Thursday, October 2, 2014

Three New Breads

Variations on a Theme and New Formulas
The Country Loaf (lower hydration)
The Bread Share is just around the corner, and while we're planning on delivering primarily the Country Loaf, we'd also like to mix it up occasionally, and it's been an adventure trying to find formulas that will be reliable and a nice diversion from the regular loaf, while still being standard enough that all will enjoy them. To that end, I took some time to reconsider the formula for the standard Country Loaf. I didn't fiddle with the dry ingredients, but I dialed back the hydration a tiny bit. This is contrary to popular wisdom, since wetter is better, in general.  But I like the tall loaves that you can get with a slightly stiffer dough.  The loaves came out well and the oven spring was great.

The nice oven spring was accompanied by some attractive gringe, and I think I'll  stick with this slash pattern for the Country Loaf. The bread must be slashed (or baked "seam side" up) to allow the loaf to expand in the oven. Aside from that another practical consideration is an easy means of identifying what sort of loaf you have. If you have five different boules, the slash pattern can tell you which is rye, whole wheat, etc.  There's artistic consideration too, as some slashes are just pretty.
La Gringe
Seeded Sourdough Boule
Seeded Sourdough
I used to make a lot of simple white sourdough bread. For about a year, I've been trying to get to a milder levain and I've discovered that getting the sour flavor I used to get so easily has proved elusive.  Here's our latest attempt at a traditional mostly-white flour (there's a little whole wheat and a tiny bit of whole rye) sourdough loaf.  It was only mildly sour, but a nice loaf nonetheless. There's a lot of ways that bakers achieve "San Francisco" sourdough flavor. Most of it involves manipulating time and temperature to provide conditions that favor the production of acetic acids by the bacteria in the sourdough culture.

Oddly, there's a lot of conflicting information about the best way to do this reliably. While much of baking (especially maintaining a natural levain) is science, much of that science is still not well researched, and bakers tend to rely on "art" to some extent. Reading the forums where these things are discussed is both revelatory and exasperating.
Potatoes Ready for Roasting

Roasted Potato Sourdough Fendu
When Cam and I were in Seattle, we went out of our way to stop in at Macrina, a critically acclaimed operation both locally and nationally. We wanted to try a couple of their most popular loaves, and one of those was their potato bread. It was delicious, and the crumb was remarkably smooth and fine. I assume the it was a commercial yeast leavened bread, with probably a bit of natural levain for flavor. I wanted to see what would happen if a similar loaf was made with 100% natural levain. I adapted a formula from Hamelman's Bread that called for only commercial yeast, and baked a couple of fendu loaves. They came out wonderful! The potatoes were yukon gold potatoes from Jacinto Farms, which means they were grown within five miles of Redlands.
The roasted potatoes are mashed, skin and all, and mixed with a nice blend of white and whole wheat flours. The fendu loaf is shaped as a boule, then instead of slashing the loaf before baking, a rolling pin is pressed into the center of the boule before it is dropped into a banneton for final proofing.  I like the effect.
Roasted Potato Sourdough Fendu
The crumb, while more pocketed and not a lot like the loaf we had in Seattle, is a delight! Soft, slightly chewy, and just a hint of sour. Aside from the flecks of potato skin, you'd not know there is potato in this bread. The crust is light and just slightly toothy.  I'm already a big fan of this loaf.

Roasted Potato Sourdough Fendu Crumb
Since a lot of folks are going to be wondering what to do with their nearly-two-pound loaf of bread next week, I think I'll  post later in the week with some advice on preserving what doesn't get eaten in the first couple of days.

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