It’s only right and fair that I admit that one big reason why I successfully completed my recent eye surgery rehab was that I had heretofore unmentioned assistance – namely from my helpmate and private duty nurse, Sandee. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I must also admit that although Sandee’s assistance was the primary reason for my high level of comfort during the otherwise tortuous ordeal, she truthfully represented option 2 on the rehab choice chart. Option 1, which for some still unknown reason was denied me, was a seven day slow IV drip of Versed, which would have allowed me to assume any position desired for the entire time, without so much as a twitch of a muscle, and in total state of ethereal bliss throughout. But, as I say, this request was denied – and so, I consider myself fortunate to have had Sandee’s fine care – just a different kind of ethereal bliss!
San handled all cooking, and in fact choose to do dishes that were not only advanced, but quite time consuming as well. And she did these meals from scratch – no frozen entrees whatsoever. Now San has always told me that she’s quite happy with me doing the cooking – but it sure did look like she was enjoying this opportunity. So, when her reign in the kitchen was passing back to me, I asked her if she’d enjoy taking over a night or two each week to keep herself in practice – she emphatically refused. I’m left with the assumption that her kitchen activities were therefore a reflection of her true love – what a gal.
We did eat well, but there was no bread baked during this time – not that any was needed – the freezers were loaded. But as soon as I was free again, I determined to pick up where I had left off with my 1,2,3 Sourdoughs, only this time, because it had been awhile, I thought I’d double the formula and do 4 baguettes – a loaf I had not as yet done with the 1,2,3 method. But, as I was about to discover, the 1,2,3 formula can be as humbling as it is simple.
I must admit to you that I tend to shy away from baguettes (I find it interesting to hear about which particular breads home bakers avoid baking out of some inbred fear – mine are baguettes.). The reason why I avoid baguettes is because they tend to use a very wet dough, but unlike ciabatta, a “feared” bread which I personally love to bake, a baguette has to proof within a couche, or support for the sides of the loaf, otherwise it will tend to spread out sideways. Our usual 1,2,3 dough is by default a 75% hydration dough, which is quite wet even for a baguette. If you did not use a couche or floured cloth, your baguette would not hold its usual shape during proofing – even when you proof your baguettes in a couche, the process is not easy – Yes, there are probably pro bakers who can do baguettes without using a couche – kinda like mountain biking with no hands – when you can do it consistently, you have arrived! Add to this list the fact that baguettes present bread’s most challenging scoring and you have all the reasons why I have avoided baguettes.
Knowing I would need plenty of starter, the day before I doubled my usual amount of refreshed starter – so now I weighed out 200 grams of starter – then I added to that 400 grams of water, again thinking “double”. I mixed it all together, enjoying once more the beautiful feel of dough creation. Now for the flour – you can see what’s about to happen, can’t you! Yup, I again doubled, and weighed out 800 grams of flour, along with 24 grams of salt, and a tiny pinch of instant yeast. As I mixed it all up, it occurred to me that this batch was not as wet as I remembered 1,2,3 dough being – and then it hit me! 1,2,3 is not a progression of doubling, it is a simple 1 part, 2 parts, 3 parts formula. What a dumb trick! I had lost my baker’s concentration – Damn!
For a minute I thought maybe I’d just recalculate and adjust the dough back to a true 1,2,3 dough – but I knew that’d give me a hellaous amount of dough. Was I ready for that much bread? No, that was not a good idea. So I did a quick calculation of just what kind of dough I had created by my blunder – OK, a hydration of 55% – that’s pretty dry, but there are plenty of breads that are purposely formulated at 55% hydration. OK, let’s just go ahead with this batch and see what we get. Experimentation is always fun – right? And at least I’m making it easier with such a dry dough – the proofing and scoring would be simpler now.
So here is a little pictorial of my adventure with the 55% hydration dough – although they kinda look like baguettes, we can’t really use that name for them legitimately. Frankly, I don’t know what to call them. Actually, they weren’t half bad, and my after-thought was to try it next using 700 grams of flour instead of 800 – that would create a 63% hydration dough, still drier than a normal baguette, but probably wet enough to give you some nice holes in the crumb.
I would guess that there are lessons to be learned here – one is the basic fundamental known by every athlete – lose your concentration, and you lose your game! But even with our valiant attempts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, bread shows us its gracious and forgiving side – our finished product is really not so bad. Yeah, maybe not as light and airy as we’d like, but quite a nice taste – and isn’t that bread’s most important element?
Still, it’s embarrassing to be humbled by a loaf of bread.