Monday, February 28, 2011

the love of dough

For the first time in my life I screwed up bread. How sad. Warning – when it is cold and your tap is running frigid water and warming up slowly – wait...then fill the container you are blooming your yeast in. Dead bread for want of a few seconds.

I have been making a fair amount of bread lately. Both for general use and to make pizza crusts. I have many very fond memories of warm bread after school with my Mom and I believe those early memories are responsible for my love of both eating and making bread. Now that I have a large audience it is nice to be able to experiment.

Leaving aside the sad debacle of last night I have had lots of triumphs. I have successfully altered shapes, crust textures and rising times. And have been steadily improved my pizza crusts.

The most recent crusts have been crisper, had more of the irregular structure that we like and more flavour too. The picture to the right was my best effort.

Last week I twice prepped dough the night before and baked it first thing allowing for fresh bread for breakfast. I take the bread through to shaping and then put it in the fridge. I generally do this fairly late in the evening (9:30-10:00) to ward off over-proofing (though I do not know what that looks/tastes like so I am simply assuming I have been successful). The bread in both cases though has been tasty and tender. I even found that I preferred my multi-grain recipe done this way because it tends to be very slow rising and dense. By allowing to rise overnight I found that the bread seemed less heavy while retaining the moistness that I love so much.

Bernard loves crispy crusts and I have tried a couple of things to accomplish that outcome. I have been using my pizza stone and increasing the humidity of the oven during baking (a bit of web surfing yielded that tip). The pizza stone was the first alteration and worked for the bottom crust but did nothing for the rest of the loaf. An added bonus is that the baking time is reduced with this option – an couple of extra brown loaves let me in on that fact. The humidity factor I first accomplished by spraying the stones and the sides (not the elements) of the oven just as I put the bread in. I had okay success and feeling clever I also sprayed the loaf as I was putting it in. This made a huge difference, and when, on more web-found advice, I sprayed the loaf again part way through It up the crunchy even more.

As to the shapes, that is pretty basic, and not a new thing. Loaves to buns, tins loaves to free form, pull-aparts to free-form, the possibilities are endless. As long as you keep an eye on the bread and, rarely, tinker with the temperature you will be fine.
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