Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bread weather

I've been on an orthopedics service for the last week. Between waking up very early and spending most of the afternoon agonizing over my rank list*, I've been able to cook, but too drained lazy to blog. Catchup time!

For those of us who live under a rock on Pluto, cold and slush have overtaken the Northeast. I'd failed to capitalize on this with anything but a ruined umbrella and damp socks. Cue a timely bread-baking session yesterday! Two loaves later:

This is a poolish-based seeded loaf based on a recipe for harvest bread from Flour Water Salt Yeast. A poolish is a preferment with a one-to-one flour-to-water ratio (by weight, of course), which some books might refer to as 100% hydration. This Eastern European preferment is less sharp than a sourdough-type starter. It's also more susceptible to ambient temperatures, since the total fermenting time is short compared to a true starter. I love the slightly sweet, buttery flavor a poolish gives to the finished crust, not to mention how resource- and time-parsimonious it is compared to a sourdough starter.

Happy poolish!

The recipe below makes one loaf. We, however, are gluttons.

To assess for proofing, poke the bread. If the indentation slowly
bounces back, it's ready to go. If it rapidly springs back, it's not
sufficiently proofed; if it stays indented, it's overproofed.

Because I'm trying to get rid of the minute amounts of random ingredients that are lurking in my cabinets--lurking in a cramped way, that is--I threw in 46 g of buckwheat flour**. While I didn't have any wheat bran, in went a couple handfuls each of sunflower seeds, flax seeds, raw millet, parcooked wheat berries, and oats. Buckwheat is delicious, but in this case I felt like it distracted a little from the otherwise subtle bread. I'm going to load it up with more seeds next time, especially millet, and coat the outside of the loaf with a seed blend as well.

Harvest seed bread
With all due credit to Ken Forkish

250 g white flour
250 g 80 F water
0.4 g dried yeast

The night before baking, mix the ingredients by hand in a 6-quart tub until completely blended. Cover and leave out overnight at room temperature, between 65 and 70 F. When it is done, 12 to 14 hours later, it will have tripled in volume and be bubbly, with bubbles visibly popping on the surface. It will last 1-2 hours, depending on how warm your room is. If room temperature in your house is more than 70 F, be sure to check a little earlier so your poolish doesn't age beyond its bubbly peak.

Final dough:
200 g white flour
50 g whole wheat flour
140 g 105 F water
11 g sea salt
1.5 g yeast
25 g wheat germ
10 g wheat bran
Assorted nuts and seeds
All the poolish

Pour the water around the perimeter of the poolish and loosen it from the tub. Then add the remainder of the ingredients. Mix by hand; you can wet your hand as much as you want when you mix, but it's a very sticky dough. The end temperature will be variable; I didn't even bother to measure. The dough will need two folds during the first hour after mixing. Let it rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until 2.5 times its original volume.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a medium-tight ball. Dust a proofing basket (makeshift or otherwise) with flour and place the loaf seam side down in the basket. You can also coat the basket with more seeds or bran for an extra-crunchy outside. Lightly flour the top, cover with a kitchen towel, and proof for 45 min to an hour. Mine proofed in just under 45 minutes; check early.

As soon as you start proofing, put a rack in the middle of the oven and place a Dutch oven with a lid on in it. Preheat the oven to 475 F while the loaf is proofing, to allow the Dutch oven to reheat. Carefully invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured surface. Remove the Dutch oven and very carefully place the loaf in the Dutch oven, seam side up. Cover and bake for 30-35 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the loaf is deep brown to dark brown.

Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven and let cool on a rack or on its side (for maximum air circulation) for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

*My personal decision deadline is today. Basically, this.
**N.b.: Buckwheat flour, teff flour, and millet flour are among the many gluten-free flours out there. Unless you have celiac disease--in which case you probably shouldn't be eating this bread anyway--you'll have to add gluten to make up for the amount of all-purpose you're cutting out. I calculated that there are 5.5 g gluten in 46 g all-purpose flour and added that amount to the blend.

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