Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bread- Number 56: Seven Days to a Generic White Bread

Warning: Really long and not very informative post. All in all, a bread that could be skipped.

Originally intended as a temporary post because I wanted to try this bread again and  update the post, the post will remain as is. The thought came to me that instead of spending more time on a just-okay white bread, when I already have the perfect white bread recipe, I should move on to interesting grains that I have not tried. The current quest is to experiment beyond whole wheat, spelt and rye. The challah quest is still on hold due to my family's objections to making any changes to my traditional challah recipe.

How a three-day bread became a seven-day bread and turned out just okay

Not a bad or terrible bread, but decidedly mediocre and lacked the character of whole grains. In a world where it is not difficult to make a fantastic bread, why make a mediocre bread again? Oh, the answer is that I suspect this could be a really good, if not great, bread and, if I play around with the recipe, I will find that great bread lurking nearby, waiting for me. As approximately one third of the recipes I have tried fall into this category, I have to convince myself not to spend all of my time rescuing breads that did not go well.

Maybe I should not have taken pictures. I forgot to do the slashing. Both jinxes.

This recipe is based on a summer recipe from Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast by Ken Forkish. I have not yet reviewed the book because I want to try a few recipes.  So far, not enthusiastic. I am not in favor of the lack of sourdough recipes or the exact amounts of time noted without descriptions of the desired texture and appearance at each stage of dough activity.

Sourdough cheapskate
I could not stand the recipe instructions relating to the levain build that advise making what are mass amounts of sourdough starter, the majority of which the recipe declares should be discarded. If I actually baked several breads each week, that would be rational advice because I could otherwise employ that discarded starter. But at present I am making one bread per week, maybe two, and I refuse to waste so much starter.

I used elementary school math to build the levain little by little. All would be used in the bread. I started with 25 grams of my own starter, took out a new, clean jar, and started the levain for this bread. Jars are another class of items I hate throwing away, so I keep a bunch in a kitchen drawer. (Also in this category are plastic bags, the few new ones I still get, rubberbands, markers, shoeboxes and post-it pads.)

I also halved the recipe because I did not want two large loaves. I'm not sure why every baking book, or almost every one, gives two-loaf recipes. Do they think everyone wants so much bread at once?  

Day 1 - Monday evening

Start levain build.
25g starter
8g water
12g bread flour

Mix and cover. Leave out on kitchen counter.

Day 2 - Tuesday
Morning - Put tiny levain build in the fridge during the day because too rushed before work to do the next step. 

Evening - mixed into levain:
33g bread flour
24g water
Mix, cover, and put levain into fridge for 24 hours.

Day 3 - Wednesday evening
Removed levain from refrigerator and let it sit covered on the kitchen counter overnight. 

Day 4 - Thursday morning
Seeing that this recipe will be stretched from three to, perhaps, up to seven days, I am continuing to feed the levain and deducting those feed amounts from the final dough. This morning, I fed the levain with:
65g bread flour
47g water

Mixed, covered and put in fridge.

Day 5 - Friday
Worked at home - for reasons other than this bread - and midday took the dough out of the refrigerator. Took a few minutes to do final levain build. I only added small amounts of flour and water to perk up the levain before doing heavy work on Day 6, the next day.
26g flour
18g water

Mixed, covered and put in fridge.

Day 6 - Saturday
Kitchen was about 78 degrees and took levain out of fridge at 5 a.m. Let the levain sit out on the counter until it was ready to mix into a dough. It was recommended in the recipe that this would take five to six hours. At the tail end of this time would be the autolyse of the water and flour that would be mixed into the final dough.

The kitchen was not nearly as warm as it would be during a typical Washington, DC, summer. The temperature outside was in the 60s. Generally, at this time of year, the morning temperature in the kitchen is 85 degrees and the temperature outside at about 80 degrees. These small differences and the relatively cooler temperatures make a significant timing difference, however.

I kept the levain under a close watch. (Photo: Levain build after four and a half hours.) At 5.5 hours, the levain had almost flattened, so decided to mix the flour and water for the autolyse.

Autolysed the following mixture for 25 minutes.
293g bread flour
362g water

Big mix
Mixed together the autolyse and the levain. Added the 10g salt. Mixed very thoroughly to make sure that the salt, which is difficult to see as it is spread into the dough, was actually spread evenly throughout the dough.

Before going on, here are the total amounts of the ingredients.

Total ingredients
471g water
441g bread flour
10g salt
These numbers include the initial 25g of starter. The hydration percentage was a whopping 107 percent.

Manipulating and resting the dough

After mixing the dough (see photo) , I did four stretch and folds over about an hour and a half, each at 22 to 25-minute intervals. I fit this in during one old friend's visit and going to the movies with other friends, which was quite the challenge and was the reason I shot up in bed panicked just before five in the morning, when I recalled that the final dough is supposed to be refrigerated overnight and baked in the morning, a near impossibility on a Monday morning and too late for early-Monday-morning eating. 

I let the dough rest in the warm kitchen for five hours. (Notice in the photo the dough practically bursting with fat bubbles.)

OMG, this was a wet dough. Makes sense now when I figure out this was a 107 hydration percentage. The recipe instruction that advises flouring one's hands is totally wrong. Do not handle this dough without wetting hands first. Otherwise, trust me, those hands will be covered with a wetter-than-silly-putty substance that resists being pulled off palms and fingers. At five hours, I shaped the dough, which was barely possible due to its consistency, though it was a cohesive dough. Covered it with the bees wrap cover, and left it in the refrigerator for just about 12.5 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees for an hour. I also preheated the oblong la cloche as this is the vessel du jour in the household with the current preference for baguette-shaped breads. This means storing the dough on parchment paper in an oblong-shaped container and taking the easy way out to transfer the dough to the hot la cloche using the non-sticky, easy-to-handle parchment paper. 

This is a dough that goes straight from fridge to oven. For yet another time, I forgot to use my lame for pretty slashes. I immediately reduced the oven temperature to 475 degrees. The bread baked for 38 minutes, but I think I should have removed it at 33 or 34. It was beautiful, a completely classic-looking baguette. What promise in that appearance. Beautiful color and oven spring.

  But, alas, looks are not everything, as we've all been taught; it was a white bread and not an incredible one. The taste lacked the character and depth of a good whole grain bread and did not supply the cheap, delicious taste of a really good white bread.

Very excited to escape plastic wrap
My new purchase, used for the first time with this bread, was bee's wax covering, called Bee's Wrap, which operates as a reusable plastic-like wrap. It is made of cotton and treated with bee's wax and jojoba oil. Bee's Wrap is a small business in Vermont that seems like a cross between a commune and Santa's workshop. On a different note, if several bees contribute to the wax, should this be bees' wax and not bee's wax?

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