Last Week’s Loaf

Just some details about my latest bread-baking session last week…

Step 1: Making Dough

I began with a starter fed with rye flour and water. Once it doubled in volume, I whipped up a batch of dough with the following amounts:

  • 387g total starter
  • 306g Trader Joe’s white All Purpose flour
  • 156 room temp tap water
  • 12g salt

I let the mixture sit 20 minutes before adding that salt, then I kneaded it all until I was convinced the salt was evenly distributed. It’s a wet mix, so kneading is done more by lifting and folding than by pushing.

I then put the dough into my mixing bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. That sat in the fridge overnight, actually about three days.


Step 2: Shaping and Proofing

The shaping process is hard to describe in text, but it basically involves folding the dough together and tightening its form so it will capture more gas during the proofing stage. I let the shaped dough sit in the base of my cloche (sprinkled with semolina to avoid sticking and give texture) until it reached room temperature and filled with some gas. On this particular day, I turned my oven on for a minute and then switched it off so the dough (in the cloche) could sit in the warmth for a bit to speed up the process.


Step 3: The Bake

Once the dough had rose sufficiently (ie I was running out of time) I sprinked some flour on it and scored a pattern so it would A) rise and open, and B) look cool. It worked! Bake temp was 450 F but I let the oven preheat for about 35 min at 550 F with a Baking Steel in there. Since I didn’t preheat my cloche, I figured I’d use the steel’s fast conduction to throw heat into the clay and give the dough some nice spring. The bread baked in the cloche for about 30-35 min before I removed the lid for the final 7-10 min. That last bit gets the top nice and golden brown! 


Step 4: The Crumb Shot

You gotto wait at least 30 minutes (it’s fun to listen to the little crackling sounds) but then you get to cut in and find out whether or not you’ve made anything worth eating. Sometimes the outside looks great but the inside is dense and undercooked. This loaf came out awesome and the crumb is clear about that! Funky, uneven holes but dense enough to spread some butter or jam. 


Experimental Emergency Dough Excitement

Ready for the drama? I made a batch of dough last week and gave it the usual 3-day rise, but just a few hours before the baking session began I realized too many people were coming over and I needed (kneaded?) more dough. Not a huge deal, I learned a great recipe for 1-hour dough from Mark Bello at Pizza a Casa, but I wanted to kick up the flavor a bit to better match the depth I was planning on getting from my 3-day batch. Sounds like a potential tragedy, but it was actually the perfect opportunity for me to attempt something crazy.

Regular batch, using Bob’s Red Mill flour and a 3 day rise.

Allow me to explain. A dough develops more flavor with longer fermentation because of bacterial replication. Therefore, dough baked after only a short fermentation will not have as much flavor because of lower bacterial content… unless you add some yourself! I figured I could take a shortcut and add something that derives its flavor from a bacterial culture: yogurt.

Here’s the formula I used:
600g Bob’s Red Mill flour
384g water (100 degrees F)
15g instant dry yeast
25g salt
26g Chobani plain Greek yogurt

Mixed all dry, added wet, mixed and autolyse (just lettin’ it chillax) for 30 minutes. Kneaded for 5 minutes, rested for 5 minutes, kneaded until tight enough to bounce back from a poke. Then split and balled, packed in lightly oiled plastic pint containers for quick room temp rise.

Here’s the result….

Thinly sliced raw potato and red onion with fresh mozzarella.

Caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms atop a bed of mozzarella and scamorza.

Crust flavor wasn’t as tangy and bright as I had hoped for, maybe I need to add more yogurt. But the pies I made with the short dough did bake up nicely. They were more dense and crunchy than those made with the 3-day rise, but certainly tasty enough to eat. One friend suggested I add a small squeeze of citrus to the yogurt for some extra zing. I’ll try that next time I’m in a bind and need more dough last minute.

My standard formula worked out well, I’m pretty happy with it as a go-to recipe when I know I have the luxury of a 3-day rise.

Fresh mozzarella, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes with grated piave cheese.

Here’s the skinny:
600g All Purpose flour
379g warm water
100g Ischia starter
20g salt
1.5g instant dry yeast

Mixed all dry, added wet, mixed and autolyse for 45 minutes. Kneaded for 5, rested for 5, kneaded until tight enough to bounce back from a poke. Then split and balled, packed in lightly oiled plastic pint containers for 3-day cold rise.

Now back to the drama. Some of my pals had to leave early so I ended up with leftover dough after all. No problem, we baked some bread the next morning! All we did was pull it out of the fridge, let it rise on a well-floured peel (covered with a dish towel) and viola!