Friday, November 14, 2014

Bread: Number 59: Eating the Blue(s) Cornmeal Rolls

Chuckling all the way through, I made purplish rolls with the blue cornmeal a certain family member purchased, adjusting a Hamelman Bread recipe for sourdough instead of commercial yeast and for a mid-day felafel run that necessitated using the fridge instead of continuing with the recipe that assumes one does not have a life and only exists in the kitchen (something the dog would like).
The photograph does not do justice to the purple-colored, cement-like appearance of the dough. Not quite the color of Bridget Jones' soup debacle, my dough was more a mixture of a Northwestern University t-shirt with white bread flour. This weekend I intend to go all out and make blueberry corn muffins with the blue cornmeal and plenty of butter. That batter will be absolutely purple, I'm sure.

The recipe was easy and it was no trouble to make the switch to sourdough. I also fell in love again with Hamelman's prose, his adorable acknowledgment of his wife's drawings for the book, and his reverence for bread making. Really, how can one not read prose by a man who makes bread and quotes Pablo Neruda? Incentive enough to read the book again, this time my own copy so I can basically highlight whole sections about ingredients, techniques and stages of dough development. 

Just one thing to remember, which is that this dough begins with a pre-ferment sponge development of 12 to 16 hours, though mine took only nine hours because I put it in my tiny closet, the only place in my house that stays warm overnight during the winter. Despite a 5:15 a.m. wake up to check the pre-ferment - poolish in Hamelman lingo - and then stay conscious to complete the dough, no disasters ensued.

I noted all the ingredients in grams as I am totally out of the habit of referring to pounds or ounces.

95g sourdough starter at 100 percent hydration
8g water
8g bread flour

Mix and cover. Leave to rest for 12 to 16 hours, or, in my case, with a mature starter comprising an overwhelming percentage of the poolish and resting in a warm spot, nine hours. I half considered letting the poolish go for another few hours, but it was looking at me with the equivalent of the imploring eyes of a sweet dog that needs to go outside right away.

When it is ready for the next step, the poolish should be nice and bubbly, exuberant in its look and smelling of the dough to come.

Okay, the reason for using so much starter to flour and water was that I had quite a bit of starter on hand and I wanted to get rid of some. In the middle of the summer, when the kitchen is hot even overnight, I would do just the opposite and put in maybe 10 grams of starter, 50 grams of bread flour and 50 grams of water. That way you will have enough time to sleep. Despite my 5 a.m. wake up on this and other doughs, I at least give lip service to avoiding sleep deprivation.

Must admit the middle of the night awakening was due to a concern that I work on the bread with enough time to accompany the spouse for a felafel lunch at the best place for felafel outside of the Middle East, in an innocuous strip mall at a divey-looking kosher eatery in Wheaton, Maryland, just north of Silver Spring and about 20 minutes from DC. The name is Max's

113g cornmeal
172g water

Just need to mix the cornmeal with water and allow the cornmeal to soak for 15 minutes. Obviously, do this in a different bowl than the poolish is resting in, but when the poolish seems ready to advance to the next phase of dough making.

cornmeal soaker
227g bread flour
8g salt
8g olive oil (yes, I feel weird here going outside of the flour, yeast, water, salt purity) 

Mix all together, very well. I did this all by hand and it needed wet hands to really integrate the ingredients. I kneaded for about three or five minutes, then covered and set the dough to rest for 30 minutes. I did a stretch and fold at 30 minutes and another at one hour. That made for two stretch and folds during the 90 minute bulk fermentation.  

Not auditioning yet
Because this looked like a dough on the small side, and because I had just watched the Great British Bake-Off bread episode the night before, I made rolls instead of a loaf. Also, the purple-colored dough seemed to demand something different than the usual treatment. However, the disparate sizes of my rolls, their unusual color, and my rather spontaneous approach to baking would definitely have gotten me escorted out of the bake-off tent prior to the judging. I can hear the gasps now.

I shaped the dough into four rolls, placed them each in a separate, very small well-floured bowl, covered all with my granola-equivalent to plastic wrap (the bee's wax cover) and put them in the refrigerator while I accompanied the spouse to his dental appointment, located conveniently near our favorite felafel place. The dentist, in my own defense, was not chosen for the location.

I left the dough in the fridge for six hours and took out the bowls for the dough to rise according to the directions for a 1.25 hour final rise. I preheated the oven to 460 degrees (but did not use the top of the la cloche due to a skepticism that the four rolls would be too tightly spaced). 

Despite the bowls having been filled on the bottom with flour, they were the wrong materials - glass and porcelain - for rising dough. I should have used well-floured kitchen towels inside the bowls. No matter. A little bit of handling and reshaping caused no damage.

I used parchment paper on a baking peel to transfer the dough onto the baking stone and then quickly filled a casserole pan (not made of glass) with a cup of water for good oven steam. Due to the quicker baking time for rolls than for a loaf of bread, I removed the parchment paper at 10 minutes and kept a close eye after that. To prevent drying out, I kept the oven door ajar after the first 10 minutes as well. The rolls only needed 15 to 17 minutes total, the smaller ones being removed early.

The taste was very good and the purple rather lovely to those who noticed. Not quite the equivalent of a neon blue candied apple. 

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