Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bread - Number Nine

Bread - Number Nine: Climbing out of the single digits with total whole grain
100 percent whole wheat

Dedicated to the permeating, homey, wafting aroma of baking bread. Should have had an open house today it smelled so good.

Experimented with 100 percent whole grain and with longer rising and baking times. That is the luxury of a stay-at-home vacation. May never travel anywhere again, so nice it is to let the dough rise for as long as it needs, to have a leisurely breakfast after mixing dough, to read the newspaper when waiting for whatever is the next step, and to spend hours painting that table that has been patiently waiting, though eyeing me with the indictment of its unpainted presence. 

Missed Brad's Sunday visit and bread tasting as he is off on exciting international vacation, but did heed his advice to take photographs and bask in the glow of rising dough and crunchy crusts.

Not accepting as a sign from Jesus the fact that my bread slash designs are uniformly resulting in crosses at the top of the breads. But a liberal, socially conscious rabbi/carpenter would approve of bread making, perhaps telling me to add some volunteer work to my days. 

[Close up of Bread Number Nine and its cross on the top.]

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm, purified water
Optional: small ball - maybe 1 inch diameter - previous batch of dough (Actually used the dough from this bread for my next dough, which was a mostly white flour mix with one third whole wheat.)

1. If using the small ball of previous batch of dough, take the previous batch's bowl, with small ball of previous dough, and add lukewarm water. Mix in whatever old dough is on the sides and chop up small ball of dough. Do not mix. Let sit for five minutes. 

Using a bit of the previous batch of dough makes for a lazy sourdough and gives the bread a little more depth of taste. Convenient and less washing up when making a new batch when just starting to prepare the previous batch for rising and baking.

2. Mix dry ingredients. Add water.

3. If using the small amount of previous batch of dough, now take out immersion blender and mix well the water/old dough mix.

4. Dump dry ingredients into bowl of wet ingredients. Mix well. Mix and mix. Though there is plenty of water, it quickly absorbs the flour mix. Keep going and get wet hands in there if necessary to mix all of the flour mix into the liquid for a cohesive dough.

5. Cover bowl loosely with plastic. Better if set in a warm place. That is not always possible; do not fret. Good bread will result either way.

6. Let the bowl sit out for 12 to 18 hours. Let mine sit for 18 because the kitchen was quite cool, there was no place to rush off too, and it is good to experiment. Heated kitchen for the final two hours of rise. Not sure if that made any difference.

7. When dough is risen (just rely on experience or guess), either prepare it for baking or place in refrigerator - with plastic still loosely covering the bowl. Only differences are  that unrefrigerated dough will be stickier to work with and will only need about a half hour to forty minute second rise.

8. Take out bowl from fridge and remove plastic. Lightly flour the top. 

[Dough from another bread - mix of bread flour and white whole wheat - risen about three hours.]

9. Lightly flour a board and flatten the dough, stretching a bit. Fold in thirds, like an envelope, then fold in half. If, like me, you do not find the shape pleasing, or it is weird in some way, just work a bit more. Do not knead.

10. Leave dough on board and loosely cover with plastic for 15 minutes.

11. Take out a clean bowl, flour the bottom and lower part of sides. Put dough in bowl for final rise of 90 minutes (less if using unrefrigerated dough). It is suggested to put the bottom right side up, but this is not crucial and can be remedied later. Lightly sprinkle top with flour. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel or loosely cover with plastic.

12. Place top of la cloche in oven on baking stone. Preheat oven at least 45 minutes ahead of baking to 500 degrees.

[Same dough as previous photograph, this time after rising for five hours.]

13. Now for the part that makes one feel like an expert. Take dough and either do a final shaping (not suggested, but mine turn out fine) or dump onto well-floured baking peel. Do decisive, one-stroke slash about 1/4 inch into dough. Do a second or third time, depending on what design is preferred.

14. Open oven, remove top of la cloche, and slide dough onto baking stone. Cover dough quickly with top of la cloche. Close oven. Leave for 30 minutes approximately. Left mine for 32 as my breads have seemed to need more time.

15. After 30 minutes or so, reduce oven heat to 450 degrees and remove top of la cloche.

16. Leave bread in for 15 to 20 minutes uncovered, then remove. Checked mine at two-minute intervals after 13 minutes and it needed 19. Wanted to err on the side or more time because have had the sneaking suspicion that some of my breads were a touch underdone. Place bread on top of stove or on a rack to cool for two hours.

17. Tell person watching television to turn off, pause or mute whatever is being watched so that beautiful bread's quiet crackling can be heard and appreciated.

And, two hours later, taste. Nice crunchy crust, brown, slightly burnt right at the top. Light, yummy, interior, with not as many airholes - crumb - as a bread with white flour. Delicious and good to know that a 100 percent whole wheat, albeit a so-called white whole wheat, can turn out sufficiently well to automatically be a wonderful everyday bread.

[One last look before eating.]

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