Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bread - Number 24: Indestructible and One-Third Whole Wheat

Bread - Number 24: You cannot ruin this mostly white bread

This one-third whole wheat bread dough could probably be dropped on the floor and stomped on and would still turn out decently. I love that, but wish this were so with more whole grain doughs. This bread is based on Bread #5, Part 2, but with starter and with previous volume-based measurements adjusted for weight measurements.The great news is that the starter works just as well as the commercial yeast. It is possible to use a small amount and a long rising time for wonderful results. I prefer long rising times for taste and for the convenience of being able to go out to work all day. 

I baked this bread twice because the first time it ended up a bit pasty, as if wet. I needed to trust my instincts and use my own weight-adjusted measurements instead of those on even trustworthy websites. Just because someone else says that one cup of bread flour is the equivalent of 128 grams of bread flour does not mean that your cup of bread flour, or anything else that you have been using to make delicious breads, is that same 128 grams. It might be 139 grams or 160 grams. 

The second time, I measured a cup of the whole wheat flour and then a cup of the bread flour and transcribed my measurements for each. The dough, magically, was more like cake batter and less pancake-like. The results were much improved, with just the smallest bit of wetness still left in the dough. There was a beautiful crumb and a lovely crust. This good, even lacking the good-luck cross/star slashed into the top of the dough before it went into the oven.

There's a movement? And has it already passed me by?
When making this sourdough starter and the dough, I kept hearing Michael Pollan on the radio, seeing references to him on twitter, and clicking links to watch his television news appearances. His presence gives gravitas to a movement of which I was unaware until recently. Slow food is quickly going mainstream. Now, people beyond Brooklyn and Portland are fermentation experts. Before I started this 108 breads project, I did not know about starters, the supposed health benefits of fermentation, or the existence of locally-milled flours. Actually, I had no idea of the universe of flours, books, and products in which one could become immersed, if not obsessed.

I had never seen a sauerkraut recipe or passionate descriptions of any. The idea of homemade sauerkraut would have caused my eyes to roll. Now I am the crazy person considering burying the jar of fermenting sauerkraut in the backyard per a friend's/another crazy person's recipe. But then he is the one who loaned his copy of 52 Loaves to me and started this whole obsession in the first place.

As usual, I am slow, and quite late to slow food. As it happens, however, I gave up most sugars and white flours years ago. Hardly ever let my children near an antibiotic and I consider a Diet Coke something for a special occasion. (Though every few years there are months of a daily diet soda.) Slow food was something I started before I was aware I was doing anything. Oh, and this week I give up all cakes, cookies and pastries for at least one year. I would rather have a nice slice of bread.

143 g. whole wheat flour (one cup)
332 g. bread flour (two cups)
1 1/2 cups water
11 g. starter
1/2 tbsp salt

Very simple. No sponge, levain builds, poolishes, bigas or other preliminary dough stages. Just a good bread that is pretty much indestructible. Mix all ingredients. Let stand for 12 hours in a bowl that is loosely covered in plastic. Place dough in fridge for up to a couple of days or move on to preparation for baking. I kept my dough in the fridge for six hours, but I have left it in for more than a day.

Forgot to keep notes, so probably did usual shaping and left out for an hour to an hour and a half. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with la cloche top and baking stone inside. Also, I did not write down how long I left it in the oven, so probably 40 to 45 minutes. A bit distracted with the new internal thermometer, which is mostly good. One should be careful to insert the thermometer into the center of the bread and not all the way almost to the bottom.

The taste was fantastic. An easy bread and a cheap thrill of feeling like a skilled baker. And the bread looks beautiful. Okay, the photograph of the bread cut open reveals its fault.

Just to have something to shoot for, the dough needed to rise some more.

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