Sunday, December 16, 2007

The bread saga continues

The first couple of loaves were pretty good - great taste, but the overbrowning was annoying me. I went back to the original NY Times recipe to start again. So I made a double batch of dough - doubling each ingredient, but substituting 5 oz (1 cup or so) wholewheat flower for the equivalent quantity of AP flour.

The consistency of the dough reminded me of being a "bricklayer's mate" - the poor schmuck who has to move barrow loads of wet cement around so the brickie has a ready supply of "muck". The texture of this dough was just like the same texture as the cement. I was not encouraged.

Now I understand why the original recipe calls for towels and not parchment. The towels allow flour to be incorporated into the weave, and they wick a little liquid away. I didn't use towels :-(

After the 17 hour rest, the dough had great bubbles, it shown a propensity to rise, but was still more starter consistency than bread dough consistency.

Dumping onto a floured counter, it immediately spread as wide as it could. So I dusted it with four, folded it a couple of times and let it rest. After it had occupied the whole space, and rested well, I shaped it (more like corralled than shaped) into parchment paper in a small skillet for the final rise.

The final rise was more of a 2-dimensional affair. It did rise vertically a bit, but not enough. However it spread widely.

No matter, I though, all this extra water will create extra steam - gotta be good for the crust So into the pot (this time 450 degree going to 400) dutch oven and it was baking. This time, although it didn't rise enough, it also didn't overbrown. The flavor was excellent, although to my surprise, I think the addition of beer and vinegar in the Cooks Illustrated recipe, gave a deeper flavor. So the result is a loaf that is about 8" in diameter and 2" high. Great crust, good flavor, fairly open crumb, but not what I would call a loaf. More a giant hockey puck.

Major lesson learned here is not to use cooking spray. It seems as if cooking spray actually helps the crust to overbrown. So for this one, no spray and a better crust. However, I changed so many things that I don't know if the cooking spray made a difference or not.

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