Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bread Number 69: Outstanding Bread, Clumsy Position (in Dutch Oven)

I figured out this weekend that I hate parties. I like the idea of a party, but once I arrive the whole gathering is just people standing around talking, often in a crowded, noisy space. I'd rather be talking to the same people without the party. Or I could be home looking at a dough, painting  or studying. In fact, I find more and more that I value my time alone. I'm living so much of my life in my closet, doing my artwork and studying there, including much of the writing of this blog. Ha, ha, yes, literally in the closet, though actually a tiny room.

One wet bread 
At one percent below 80 percent hydration, this was one wet dough; given the number of the bread - 69, there is no minimum to the mileage on the double entendres. The position referred to in the title of this post has nothing to do with sex; it's the unlikely placement of the dough - super wet - in the Dutch oven. I was glad, frankly, to get it in there at all. 

In this dough are an arbitrary mix of different flours, mixed in intentional proportions - teff and coconut flours, whole wheat flour and bread flour. I used the cold of the kitchen to extend the sponge phase. I also did a soaker for a few hours before mixing it into the sponge, a pretty wet sponge. I used so much bread flour because the last bread bothered me with its lack of oven spring. And the oven spring here was divine. That white flour, darn it, can't be beat in this respect. 

By the way, all of these unusual flours, as well as the whole wheat flour, I keep in the freezer to preserve freshness. I'm still thinking of a way to get fresh, local grain to grind myself, but I'm not there yet. Except for the fresh-ground flour guy at a different farmers market downtown DC, I have no connection to the local grain scene, if there is indeed one at all.

24 percent whole grain.
79 percent hydration - calculating with the hydration percentage of my starter, such as I guess it is. I almost never measure what goes into the starter.

50g teff flour
20g coconut flour
90g water

Mix and cover. I waited 3.5 hours, but this could have sat overnight.

114g water
73g starter
58g bread flour

Mix and cover. I let this sponge rest for 17.5 hours because the cold kitchen overnight meant activity in the sponge came to a standstill. It waited for the heat to be turned on in the morning to become exuberantly bubbly, with larger bubbles than I usually see in a preferment. Three hours of warm kitchen air did the trick.

218g water
336g bread flour
70g whole wheat flour
10g salt

The mixing took quite a while as I added little bits of more flour to decrease the mushy, wet texture of the emerging dough. 

Total ingredients
50g teff flour
20g coconut flour
394g bread flour
70g whole wheat flour
73g starter
422g water
10g salt

Mix and cover the dough. I did three stretch and folds in the first 90 minutes - at 45 minutes, 60 minutes and at 80 minutes. Now, with such a wet dough, the stretch and fold will be less doughy than with a less hydrated dough. Also, remember to wet your hands before manipulating this dough so that it will not stick to your hands. 

I let the dough sit for three hours in a warm kitchen, maybe 70 degrees. As this bread was being made by feel, pretty much, I looked at that dough quite frequently, staring at it, pondering whether to hold tight or move on.

Pause- advice for when you're in New York
Not sure why it felt important to get this bread done by evening when New York bagels were coming home via my husband's trip there. You can't buy just enough bagels. No, buy a dozen - make that a baker's dozen - and then freeze them. But the real reason to buy a bagel is to make a delicious platform for fish so sublime you will groan when you eat it. I'm not kidding, we actually scream out, exiled New Yorkers that we are, about how good it is.

First, a schmear, a thin layer of cream cheese, followed by red onion pieces flattened. Then the fish - some baked salmon (called kippered salmon in DC); be generous; followed by thin, translucent, freshly sliced nova lox. Do not buy anything packaged or even sliced that morning. That is not fresh. That is a reason to give a dirty look, as in are you kidding me? That's so far from fresh it does not dignify an explanation.

No, go to a place where they slice in front of you and so thinly that you have pantyhose thicker, definitely tights, than what is being cut. While you eat, appreciate, and keep munching between bites on tastes of the baked salmon without any embellishment, just on a fork, or, really, on your finger. If you are lucky, very lucky, or skilled you will make bread that gives you the same sublime happiness as a nice bagel with lox and baked salmon. Now that is eating.

(If you're a tourist, 72nd Street Bagel, on 72nd between Broadway and Columbus, is very good and close to the park. They'll make something decent for you.)

Baking preparation
The dough rose very nicely in the three hours and with that good puffiness from emerging bubbles, large and small. Did a stretch and fold on a well-floured board and left the dough covered for 15 minutes. It spread. Use plenty of flour, more than usual, for covering hands and board. I'll be repetitive. This is a wet dough.

After 15 minutes, I shaped the dough, though the wetness meant that no shape would be sustained without some structure. I shaped, using more flour for the cutting board, and left the dough covered for another hour. 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the dutch oven inside. I figured the dutch oven would give the shape that the dough could not hold on its own. Before putting the dough in, I did the slash while it sat on the board instead of dealing with the intense heat with the oven and dutch oven open. That thing can generate a scary heat.

After plopping the dough in the dutch oven and quickly covering it, I reduced the oven temperature to 460 degrees. That dough plopped on the side of the dutch oven had no shape whatsoever. Worried. I quickly took off to pick up my husband at the local train station, leaving my daughter nominally in charge of the oven situation. This is what cell phones are for. I took the kitchen timer with me, returning with four minutes to spare. Total oven time was 44 minutes, with the last two uncovered. (Oh don't judge that I left a neophyte in charge of the bread. I had two non-negotiable, simultaneous tasks: my husband returning home and my dough ready for the oven. Due to the timer and cell phone, neither had to be sacrificed.)

One nice bread
Lovely oven spring. Gorgeous crust. I did not listen because we were in a rush to eat the bagels and the lox sliced by my favorite Zabar's guy. The next morning, I had my favorite day-off breakfast of hot water and buttered bread (okay, I do that at the office as well). OMG great! The crust had almost a malted taste and such crunchy crust. Sublime. Can't wait to eat more. (No comments from the peanut gallery about how my favorite breakfast is dangerously close to prison food).

P.S. A second try at this bread almost resulted in disaster. I did the final stretch and fold, shaping, and final rise on wet surfaces, which went quite well, only to have the bread stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven at the end of baking. Fortunately, a couple of bread buddies on the freshloaf forum offered suggestions. After I followed their directions and loosened the bread (I'm not backing away from that position), my husband came along and swiftly liberated the loaf. I also did a long autolyse and a longer soak. Have to say, not my favorite combination of grains, but solidly good. Did not feel OMG great this time, perhaps due to fear that this bread almost did not make it unscathed out of the dutch oven.

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