Friday, July 31, 2009

Despite best efforts...

Finished slice, originally uploaded by Kim De.

Ah bread baking. Such an exact science. I am new to the art of artisan bread baking. I have been very lucky so far, most efforts have been successful. This effort, while tastes good, did not "shape up" entirely as the author intended.

Three days ago I launched into Pain de Campagne by making the starter. The flour, water and yeast needed to sit over night to begin its work. The next morning, it was bubbly and smelling fermented. Things looked good!

The next step was to add water and flour. Simple enough. It too sat over night, developing its deep flavor. Yesterday morning all was looking well.

Now, let me say we have had terribly humid weather. I dont know if this wet air contributed to the issues I had next or not... The recipe had me add the remaining flour, along with salt. Then I put the dough in a bowl to rise for an hour or two. Two hours later, I came back and the dough had run over the sides of the bowl. I gathered it up and tried to shape it for its final rise. It was a bit loose and hard to shape. I did my best and left it alone for the final hour, letting the oven preheat while waiting. Just before baking, I tried to shape it into a boule again. It held its shape a bit while also flattening a bit. 45 minutes later, it came out of the oven, a bit flatter than was intended, but certainly no pancake.

Taste, being the true test, came after a time of cooling. While the crust was a bit tough to cut in to, the bread itself was springy and had a nice flavor. I decided it was tasty enough to serve to friends last night, good, since I didnt have three days to make another loaf.

I took notes of my movements, the weather, and the bread's temperament for later. I will be interested to make this again in the fall when cooler/dryer weather provide different baking conditions.

Pain de Campagne by Beth Hensperger

1 Tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water (90-100 degrees F)

2 cups lukewarm water (90-100 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
4 teaspoons salt

1 large egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons water, for glazing

* Day One: To make the starter, place the yeast and whole-wheat flour in a deep bowl or a plastic 4-quart bucket with a lid. Add the water and whisk hard until a smooth batter is formed. Cover and let stand at room temperature until foamy and it begins to ferment, about 24 hours.

* Day Two: To make the sponge, add 2 cups warm water to the starter. Whisk to combine. Add the unbleached and the whole-wheat flours alternately, 1/2 cup at a time, changing to a wooden spoon when necessary, until a smooth batter is formed. The sponge will be very wet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again at room temperature for about 24 hours.

* Day Three: To make the bread dough, stir down the sponge with a wooden spoon. Add 1 cup of the unbleached flour and the salt. Gradually add most of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make a firm and resilient dough.

* Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, slightly tacky, and springy, about 5 to 7 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will form little blisters under the surface when ready to rise.

* Place the dough in a greased deep bowl or container. Turn to coat top of the dough once. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until fully doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

* Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. Shape the dough into a tight round (or two tight rounds - use separate pans if making two smaller loaves instead of one large one) and place it on the baking sheet. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour at room temperature.

* Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaf decoratively. Brush the entire surface of the loaf with the glaze.

* Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves are browned, crisp, and sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Transfer the loaves immediately to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

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