Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Country White Bread and Pizza

Tried a new formula and fermentation schedule over the past couple of days, this time dispensing with the usual cold temperature-retarded ferment that I apply to the formed loaves as they proof.  This loaf I left out to proof overnight, doing the shaping, bench rest, and final shaping at 4am today.  It was a really high hydration dough and didn't want to behave.
Country White Loaf
 This loaf is made with five varieties of flour, including two whole-grain flours that I mill myself.  It's not big on whole wheat...whole wheat constitutes only about 10% of the flour.  There's about 5% whole rye, and the rest is unbleached white flour.  It wasn't supposed to be sour, but the kitchen never cooled down like I expected it to, so it proofed much faster than I thought and developed a bit more sour than I'd planned.  It seemed sort of overproofed, but maybe that was just me getting used to the unexpected high hydration.   I didn't think a lot about this formula, really.  It had the sort of pretty crumb you'd expect of a wet dough like this:
Light, but slightly overproofed crumb of the Country White Loaf.

In any event, the flavor was nice, a little too sour for me to add it to the rotation without modification, and I'd surely want to give it a little less water next time, just so I'm not trying to manage a cibatta-wet dough in bannetons.  Ha!

This will go in the freezer and provide a week's worth of amazing toast.  We also made some pizza tonight, as a sort of dough-preservation experiment.  The dough from a couple of days ago, once divided, was cooked, frozen, and refrigerated.  Tonight we took a ball of the refrigerated dough, a ball of the frozen dough (which had been put in the fridge yesterday) and made margherita pizzas with it to see how it would compare to the pizzas we made the day the dough was done with it's initial retarding.  The results were great.  There's something comforting about a 100% natural levain dough when it comes time to pack it up for later baking.  Not only is everything going to happen at a slower rate than it would with commercial yeast, but I'm convinced (without any scientific evidence to back my empirical observations and assumptions) that natural levains are just more resilient.  Very forgiving stuff.
Pizza.  Three day old dough.  Nice.
I really got a kick out if baking pizzas with dough that had been saved for days.  I assume that it can be saved for months in the freezer.  Both the refrigerated dough and the frozen dough were just fine.  I think the frozen dough fared a little hadn't soured at all, since it was frozen.  It may have lacked the "poofing" of the refrigerated dough, bit it was also not as tough and chewy; qualities that you may or may not want too much of in your pizza.  As an aside, the need for high-gluten flour in making good pizza is a myth.  It's amazing to me how much baking "fact" ends up being wive's tales once someone comes along and calls your bluff.  Exceptional pizza can be made with all-purpose flour.
More later!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rye Pain au Bacon and Roasted Garlic Whole Wheat

This morning's loaves:

Toasted Parmesan
Whole Wheat with Roasted Garlic

Pain au Bacon with Rye and Whole Wheat with Toasted Parmesan

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pizza and two Breads

Pizza is bread.

I've not felt the need to attempt a pizza dough, but while reading Ken Forkish's book the other day, I figured I'd give it a go.  He has formulas and methods for straight, poolish, and natural levain pizza doughs.  Any time I can bake without commercial yeast, I like to do so, so I tried the natural levain method. It was tremendous!   

Margherita Pizza
I never expected such grand results from my first attempt at a pizza.  This is a margherita pizza, and though I didn't have the proper San Marzano tomatoes, they are on the way, and should be here tomorrow.  The store-brand plum tomatoes were a fine substitute for tonight though, and we were very pleased.

The dough is "overproofed" at room temperature for a long time, then spends 6 hours to a few days retarding in the refrigerator. The result is a chewy, crisp, crusty, flavorful pizza with simple toppings and a crumb that is surprisingly chewy and resilient for a dough made with moderate levels of protein and gluten.  Really excited to try this again.  I can't sell this, but stop by with a six-pack of something good and there's a good chance there'll be pizza in the oven.  Ha!  Just give me two days notice.

Here's a couple more photos. Sorry that they're photos taken with my cell phone, but I didn't have time to fiddle with the DSLR.  I needed to get the second pizza in the oven:

Pizza, fresh from the oven. A bit too much cheese.
 Forkish is detailed in his instructions for baking.  You get your stone in the oven, get it as hot as possible, then alternate between high broil and highest bake heat to emulate the radiant conductive heat of a commercial pizza oven.  You can't hit it for real, but you can make a respectable pie at home.

It only takes about 7 minutes, but that's an eternity compared to the 90 seconds to three minutes or so that it takes for a commercial pizza oven to bake a pie.  Lots of people are infatuated with wood fired ovens.  I don't know that there's anything magic about a wood fired oven in the context of bread beaking.  Pizza, yes, as the fire is still burning while the pizza bakes.  But the fire is gone and the ashes swept away by the time you bake bread in a wood fired oven.

I should have gone to the trouble to get the good camera out for this photo.  Alas.  You get the idea.

I have four loaves of specialty bread proofing this evening.  Two are a new one; a rye and whole wheat pain au bacon with toasted parmesan.  This one is made with four flours, two of which I've milled myself from whole grains, including hard red winter wheat from Utah, and a dark northern rye from Bluebird Grain Farms in the Methow Valley of Washington, which I visited a month or so ago.  This bread is really nice when you bake it seam-side up and let it open along the seams from your final shaping.  I prefer Robertson's "Tartine" shaping for boules, and I think they open up nice in oven spring. The other two loaves are a roasted garlic whole wheat, which I've made before, but I'm excited to see how these turn out.
Another bad cell phone photos of bench-resting boules.

I raised the hydration a little and I tweaked the percent of fresh-milled hard red wheat to get it a little more in line with what I expect; lots of good flavor, delicate crumb, soft, but not spongy.  Making this loaf is a real pleasure.  The dough has a fantastic aroma of roasted garlic, olive oil, and wet flour, all on top of the slightly tangy underlying mild and sweet smell of the natural leaven.  It holds a lot of promise, without being terribly complicated.  Very nice.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Bakery is Born

Welcome to the home of C&C Artisan Breads, a cottage food operation based in Redlands, California.

What's a cottage food operation?  There's a lot of information out there, but in an unusually forward-thinking moment, San Bernardino County government changed the rules last year and put in place a system that permits small home-based operations to produce foods for sale at farmers markets, CSA-style "share" systems, and even through indirect sales through restaurants and grocery stores.

Cottage Food Operation Permits and Applications
There's some simple rules, and the system is designed to protect the consumer by limiting cottage food operations to producing things that won't spoil and have a very low potential to make people sick.  They also limit the quantity of food you can produce for sale as this sort of business, but for the most part, you promise to produce good food in a clean environment, work a few things out with your city, and you're off!  The whole permitting process can actually be completed in a day.  Pretty amazing.

What's C&C?
It's Chris and Cambria.  When she's not teaching, Cam is a diligent dough stretcher.  Now that she's back in school, I've modified the dough schedule so I can do most of the work in the evening.  We're a team in the kitchen, mostly getting in each other's way.

Artisan Breads?
Bread.  The staff of life.  In books about it, bakers wax eloquent and poetic about bread and about its production.  It's a rewarding and meditative process.  I won't waste a lot of copy on it, but I really enjoy baking bread.  So much so that I found myself baking a lot more than we could eat ourselves.  That's when I discovered that sharing bread is even more fun than eating it yourself.  Few things are as universally appreciated as a fresh-baked loaf of bread.

Our Bread
The Country Loaf
We're starting this operation out with a simple model; produce one thing very well and in small quantities.  For the last few years, I've been working toward a particular loaf of what you might call "Rustic" bread.  The Country Loaf.  Basically, it's a high-hydration, naturally fermented ("sourdough," but not sour) boule.  It keeps well, has a crisp crust, and a creamy flavorful crumb.

Since there's only a couple of ingredients, they have to be top notch.  The Country Loaf is made with three varieties of wheat flour, including about 1/3 whole wheat that I mill myself within a couple of days of baking from hard red winter wheat berries grown in Utah.  It makes a difference.  The balance of white flour, artisan bread flour, and whole wheat in this loaf yields the perfect combination of flavor, healthful whole grains, and the light, airy crumb you'd expect of a big hearth bread like this.

The Bread Share
Country Loaf Boule
To help defray some of the costs of baking all this bread, to ensure we have a reliable place to go with all these loaves, and to test the waters of managing a simple "farm share" system, we're baking just four loaves a day, five days a week, selling subscriptions to 20 people for four loaves in a four week period.  While we're still hashing out the details, we're hoping that it's not too complicated.