I’m going to do something out of character for me – I’m going to do a short post (I think!). Reason is that I’m soon on my way to Eugene for some more followup surgery on my bad eye – that’s a three day affair, and the followup always seems to be more frenetic than relaxing. So, who knows when I’ll have another opportunity.
I’ve not been doing any food photos recently, and you fellow food bloggers know that we really can’t post if we don’t have pics to add – sorry – my mind’s been elsewhere. But I did manage to do another overnight, cold proofed sourdough loaf –here’s the first one– but this newest one was accompanied by a few changes- and I thought that’d make a decent post.
I put Mick Hartley’s standard white sourdough recipe (what he calls, Pain de Campagne) back to work with a few adjustments. When I first made this loaf, I thought it was a bit dry, so I added about 20 ml of water to this one – next time I may cut that to 10 ml, as I really didn’t see any enlargement of crumb, and with Mick’s regular baking time, I thought it was a little too wet – Whatever, I’m not yet convinced that his suggested amount of water isn’t right on. Or it may well be that a smaller adjustment is needed – we’ll see.
Another adjustment I felt I needed to make was for timing’s sake; I didn’t give this loaf a room temp fermentation rest. After following Mick’s kneading/stretching schedule, I slipped the dough into the fridge for an 8 hour fermentation – then at about 8pm, I pulled it out, shaped a loaf, and put it into a proofing basket – then I covered it well and put it out into my weather-proof BBQ grill on the deck. Outside temp that night was about 40 degrees, so pretty much like a fridge.
Next morning, I pulled the loaf out of my faux proofer, and was greeted by one of the most beautiful perfumes in the world, the bewitching aroma created by the marriage of the yeasts and bacteria at work – it really is delightful, and I consider it just another of the many rewards of home baking. Admittedly, it’s not reserved for sourdough breads, since the very first time I experienced it was with the very first Jim Lahey slow-rise yeast loaf I made years ago. Do I do think the sourdough version is better.
But in the euphoria of the moment, I made my first ill-planned adjustment – instead of bringing the loaf inside immediately prior to slipping it into the oven, I brought it in early, thinking it may profit from a hour at room temp. Nope. I shall endeavor to remember (not easy these days) that the best timing is to only bring the loaf inside when the oven is fully heated and ready for baking. That’s the time when the cold loaf is most ready for scoring as well. Do you have problems scoring? Scoring a cold proofed loaf is heaven – my mistake was to let the scored loaf sit at room temp for an hour ‘after’ scoring – not a good move. The result of doing that was that as the loaf warmed, the scores allowed it to spread sideways – exactly what we didn’t want it to do.
I made a third error as well – in the activity of getting the loaf into the hot oven, and pouring the cup of boiling water into the equally hot pan on the bottom of the oven, I forgot to set the timer – only later did I adjust by ‘guessing’ at how much time the bread had already baked. One would think after years of doing these same tasks that somehow they would become habits – Nope!
My guess was reinforced by the color of the loaf, which in this case was a deep brown – but color is not a baker’s best indicator of doneness – and my first bite of this bread immediately gave me an impression that it could have well gone another 5 minutes at least – it simply was too wet. And that impression may well have been reinforced by the fact that when I lifted the cooled loaf to the cutting board, I sensed that it was too heavy for its size; a baker’s first clue to a problem loaf.
As with many of you -I’m sure- I am my bread’s harshest critic. But with this loaf, this is a fully deserved criticism – I made several obvious, but easily corrected errors. However, the process of the overnight cold proof was in no way injured or thrown into question by my self imposed errors, and I shall soon be up on that same horse again – hopefully a wiser baker for the experience.
Wishing you all good baking.