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!