This week I started a small batch of dough to bake later in the week, or on the weekend while I figure out a few details on my baking odyssey (and do some online research on a number of related issues). Probably just a small loaf this time, and I’ll likely do it in a pan. I plan to start a larger batch of dough, Sunday with the goal of a longer-term cold fermentation. And possibly a sourdough starter.
The last loaf I made, a mere three days ago, is almost gone. Funny how homemade bread gets eaten so quickly.
I baked it in the inside ceramic bowl from a crock pot (result pictured below). The loaf was big and tasty, good consistency for sandwiches and toast, with a great crust. But not perfect.
The bottom 1/4 inch was not as fully cooked as the rest – not doughy or raw, just a trifle under-cooked compared to the top. After a day in the fridge, it was barely noticeable.
I had also mixed a little margarine into the dough before the rising. Not really sure what difference that makes, so I left it out for the subsequent batch.
I think I should have divided the dough into two parts rather than try for one big loaf. I’ll know better next time.
In the interim, I’ve been busy reading Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, trying to figure out what I’m doing to bread that isn’t what they do. The pictures in the book make my mouth water, but the results confound my abilities.
Basically I want simple, chewy, tasty loaves. I have the style exactly in mind – our friend Bill brings us “rustic” loaves from a Guelph baker that match my ideal bread. I’ve not found anything locally – even at the farmers’ market – that matches them.
I just haven’t managed to replicate it myself. Not that my efforts have been bad, just not what I have in my mind as my ideal loaf.
I have the crust and the taste working for me (although the crust is chewy, it’s not quite as crunchy – perhaps I need more steam during the baking), but the inside – the “crumb” – isn’t what I want. It’s good bread, very edible, but has a texture more like commercial sourdough bread than the artisan breads I’m aiming for. Still, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve managed after two decades or more of not baking. Besides, I’m having fun and learning a lot.
Back to the book. One reviewer wrote:
The basic idea behind these books is to be able to have wonderful, bakery quality bread in your own home and on demand. You whip up a “master batch” of dough that has enough water in it so the molecules in the bread can do their thing and you don’t have to knead the bread. This master batch stays in your refrigerator, covered loosely, for up to two weeks. When you want a fresh loaf, you just cut a piece of the dough from the master batch, form the loaf, let it rise on the counter and bake. Easy peasy. I can tell you, I was skeptical.
Well, turns out, these books are everything they claim to be. Sort of little bread miracle guide books.
If you don’t know this book, it’s the most-talked-about bread book on all the baking/cooking sites and blogs. Mine arrived two days ago, so I’m not too far into it and still working on recipe numero uno and the basics they discuss up front. It starts with simple recipes, and progresses. With some luck, I’ll be able to bake in parallel with their recipes.