Monday, December 3, 2012

Bread - Number Five

Bread – Number Five: La Cloche

Written with a French accent.

Dedicated to my husband, who always support purchases that result in delicious bread.

La Cloche $57 (bread making is addictive, though less expensive than other addictions).
Using another no-knead recipe, this time from the Breadtopia website, which provides a link to La Cloche purchasing possibilities and inspiring videos sporting an Iowa gentleman bread maker. The recipe and instructions are from, the basic no-knead recipe and the video on the recipe webpage. 

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (Used same proportions as the above video: 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups)
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups purified or spring water (Used filtered tap water because had not bothered to read the recipe before early morning bread making while still in bathrobe)

Feel like a sell out with majority regular bread flour and only one third whole wheat.  Want to see how much lighter it is and, perhaps, generate a special-occasion bread. Yes, rationalizing.

1.      Mix dry ingredients. Add water. Mix well.

2.      Cover with plastic and let sit to rise for 12 to 18 hours depending on the temperature of the room. Cooler rooms will require longer rising times. This time, made sure the kitchen was warm and stopped at 12 hours. 

3.      Cover a cutting board or flat surface with a generous layer of flour. Regular or whole wheat, cornmeal, or similar meal or flour will do fine. Cover the top of the dough in a sprinkled layer of flour. Rub a good bit of flour onto your hands.

4.      Keep flour right at your side. You will need it. Use a spatula and the flour to separate the wet dough from the bowl. We will see how this works out, but my choice was to use a nice amount of flour any time the wetness of the dough became an obstacle to anything.

5.      Put the dough on the well-floured cutting board or other surface. Spread out without pressing or kneading. Mine was about seven by eleven inches, though not a perfect rectangle by any means, and maybe about an inch thick.

6.      Fold the dough in thirds as if folding an old-fashioned aerogramme or a piece of paperto fit into an envelope. Then rotate once and fold in half. Video does a wonderful demonstration of the folding.

7.      Let the folded dough sit for 15 minutes. Cover loosely with plastic.

8.      If you have a proofing basket use it. Grease first, then put flour, cornmeal or something similar to prevent sticking with the wet dough. If not, use an oiled and then well-floured bowl or a floured kitchen towel (that’s my choice). Cover with a kitchen towel, or, in the case of using a kitchen towel, just fold it over the dough. Wait one hour to 90 minutes. Wait! Do not leave the room.

9.     Put on a timer or immediately preheat oven – but make sure oven is well heated before baking time, a half hour to an hour before. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Yes, 500. (This number is anxiety inducing as my pampered oven has never experienced such high temperatures, and frankly, not sure the appliance is up to the task.) Hoping that my oven does not die and that no one dies or gets burned when handling the top of the 500-degree la cloche or when dumping the dough into it.
[Bungalows in Kansas City.]

La Cloche - and related anxieties
For those of you who did not take high school French, la cloche means bell, and yes, it is shaped like one. Basically, this clay contraption that looks like a wide and much smaller Liberty Bell (sans the Liberty Bell inscription). The idea is to create a bread oven within a conventional oven. Major advantage is that no water or ice is necessary to create steam in the oven, or accidentally crack oven glass. Major disadvantage, and this is said before the first use, is that a 500-degree piece of clay (not heavy) has to be lifted before placing dough inside the bottom. Oiled it for the first use with olive oil. Though other oils were recommended, and olive oil specifically mentioned as something to avoid (that is on one of the many websites and discussion boards with la cloche information; seems there is a la cloche community out there), used it anyway because love olive oil and it was the only oil in the house. So, getting back to the la cloche, the bell shaped mini-oven lets the moisture from the dough fill up the small space so that the baking bread receives the correct amount of steam to bake well, critical to “oven spring,” the rising in the oven that gives that lightness to the interior of the bread.

That is the theory. Right now, the dough is sitting and rising on a kitchen towel. Wondering whether should have refrigerated the dough until the morning as the thought of late-night handling of the hot la cloche is making me ever more nervous. The kitchen is wonderfully warm, more comfortable than the cool rooms elsewhere in the house.

How convenience oriented our ancestors were
There is something ancient about the la cloche, similar to the baking stone, in that they are porous and made out of materials that one would sooner find in a medieval town than in a modern kitchen. Indeed, one is expressly warned against using soap of any kind to clean them as that will seep in and ruin the next few foods baked on or inside them. Use water, a brush, or knife for difficult spots. Yes, they were used throughout the world in one form or another, and still are, but if you want one in 2012 United States, they cost more than a peasant somewhere would pay. But these are of a class of goods that one buys and keeps forever. Amortized even for the few years employing the baking stone, we are probably at about 50 cents per bread.

Waited only an hour and a quarter. The bread rose and the kitchen was warm. How could it not be with a burning 500-degree oven? It was toasty and with the la cloche as the assistant in this process, it felt like a wintertime French hearth pre-revolution, during one of the times when scarcity was not a problem.

[Roman Baths in Bath, England. Wish I could beam myself there for bread making classes.]
Instructions continued
10.   Wear oven mitts! Open oven, take off top of la cloche and dump in dough. Perhaps one should aim for the middle of the bottom of the la cloche. My aim, not so good;, dough leaning on the side. Maybe using the top of the la cloche over the baking stone would have been the better way to go, as this is an option. In that case, perfect aim would not be necessary.

11.   Set timer for 30 minutes.

12.   At 30 minutes, take off top of la cloche, close oven door, and reduce heat to 450 degrees. Bake for another 15 minutes.

13.   At 15 minutes, if the bread looks done, remove bottom of la cloche from oven with bread. Remember that each oven is different and baking times vary. My bread was definitely done, the crust a dark, deep brown, with some scattered burnt black spots.

14.   Let the bread stand for a couple of hours.

Baking and hearing the Jeopardy music in my head
Good thing about the la cloche is that peaking is impossible. The clay is opaque.

15 minutes in oven: The kitchen smells like bread, almost entirely masking the previous strong scent of the olive oil that permeated the kitchen during the pre-heating.

30 minutes in oven:  Removed top of la cloche and looking good.  Bake for another 15 minutes.

Waiting and looking at the “store” at Breadtopia. G-d forbid, ever up at three in the morning and that stuff is on an infomercial. It is possible proofing baskets, boards and other paraphernalia would be purchased in mass quantities.

45 minutes: Now that is a bread any peasant or shtel dweller would recognize. Took the bottom of la cloche out of the oven. Bread slid right out with a spatula. No problema aqui. Put the bread on a rack, where it is making lovely crackling noises.

Time for sleep – will taste it in the morning.

9 a.m. of the next day – SUBLIME
OMG, have made the perfect bread. Crunchy crust that is not hard, a wonderfully light interior with beautiful wholes in the crumb, a great taste, and an impressed husband. This is bread any bakery would be proud of. This is bread I’ve paid for. I stare lovingly at the la cloche.

This made a pretty large bread. Can make half of the dough or store half. Still he is a beauty - big, strapping, crusty and gentle on the inside – really a Gary Cooper of breads.

[No Gary Cooper photo here due to ambiguity of copyright laws and not willing to investigate copyright renewal of any particular Gary Cooper photo.]
[The Eye in London.]

Remember, though, that Bread Number Five is two thirds regular bread flour and only one third whole wheat. That ratio and the type of flours will have to be juggled for better fitting the goal of good daily, healthy breads. As a special occasion bread – for having company or bringing a bread to someone else – this will be perfect.
Wish List

Wish list of baking tools is growing. After all, if Breadtopia was correct about the la cloche, then perhaps that cute Danish whisk featured in its video is not far behind. And there is a bread book page on the website.

P.S. Perhaps it helped not to add the vital wheat gluten. Maybe that ingredient was the source of the little bit of aftertaste in the previous breads. Also could not hurt that this bread was two thirds white bread flour.

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