Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bread - Number Two

Bread – Number Two: Variation on Bread Number One
Themes Emerge (well, that is if one can accept that two constitutes a large enough number from which one can derive a theme)

Dedicated to Brad and my husband; Brad because he is my baking muse and my husband because he is still waiting for his home-baked baguette.

To give credit where credit is due, many of the ideas below are from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, with details below the recipe.

7 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 ½ tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 ½ cups water (they say lukewarm, but the only difference is amount of time for the dough to sit out)
½ cup olive oil
Small handful of dough from Bread Number One batch

1.      Keep a handful of dough from a previous batch in the bowl (in this case from Bread Number One). It is the lazy sourdough starter. (More on sourdough later.) Do not clean the bowl. You heard me. Just scrape whatever small amounts are on the sides of the bowl into the handful.

2.       Add the liquids, the water and oil, to the starter. Scrape again. In fact, really all the scraping could wait til now.

3.      Take out an immersion blender. The best thing to do is to if you do not have one is to go out and buy one. It is not expensive and you will love this tool. Just put the immersion rod end right into the handful of that dough, the starter, sitting on the bottom of the bowl. Turn it on and in less than 30 seconds, you will have a soupy mix.

4.        Separately, mix the dry ingredients and mix well, which I did not (hoping a mediocre mixing job will not ruin the result).

5.        Add dry ingredients to liquid gunk.

6.        Mix and mix  and mix until a cohesive dough encompasses all of the dry and wet ingredients. You will see some flour at the bottom of the bowl. Keep mixing until you don’t. This whole operation will take about five minutes. gunk.

7.        Rising: An alternative to figuring out whether the dough is done with rising and is in the right condition to be put in the fridge is to leave it out overnight. There is no harm and you don’t have to drive yourself crazy figuring out if the dough is sufficiently flat, particularly if you were too busy to notice when the rising peaked and that it is now post-peak. One thing I noticed, perhaps because of the starter or because it was left out overnight, is that seemed to be more of a stretchiness and air worked in at the top.

8.       Put the bowl in the fridge, where I would suggest you do not leave it more than five days. Though the recipe in the book said seven days, at that point mine had possibly (totally unsure) become a tiny bit post peak. That is why I was careful to take a handful from the bottom and to examine closely whatever was on the side of the bowl before using to make the current dough. (At day six, I ended up throwing out half of the first dough batch.)

9.      For baking, take out as much dough as you want; the amount will only affect the baking time. Lightly sprinkle flour on the dough when separating and sprinkle some flour on the dough. Shape the dough into a boule or oblong, or whatever. If using parchment paper, place is on the pizza peel and then place dough directly on the parchment paper. Let rise, lightly covered with plastic, for 90 minutes.

10.   Continue as with Bread Number One: Preheat oven to 450 degrees about an hour before placing bread in oven. Make sure baking stone is on the middle rack and a pan is somewhere else in the oven, probably below, meaning in a place where you will not accidentally pour the water or ice onto the baking stone or the dough instead of into the pan. (Really the stone can be anywhere, depending on your preferences.)

11.   When the 90 minutes is up, and there is no shame in being addicted to kitchen timers, use the pastry brush to brush the dough with water; then use the serrated knife to cut into it about a quarter inch thick a few times. (I went overboard this time and did end up with a bit of a cartoon-like loaf.) Slide dough and parchment paper onto baking stone. Quickly, pour one cup of water or ice into pan. Make sure not to drip liquid or ice directly onto the oven door (an expensive misstep). Use a towel to cover the opened oven door. I always forget that. Remember to remove it before closing the oven door.

12.   If using parchment paper to slide dough onto baking stone, take out the parchment paper after 20 minutes and leave dough directly on the baking stone for the rest of the baking time to get a good crust on the bottom. 

13.   Baking time for a quarter of the dough is 30 to 35 minutes. Add more for a larger bread. Make sure that bread is crusty, even dark brown, when removing it from the oven. You will be taking a risk if you, like I am doing this time, ask someone else in the household to remove the bread from the oven as that person might not wish to be entrusted with the task of determining whether the crust is at the right point for removal of the bread from the oven.

14.   After removing from oven, let the bread sit for at least half an hour. Some authorities, meaning websites or books I have glanced at, say to let sit for a few hours.

What constitutes a sufficient variation for another notch in the 108?
Okay, this is a very small variation from Bread Number One, but this is my project and that is what I want to do. What constitutes a sufficient difference to count as another bread on the 108 list might not make sense or be consistent.  The suggestions for the lazy sourdough starter and not cleaning the bowl are from the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. You can sue them when you are poisoned. (Being sarcastic. The authors might not find that funny.) The other suggestion, which also constitutes a change from Bread Number One, is leaving the dough out overnight for the first rise.

Other possible variations involve types of grains and less yeast, both of which I intend to try, probably still using this book, though improvising. However, I don’t want to spend too long on this book. There are so many others to buy and so many websites to visit. Well, 108 is a nice large number; there is plenty of time for resting on one approach for a while before moving on.

Right now, my dough is on the second rise, the hour and a half sitting out before going into the oven. I have to make sure to have the pastry brush, serated bread knife, water and cup of ice ready for the preparation and quick toss of everything into the very hot oven. Later: Just put in dough, which, even with parchment paper, did not exactly slide off, as I pulled the paper onto the stone, making sure not to burn myself, and, after dumping the ice cubes into the pan, made sure to take the towel off the oven door and not leave it in the oven during baking.

Tiny tidbit on sourdough
While the bread is baking, let me very briefly define sourdough. Google will do for more information. Indeed, a Google result provided my brief definition. “Leaven for making bread, consisting of fermenting dough, typically that left over from a previous batch.” Translation: Use old dough to make new, without using yeast. That is why my old dough was a lazy sourdough – I also used yeast.

When creating a new starter, without old dough, there are methods that involve yeast and those that do not. The more old-fashioned way would be eschew store-bought yeast. Translation: Maximizing the artisanal quality and ancient bonafides of the bread will require doing without yeast much as your great-great-great grandmother did not have a supermarket or yeast in packets or bottles at her local store. Okay, yes, that was sexist, as your paternal ancestors might have been bakers, or owned bakeries, or made bread at home.

Some people tend the same starter for years, which involves feeding the starter and a whole complicated, and cult-like, set of rituals, which I will not go into here. Just dipping my toe in the sourdough ocean with this bread. Please slap me if I refuse to go on vacation because the sourdough starter’s life force will dwindle, evaporate or otherwise cease to exist.

Friend and encouraging a fanatic
Now, for Brad. He is a mutual friend of my friend Rebecca, for whom I dedicated this project. The bread I made this afternoon is for him. It is not big and it does have a somewhat funny appearance because I too-enthusiastically cut those slats with the serrated knife. After I baked, Brad and I took a long walk; we have an actual route we always take; and we talked about Rebecca and the latest news of our friends. He bakes with me sometimes and cooks for us occasionally. He is especially wonderful when making a new, intimidating recipe because he retains his composure and has a sense of humor that stays active even when he is busy in the kitchen. He introduced me to fanatic (yes, that is fanatic) bread making with the book 52 Loaves, and he refers to me as a baker, which I treasure, even though I don’t feel like any kind of an expert.

As for my husband, I am about to go into the kitchen to take out the dough for the baguette, something very intimidating. He will give me a completely honest, perhaps negatively-tinged, assessment when he eats it later. He says that this means that I know he really likes something when he says so. He knows nothing of this plan and as today is Sunday, he is so involved with football that I could have an entire harem of women walk through the house naked and he might not notice. Actually, he would notice that and tell them not to block the TV. This will be a surprise.

Brad’s bread, which he shared with us, was good, nice crumb (interior) and Rick (my husband) said the crust was better than Bread Number One. I agree and am sure it was attributable to the longer baking time. All around we liked it better, which, I will just credit to the lazy starter dough.

The baguette for my husband came out looking fine, but I made the same mistake as with Bread Number One: I did not bake it for enough time. What am I scared of? Dryness? With this oven, have to err on the side of longer baking times. Anyway, for a bread it is decent; just not a great baguette. Rick ate some, but stated he did not want any more of it.

Rest of the dough and other post scripts
P.S. On the last batch of Bread Number Two dough, I did a slow rise in the refrigerator for the second rise. So instead of shaping the dough and leaving it out for an hour and a half, I shaped it, put it on parchment paper on a cutting board, and put it in the fridge overnight. Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day suggests doing such a rise all day so that one can pop the dough in the oven, basically, soon after getting home from work. In the morning, I took out the dough, so it could return to room temperature, and turned on the oven to 450 degrees. Only I must have not hit “start” because it was not on an hour later. I am hoping, an hour later, that the extra time the dough will be sitting out will not do serious harm.

P.P.S. Brad was not so enamored of his bread.; he is not the biggest whole wheat fan. He left it at our house and I made him a favorite bread of his, taking out the bread machine for that dough, and making up for experimenting on him with Bread Number Two.

P.P.P.S. And Bread Number Three? With going away next weekend, it will be the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book’s basic recipe, which has about a third regular flour to two thirds whole wheat, and has no fat of any kind. A big reason to the basic recipe is that the dough will last up to two weeks in the fridge.

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