Bread - Number 17: Maybe there is a Jesus cross omen at work here
Again, the cross at the top of the bread or the lack thereof correlates directly with the quality of the bread. Mid-way through baking this bread, I had a "I should have had a V-8" moment,; I had forgotten to slash the dough right before baking. Although this first try did not produce a great bread, only needing a little more baking time, it was so promising as to guarantee a do-over right after Passover.
[Photo of dough after rising. See how puffy it is and notice the holes on top.]
This bread was made in three phases: the sponge, the dough, and the hours of stretching and folding. Temporal demands of various sorts and the wish to satisfy other needs took precedence and this bread was basically fit into a pre-existing schedule instead of being its own priority.
Bread making teaches patience and the importance of focusing on one activity at a time. There is value in doing one thing well - maybe at the expense of other demands. Really, to make good breads demands fitting a schedule to fit the bread rather than fitting the bread to fit the schedule - especially when one is not home full time and there is basically one day a week to concentrate on bread work.
Though this bread started with a recipe from the River Cottage Bread Handbook, those instructions were completely abandoned during the dough mixing stage and the path never turned back.
250 g. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups water
ladle or a few tablespoons of starter (totally do not measure this)
Mixed flour and water in a sort of brief autolyse that lasted less than 10 minutes. Mixed in starter and covered loosely with plastic. Allowed sponge to rise overnight.
Love that danish whisk, which looks so cool and works very well. As it was late, no photographs were taken.
Next morning, wake to see a sponge with a bubbly surface. Oh, how you will admire and praise the starter that produced this transformation. Once your reverie is done, smile on face, continue to mix the dough.
200 g. whole wheat flour
69 g. bread flour (because the whole wheat flour bag was empty)
2 1/2 tsp salt (just add almost a tablespoon and it will work fine)
3/4 cup water
Added in the dry ingredients and this dough seemed dry. Also was totally intimidated that this dough would require kneading, so on the fly added water to transform it into a no-knead bread. Okay, not only intimidated, but tired as the clocks had sprung forward, which sounds chirpy and peppy, but just means it's earlier than you think - really 6 a.m., not 7 a.m. Went rogue. Added a total of 3/4 cup of water (1/4 cup at a time) to make a total of 2 cups water (with approximately 4 cups of flour).
The dough was sticky, but pretty much separated from the sides of the bowl when finished mixing. That mixture of using double the number of cups of flour to cups of water works well. And now I actually know it is 125 grams to a cup of flour.
Rising, stetching and folding
Mixed dough at 7:35 a.m. Promised a friend to go Passover shopping. Invited by husband to go out to breakfast. Left home at 9:15. Total time away from rising bread equaled four hours and then was home briefly before taking spouse up on another invitation, this time for a long walk on one of those amazing "it's spring" late winter Sundays. Could not say no. Dough appeared fully risen at six hours anyway. (See photo directly above.) Placed it in the fridge and walked with husband and without a jacket or a cloud in the sky.
Left dough in fridge for three and a half hours; then did a stretch and fold. Really had little idea where this would go and husband was making one of my favorite dinners, so bread making fit into that because oven would be otherwise engaged. Adjusted lack of plan into plan of stretch and folds every 50 minutes for about three hours.
Baking - a way to ruin a good dough - or at least not realize its potential
Preheated oven to 500 degrees about one hour before baking. Put in la cloche and baking stone. Reduced to 460 degrees when placed dough in oven. Used parchment paper as dough was slightly sticky and am much paranoid about dough refusing to shift from baking peel to stone when open oven is emitting 500 degrees of heat.
Ten minutes later had oops moment of realizing that forgot to do good luck Jesus cross slash on top of the dough. Forgetfulness inevitable result of doing too many things in one day. For me, one too many might be two.
At 35 minutes removed top of la cloche and parchment paper. Reduced heat to 430 degrees to prevent burning of crust; left bread in for another 13 minutes, which ended up being inadequate.
Really needed 45 minutes under la cloche. Maybe needed a higher tempurature as well. This is why an internal digital thermometer that can be stuck right in the bread would help. Other alternative is trial and error, which works, but takes more time. (In the photograph, notice the good wholes on top and increasing density when viewing lower portions of the bread's interior. Bottom inside crust appears almost wet.)
So proud that my starters are thriving. Refrigerating them. Feed them twice a week. On feeding days, take them out for at least a couple of hours. Remove at least half of the starter, preferably to use in a new dough. Feed them 1/4 cup water, mix, add 1/3 cup flour and mix. Bubbly, sweet smelling and impeccable in dough. Could not ask for more.
For an almost 100 percent whole wheat bread, and one that was a bit too wet at that, the taste was good. The crumb - technical word for internal holes - very nice for a bread that was not fully baked. Would do well with a little rye in there to add to the taste. A learning experience and worthy of a do over.