Bread Experiences

The recent Thread on the internets about real Pizza inspired me and gave me an idea of what I could do to make the bread that I bake a little better.

The bread that I’ve done before has generally been good, but I haven’t been 100% happy with the texture. It tended to have a high flour:water ratio, and from that has been hard to knead well. Kneading develops the gluten in the flour, so the bread would be somewhat crumbly and even have very large or very small air bubbles. One of my favorite breads is the Essential foods Fremont bread, which has good structure, nicely elongated bubbles, and a good chewy texture.

The pizza thread had a clue — higher water content, and mechanically knead the bread when it’s still very wet. The kneading is still effective even when all the flour hasn’t been added to the dough. I started with a 5C flour: 2C water mix, then tried various mixes from 4:2, 4.5:2, 4.75:2, and ended up at the original mix with some procedural changes. The wetter doughs had very little strength on the way into the oven, in a freeform loaf shape it was about an inch tall and 5 inches wide. It rose well in the oven, good flavor, with very large interconnected bubbles and a nice crust, but didn’t really fit in the toaster.

The basic procedure, a 5c dough.

Put 3 cups (King Arthur) bread flour, 1 tsp yeast, and 2 c water into the mixing bowl. Mix using the batter attachment till smooth. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

Mix on low using the dough hook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup KA All Purpose flour and mix for 5 minutes. And again. And again. We’re at 4 1/2c now. Add the last 1/4-1/2 cup flour, scrape the dough down from the hook as necessary, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Add 2 tsp salt, and mix a bit, then pull out and knead by hand for a bit, then put in a greased/spray oiled bowl, spray oil the top, and put plastic wrap down on the surface of the dough. Put in the fridge, and let sit for a couple of days or more.

Get the dough out of the fridge about 1 1/2 hours before cooking, and preheat the oven to 425. The cooler the bread, the better it will stay formed, so less flour could indicate less time out of the fridge. Form the dough into a torpedo, spray with oil and dust with flour as necessary, put on parchment and onto the stone. Cook at 425 for 15 minutes, then 350 for 30 minutes until good color in the crust.

The important bits of this are: Lots of mixing/kneading when wet, 2tsp salt, and enough flour to make the dough stiff enough to stay formed.

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