I haven’t forgotten this blog… so here’s a bread post

I have things I want to try… a restaurant review that I should be posting for Addis Red Sea… and I just haven’t had time lately for everything.  Or least it feels that way.  Maybe I’m just being lazy?

So, in the meantime, here’s the bread recipe post that I’ve been promising since the winter.  *eep!*

I haven’t completely given up on preferments just yet, but I’m beginning to think that I’m not that impressed (Asano-mama got the CookWise book recently, so I’d like to try a Shirley O’Corriher recipe before giving up on preferments completely).  I apologize in advance if some of the measurements seem weird.  I was converting them from an existing recipe from the UK.

I did try the recipe below a second time without the barley flour.  I still wasn’t wowed as I had hoped I’d be, but your mileage may vary.

Slow fermentation, adapted from Andrew Whitley

I came across an interesting radio piece after some googling – it was about slow fermentation and bread as presented by the BBC.  It was kind of fascinating.  Half of the show was talking to a die-hard-slow-fermentation-all-natural-all-local bread maker and the other half was talking to we-are-the-bread-federation-of-Britain man.   Ok, they aren’t called the “bread federation of Britain”, but they were definitely the federation of something.  (haha!)

Basically, the whole radio show can be summed up as thus: “no one can prove that slow fermentation is healthier, but it probably does taste better although less squishy.”

Some searching gave me an Andrew Whitley recipe for a basic bread.  Since I live in good ol’ New England, I had to revamp the recipe for use with my measuring cups and such.

First, here’s the Andrew Whitley version (cut and paste):
source – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/16/recipes.foodanddrink/print
This is the way most bread was made until the dawn of the era of high-speed mixing and “no time” dough. Although it involves a long rise, it doesn’t take any more of the baker’s time than fast-made bread. It uses less yeast, too, and the long fermentation gives great flavour and additive-free keeping quality. This makes a dozen rolls or two small loaves.

1. Overnight sponge
5g fresh yeast (or 3g dried yeast)
130g water (at about 20°C)
150g stoneground wholemeal flour
[285g total]

Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and add it to the flour with the rest of the water. Mix until the dough has “cleared”, that is, all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. There is no need to knead the sponge, since time will develop the gluten sufficiently. Put the sponge in a bowl large enough to allow it to expand to at least three times its original size. Cover with a lid or polythene bag and leave it at room temperature for 12-18 hours.

2. The final dough
285g overnight sponge (from above)
450g flour (wholemeal or a mix of white and wholemeal)
5g salt
270g water (warm to the hand, i.e. 30-35°C)
15g butter or olive oil (optional, but makes rolls a bit softer)
[1,025g total]

Mix all the ingredients into a soft dough. Knead without adding extra flour until it is silky and slightly stretchy. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour. Divide into 12 pieces (or two for small loaves), shape into rolls, dip into wholemeal flour to get a good covering, and place on a baking tray with about 2cm separating them. Cover with a large polythene bag but don’t let it touch the rolls. Let them rise until they are just touching each other, then bake in a hot oven (220°C) for 10-15 minutes. They should have a thin floury crust and feel soft after they have cooled.
© Andrew Whitley 2008.

Now, the US friendly version as adapted by me:

1. Overnight sponge
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp water
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Mix until well combined.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap (but not too tightly).  Let this fart around overnight.

2. The final dough
all of the overnight sponge from above
3 1/2 cups of flour (all-purpose, bread flour, whole wheat or any mixture of the three… I used all-purpose with one cup of barley flour out of curiosity)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp mild olive oil

Mix all together.  Try not to add extra flour, but I found that I had to.  I added only a tablespoon at a time.  The dough should be “silky and slightly stretchy.”  Cover and let this rise for an hour.  Divide in in half, and shape into a ball.  I didn’t bother covering this with flour.  I put both dough halves on either side of my biggest sheet pan.  I loosely covered with plastic wrap that had been sprayed with oil (oil side touching the dough, duh), and let the doughs rise until about double in bulk and almost touching each other.  Cut a slash on top.

Bake in the oven at 425F for 20-25 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack.

Overall, I liked the results.  They were like giant dinner rolls, reminiscent of bread rolls from Bertucci’s.  *grin*  I have mixed feelings about the barley flour I used.  Over time, the barley flour just make the bread taste “healthy” (less noticeable when still warm from baking).  Not necessarily in a bad way, mind you, but I’ve never used barley flour before I’ve seen it described as a mild, sweet flour.  So, I guess I was a little let down.  I wouldn’t mind using the barley flour again, but I’ll have to use less than a cup.

As for the overall method, I thought the sponge (aka preferment/biga/poolish) was kind of fun.  It’s kind of cool to see the sponge be all bubbly.  It worked fine, and I’ll probably work with more preferments in the future.

~Mikan

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