It feels good to begin to emerge from the last few months of fog and hectic activity. More on the horizon with travels and the Jewish holidays approaching, but somehow I am grounded again and home for a while, as if being here is antidote enough. I have not actually looked at nor posted anything on any bread forums for months, not even my favorite fresh loaf. With work of late resembling the Lucy and Ethel chocolate factory assembly line, only with more interesting work, though not as tasty, my time triage did not make space for conversing about bread or perusing anyone else's wisdom.
No, I have spent more time on art and language studying, giving myself credit for learning even though the learning is slow. The artwork is more therapy than the bread making; I never feel anxious about how anything will turn out, which is always the case with bread however experienced I become.
Barley and whole wheat - okay
Freshly milled flour can make up for many sins. It smells delicious as the dough comes together and it produces wonderful breads. The milling machine is a little noisy, but that's only for a few minutes while the grinding happens. It is cool to watch the flour magically emerge from the chute and fall into the bowl. I feel one step closer to nature, about the same distance I feel when shopping at the farmers market and talking to actual farmers (our market requires one present at each stall).
For breads #79 and 80, I made pretty much the same bread twice, two different ways, with the exact same results. Don't get me wrong, the barley and whole wheat breads tasted fine, but we've been spoiled. The bar is set so high when one eats homemade sourdough bread all the time that it takes quite a bit to be impressed. That said, these were fine, good-tasting, breads. Good breakfast of two slices with a little butter. I will finish the barley berries bag, but I won't rush out to purchase another.
For both breads, I did a sponge and an autolyse phase before adding salt to mix the complete dough. Bread #79 had a long first rise of the complete dough. Bread #89 had an overnight sponge phase and 2.5 hour first rise. The ingredients were roughly the same (details below). I expected completely different results, but got pretty much the same bread. A somewhat dense crumb, decent oven spring (considering the proportion of whole wheat and barley flours), and a very nice crust.
Ingredients in total
water - 349g (384g)
starter - 173g (101g)
bread flour - 28g (64g)
barley flour - 94g (98g)
whole wheat flour - 350g (359g)
salt - 11g
sesame seeds on top (optional)
Bread #79 amounts are listed first and bread #80 amounts are in parentheses. Any small difference in amounts were due to my penchant for using all of the freshly-milled flour. Significant differences were due to the decision to use a rather large amount of starter for bread #79, but not for bread #80.
All of the starter
Water - 70g (201g)
All of the barley flour
All of the bread flour
Mix and cover. I left out overnight in a warm kitchen for bread #80. The sponge looks quite similar to a rye sponge. The sponge will get a little puffy and nicely bubbly, but not exuberantly so. Do not expect something like a sponge that all bread flour will produce.
All of the whole wheat flour
Water - 279g (183g)
Mix, cover, and let sit for about 20 minutes.
Salt - 11g
Mix, cover, and do three stretch and folds, all 25 to 50 minutes apart. Let the dough rise and rest. It needs somewhere between 2.5 and five hours.
Dough texture warning
This dough is not as pliant as an all-wheat dough. It must be handled carefully as even a strong stretch and fold will cause breakage.
Once the bread has risen, I did one more stretch and fold, covered the dough, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Now, preheat the oven to 450 to 470 degrees. Again, I varied the temperature for these breads. It baked somewhat better at 470 degrees.
I preheated the oven with the baking stone and the top of the la cloche.
I shaped the dough following the 15 minute rest and put the dough in a well-floured brotform, which I then covered. Let sit for one hour. For bread #80 I sprinkled sesame seeds on top of the flour on the bottom of the brotform so that the top of the dough would be covered in sesame seeds. Worked like a charm.
I baked at 470 degrees, covering the dough with the top of the la cloche. I baked for a while longer for bread #80, which resulted in a better done interior. Total baking time was 47 minutes.
Nice. A solidly good bread. Not exciting, perhaps not to be repeated even, but good. This iswhat experimenting is about, learning and getting the full spectrum of possible results. Tomorrow, I will eat this bread for breakfast for the fourth day in a row and I look forward to that. Solidly good.