Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bread Number 93: Rosemary Is Name of the Game

OMG! I would put one gram of rosemary - about half a handful for my small hands - in every bread after this. What a flavor boost and such a nice aroma. Plus, the stuff grows totally wild even in the cold. Who knew? I was just experimenting and I am generally against all ingredients beyond the basics of flour, water, natural leavening culture, and salt, with the exception of caraway seeds, sesame seeds, or maybe flaxseed meal or wheat bran. 

I made this bread twice and it was a big hit both times. If it had not been for the gentle prodding not to overdo a good thing, I might never leave out rosemary again. Spectacular!

Ingredients and instructions for a  possibly three-day bread

Day 1 - Sponge
100g starter
210 to 220g water (I used more than 200 because my starter was stiff)
190 to 200g bread flour (same as the water, but used less when my starter had a relatively low moisture level)

Mix and cover. I usually leave out this sponge for eight hours in a warm kitchen. For a cool kitchen, in the high 50s to 60s Fahrenheit, I can go 10 to 12 hours, which equals to a whole work day. To truly get convenience, mix the sponge in the evening, put it in the fridge, and take it out to rest in the room temperature for an entire work day.

Day 2 - Dough
The sponge, having rested on the kitchen counter in the room temperature for eight to 12 hours, should be nice and bubbly, exuberant looking, in fact. When you see this, you have a window of an hour or two to complete the mixing of the dough, depending on how bubbly the sponge is and how warm the room is. I am always more careful in the hot weather, but this is a very friendly, flexible bread to make. Don't be anxious.

Leave sponge in its bowl and, in a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients. When they are mixed thoroughly, add them to the sponge. Then it will be time to mix in the water.

50 to 75g farro flour
200 to 220 whole wheat flour
0 to 50g white flour
Make sure the flour adds up to 300g
11g salt
1g fresh rosemary, cut into 1/8 to 1/3 inch pieces and washed
102 to 115g water

With the flour mix, it depends on what I have in the house, how late it is, and whether I want a lighter or heavier bread.

Mix all of the dry ingredients, then put in them in the sponge. Add water and mix thoroughly, about five to 10 minutes by hand.

Then do four stretch and folds at 15 to 30-minute intervals. I write a checklist of 1-4 on a piece of paper so that I do not lose count. The dough should get progressively less fragile and more cohesive with each stretch. I am usually rushing or in the middle of other things, so I generally do 15 or 20 minutes.

Cover the dough bowl and refrigerate for 24 to 30 hours. I usually go for 24, but with a similar bread, I was not up for midnight baking, so I left it overnight and baked instead at 6 a.m. A routine, amazing bread resulted. I weighed late night baking against a 6 a.m. wakeup to fire up the oven.

Day 3 - Baking prep and oven time
What I take out to prepare for baking:
My super-hot-oven mitts
Lame (French name for a super-sharp instrument, but you can use a bread knife, for slashing lines in the dough before baking)
Tiny water bowl
Pastry brush
Food thermometer

Preheat oven to 500 degrees for one hour. I preheat with the baking stone and top of la cloche in the oven. These need to be very hot to be ready for the dough. I used the oblong la cloche the second time, which family members prefer, because they think (and they are correct) it is easier to cut an oblong bread than a boule. With the oblong la cloche, I preheat the oven with both the top and bottom.
I made the first one as a boule  and the second as an oblong bread. Either way, I quickly shaped the dough into either a round  or oblong mass, then sprinkled generously with water, and made a cross-slash on top of the middle of the dough.

For putting the dough actually into the oven, I either do it with wet hands and accept that the bottom of the dough will be a little imperfect, or I sprinkle rice flour onto a baking peel (also used for pizzas) and then slide the dough onto the baking stone. Then cover with top of la cloche. I have found that my breads do better this way than with the ice or water technique.

Rice flour
For the oblong breads, I ALWAYS put a thin layer of rice flour in the hot - be careful - bottom of the oblong la cloche. This will prevent sticking and it is so much more pleasant to slide the bread out when it is ready than to use a knife to wedge (is that a verb?) it out, hoping that you do not separate a chunk of the bread while doing so.

For the two versions I baked at 500 for 20 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 475. Total baking time was 45 minutes for the boule and 35 minutes for the oblong bread.

It is nice to have a food thermometer and know that the bread is done inside. I usually take it out at 195 to 203 degrees. Another factor is whether the thermometer probe is wet or gunky - a technical term - with moist dough when you pull it out. It gives me confidence because often breads appear on the outside to be done quite a while (even eight minutes) before they are ready inside.

Taste? Spectacular! The little bit of rosemary adds such a nice scent and taste. You will feel so professional and you might want to save this bread just for yourself. Let others have a share and smile when you get compliments.

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