Monday, January 2, 2017

Miraculous Remake: Bread Number 76 = Tons of Water + Anxiety

Now there are two proofs that a divine presence exists in the universe: (1) I have parallel parked (seldom, but it has happened), and (2) a glob of a dough turned into an amazing bread.

I remade bread #76 with changes, making it larger and with some fresh rosemary. I have been working for so long with my standard recipe, with slight variations, that I had forgotten what it is like to babysit a dough and not know when it will be ready. Felt like the parent of a newborn.

501g whole wheat flour
523g water

Mix, cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

100g starter
1g fresh rosemary
11g salt
104 percent hydration makes for a dough, but a wet one.

Let rest for 20 minutes and tried to do two stretch and folds, each 20 minutes apart. Actually ended up kneading for about a minute each time. Let rest to rise, covered, of course.

Anxiety and time pressure
At 3.5 hours I did a slight mix/knead because some  liquid had pooled slightly around the edges. At 6.66 hours, the volume of the dough was looking good, much expanded, but not popping of  a few large bubbles - think pizza, not sponge or starter bubbles.

Math skills off: I thought I had nine hours to let dough rest, but I had only seven, and dough was being prepared for New Year's Eve dinner party for which husband was whipping up a storm of impressive appetizers, soup, and many dishes. On the plus side, the dough smells heavenly with the freshly ground wheat flour mixed in with the rosemary. Love that fresh rosemary right off the backyard plant. You have to love a plant that thrives without any maintenance whatsoever.

So, at 6.8 hours, did a stretch and fold, though not sure at 104 percent hydration, with wet hands and a goopy, though cohesive, dough, whether one can actually call what I did a stretch and fold.

Moving on blindly
Now we go into uncharted territory.

Toping ingredients:
rice flour
sesame seeds
ground flaxseed (not flaxseed meal)

Start with rice flour and sprinkle generously into a bowl. Rice flour is between you and sticky disaster of a dough that will not come out of the bowl. Then follow with sesame seeds and ground flaxseed. These will add to taste and look lovely. Cover bowl with plastic, beeswax, wet towel, or, in my case, a shower cap that gets reused a million times.

Promise myself NOT to touch dough for 1.25 hours.

Because dough is quite wet, I decide to use the Dutch oven.  AND sprinkle generously with rice flour before putting Dutch oven in the oven. Why? I have never tried this before. Usually I do my sprinkling, if any, of rice flour over a million-degree oven just before placing the dough inside and the Dutch oven gets particularly hot and scary. But I'm in an experimental, though anxious, mood. I know the rice flour will burn, but maybe it will work and save a good 30 seconds of accumulated heat when I plop that dough in the awesomely hot Dutch oven in an hour.

Preheat oven to 480 degrees with Dutch oven - and its rice flour - inside. Wait for an hour.

1. Grammatical tense agreement, as you see, has gone out the window.
2. More anxiety to follow.

I am anxious because I did the rice flour thing in the dough bowl instead of spraying or wiping it with oil. I could have put on sesame seeds and flaxseeds just before baking. Will the dough stick to the bowl like the gloopy mess it could be and not even make it into the oven? What was I thinking? And will the burned rice flour at the bottom of the Dutch oven ruin whatever chances of a good bread?

For the hour of anxiety I do KP duty and attempt to keep up with cleaning of bowls, measuring cups, and other accoutrements of husband's prolific cooking. This will end up making no difference as the next morning I clean up for three hours, which had been preceded by three minutes of wondering how to start and thoughts of never again having a clean kitchen. I must say that the water in the sink the next morning was about as dirty and greasy as an environmentally toxic disaster area. 

In theory
Experimentation, innovation, all wonderful  in theory, but not safe and when compared to the recipe followers of this world with their known outcomes and their accomplishments of set goals time after time, one can doubt. In fact, doubt is part of all creativity and seeking really. Certainty keeps one in the same hole. Enough philosophy; back to bread.

I was imagining a messy disaster and felt I was merely going through the motions to see how badly this bread would turn out. It was a mess of a dough - no shape. It could not be placed on the counter, shaped, slashes done on top. No, I plopped it, in the purest sense of the term, quite unglamorously into the bottom - really bottom corner, if a circular-shaped bottom can have  a corner - of the Dutch oven. I quickly sprinkled some more ground flaxseed and sesame seeds on top, put the top on the Dutch oven, and prayed, but only briefly because this was not going to turn out well.

Baking results - must peek
Baking time: 45 minutes at 480 degrees, the whole time covered with top of Dutch oven so could not peek.

OMG! Miracle! Show tunes practically blasting in the air, though only I am hearing them. A gorgeous, deep brown bread with perfectly sprinkled organic, artisanal stuff on top. This unattractive, unshapen dough was actually the ugly duckling of a later incredible Cinderella of a bread, a perfect dinner party ooh-it's-beautiful-and-delicious-amazing bread. Resorting to mixing fairy tale metaphors inappropriately. Cinderella was always beautiful; she just needed time off, nicer clothes, and definitely a shower.

Kept eating it the next few days as the husband enjoyed his frozen bagels over the winter break. More bread for me. Incredible and must make again. Perhaps anxiety was key ingredient.

Divine bread making spirit in the universe - only half kidding
Received so much more than I deserved unless bread deity believes, like me, that worrying produces good results. Perhaps a kindred spirit. Deity of bread making clearly was smiling upon me with favor. I felt blessed and relieved that dinner party bread did not turn out to be punishment for experimenting. Grace, gratitude, and selfishness.

Taste: Fantastic, amazing, great. Do not want to share.

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