Baking bread is always a challenge, especially when the weather changes. Lately I have been having quite a lot of trouble. They seem dense, even non-reactive. Makes for lousy loaves.
First, I blamed mistakenly mixing spelt into a formula rather then bread flour. And not having marked the flour bin, I ended up with some flat and flaccid hunks of baked dough. Yesterday I asked MC for some help and she pointed out DDT. Did she mean agent orange? No, that's when I remembered my school lectures about Desired Dough Temperature! Variables abound in baking and I simply have been throwing out the lessons, preferring to take the "touchy-feely method" of bread baking. Which translates into "the cross your finger route."
Following a recipe or formula in baking is a lot different than in cooking. Whereas the latter is more immediate, baking is a methodically timed process. All to say if you're like me (a stubborn student), spend more time on the basic lessons around bread, then observe and take note of what is happening from time of mix, ferment, shape and finally the bake.
Feeding my levains regularly, and even leaving them in the oven with only the pilot light on, makes it easier to escape the cooler temperatures of my apartment. No more mixing up flours or trying to rush the process. Maybe just a loaf at a time, scheduling is important too. Because there is nothing better then a risen loaf!
I really do admire you bread bakers. You are a special breed of chef. And having once worked as a pastry chef in a kitchen that had unmarked bins of flour I can fully relate to your story above. Call me crazy but one of my absolute favorite foods in the world is toast with salted butter. Love bread. Love, love, love bread!
Lovely loaf, Jeremy! I am glad you stuck it out. Isn’t it annoying though that all white flours look alike? Once you take them out of their bags, there is no way to know whether you are talking all-purpose, bread, spelt or whatever… What I do is I clip out part of the bag and stick it in the bin with the flour. Not very elegant but it works. Any other idea?
Amy, thanks for stopping by, love reading your journey through the top kitchen in NY as well your fabulous humor! My friend Brad from Conzieu talked about you all the time, guess that means I should maybe stop by and drop you off a loaf, but only if it is good!
MC, thanks for you encouragement and your fabulous lessons you pass on from your classes and your own experiences baking lots of loaves!