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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nils Schöner's 60/40 Oblong Loaf Bake-off: ww vs ap

 Nils's 60/40: episode 2
(a bake-off of loaves made from Whole Wheat vs All Purpose Wheat Flours)

Another spectacular bread failure for me.

Today was to be my 60/40 Bake-off day.

Yesterday I made a loaf using this recipe from Nils Schöner's Recipe book, 'Brot:Notes of a Home Baker in Germany', using half whole wheat, and half Canadian All Purpose flours from the local mill.  Today I was to complete the experiment by baking, side by side, two more 60/40 loaves, one made entirely with whole wheat, and the other entirely with the all-purpose flour.

It goes without saying that the difference in wheat flours only affects 40% of the loaf.  The rest of the dough and bread will be exactly the same: 60% rye flour, half of which comes from the sourdough.

Mixing the doughs, up to just before the first 45 min rest

I awoke at 0600 and began measuring ingredients and documenting the steps for the blog.  This dough will come together very quickly, if one were not so anal as I am about taking pictures of each step.  I made sure that the sourdough was room temperature this time; it had been out overnight, and had risen and fallen gently.  It smelled great.  I carefully measured the flours and calculated that the water had to be 30 degrees C.  The hydration is high enough that one can simply stir it and all the ingredients are fully moistened.

The difference in the doughs is immediately apparent.  The dough with whole wheat is a lot easier to stir with a spoon.  The dough is suddenly taut, and cohesive, and turns itself into a structured ball without much effort on my part.  On the other hand, the dough with the all-purpose flour is suddenly difficult to stir; the gluten is stringier, it allows you to pull it further, but it is a lot more gooey, and it has no cohesion.  Things get stickier fast.  Although the water temperature was exactly the same for this dough as the other, in this case the water seemed hotter, slipperier.  The dough was wetter, but also gluier.

The dough, up to the end of the second 45 minute rest (aproximately)

I formed both loaves into a ball and let them sit for 45 minutes.  Then I turned both envelope-style as I did the day previously, and placed them back into a container for another rise.  Finally, I shaped them in an oblong form, and prepared to set them aside for the final proof.  I tried to be gentler this time, so didn't manhandle them as much.

The dough is dusted with light rye flour for its final proof

Improvised Basket
I wanted to make both loaves at the same time, but I only have one basket, so I had to improvise a second proofing basket using some rolled-up tea-towels.  I gave the best basket to the dough that seemed the most promising at the time.  This was the dough with the whole-wheat flour.  This was actually a surprising development for me.  I fully expected the dough with the greater gluten to be fluffier at this point, but it was nothing but saggy.  It seemed to have no structure at all.  Was this merely because the whole wheat had absorbed more of the water?  Or was the bran in the whole wheat providing some structure to the dough?  When would the gluten in the all-purpose loaf stand up and show this bread some backbone?

One Kitchen, Two Cooks
Right about the time of the final proof, my wife, who woke up around 0700, decided to kick me out of the kitchen so she could make some waffles for my son and his girlfriend who are visiting this weekend.  Since that young couple were not going to be awake before my dough was fully proofed, my wife needed the oven to keep her waffles warm.

I had been using the oven timer to tell me when the second 45 minute rest was finished, but she turned that off without telling me, and reset it for her own purposes, so I can only say that the second 45 minute resting period was somewhere around 45 minutes.  When I got cranky about how she did this without telling me, she told me it was entirely my fault that she had not noticed I was using the timer.

Furthermore, I was told that I could not use the oven, and she threatened to make me a kitchen in the basement so I would never be in her way ever again.  She moved my rising dough several times as she expanded her influence in the kitchen, and firmly established her place.  It wasn't a fight.  It was over before it began.

40% whole wheat dough, fully proofed

40% all purpose dough, fully proofed

Barbecued Bread
That is why, about 25 minutes before the final proof was done, I was forced to use the barbecue to bake my bread. I scored the bread and transferred it to my barbecue's firebrick.  By now my son was awake and able to photograph some of what I was doing.

The dough goes in

I already had the firebrick in place, it was just a matter of trying to get them hot enough, and regulate the temperature, which was going to be a bit of a challenge.  Also, I didn't think I'd be able to get steam into the barbecue.  But it was either this, or the whole bake-off was a bust.

Discovery of some holes in the side of the barbecue for injection of mist for steam

I only had about 20 minutes to preheat my firebrick and while trying to decide what to do with the steam, I discovered a couple of holes in the sides of the barbecue through which I would spray some mist while the bread was baking during its initial 5 minutes.  I sprayed through both holes every 30-90 seconds for five minutes, then I stopped.

The most difficult part of baking with the barbecue is regulating the heat.  I had a particularly rough time of it this morning: I think that the initial temperature was a bit low, only about 450 degrees F when it should have been 500 degrees F; afterward, it climbed to about 525 degrees F, and then I backed off the flow of the propane and monitored it every 10 minutes, while everyone was sitting there eating breakfast, and I was trying to enjoy the idea of sitting together for a meal.  But I was up and down like a yo-yo.

Once when I came outside to check the temperature, it had fallen to about 370 degrees, so I had to crank it up again.  Ultimately, most of the baking was done at a slightly lower temperature than the recipe called for, I am afraid.  I think that I was in the neighbourhood of 400 degrees F when I should have been in the 425 degrees F range for most of the time the bread was in the oven.  But during the last twenty minutes, I noticed the temperature drop to 300 degrees at one point.  I cranked up the propane to max, and checked it five minutes later, but it had further dropped to 200 degrees.  I was out of propane.

And I had been so proud of myself that I managed to stop myself from peeking inside the barbecue lid until an hour was up.  Had I lifted the lid even once, all of my heat would have escaped, and the loaves wouldn't have even started baking at all.

Back to the Kitchen
By now, though, breakfast was over, and my wife had left the kitchen.  I popped the loaves back into the now vacated kitchen oven at 425 degrees for another 15 minutes.

Out of the cold barbecue, into the hot oven

Certainly, not a fair trial of these loaves.  These loaves suffered from an very uneven baking.  And I think that the upper grill of the barbecue might have even prevented them from rising, even if the misting I was doing had worked (and I don't think it did).  I'm not even going to comment on which loaf did better.  They both died at the gates.  It was a fiasco, from start to finish.  And it is all my fault, for starting this at 0600.  I shouldn't have bothered.  I'll have to do it all again.

The best I could do, this morning.  AP on left, WW on right

Overall, very disappointing session, and another bread failure for me.

My failed attempt at Nils's 60/40 Oblong Roggenmischbrot: AP vs WW

These breads taste very similar, despite the difference in the wheat flour, which constitutes 40% of the entire mix.  In contrast to the 60/40 bread made earlier from the same recipe, in this bread the sourdough taste is more predominant (originally I thought that I could taste more sourdough in the all-purpose flour version, but later I could taste the same flavour in the whole wheat version).  Overall, there seems to be no discernible difference in taste or texture, to me.  The bottom crust is much harder, but I think that this is more from the extra 15 minute baking in the oven without a baking stone, rather than its initial baking on the (too cool) firebrick in the barbecue It is this that gives these loaves a decidedly malted rye flavour, from the roasted light rye flour that was used during the final proof to line the couche. 

Obviously, the all-purpose loaf has sagged a lot more, and it has not handled the hydration as well as the whole wheat flour (although it might have something to do with the makeshift basket I made, too).  It has achieved a bit more volume, but if that volume is more spreading than rising, what is the point?

It would seem, based only on taste and the way the all purpose loaf sagged, that there is absolutely no advantage to using all purpose flour in this loaf.  At least some whole wheat would seem to be indicated, so why use any all purpose at all?

But due to the complete failure of this experiment, I will have to try again sometime.  Unless, as usually happens, I get distracted and find myself wanting to try a different recipe.

Notes to Myself
  • Try again.
  • Don't bake when your wife has company in the house.
  • This bake-off proved nothing.
  • If you are baking bread in the barbecue take off the upper rack so that it might rise. 
  • The waffles were enjoyed by all, except I was not that hungry, having eaten my rye bread from yesterday somewhat earlier.  My wife says that Germans don't eat rye bread for breakfast, and they don't put jam on their rye bread. Not being German myself, I feel empowered to bread her rules.

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