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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread #2: another failure

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread #2
Time for another bread disaster.

This is my second attempt at making Reinhart's Whole Wheat Hearth Bread.  Once again, the disaster comes from trying to fit the recipe into my own life schedule rather than from any fault of the recipe itself. 

The first time I made it I was alarmed at the way the dough flattened out, rather than exhibiting oven spring.  I felt it was due to the way I had failed to form a tight gluten cloak on the loaf, failed to pinch it off at the bottom.

This time, the dough performed even worse.  But it is for a different reason (well, maybe the same reason, just not the reason I thought before).

This time, I let the dough sit in the fridge for FAR longer than it should have.  The enzymes that are so closely harnessed for Reinhart's recipes now began to destroy the natural starches in the flour, even affecting the elasticity of the gluten itself.  In short: this dough went bad.

All because I failed to follow the recipe, which clearly states (1) for the soaker, if you are leaving it for longer than 24 hours, it should be refrigerated, and if refrigerated, for no longer than 3 days, and (2) for the biga, it should be refrigerated for no longer than 3 days. 

Nurses' Schedule

An old scientific research study that you often find cited involves the effects of the consumption of whole wheat and whole grains on cardiac disease.  This study looked at the consumption habits of nurses, and found that the ones that consumed more whole grains had better outcomes with heart attacks, etc  Well, I'm here to tell you that study is highly suspect in my opinion: not for the results that they obtained, but rather because it is so difficult to fit whole grain recipes like the ones in Reinhart's book, into a nurse's schedule.

I mixed up these ingredients Thursday night.  In theory, I could have made the bread on Friday when I woke up from a sleep, prior to working the night shift Friday: but there wasn't time.  I ended up making a simpler bread on Saturday, when my unrefrigerated soaker was probably already past using.
Then I didn't make it Sunday either.  There was simply not enough time, on this nurses' schedule.

On Monday, my intention was to make it when I awoke.  I took the biga from the refrigerator around 4, intending to make it at 6.  But then I was told we were going out to a friend's house for supper, and I didn't get back to the dough until 8:30. 

Autolysed beyond repair
Both the soaker and the biga had distinct sour smells to them.  Both had evidence of wild yeast action.  Both felt limp and gooey.  I should have tossed these ingredients out.  But I just wanted to see what would happen.

Autolysed beyond repair

In keeping with my poor man's idea of the eastern yin-yang philosophy, it is my opinion that one should make a bread like this at least once, just to see what a good bread is.  This is not a good bread.  Now I have something bad to compare a good bread to.  Oh, but I've had bad bread up the yin-yang.  Now I need a good bread to compare my bad loaves to.

Mixing the Dough and Forming the loaf
This dough felt different from the very first.  It did not feel like a Reinhart dough is supposed to feel.

Dough in the bulk fermentation stage, by the wood stove

Since, last time I made this recipe I felt I hadn't properly made a tight enough gluten cloak, this time I felt determined to try harder at shaping it.  Unfortunately, with this dough, it was impossible to form any kind of tight surface.  Every time I would pull it around to pinch it, there was no gluten at the surface that was in any way different from the interior.  I kept pulling the dough around and pinching it off, but it remained gooey all the way down.  I tried and tried, overhandling the dough, but it never did anything more than just slide another layer of slippery goo to the other side of the ball.  The boule was getting smaller from overhandling, rather than from any tightness of the dough.  Eventually I just gave up and put it in my not-floured-enough basket.

You can't form a gluten cloak on a blob of goo that has its gluten autolysed beyond repair

Making a Bun with Cloth Goo
After 45 minutes, I upended the basket directly onto the stone, and peeled the cloth from the top of the flaccid dough.  Later I scraped this goo that had stuck to the cloth off, formed a small bun-sized ball with the cloth-goo and tossed it onto the hot stone beside the bread I was making.  That turned out to be the best part of the whole bread.

The cloth got stuck to the top of the dough and had to be peeled off

The dough on the cloth could be scraped off with a pastry cutter

I made a bun with this cloth-stuck goo

God help me, I ate this little bun warm from the oven, even though it was probably spoiled

A loaf as thin as the book

As expected, there was no rise, just a limp flat bread that doesn't taste the way a Reinhart loaf is meant to taste.  You slice it and it looks like a breadstick, the loaf is so thin.  The crust is crackly like an artisan loaf, but it is just a bit strange compared to other breads. 

The bun tasted a little off, but was probably edible (well, even if it wasn't edible, I ate it anyway, warm from the oven).  The bread also seems a bit off, so I won't eat the whole thing.  It doesn't have a bad smell to it, but there is an aftertaste back-note of spoilage that you get when you chew a bite.  This is not a bread you want to try eating more than once.

Notes to Myself
  • Try, try again
  • You might as well give up trying to make a Reinhart loaf when you are working 3 days (or nights) in a row.  It just won't work in your schedule, period.

1 comment:

  1. sorry for the disaster, next time you will able to get good bread. They are the part of game.