My wife has been talking to my mother-in-law, who apparently wanted to try a loaf of my bread. I think that she really wanted to try my loaf with the bran swirl (the idea of which made her wrinkle her nose, but also intrigued her), but I am trying something else today. She'll get a rye loaf instead, made with Lahey's recipe and methods. I got the word that I was to make her "a nice bread. Something that won't sit like a rock in the stomach." But I am still experimenting. I can't guarantee anything.
The experiment here was to see if I could double Lahey's recipes and make two loaves at once. I only had the one couche and the one crockpot; so I would have to double up on the couche using a fold, and use an oven-safe casserole dish for the second loaf. I could cook them together, though, since they are self-contained.
Another thing I want to try: I am going to squirt a bit of water on the top of the dough, just because I've noticed that these doughs seem to dry out a bit as they rise over the 12-18 hrs of fermentation. Will this help or hinder the final product?
I liked the way this dough worked up. I used all purpose flour, and some dark rye flour. By the time I had all the flours incorporated, it was starting to get quite sticky. But it wasn't a totally wet dough, like the previous all bread flour doughs have been.
I did two things differently next: for one thing, I tamped down the dough, so it was all together, and didn't have more parts sticking up in the air to dry out. The second thing I did was, I spritzed a little bit of mist on top. Just a couple of squirts. Then I let it rise about 13 hours.
Side by side, enclosed in their own independent 'ovens', they both baked well. But not evenly.
I love these loaves. They have a chewiness, and a lovely bitter early note and later sweet note as the rye develops its full flavour while you are chewing.
My mother-in-law took the rounder, crockpot baked loaf. I sliced a couple of pieces for her supper tonight (and then she is on her own). She doesn't think that she will be able to chew through the crust. She also wondered why there were so many holes in the bread (it is not the familiar German style crumb or crust that she grew up with, so she remains suspicious).
I had proved by demonstration that it is possible to use a deep covered casserole dish to make these Lahey loaves. I think that these dishes would be suited for a mini-batard shaping; this particular loaf ended up that way, sort of, through a certain amount of mishandling. But I could do it better if I made the batard shape to begin with.
Still, I think that if I am going to make two loaves in the future using this method, I will a) have 2 different couches, and b) turn the loaf half-way through the baking when the cover is removed.
Update: How did my mother-in-law like the bread?
When she first laid eyes on it, she was suspicious of the holes in the bread -- Germans apparently like a denser crumb. She was also dubious about the crust, and said, "I'm going to break a tooth on that." I advised her to cut it off.
She did cut off the crust -- most of it. I guess a little bit was still on it. She says she likes crunchy things, so she decided to try it. Against her better judgment. And yes, she broke a tooth on it. She realized it this morning when she looked in the mirror and saw a piece of her tooth was missing. She wonders how I, or anyone else for that matter, can eat a bread with a crust so hard.
"Oh well," she sighed, ending the story of her awful day that started with the tooth breaking. "I think the squirrels enjoyed the bread. At least they looked like they enjoyed it."
Notes to myself:
- Have a separate couche for each loaf you want to bake, to help you guide the final dough gently into the Dutch Oven
- Use a longer dish, like a casserole dish, for a batard shape.
- The rye bread recipe doesn't need a full 30 minutes in the oven with the cover off; try 20 minutes next time you make this
- If you give away your bread, it should come with a complete disclaimer of any and all responsibility if people lose a tooth on it.