour
10g salt
optional sesame seeds

Kind of autolyse
Mixed the starter, flour and water. Covered. Left for half hour, really due to my own timing needs rather than any reason of dough development. I say "kind of autolyse" because an autolyse should only be flour and water. But with sourdough starter that is only flour, water, and the friendly bacteria that reside in the jar, I figured this was not too much heresy.

Add salt to the dough and mix throughly. Do two stretch and folds, the first at 15 minutes and the second fifteen minutes after that. Cover and leave dough on counter for the first rise, or, as others call it, bulk fermentation.

The kitchen was somewhat cool throughout the day, so even with a few hours of a warmer kitchen in the late afternoon (while baking another bread),this dough took a long time to rise. I left it out for 13.45 hours. At that point, I was tired; it was very late. 10:30 p.m. - the 20-year-old me would be judging. I did not have any interest in staying awake for another couple of hours, so in the fridge went the dough. 

Due to errands, shoveling of a new few inches of snow, and having some friends over, I kept that dough in the fridge for more than a day, for 34 hours to be exact. By now it was Sunday morning. 

Baking preparation
Same as before. A stretch and fold, though I had to be quite gentle because the dough ripped pretty easily and did not want to have that. Used plenty of flour on the cutting board so the dough would not stick. Covered and left for 15 minutes. Shaped into a oval-ish boule and left covered on the cutting board for 75 minutes. I checked at one hour, but the dough did not respond at all to the dent test. Did not pop back at all.

Nervous because dough spread. Will there be oven spring?

At an expected one hour prior to expected baking time, turned out to be 75 minutes out, I preheated the oven to 455 degrees with the top of the la cloche and the baking stone. 

Prior to placing, okay plopping, the dough onto the baking stone, I did a cross slash on top, sprinkled with water and then sprinkled generously with sesame seeds. I quickly plopped the dough and covered it with the top of the la cloche. Total oven time of 36 minutes, covered the whole time.

Yummmmm .... mmmy  
Lovely oven spring and oh so delicious. Love spelt and love the sesame seed taste in the crunch of the crust. So, so good. Could not stop eating it. Still in love with this bread and happy it was easy to adjust from summer to winter by playing with starter amount and timing.

P.S. For the first time, our local Whole Foods had einkorn flour. Though it is just five or six weeks before Passover, when I should be thinking of finishing bags of flour, and though I already have plenty of flour in the house, I wanted to express my support for the store carrying this flour, and bought it.

P.P.S. Next up is a beer bread, though at this moment its integrity depends on my sleepy daughter calling me from home before she trots off to work, texting a photo of the dough (insufficiently risen when I left for work this morning), and my making the decision of whether to go for the fridge or leave the dough out for several more hours, until early evening. Do not want to waste a bottle of Brooklyn lager or a good dough, but you never know what surprise awaits when you take a risk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bread Number 69: Outstanding Bread, Clumsy Position (in Dutch Oven)

I figured out this weekend that I hate parties. I like the idea of a party, but once I arrive the whole gathering is just people standing around talking, often in a crowded, noisy space. I'd rather be talking to the same people without the party. Or I could be home looking at a dough, painting  or studying. In fact, I find more and more that I value my time alone. I'm living so much of my life in my closet, doing my artwork and studying there, including much of the writing of this blog. Ha, ha, yes, literally in the closet, though actually a tiny room.

One wet bread 
At one percent below 80 percent hydration, this was one wet dough; given the number of the bread - 69, there is no minimum to the mileage on the double entendres. The position referred to in the title of this post has nothing to do with sex; it's the unlikely placement of the dough - super wet - in the Dutch oven. I was glad, frankly, to get it in there at all. 

In this dough are an arbitrary mix of different flours, mixed in intentional proportions - teff and coconut flours, whole wheat flour and bread flour. I used the cold of the kitchen to extend the sponge phase. I also did a soaker for a few hours before mixing it into the sponge, a pretty wet sponge. I used so much bread flour because the last bread bothered me with its lack of oven spring. And the oven spring here was divine. That white flour, darn it, can't be beat in this respect. 

By the way, all of these unusual flours, as well as the whole wheat flour, I keep in the freezer to preserve freshness. I'm still thinking of a way to get fresh, local grain to grind myself, but I'm not there yet. Except for the fresh-ground flour guy at a different farmers market downtown DC, I have no connection to the local grain scene, if there is indeed one at all.

24 percent whole grain.
79 percent hydration - calculating with the hydration percentage of my starter, such as I guess it is. I almost never measure what goes into the starter.

50g teff flour
20g coconut flour
90g water

Mix and cover. I waited 3.5 hours, but this could have sat overnight.

114g water
73g starter
58g bread flour

Mix and cover. I let this sponge rest for 17.5 hours because the cold kitchen overnight meant activity in the sponge came to a standstill. It waited for the heat to be turned on in the morning to become exuberantly bubbly, with larger bubbles than I usually see in a preferment. Three hours of warm kitchen air did the trick.

218g water
336g bread flour
70g whole wheat flour
10g salt

The mixing took quite a while as I added little bits of more flour to decrease the mushy, wet texture of the emerging dough. 

Total ingredients
50g teff flour
20g coconut flour
394g bread flour
70g whole wheat flour
73g starter
422g water
10g salt

Mix and cover the dough. I did three stretch and folds in the first 90 minutes - at 45 minutes, 60 minutes and at 80 minutes. Now, with such a wet dough, the stretch and fold will be less doughy than with a less hydrated dough. Also, remember to wet your hands before manipulating this dough so that it will not stick to your hands. 

I let the dough sit for three hours in a warm kitchen, maybe 70 degrees. As this bread was being made by feel, pretty much, I looked at that dough quite frequently, staring at it, pondering whether to hold tight or move on.

Pause- advice for when you're in New York
Not sure why it felt important to get this bread done by evening when New York bagels were coming home via my husband's trip there. You can't buy just enough bagels. No, buy a dozen - make that a baker's dozen - and then freeze them. But the real reason to buy a bagel is to make a delicious platform for fish so sublime you will groan when you eat it. I'm not kidding, we actually scream out, exiled New Yorkers that we are, about how good it is.

First, a schmear, a thin layer of cream cheese, followed by red onion pieces flattened. Then the fish - some baked salmon (called kippered salmon in DC); be generous; followed by thin, translucent, freshly sliced nova lox. Do not buy anything packaged or even sliced that morning. That is not fresh. That is a reason to give a dirty look, as in are you kidding me? That's so far from fresh it does not dignify an explanation.

No, go to a place where they slice in front of you and so thinly that you have pantyhose thicker, definitely tights, than what is being cut. While you eat, appreciate, and keep munching between bites on tastes of the baked salmon without any embellishment, just on a fork, or, really, on your finger. If you are lucky, very lucky, or skilled you will make bread that gives you the same sublime happiness as a nice bagel with lox and baked salmon. Now that is eating.

(If you're a tourist, 72nd Street Bagel, on 72nd between Broadway and Columbus, is very good and close to the park. They'll make something decent for you.)

Baking preparation
The dough rose very nicely in the three hours and with that good puffiness from emerging bubbles, large and small. Did a stretch and fold on a well-floured board and left the dough covered for 15 minutes. It spread. Use plenty of flour, more than usual, for covering hands and board. I'll be repetitive. This is a wet dough.

After 15 minutes, I shaped the dough, though the wetness meant that no shape would be sustained without some structure. I shaped, using more flour for the cutting board, and left the dough covered for another hour. 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the dutch oven inside. I figured the dutch oven would give the shape that the dough could not hold on its own. Before putting the dough in, I did the slash while it sat on the board instead of dealing with the intense heat with the oven and dutch oven open. That thing can generate a scary heat.

After plopping the dough in the dutch oven and quickly covering it, I reduced the oven temperature to 460 degrees. That dough plopped on the side of the dutch oven had no shape whatsoever. Worried. I quickly took off to pick up my husband at the local train station, leaving my daughter nominally in charge of the oven situation. This is what cell phones are for. I took the kitchen timer with me, returning with four minutes to spare. Total oven time was 44 minutes, with the last two uncovered. (Oh don't judge that I left a neophyte in charge of the bread. I had two non-negotiable, simultaneous tasks: my husband returning home and my dough ready for the oven. Due to the timer and cell phone, neither had to be sacrificed.)

One nice bread
Lovely oven spring. Gorgeous crust. I did not listen because we were in a rush to eat the bagels and the lox sliced by my favorite Zabar's guy. The next morning, I had my favorite day-off breakfast of hot water and buttered bread (okay, I do that at the office as well). OMG great! The crust had almost a malted taste and such crunchy crust. Sublime. Can't wait to eat more. (No comments from the peanut gallery about how my favorite breakfast is dangerously close to prison food).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bread Number 68: Exploring Anxiety Via Ancient Grains

Anxiety is a luxury when one is making one bread at a time
Even at bread #68, I hover over doughs, mired in pondering whether a dough is ready in one way or another. What has improved, I think, more than the accumulation of knowledge is the development of instinct. Though experts differ on ways to handle and develop doughs, the instinct that whispers wait or move forward is never wrong. Really - though not before seven in the morning.

The luxury of hovering over one piece of dough is the reason why I should never open a bread bakery. I would be in over my head dealing with 20 pieces of dough, and that per type of bread - AND every single day. Gives me a sinking feeling of gloom in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it.

I felt at one with my ancient foremothers with this bread of spelt and teff. Teff is the flour used to make the Ethiopian bread (pancake-like) injera. Both grains were used throughout the ancient world because they are easy to grow and to work with. Everything I have read endorses the view that ancient grains are healthy. There are plenty of sources that explain the details about health benefits. I won't waste time on that. 

There is some white flour in this bread via my sourdough starter. I was not sufficiently ahead of the curve to grow a spelt sourdough starter, though that is easy and only takes a few days (taking a bit of the mother starter and feeding it with spelt or whatever flour you wish). [Photo: "bread" translated into Hebrew. An ancient language for an ancient set of flours. Rough transliteration is lechem for the word bread.]

Table with ingredient amounts and phases below.
Hydration percentage: 67 percent
All whole grains except for starter, which at 100 percent hydration, would be 26 grams of white flour; not too shabby.

40g teff flour
46g water 
I was going to do 100 percent hydration in the soaker, but some extra water spilled out of the cup into the bowl and I decided to let it stay. Mix and cover. I let the soaker sit for just under four hours (3.85 hours). I could see letting this soaker sit overnight.

225g water
380g spelt flour
Mix and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Then I added the salt because I went off for a few hours and I did not want further gluten development. I let this mixture sit for 3.75 hours. For ease of understanding, the salt is listed in the dough list.

51g starter
10g salt

I mixed everything together, which took hands-on effort because the autolyse is pretty cohesive. I did two stretch and folds about 15 minutes apart. I covered the dough in between, of course. At 10:30 on a Saturday night (exciting nightlife), I covered the dough and left it on the counter in a cold, winter kitchen, which might as well have been the refrigerator. There was little dough progress.

On all other mornings ...
Why is it that on any regular day of the week I can hardly drag myself out of bed before seven, but on a morning when a dough is waiting I pop up at five or six in the morning? I have an internal alarm that goes off and prods me with curiosity to look at the dough. Even when I know little or nothing has happened because the kitchen is cold, I question whether the dough has over-risen because the dough is flat, though in this case because it has barely started to rise. And this after baking at least 200 loaves. Sometimes it feels like I am just as anxious as when I handled the first dough, as if I am gambling with time for a good bread.

At six a.m., the dough was flat and the bubbles seemed to be disappearing. It took hours of being in a warm kitchen for the dough to progress and for bubbles to emerge and for the dough to begin to appear airy. I am talking 2.5 hours. In total, I let the dough rest, covered, for 16.5 hours. At 16.5 hours, the dough was positively puffy. No doubt, the rest period would have been half that in a warmer kitchen.

Let's get outside
I did a stretch and fold, covered, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. I then shaped it, put it on a well-floured kitchen towel, in a small round wicker basket, covered. I refrigerated the dough to give myself a chance for a nice long walk on the sole warm day this winter. Could not miss that.

Three hours later, I removed the dough basket from the fridge. I let it sit out for 90 minutes. 

Preheat the oven one hour prior to baking at 455 degrees. I preheated the oven with the dutch oven inside. Even prior to putting the dough in the oven I was second-guessing the decision to mix teff and spelt. As teff is not a flour to expect any rise from, I was already curious whether better results would come from mixing it with wheat flour.

Carefully handle the hot dutch oven. Plop the dough inside without burning yourself. Make that cross slash in the dough. I am having slash envy as I see artful designs on twitter photos of breads; some intense creative dough slashing at those English bakeries.

Heat at 455 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 420 degrees. Bake for another 29 minutes. Total baking time of 44 minutes. I actually removed the top of the dutch oven for the last four minutes.

What is perfection anyway?
Not the most fantastic oven spring, but respectable. Fantastic taste. Lovely color. Found myself missing a platonic ideal of oven spring, something I should let go of. Again, taste, taste, taste. Can't get enough of this one. Maybe I would add less teff if mixing with spelt again. Curious to try teff with whole wheat and even with white flour.

Here is the ingredients table, which lists when each ingredient was added.

Water 46 225
Spelt flour
Teff flour 40


51 51

10 10

P.S. Spouse's verdict: He likes the breads that rise more. Not a fan of density, even delicious density. All so subjective. I was actually pretty impressed with my handiwork.

P.P.S. The Escali scale is working perfectly fine and was miffed that I insulted its tare function (getting back to zero and staying there) in the previous post. Still, the scale is pleased with my dependence and has gotten over its irritability. I believe this is because I treat it well by keeping it clean and trying to be gentle with it. The scale is aware of my need for it, but knows that our situation may change. It fears that like my grandmother and great-grandmother before me, who never employed any type of scale, that I could graduate to the level of instinct. It wants to be the shiny, dependable gadget, likely jealous of the Danish whisk.