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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Everyday Bread #33 - Whole wheat Pagnotta

So much for kitchen science: I guess I rarely take my own advice, so there goes any iterative methodology.  Every time I have a bread disaster (which happens quite frequently, actually), my wife will say to me, "You have made some good bread in the past, why don't you just make those breads again?"  But I want a whole grain loaf that she and I can both enjoy, and I really want to make it out of sourdough, fermenting the grain.  In other words, I want a bread that tastes good, is healthy, makes you feel good about yourself and the planet, even as it nourishes.  That's the holy grail of my bread blog.  I haven't made one of those yet.  So here I am, fresh on the heels of a pagnotta all purpose loaf failure, trying out the same recipe but this time with whole wheat, when my best advice to myself was, "Stop".

This is the exact same recipe, only instead of using any all purpose flour, I'm using whole wheat flour.  I still use 50 g of rye and 50 g of spelt, but the bulk of the dough is from the 700 g of whole wheat, and about 400 g of assorted sourdough starter (a mixture of wheat, rye and assorted) at 75% hydration.  This time, the starter has not been refreshed for a few days.  I'm still trying to deal with what should be a discard.

I did do something substantially different: I waited about 3 hours before I did the first fold, but the dough had not yet doubled when I began.  I turned it out of the initial plastic container into the blue bowl and did all the folds within this bowl.  It occurred to me that I would have liked to try a 12-18 hour fermentation, like Lahey advises.  I wonder what would have happened to the dough at that point?  Hmmm.  Next time I make this, perhaps I'll try that long of a fermentation period...

I used the same bowl folding technique, using the spatula.

After that initial 3 hour rise, I folded the dough in the bowl with the spatula every 30-60 minutes, and then let it rest.  I did this cycle of fold-rest about 4 times (each folding takes less than 2 minutes; I can do it as I walk by).  I decided to stop when the outer gluten cloak of the dough began to pull apart with my spatula-pulling and folding action.  Then I let it rest one last time.

After that final 30 minute resting stage, I poured the dough on a lightly floured surface and divided the dough in two, prior to a gentle forming of loaves.  I intended to put one in the banneton, covered with my couche; that was my number one, primary loaf.  The other, I would merely do something experimental with. 

2. The Experimental Loaf in the Casserole Dish

The second, totally experimental loaf, I formed like a loafpan bread but proofed it on the inside of a casserole dish lid.  I put the casserole dish on top of it, so it would contain any sideways spreading. (why didn't I just put it in the casserole dish?  Why did I invert it?  There is no reason to do it this way.  It didn't make any sense.  I don't know what I was thinking)

Then the formed loaves proofed for 2 hours and I preheated the oven.

I didn't look under the casserole dish to examine my dough before putting it in the oven.  Now remember, the casserole dish itself is not preheated here.  So I kept the temperature hot -- 475 degrees F. and I kept it in the oven for 35 minutes, instead of the recipe's 25 minutes.

It didn't matter.  The bread pretty much failed to rise in the casserole dish.  Still, I was pleased with the way the crumb formed on this loaf.  It was fairly light and airy, in the corners that got stuck and fell off when I tried to take the lid off.

But the loaf doesn't particularly taste all that good.  I don't know if it is the bitterness of the whole wheat, or the sourness of the sourdough, but something just isn't right here.  It is a complex taste, but I can't define it as good tasting.  Would a longer fermentation have helped it become a bit more sour and thus improve the taste?  I don't know.

1. The Banneton-Raised Loaf

The banneton-proofed loaf slipped easily onto the hot stone, but it really failed to rise nicely in the oven.  It held some promise, but there was really no oven spring.  Does that term only apply when one has a bread made from all-purpose or bread dough?

Later, when I looked at the bottom of this loaf, I noticed a lot of very interesting holes, probably due to the fermenting of the dough by the sourdough starter.  It is my opinion that a longer initial rising time (the 12-18 hours I originally suggested) might have made a difference.  On the other hand, the folding that I did may have theoretically shortened the time that was required for the gluten to build longer strands.  In other words, this might be as good as it ever gets.

Overall, I guess I was just pleased that this loaf didn't flow over the edge of the baking stone like the last one, and that it didn't drip onto the lower pan or elements and stink up the joint.  So I can't call it a total failure, even though it sure ain't pretty.

Notes to Myself:
  • You might as well try this one again, but this time give it a full 12-18 hour fermentation period like Lahey uses.  Actually, you will have to try this twice: 1) the full 18 hours, with no bowl folding, and 2) a full 18 hours, then four "bowl folding and rest" cycles, to see which method works better.
  • Work iteratively.  Compare results.  Experiment like scientists would: create a hypothesis, devise an experiment, collect your data, verify results.
  • Use a freshly refreshed starter.  Why are you still using discards, even on these hybrid loaves that also use some commercially prepared yeasts?
  • Would scoring the loaf have helped with its rise?  Do all whole wheat breads crack open this way as they relax in the oven?

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