Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bread Basket Pt.1

In this first bread based entry, I will discuss the effects of hydrating flour before baking without heating. In some previous experience with bread baking I found that a loaf with a water content of 60% of the total weight of the flour had a texture that I liked. I will be using that base water content as the control, but these results should apply to any bread. To test if hydrating the flour more completely before baking made a difference, I pre-soaked three loaves with varying water percentages.
Here is the breakdown:
Loaf 1
100g flour
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
Loaf 2
75g flour + 25g before bulk ferment
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
Loaf 3
50g flour + 50g before bulk ferment
60g water
2g salt
.25g yeast
All of these were mixed and then left to sit under refrigeration for 56 hours. However, the control, Loaf 4, is the same as all of the others, but was mixed just before bulk fermenting. In other words, Loaf 1 was mixed and then let to sit in the fridge for 56 hours, 4 was mixed just before bulk fermenting. Also, loaf 2 and 3 are the same in that they both have additional flour added after sitting under refrigeration for 56 hours, but they both had different initial water concentrations.
I thought that maybe having the flour sit in a lot of water might affect the hydration(loaves 2,3), but I also considered that these loafs have some flour that does not have any advanced contact with water; they are a mixed bag.
After 1,2 and 3 had their cold resting time, I mixed the additional flour into 2 and 3, mixed all of 4, and briefly kneaded 1 to be consistent. Here is what they looked like at this point (ready to bulk ferment):
Starting at the top right and going clockwise, 1, 2, 4 and 3.
I let these sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 hours, and then gently folded-over and shaped them into loafs.
These fermented at room temperature, covered, for 2 hours.
The final step was to bake, 420F for 19 minutes. However, there are some weird additional steps that go beyond simply preheating the oven. When I place the tray into my oven, I make sure it is on the very top. Right before the bread goes in, I place a large ice cube (about the size of 5 regular cubes) into the other rack, which is as close to the bottom of the oven as possible. I also place an empty, heavy saute pan, that I have heated on high for 5 minutes, next to the cube and toss a little water into the pan. The pan should be hot enough that the leidenfrost effect(this cool article takes about it) takes place and keeps consistent steam going for 10-12 minutes. This combination of ice cub dripping(it eventually falls through the rack and the creates more steam faster), and the very hot pan, steam my oven and bread at home.
Here are the results: all of these loafs were baked in the same oven next to each other for the same amount of time.
Starting at the top right and going clockwise, 4, 1, 2, and 3.
Here are the cross-sections: 4,1,2 and 3 (same as above)
Pre-hydrating dough clearly has an effect. I thought the fully formed dough had the best results, and the difference between 2 and 3 was not noticeable. 4 had the most dense and regular crumb and least browned and crusty crusty. 1 had the most irregular and light crumb, and most browned and crusty crust.



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