June 13, 2011
Been in a bit of a lull, going nearly a week without baking any bread. Somehow it's easy to get distracted by the things that mean nothing to me. This loaf was a great way to get me back on track. And I couldn't be bothered to pay for supermarket bread. Decent bread requires a planned trip and a bit of coin if you live where I do.
[250W - 250WM - 220LE - 350WA] autolyse 25 minutes (1700-1730)
[10SA - 50WA] mix, stretch and fold every 30 min (1730-1930)
Bench rested 30 minutes (1930-2000), retarded for 11 hours (2000-0700)
I probably under-fermented this dough in the first round, so I gave it a bit of time in the fridge to make up for it. The dough expanded quite well over 11 hours and nearly spilled out of the loaf tin that I used to retard it in. After removing it from the refrigerator the dough was still slightly wet with my lightly floured fingers just barely tugging the dough as I removed it from the tin onto the baking sheet. After tucking in the sides a bit, flouring the top, and slashing the loaf, I sprayed it with water and shoved it into a steamed oven.
In case I haven't gone over this in a while, when I bake free-form loaves I first heat an extra pan at the bottom of the oven and pour boiling water into it as I put the loaf in to bake. This instantly generates a dense plume of steam that tries to escape the oven. The oven I use is vented for whatever reason, so I lose the steam eventually, but the trick is to lose as little as possible from the get-go. It's the home baker's raiders of the lost ark moment. Pour water, jam the loaf in, shut door. Not as elegant a procedure as you might hope. In any case, there only needs to be enough steam to hydrate the dough as it forms the crust. Once that's happened, the water inside the dough expands the loaf as the heat evaporates (not sure if there's a technical term for this) and the crust contains most of the steam.
Total baking time was 1:20 - I think this may be my sweet spot. Sometimes I wish I had baked slightly less, sometimes slightly more, but at 1:20 I'm usually happy with the color, just depends on the shape of the loaf whether the crust cooks evenly. On this particular loaf the very top of the loaf might have had a bit too much heat but tastes fine.
The crust was light and airy but still crunchy (was definitely not as thick as my older loaves) - the retarding has really changed the texture of my loaves, but maybe for the better. The very outside crust tends to be a thin and fragile layer separated by a web of crust and mostly air that gives way to a thicker and softer inner crust that's darker in color than the crumb. I'm quite happy to have this sort of crust, which seems to disintegrate when I'm trying to cut the loaf but has a great texture and means less cuts in my mouth from bread because it's thinner and lighter. The crumb was nothing to write home about, not super moist but not dry, well structured and medium dense. I think the pattern of the bubbles shows that this bread was better shaped and fermented - compared to 038, the bubbles are more round, less stretched, etc. This bread would also make a great toast, like most of my mixed country breads have.
Submitted to YeastSpotting