Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Knead Pain Au Levain

Lets talk about Jim Lahey's no knead bread. I have made it a few times in the past, and thought it was alright..but only recently realized how good it really is. As much as I love the entire bread making process - it can be a bit of a pain to do on a regular basis at home. So I have been playing around a bit with the no knead recipe because it is practical to make regularly at home. I want to see what I can do to improve on it. First things first - get a weight measurement rather than volume - which is what was printed in the New York Times. Easy enough. I think my third time making the bread I weighed everything and this is what I got (and have been using since).

472 g Bread Flour (I use King Arthur)
1 g Instant Yeast
8.3 g Salt (8 g is fine if you dont have a scale that measures less than 1g)
370 g Water (Filtered or Spring. 24 degrees C)

Simply to combine everything, let it ferment 18 hours, turn out onto a bench & fold a few times. Rest. Shape. Proof two hours - when you start proofing turn your oven on to 450 & put a dutch oven in it. Once the bread is ready to bake, put the dough into the hot dutch oven, cover and bake 30 mins. Remove cover and bake until done, 15 - 30 additional minutes. 

With that down, what is the next step I can take to improve the bread? 

Use a poolish. 

There are...different interpretations of what a poolish is but in the interest of brevity and ease (remember I want a bread that is a breeze to make often) I would recommend using one that I learned from this man. What you do is start with your water in the container that you plan on fermenting your dough. Sprinkle your yeast on the surface of your water, and then add your flour. No need to mix, just let it sit as is. Put your salt in a small well on top of the flour. Let this sit at room temperature a minimum of 15 minutes - and then proceed as normal (mix everything together, ferment, and so on)

How much does this improve the flavor? Marginally, if at all. So what else is there?

Pate fermentee. 

This is what I was doing for a while, with consistently good results. You start as normal, mixing everything together and letting it ferment 18 hours. Immediately after folding your dough, that is after turning it out onto your bench, cut away a fist size piece and put it into a container. Keep this in your fridge until you are ready to make another batch.  The next time you make the bread, add the (couple day) old dough to it. After the bulk fermentation, cut out another piece and save it for the following time you make bread.  Keep doing this every time you make bread. I felt that this helped the flavor of the bread quite a bit. 

And now the pain au levain, or pane levan, or whatever you want to call it. This is naturally risen bread. Made without the use of commercial yeasts. If you are looking to make this bead I can only imagine that you have a starter that you maintain. I keep mine refreshed at a 1:1:1 ratio. So if you want the bread you see in my picture...you should too. But its not that important. If you have a liquid starter or a firm starter...it will all work so long as it is alive and active. 

Here is the recipe that I use - as you can see it is a modified version of the regular recipe. 

475 g Flour
370 g H2O (24 C, filtered or spring)
8.3 g Salt
190 g Levain 

Measure the water, add the levain and mix until it is pretty much dissolved. Then add the other ingredients and mix until they form a dough. 

Put the dough in a large container & ferment for 18 hours. As you can see below, my dough had expanded to about 2.5 Q.

After fermenting 18 hours, turn your dough out onto a floured bench. Fold it a few times until it feels manageable. Let it rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Shape however your heart desires and proof for two hours - on a floured couche or silpat if your using the dutch oven. I use a banneton/bratform. It all depends on what shape youre going for. In the end you should bake it at 450 for close to an hour. Its a big loaf (if your not using the dutch oven you could divide it into two loaves). 

This is what you get. Beautiful crust & crumb. Lovely sourdough flavor. Just a great loaf of bread. And easy enough to make every day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Wet Is Your Dough or A Visual Representation of the Effect of Dough Hydration on Hearth Baked Bread

Left to Right: 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 110%
So I wanted to give a visual representation of the effect that water has on your bread.  The hydration level of your dough is directly related to the amount of flour in your dough. To figure it out you  divide the water weight by the flour weight. For example if you have 100 g of water and 200 g of flour, your formula would be: 100/200 = hydration level or 100/200 = 0.5 which means you have 50% hydration. Simple enough, right?

I seem to have 'misplaced' my notebook where I wrote the specific recipe that I used but the ratios were based off of Jim Lahey's 'No Knead' recipe (which I translated to weight measurements a while ago). I just scaled it down to have smaller loaves and - of course - I changed the water measurement. 

I decided on making doughs with 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%,  and 110% hydration. In order to eliminate as many variables as possible I did not knead any of the doughs...seems appropriate for using the no knead forumla. Anyway - I also skipped over some techniques that bakers use to make higher hydration doughs more...friendly to work with. I did not score the doughs. I did not use steam (pitching ice cubes). I baked everything for the same amount of time at the same temperature regardless of how 'done' it was.

The actual process went as follows: 
1. I scaled everything
2. I mixed all the doughs
3. I fermented the doughs at 24 degrees C for exactly 18 hours. This would provide adequate time for gluten to develop without kneading the doughs. 
4. I folded the doughs 2 times
5. I rested the doughs 15 minutes
6. I shaped the doughs into 'boules'. (I am using that term loosely)
7. I proofed the dough at 24 degrees C for exactly 2 hours.
8. Everything was baked for exactly 45 minutes and then cooled on a wire rack until room temperature. 


Clockwise from the top right: 60%, 80%, 70%, 50%
The 50% was not extensible at all and was rather difficult to shape. Things got progressively easier as the hydration level went up (go figure).

Clockwise from top right: 100%, 110%, 90%
This is where the hydration started to make shaping the dough more difficult. The boules are a bit larger because rather than holding a nice shape, they spread out.

50% - Notice the tight, round shape & fluffy, sandwich bread like crumb.

60% - Shape still holding pretty well, crumb starting to have larger bubbles. This looks like a store bought loaf of 'french bread' to me. 

70% - Maybe a bit more open structure than 60% but still pretty similar

80% - Losing its shape a bit, noticeable change in the crumb.

90% - Not sure why this one held its shape better than the 80%. 

100% - Less round shape, crumb looks moist, chewy crust.
110% - Flattest shape, open structure, moist interior, chewy crust.

Lets take another look at the first photo:
Left to Right: 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%, 110%
Here you can see pretty clearly that the crumb progressively became more and more open and moist - as well as the fact that the dough held its shape better as the hydration level went down. 60 - 80 were a joy to work with. 50 & 90-110  were not so much. I had a batch of 120% but it was more like a batter and...well it didn't survive. It could have though, if I was more prepared for it. Ill give it another shot sometime soon.

yay!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back Online

SOON!