Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bread Number 68: Exploring Anxiety Via Ancient Grains

Anxiety is a luxury when one is making one bread at a time
Even at bread #68, I hover over doughs, mired in pondering whether a dough is ready in one way or another. What has improved, I think, more than the accumulation of knowledge is the development of instinct. Though experts differ on ways to handle and develop doughs, the instinct that whispers wait or move forward is never wrong. Really - though not before seven in the morning.

The luxury of hovering over one piece of dough is the reason why I should never open a bread bakery. I would be in over my head dealing with 20 pieces of dough, and that per type of bread - AND every single day. Gives me a sinking feeling of gloom in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it.

I felt at one with my ancient foremothers with this bread of spelt and teff. Teff is the flour used to make the Ethiopian bread (pancake-like) injera. Both grains were used throughout the ancient world because they are easy to grow and to work with. Everything I have read endorses the view that ancient grains are healthy. There are plenty of sources that explain the details about health benefits. I won't waste time on that. 

There is some white flour in this bread via my sourdough starter. I was not sufficiently ahead of the curve to grow a spelt sourdough starter, though that is easy and only takes a few days (taking a bit of the mother starter and feeding it with spelt or whatever flour you wish). [Photo: "bread" translated into Hebrew. An ancient language for an ancient set of flours. Rough transliteration is lechem for the word bread.]

Table with ingredient amounts and phases below.
Hydration percentage: 67 percent
All whole grains except for starter, which at 100 percent hydration, would be 26 grams of white flour; not too shabby.

40g teff flour
46g water 
I was going to do 100 percent hydration in the soaker, but some extra water spilled out of the cup into the bowl and I decided to let it stay. Mix and cover. I let the soaker sit for just under four hours (3.85 hours). I could see letting this soaker sit overnight.

225g water
380g spelt flour
Mix and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Then I added the salt because I went off for a few hours and I did not want further gluten development. I let this mixture sit for 3.75 hours. For ease of understanding, the salt is listed in the dough list.

51g starter
10g salt

I mixed everything together, which took hands-on effort because the autolyse is pretty cohesive. I did two stretch and folds about 15 minutes apart. I covered the dough in between, of course. At 10:30 on a Saturday night (exciting nightlife), I covered the dough and left it on the counter in a cold, winter kitchen, which might as well have been the refrigerator. There was little dough progress.

On all other mornings ...
Why is it that on any regular day of the week I can hardly drag myself out of bed before seven, but on a morning when a dough is waiting I pop up at five or six in the morning? I have an internal alarm that goes off and prods me with curiosity to look at the dough. Even when I know little or nothing has happened because the kitchen is cold, I question whether the dough has over-risen because the dough is flat, though in this case because it has barely started to rise. And this after baking at least 200 loaves. Sometimes it feels like I am just as anxious as when I handled the first dough, as if I am gambling with time for a good bread.

At six a.m., the dough was flat and the bubbles seemed to be disappearing. It took hours of being in a warm kitchen for the dough to progress and for bubbles to emerge and for the dough to begin to appear airy. I am talking 2.5 hours. In total, I let the dough rest, covered, for 16.5 hours. At 16.5 hours, the dough was positively puffy. No doubt, the rest period would have been half that in a warmer kitchen.

Let's get outside
I did a stretch and fold, covered, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. I then shaped it, put it on a well-floured kitchen towel, in a small round wicker basket, covered. I refrigerated the dough to give myself a chance for a nice long walk on the sole warm day this winter. Could not miss that.

Three hours later, I removed the dough basket from the fridge. I let it sit out for 90 minutes. 

Preheat the oven one hour prior to baking at 455 degrees. I preheated the oven with the dutch oven inside. Even prior to putting the dough in the oven I was second-guessing the decision to mix teff and spelt. As teff is not a flour to expect any rise from, I was already curious whether better results would come from mixing it with wheat flour.

Carefully handle the hot dutch oven. Plop the dough inside without burning yourself. Make that cross slash in the dough. I am having slash envy as I see artful designs on twitter photos of breads; some intense creative dough slashing at those English bakeries.

Heat at 455 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 420 degrees. Bake for another 29 minutes. Total baking time of 44 minutes. I actually removed the top of the dutch oven for the last four minutes.

What is perfection anyway?
Not the most fantastic oven spring, but respectable. Fantastic taste. Lovely color. Found myself missing a platonic ideal of oven spring, something I should let go of. Again, taste, taste, taste. Can't get enough of this one. Maybe I would add less teff if mixing with spelt again. Curious to try teff with whole wheat and even with white flour.

Here is the ingredients table, which lists when each ingredient was added.

Water 46 225
Spelt flour
Teff flour 40


51 51

10 10

P.S. Spouse's verdict: He likes the breads that rise more. Not a fan of density, even delicious density. All so subjective. I was actually pretty impressed with my handiwork.

P.P.S. The Escali scale is working perfectly fine and was miffed that I insulted its tare function (getting back to zero and staying there) in the previous post. Still, the scale is pleased with my dependence and has gotten over its irritability. I believe this is because I treat it well by keeping it clean and trying to be gentle with it. The scale is aware of my need for it, but knows that our situation may change. It fears that like my grandmother and great-grandmother before me, who never employed any type of scale, that I could graduate to the level of instinct. It wants to be the shiny, dependable gadget, likely jealous of the Danish whisk.

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