Monday, November 3, 2014

Bread: Number 58 - Spelt/Rye on Okay Combination

I tried this recipe three times and three times it never got beyond mediocre. More than the rising and other issues I worked out, the taste combination just did not work. It was as if the heartiness of the rye and the natural almost sweetness of the spelt cancelled each other out. Perhaps also this continues my sub-par experience with the book the recipe comes from. Though there are nice grain and seed combinations in Wild Sourdough and I do like some of her baking wisdom and grain information, it's not working for me as a source of inspiration or great breads. [Note that the link is to my book review page and this review is toward the bottom. Here's a link to the book.] 

What I did like about the recipe and the one good aspect of the taste was the sourness. The dough includes 300 grams of rye starter, which comes to approximately 20 percent of the total flour. It is a 3:2 starter - three parts water to two parts flour. It took about a week to build it up to 300 grams, so in addition to the effort and attention to making the bread, I spent time all week making sure to have the right amount of starter. No matter, I used the leftover rye starter in my starter hibernation-rejuvenation experiment. Not a loss.

And truth be told, it was not a bad bread, just not really good or great. Still, after three tries, not worth another one. I'll quickly relate the ingredients and instructions. I'm also collapsing the three tries into one narrative because who wants to read or write the details of three mediocre breads of the same ilk.

300 g starter - 3:2 ratio of water to flour 
250g water 
500g spelt flour 
(on the third try, I ran out of spelt flour at 405g and added 50g bread flour and 45g whole wheat flour)
15g salt

Mix all ingredients at once. Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. The Wild Sourdough author recommends a kind of air-and-slap kneading, but I did a combination of kneading and stretch and fold, very little because rye is fragile and does not tends to be best when left alone. Perhaps that was part of the problem here. 

You are supposed to check the dough after another 30-minutes rest, but the recipe fails to provide advice for what to do if the dough is in any way inadequate. Rise for four to six hours. Well, mine in a 65-to-70 degree kitchen was clocking in at nine hours when I finally said - enough, I want this bread made before I go to sleep. I even filled a bowl one-third way with hot water (not terribly hot) and put the dough bowl inside the water bowl so that the dough would get some warmth. It worked and the dough rose and prospered. 

Turn on the oven
At a random time beyond six hours I wasted energy (mea culpa) by turning on the oven and keeping it on - way above 400 degrees - just because I did not know when the dough would be ready. When your kitchen is not at an absurdly cold or hot condition, shouldn't the dough be ready within the range of times given in a recipe? Just got cranky about the whole method recommended and came down to earth because rising times can vary considerably. Many recipes afford six hours of variation in a long rising time and I don't get snitty about that, after all.

Shape and bake - or not
I tried this recipe following and not following the instruction to shape and then bake. No joke, just an instant thought of shake-and-bake 70s bad food that my mother refused to buy and I was curious about, even desiring, at the time in a nine-to-14-year-old way. Shape and bake did not work. I tried stretch and fold, leave for 15 minutes, shape and rest for an hour. No difference. And the results either way were none too impressive upon doing the finger dent test.

Bake and taste
Preheated the oven to the recommended initial heat of 455 degrees, but also tried 500 for the initial phase, though that was not a trial run but rather a mistake. After 10 minutes decrease to 410 degrees. About 45 minutes total. None of the various methods or mistakes produced a wonderful bread. 

Alas, who wants 108 great breads? The choice when deciding what to make would be overwhelming. It's preferable to have some lousy ones so one can remain humble, not consider oneself a bread-head genius and not be deer in the headlights with possible selection overload. Really, it's like being thankful for a bad haircut, but not one where you've had the beautiful tresses shorn off only to decide that a pixie is not for you. That is a disaster. 

Update: Defrosted the half of the bread I had put away and on a second try (or maybe that's a fourth try), it actually tasted pretty good. Nice whole grains and a good sour from the large percentage of starter in the dough. Really enjoyed it.


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