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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lahey # 2 - a fair trial of the master recipe: using bread flour

Today was a busy day, breadwise, full of fun and experimentation, and new ideas for later experiments happening fast. 

For starters, I had purchased some bread flour on the way home from work from the bulk barn, and decided to try Lahey's recipe the way it was written, to give it a fair trial.  The bulk barn is a store that has lots of stuff in bins, and you help yourself to however much you think you need.  I just grabbed a few hundred kg, not measuring it or marking what it was.

This bread flour is so fine, the clerk wondered if I was buying icing sugar.

I was actually kind of surprised to find that it wasn't as pasty as the all purpose flour was, when I mixed it up.  It was already a pretty tight little ball of dough, even after the initial no-nonsense, 30 second mixing.  My thought was, this is not wet enough.

But I let it go, and decided to have it rise in one of my plastic containers.  Although the recipe calls for a rise in a bowl, I watched the Lahey you-tube video and saw that he had let his dough rise in a fairly low flat plastic container.   If plastic was good enough for Lahey, who developed the method, it was good enough for me.

On baking day, I was pleased to note that the dough seemed a lot more moist than even when I put it in the container.  Whatever moisture was in the original dough had obviously loosened up the entire consistency as the gluten strands aligned.  I didn't notice too much rise, but certainly there was some expansion.  The dough was much looser.  It smelled yeasty when I took off the lid.

It was still quite difficult to handle, very gooey.  This is going to take some practice.

I let it sit out the 2 hours on the branned couche and then plopped it into the hot crackpot, covered it, and stuck it in the oven.

The results were pretty much what I expected.  Excellent crust.

When I set this bread on the table to cool, I did hear it 'singing' as Lahey describes in his book.  It was singing for a lot longer than I thought it would, too.  So long was it singing, in fact, when I went on to make the pizza dough for tonight, I could hear it singing so loud that at first I thought that there was a fire in our fireplace in the next room.  Amazing.

I have no complaints about the amount of rise I did get, but if I were honest I'd have to say that the loaf did not rise really well, and I suspect that this is because I am still an amateur in the shaping of the loaves.  I think that as you try this more, your ability to shape a gooey dough will improve, and the boule shape will be tighter, forming a nicer gluten cloak, within which the bread will rise more significantly.  I also think that I am still manhandling the dough too much.  It is actually a gentle touch that is required with these wet doughs.

Notes to Myself:
  • With these wet Lahey doughs, try using wet hands to handle the dough, and try to be gentle with it.
  • Try an even longer baking time for a more interesting crust.
  • Try a hotter oven, even as hot as 500 degrees, to see what happens to the crust and interior.

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