Before I progress onto the next Tartine phase, I decided that I should do a 'bench exam' where I could noodle around with some of the things that I've learned over the past however many months: increased fermentation times using cold proof to my advantage, adjusted hydration, and one loaf where I completely revised the formula (I wonder if you can guess which one that might be).
For the exam I put myself to the test with several loaves, ambitious, but fun! First, I did an experiment in hydration and fermentation with two breads: a country whole wheat with increased hydration and extended cold fermentation along with my City Bread, using a rye levain, extended cold fermentation and increased hydration. I then did a variation on the Tartine country loaf using a little more whole wheat flour which came out well. I made a semolina boule to see if I could improve the crust and open up the crumb using a lengthy fermentation and increased hydration to lovely success, and finally, I attempted another polenta boule (yikes), completely revising the formula. Its taken me a little bit of time to pull it all together, hence the 'missed' post last week. As you can see, I have not been resting on my laurels.
I've taken meticulous notes for all of the breads that I baked and all of the formulae are submitted below, including those two loaves that I've been wanting to experiment with in the arena of hydration and fermentation to open up the crumb - my City Bread, which is an ongoing pursuit, and the whole wheat loaf.
With these two loaves I increased the hydration just a bit, and I'm learning that there is a fine line between enough and too much hydration, and as little as 20g of water can push your hydration over that line. You will know when your loaves are too highly hydrated when they don't 'hold their ears', which you can see from these experimental whole wheat and City loaves.
I've also been fine-tuning the method for my turns, instead of doing 4 series of turns where I fold the dough indiscriminately, I've been paying close attention to the expansion of the dough and how buoyant it feels in my hand, and this should determine how many folds I would do within each series.
I'm trying to better understand my bread. I've gone from following rules to listening to what my bread needs, changing how I respond to those needs given the environment (temperature and levels of humidity) and the mercurial nature of the tools that I have (how thirsty the flour that I'm using might be as well as taking into consideration the protein percentage therein).
One thing that I want to experiment with in the near future is working with different types of flour, both the variety and the miller. Within my experimentation, I've resigned to using King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills because they are all accessible. While they are all fine millers, there are some exciting local (California), small-scale artisan millers who work with different wheat varieties.
I do not live in an artisan bread cul-de-sac like Portland Oregon or the Bay Area (anymore), and Los Angeles could not care one iota about any sort of bread movement (you know, these people are terrified of carbohydrates), so, I'm going to have to reach out to those millers and grab their goods via snail mail. I am excited to find out how they will affect my breads, and I will be certain to pass on all of the details so you can have a head start with your own breads using the same flours.
So, enough chatter. I will let the post speak for itself, because after baking so many boules I'm too exhausted to tell you a story on top of it all.
Here are the results of the bench exam!
This formula makes two semolina boules with a fantastic, brittle crust and a creamy crumb more open than the last.
GATHER THESE THINGS:
300g bread flour
200g (or so) rye levain (formula and method below)
25g olive oil
MAKE THE LEVAIN:
15g 100% hydration rye starter
50g BRM medium rye flour
50g KA AP flour
Dissolve the starter with the water. Add the flours and mix to a thick paste. Ferment for 8 hours.
MAKE THE BREAD:
1) Dissolve all of the levain in 750g of h2o. Mix in the semolina and the bread flour. Autolyse for 45 minutes.
2) Add the salt and olive oil to the dough along with 40g of h2o. Mix well, let it rest for 30 minutes.
3) Perform 4 series of turns as follows:
The turns that I outlined above were given the temperature/environment that I live in. You will 'read' your dough, and adjust how many folds you perform based on your environment. If your dough is increasing rapidly, you will perform less folds so you don't knock the accumulating gasses out of the dough. Always, no matter how many turns you perform, use a gentle hand with your turns. The dough will strengthen with fermentation. Your folds are an effort to keep the gluten molecules elongated and organized.
3) Ferment the dough for 2 more hours unmolested at room temperature if it's cool enough, if it's warm where you are, pop it in the fridge and ferment for the last 2 hours.
4) After 4 hours of bulk fermentation flour your workspace (or if you're freaked out like me about adding too much flour to your dough during shaping, be unconventional like me and use olive oil. There are no rules in your private bakery, except those that you make. Until I get hired as a baker somewhere (never), I will use olive oil on my work space, and my breads seem to turn out just fine, if not a little more scrumptious), divide the dough in two and loosely shape into rounds. Bench rest 15 minutes.
5) After the bench, shape the dough into two tight little boules, pop into bowls lined with linen that have been dusted with brown rice flour, and refrigerate for a 10-hour cold proof.
6) With only 20 minutes left of your 10-hour cold proof, preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a combo cooker and baking stone inside.
7) Cut out a square of parchment, place it over the proofed dough, invert this onto a peel so that the parchment is between the peel and the dough.
8) Peel off the linen, score the dough, slide into the shallow part of the combo cooker, spritz thoroughly with water using the MIST setting on your squirt bottle. Cover. Pop into the oven, turn the temp down to 450 degrees and bake for 30 minutes with the lid in place. Repeat with the second boule.
9) After 30 minutes of steam, remove the lid and bake till the loaves are golden, another 30 - 40 minutes.
Crust: Ummm, amazing. Crumb: Beautifully open for semolina, I feel. The mouthfeel was wonderful, full gelatinization realized. Flavor: Creamy and rich. Really beautiful. Ease of handling dough: C'est simple! Notes: For my semolina loaf, I increased the hydration a bit and the fermentation time dramatically. Remember to use bread flour in conjunction with the semolina, you really need the increased and higher quality protein from the flour. As well, when experimenting with hydration, small adjustments make a huge difference in the outcome of the bread. Try not to go 'hog wild' and add huge percentages of water at a time. You may compromise oven spring and the quality of your crust if you over-hydrate our dough when working with boules. Small amounts, like 10g increments will speak volumes in the ensuing loaves. Take scrupulous notes and note the changes with your adjustments so that you are continually improving the formula for your bread. Changes/notes: I think these loaves came out exceedingly well.
My baby. There will be no end to monkeying with my City Bread. There are so many variables to tweak. This is the bread that Thumbelina and I eat most often at home. Have a look.
This formula makes two (slightly modified) Tartine country boules with a little more whole wheat than Chad's country loaf formula.
GATHER THESE THINGS: