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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Orton's Wholegrain Wheat Bread No.2

Orton's Wholegrain Bread Experiment #2

Today I began the second recipe in Orton's book, but it is going to take a few days to complete.  It is a sourdough, and it requires a bit of time to build from scratch.  In the meantime, I had milled a bit too much flour, so I decided to try the first recipe over again to use it up.  The first recipe is a much quicker, straight-dough method.

The last time I made this bread, I wondered if the dough would stand up to being baked on a hot stone, without a pan (Orton suggests you can shape it as a round loaf, but ti is unclear whether she meant that you could bake it on a stone without a pan).  Today, I decided to bake it two different ways: 1) as a freestanding boule, and 2) in a casserole dish, a'la Lahey.  So the method of mixing the dough is the same, but the shaping and proofing is slightly different.

The ingredients are the same (again, I halved her recipe), except this time the yeast weighed 11g, changing its percentage slightly.
  • 60%        361g warm water
  • 1.8%        11g dry yeast (she calls for 2 pkts, and I used ABin5's measure of 1 1/2 Tbsp per 2 pkts, which measured 17g, and then halved that)
  • 0.5%        3g brown sugar
  • 8%        49g powdered milk
  • 100%    603g whole wheat flour
  • 7%        41g brown sugar
  • 1.3%        8g salt (I used a fine sea salt here, granule size like table salt)
  • 8%        50g olive oil

The dough came together nicely as before.  The unusual method of putting together the ingredients -- by dividing the flour mixes and adding things gradually, in the proper order -- means less work in the long run.  You add the oil just when the flour and water by themselves are getting too stiff to stir by hand; you add even more flour and continue to stir it in.  Then, just when you think no more can be added, by turning it out on the counter and kneading, a bit more flour goes in.  Finally, just at the precise moment you are thinking that no way is the last of the flour going to be incorporated, it grabs every crumb off the counter, and it is suddenly well kneaded. 

while the yeast is proofing, you gather the other ingredients

you take out 1/4 of the flour (1c here) and set it aside.  Then you divide the flour mixture in half.

One half of the flour mixture gets added to the wet yeast mixture.

the oil is added

then the second half of the flour mixture is added

finally you knead in the final cup of flour

You don't think that such a tight little ball of dough will ever double in size during the bulk fermentation, but it does, easily.  And then some!

this after 70 minutes of bulk fermentation
This time, I was less gentle following that initial bulk fermentation, and kneaded it again as per the instructions, before dividing (last time, I did a gentle folding).  I was also quite ruthless when I shaped my boules, trying to max out the gluten cloak structure of the outer skin, extra tight.  The balls, when they were placed in the baskets to proof, looked very tiny, and again I had my doubts whether they would double.

dough is turned out and kneaded

after kneading, divided

you can form really tight balls with this dough and the surface gluten doesn't pull apart: is the oil helping here?

before proofing

second boule shaped: no stress or stretch marks, and this ball is tight

second boule before proofing

the tight balls have doubled and are ready for the oven after 45 minutes.

This time, I put the baskets back in the Excalibur Dehydrator on the bread setting, and they proofed for 45 minutes, the last 30 minutes of which I preheated the oven.

Big Flop
Then I made a couple of errors.  The Big Flop came when I upended the basket onto the pizza peel, that I had pre-coated with some cracked wheat so it would slide off easier.  The dough deflated before my eyes.  Obviously, this was precisely the time when I should have been extra gentle with it.  Next time, I think I will put the cracked wheat or cornmeal on top of the dough, and put the pizza peel over the basket and turn over both peel and basket together, a lot more carefully.  The dough might survive intact if I take my time with it and don't bang it too hard.

the big flop

ouch: the free-standing loaf deflates a bit before going into the oven

The casserole dish I was using was too small, so that was the second error.  I flopped it in gently anyway, using the cloth the way Lahey suggests, and I managed to put the lid on it, barely. 

Neither loaf was scored.  I didn't think that was going to work in either case.

The loaves were baked at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, then I turned the temperature down to 350 degrees F.  After another 15 minutes, I removed the lid of the casserole dish, and the loaves baked for another 15 minutes like that.

I was impressed with the way the loaves looked at the point when I removed the lid of the casserole dish: the deflated loaf seemed to have puffed up at least part of the way again due to some oven spring, and the bread in the casserole dish seemed well-rounded and it hadn't blown apart, like so many of Lahey's loaves seem to do, with their oven spring.  Perhaps because it was so close to the lid, this dough was better contained?  At this stage, the loaves looked more like I had been using bread flour instead of wholegrain wheat.  They had that artisan tawny bread colour to them at that point, rather than the darker chestnut colour that a full baking time would bring.

I coated the tops with butter when they came out of the oven and were put on the rack.  It was at this point that they developed the dark, but soft crust that I was familiar with.  The one in the casserole dish is lighter because the top was not exposed to the hottest oven temperatures, nor for as long.

Buttered tops

As they dried and cooled, the butter left an interesting marble texture in the crust.

This dough seems to make a pretty darn good free-standing boule, and I think that I prefer it this way. 

It tastes great.  My wife will like this one with jam, I'm sure.  The butter that I used on the crust was salted butter, though, and the crust does have a salty taste.  I happen to like that, and it seems to counter-balance the sweetness of the bread itself, but others might prefer a less salty crust, and should use unsalted butter.

RambleI have to say, I'm singularly impressed with Orton's recipe.  I suppose that she arrived at these ingredients, amounts and methods by taking suggestions from other bakers (perhaps her mother and grandmother, an unbroken chain of ancestor bakers, or perhaps she received input from others in her community), but she has arrived at this perfection by her own experimentation.  The variables are endless, what she could have put in.  How she arrived at just this precise methodology and ingredients, must have taken many, many trials. 

Despite the fact that those unpublished trials doubtless existed, Mildred's husband and co-author, Vrest Orton, wrote in his introductory words this final suggestion and admonishment:
"Don't make cooking a science.  Adopt it as an art.  And be sure you consider another ingredient that is not mentioned anywhere in this book ... and make use of it often.  I refer to your wits." 
Vrest and Mildred Orton: shoulder to shoulder
They were quite a team, Vrest and Mildred.  They say behind every great man is a great woman: well, these two were both great, and they worked shoulder to shoulder.  Mildred Orton used her wits, in the kitchen and outside of it.  She and her husband raised a family and built a successful company, the Vermont Country Store.  According to her obituary, she died in 2010, at age 99.

As for this recipe, don't forget that Mildred Orton was working with double the amounts I have given here: when she baked, she had 4 loaves of bread at a time: the recipe advises freezing some of them immediately because they "dry out fairly quickly".  Yes, they do: so, why bake so many?  Even with just 2 loaves, as I have scaled her recipe to here, if my wife is not helping me eat this bread, they will stale before the last crust is consumed.  That tough crust goes to the chickens.

But the point I wanted to make: if you are hand-milling 8c of flour, that is a lot of work.  And if you are kneading by hand, that is a lot of work too.  Even if the oil and method of adding ingredients slowly is just to ease the burden of mixing, that is going to be significant.  At the risk of making cooking a science, I offer this suggestion as a rule:

The Baker's Maxim:
You don't want to expend more calories in making a loaf of bread than you do in eating it.

Notes to Myself
  • When transferring this dough from the proofing basket to the pizza peel, be very gentle with the loaf, it will deflate.  Try sprinkling cornmeal (or in this case, cracked wheat) to the top of the dough as it sits in the basket (the part that will ultimately be the bottom of the baked loaf).  Place the pizza peel on top of that, and gently invert everything, so that the dough doesn't have far to fall.
  • Scoring seems to be optional for this bread: why?  The surface doesn't blow apart like other loaves made this way, despite the oven spring: why not?  Is it the oil?  Why has she added the oil?  It makes it easier to knead, sure.  But how does it affect the bread's texture and taste?
  • The butter that is painted on the finished loaves changes the texture and the colour of the final loaf dramatically.  I didn't brush off the extra flour when I began to apply the butter, and noticed that it was leaving designs on the surface.  You can use this to make art on the crust: a new meaning to the term 'artisan bread'.  Try painting a picture in butter on bread...
  • Lots of questions about this loaf.  Why milk powder, why not just milk and cut back on the water the appropriate amount?  Why so much (why this much) oil?  Why the amounts of brown sugar?  I've been reading several pertinent chapters of a lot of different books to try to get an explanation for these things.  As often happens with things that I'm researching, there is never one definitive reason, and many of the reasons I am given are simply contradictory.  I want to know these answers, and I have so many questions.  I'm beginning to suspect that no one has a simple answer, because no one knows for sure.  I will need to conduct my own experiments and see what I can discover.

1 comment:

  1. That crust and crumb look wonderful. I am going to be partial to the looks of the casserole loaf. Guten Appetit!.