Monday, November 2, 2009

Back again!

After a long hiatus from recording my breadly escapades, I am back in a new space – my adorable Seattle hallway kitchen. There are many non-adorable parts of having a hallway kitchen, most notable the complete and utter lack of counter space, but with a $9.99 Ikea butcher block laid on top of the kitchen table, all is well. I have also acquired a kitchen scale (hallelujah!). It’s not digital and not especially accurate, but it helps a lot, and I got it for less than a dollar at the Goodwill outlet, so I’ll overlook its faults.

So I am back to perfecting my loaves. This time around, I tried using a very wet soaker (350 g whole wheat flour and 550 g water) that I let sit for about a half hour. I then added 650 g organic hi-gluten flour and 100 g water. I think it was too wet – sort of surprising, as 70% water is pretty normal – but I ended up then overcompensating with kneading in slightly too much flour, so it ended up not mattering.

The end result was sort of decent. One of the loaves baked up very nicely, expanded in all the right places and looked like a real artisan loaf. The other wasn’t so lucky – it expanded, but didn’t really grow into the score I had cut. The shaping was probably off. The saddest thing was that, due to being spoiled by convection ovens in my upbringing, the one on the bottom burned on the bottom, and the one on the top burned on the top. Blah. The loaves were also quite dense. Not sure if that’s due to shaping or rising or proofing or just that there was a lot of whole wheat flour (that’s actually pretty old, so maybe I should think about throwing it out…). Anyway, it was edible, and that’s all that matters ☺

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Catching up on co-op bread

So, I forgot to post last week when I made bread (on Valentine's day...I was in the co-op for something like 10 hours straight and made a ton of Valentines as well as a ton of bread). But it was good, I think. I tried to reduce the amount of water by a couple of cups because the time before was so loose, but I could really only reduce it by a cup or so. I added black olives and black pepper to the dough, which made it more exciting and delicious, but it was a little too peppery. It also exploded, by rising way faster than I thought it would - both in dough and loaf form. So I ended up with a lot of really flat, really large boules.

This time, I decided not to add anything to the dough, but to continue to reduce the amount of water, and also take down the amount of yeast and place it in a cooler spot in the kitchen. Again, I wasn't able to reduce the amount of water by that much, but the dough did come out a lot stiffer. I took the amount of yeast down a lot, from 5 3/4 T to 4 T.

I left the dough to rise for nearly three hours, which was a nice amount of time for it. The dough was pretty dry, so shaping proved a little difficult, since I wasn't really able to seal the seams on the bottom very well. I only let the loaves proof for about 40 minutes, in a warmer place, and they seemed like they were perfectly ready to go when I scored them and put them in the oven. Now only time will tell...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cooperation pt. 2

So, I let the dough rise for 3 hours, shaped it and proofed it for 1.5 hours. I'm actually pretty happy with the way it turned out. Here are my notes:

-Oh wow, measuring works! The dough was a great consistency and got itself into a great bowl-cleaning ball.
-The dough was actually a little loose and wet for my taste, so next time I think I'll reduce the hydration to 68%.
-I tried a few methods of shaping and scoring, but they were all moot because the dough sort of overproofed. Next time I'll let them proof for just a half hour or something - the kitchen is much warmer than I thought.

Adventures in Cooperation!

After a somewhat busy and rocky start to my last school semester, I have finally found the time this Saturday morning to make some bread in my co-op. Hooray! I am sticking to the book this time, but using half whole wheat, as per the co-op's preference.

29 1/8 c. WW flour (local and organic, so lots of hull and crunchy bits)
14 3/4 c. water (I didn't really measure the temperature, but I was trying for 77)

I let this rest for about a half hour while I measured the rest of the ingredients and traipsed all over campus trying to find salt.

7 c. water
28 c. white flour (probably 3/4 King Arthur Sir Galahad and 1/4 organic)
7 3/4 T. salt
5 7/8 T. yeast

I kneaded it 5-10-5-10-5 and put it in an oiled tall container to rise. I'm a little worried about the temperature in the kitchen. I tried to measure it, but I think all of our thermometers are vaguely broken, so I covered the container in a plastic bag, put it in a corner near the oven, and am hoping for the best.

Friday, January 30, 2009

If at first you don't succeed, try and fail again

Well, in short, the sourdough was a disaster. I sort of left it in the fridge for 20 hours and it overproofed and got this terrible crust because I didn't cover it well enough. Again, the flavor was excellent, but the appearance, density and crust were so off-putting that I threw it away.

Onto the next. I decided to go back to basics. My mom bought a kitchen scale for herself (OXO brand, 30 bucks at Target, digital readout, US/metric measurements, 5 lb. limit - it's pretty awesome) so I used that to make a plain, white bread.

465 g white flour
35 g WW
380 g water
10 g salt
5 g yeast

The dough was pretty stiff. It couldn't even really absorb all of the flour, which was surprising, since this is over a 70 percent hydration. I kneaded it in the usual way, let it rise for 3 hours with a fold-and-turn after 90 minutes, and then shaped it and let it proof for 2 and a half hours. It was still too damned dense.

At this point, I'm thinking, come ON, I'm doing everything right! I'm using the right yeast for long fermentation (SAF brand), measuring with a scale, kneading correctly, using good flour, hydrating it So next time, I'm going to make absolutely sure that I measure out enough water (maybe I'm mis-measuring?), and let the loaves proof in the fridge overnight. I think I'm also going to try making one big pan loaf rather than two small ones, as I've been doing. Maybe I'm just unsatisfied with the small loaves because they don't leave enough room for a sandwich. Unlikely, though.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hey, there's infinity in that box

So I am very behind, having never written about the results of the last batch. They were better, but still pretty dense. Frustratingly enough. I think the most frustrating part was that the loaves felt so ready and wonderful when I put them on the peel, but hardly expanded in the oven. I mean, I still have a good flavor, but not much else.

So. I asked my boss (who knows bread better than anyone) what I should do. He said: 1. stick to the formula, 2. scale back WW to 20% before trying anything too tricky, and 3. give up on Red Star yeast, which is engineered for quick rising rather than long fermentation. As I was leaving, he called out, "Infinity is in the box." "What?" I said, truly confused. "The formula," he said. "It seems like science when you're looking at it, with all those parameters, but really there's infinite things you can do with it. It's art."

Well, instead of using all of his suggestions, since I didn't have non-Red Star yeast on hand, I started a sourdough. I don't have the exact measurements with me, but I did make them, and I think it helped. I did a pre-ferment (levain, to get fancy) with the starter, some WW, water and white flour, and left it overnight on the counter. Then I mixed up the dough, kneaded for 5 minutes three times with 10 minute rests in between (it felt amazing!) and then let it rise for about 3 hours in the closed oven. I shaped it into loaves, and now it has been rising in the refrigerator for 18 hours. Which worries me just a little, since I won't be home to deal with it for a while yet, but hopefully because it's at 40 degrees it won't overproof. The one tricky thing about this bread as art thing is that it doesn't always fit too well with the rest of my life. Something I should work on. Anyway, I'll bake it off later this afternoon, and let you know how it goes, as well as actually give the formula I used :-)

p.s. I made cream puffs on Sunday, too! I used the Julia Child recipe for pate au choux, and made a sort of cannoli-esque filling with our homemade ricotta, flavored with orange and clove. Incredibly delicious. As a baking note, if you cut the puffs in half after they're done and then let them sit in the turned off oven insides-up for 5 minutes (as Julia recommends) they'll be much crispier.

Friday, January 23, 2009

God damn, I need a kitchen scale

Today I decided to screw this whole wheat stuff, I'm just going to back up and bake with mostly white flour for a while. This means that I don't really need a soaker, which is nice, since I didn't decide to start the dough until 4:30. penchant for forging ahead without thought has again gotten in my way. I used 3 cups of King Arthur white bread flour, and one cup of WW bread flour (I also gave up on using regular WW flour - why subject myself to this?) with 1 2/3 cups of water at 85 degrees. The dough is okay, but a little stiff. Okay, maybe a lot stiff. And two things occur to me: one is that this would be a _whole_lot_ easier if I had a kitchen scale and could actually measure ingredients accurately, and the other is that, duh, white flour has a different weight per cup than WW, so of course my proportions are messed up. Anyway.

I didn't do a pre-ferment, that is, I mixed all of the ingredients together at once, and then kneaded for three short periods and one longer period. Once the dough was good and kneaded, I stuck it in the fridge. I think I'll let it go overnight and shape it in the morning. We'll see how it goes. Damn, am I terrible at consistent changes or what? Resolution: from here on out, I will figure out my next recipe as soon as I have the results of the previous batch. Okay? Okay.

Just for fun, here is my present wish list of kitchen equipment:

- A KITCHEN SCALE (flat-top and digital...i.e. way too expensive for me at the moment)
- a water spray bottle
- a meat thermometer (y'know, one of the ones you stick into stuff...also too expensive at the moment)
- a counter that actually fits my body
- a piece of wood to use for a peel

And, my mom and I made cheese! Granted, it was from a box and it was just ricotta, but it's delicious and it got me excited about cheesemaking. Now I want to make cheddar before I go back to school...and buy some rennet for myself. Our kit came with vegetable rennet, but I'd like to try the animal stuff. I haven't read anything saying it would work better, but I'm curious.