Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bread - Number 23

Bread - Number 23: The Spelt Variations
Like the Goldberg Variations, but more tasty

Purchases: Internal food thermometer $35 with shipping (half=price sale at Thermoworks)

I made the same 100 percent spelt bread three times to learn from mistakes, correct mistakes, and reach perfection. Reached pretty good. Thank you to my new trusty internal food thermometer, I did not bake the last loaf to death and before the end of the day, I personally consumed half of it.

Lessons learned: This recipe should not be left to rise overnight on the counter. The dough will over-rise, causing sadness even though less than a dollar of ingredients have been ruined, even though more starter is available, and even though the world is not nearly at an end. Other options are putting the dough in the refrigerator sooner or using less starter, both in an effort to slow down the process and sleep through the night while the dough rises.

Another lesson: An internal body clock will wake you in the wee hours of the night if there is the slightest suspicion that the dough will over-rise, not in time to catch the dough at its peak, but probably at a point where an edible bread can be produced.

Yet one more lesson: No recipe can totally account for different room temperatures, differences in flour batches, and the sourdough starter's phase of the starter cycle of eating and resting at which the starter was added to the water to make the dough. Get friendly with the dough at each stage and learn what it needs along the journey.

Scientific test coming: Whether dough rises better and bread is of higher quality if starter is at a phase where it will float in water or whether rising time will vary, but bread quality not affected.

Essentially a do over
Used the breadtopia spelt sourdough recipe. Same as Bread #7, but this time with starter instead of yeast, and no sweetener. The recipe comes with two in-depth videos that effectively walk one through the process. Recommended for beginners. In my three variations, I used different starters, the third time with a spelt starter. I also varied the sizes of the loaf, the rising times, the number of stretch and folds, and the baking times.

[Photo of starter right after being fed.]
280 g water
11 g spelt starter
424g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
oats for coating dough (before placing in oven)

Mixed water and starter first. Starter did not float. Added flour and then salt. Really enjoying the digital scale. Easy to use and clean. Very precise measurements in grams or ounces.

I did three stretch and folds at intervals of 20 to 30 minutes. I admit that I varied the number and the timing of the stretch and folds without any apparent consequences for the dough. [Photos are two different doughs after the third stretch and folds.]

Afterward, I let the dough rise on the counter for about five hours, perhaps less. Any more, at least in a springtime kitchen, was too much. Place in fridge or proceed to final rise and baking. I left mine in the fridge on the second try for 26 hours and that seemed like too much. I think the dough went past its peak rise. 

Shaping and Preparation
Breadtopia man recommends an easy shaping technique for this bread. Essentially, take "corners" of the dough and bring into the center so that the dough becomes a sphere. Then handle around for 30 seconds or so until the shape becomes a classic boule. It is described on breadtopia as an alternative to a direct degassing technique, such as punching down the dough. Then refine the shape further if necessary. 

Leave the dough on a well-floured board, loosely covered in plastic, for 15 minutes.

At this point, prepare your bowl, banneton, or basket for the dough's final rise. I used a bowl sprayed with baking spray. I poured some oats over the baking spray so that what would become the top of the bread would be covered with oats. That worked out well - plus there were plenty of nice, roasted oats that fell off at some point in the oven. Quite tasty.

I turned on the oven to 500 degrees to get it nice and hot. Be sure to put in the la cloche and baking stone or whatever you are using to create a steamy environment in the oven. My oven seems to need a good hour to get that hot, according to an independent thermometer, though the oven claims to heat up much faster. 

At 15 minutes, place the dough in the bowl or whatever. Allow the bread to enjoy its final rise for an hour to an hour and a half. Mine lost its shape, which made me nervous, . This dough was sufficiently dry to get in the oven with just flour on the baking peel, but I admit that parchment paper is better insofar as it reduces anxiety and does not seem to compromise the bottom of the bread.

Turn the dough gently onto the peel if you are using one. Just before putting the dough in the oven, score your line or design on top. I always do a star with the bread knife, which generally, if I'm lucky, produces a cross. I am getting tempted to go out and buy razor blades to do some fancy scoring.

Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees. I put a note right near the oven to remind me because I forget this part. 

At 30 minutes, remove top of la cloche and parchment paper. Take the bread's temperature. Mine was 203 degrees at this point. It was good to have this information as otherwise I certainly would have left the bread in the oven for too long. In fact, I did that the first two times. I was so excited that the thermometer was already proving its value. 

A nice crackle. A beautiful bread. Two hours later: A heavenly taste. I waited for a late breakfast of tea and butter on the spelt sourdough. So, so good. I ate half of it before the afternoon was done.  It's the cross on top. Works every time. I'm still Jewish. No plan to convert just because the cross seems to be the good luck charm.

The best part is that I made a wonderful bread with my own starter.

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