Sunday, 4 December 2011

Trials and tribulations

This weekend I decided it was time to give my new starter a go. On Friday night it didn't look very prepossessing:

Starter straight out of the fridge
  Time to mix in half a cup of wholemeal flour half a cup of water and give it a good stir:

Leaving it out overnight, next moring it looked like this:

Nice and active. So pouring half into a bowl and returning the other half to the fridge for future use:

To the starter (1 cup) add water (1 cup) and flour (1 cup)

First mix in the water (warm unchlorinated water)

Then stir in the flour:

It should look nice and creamy.

Leave in a warm place

.Here's how it looked by 5pm

Stir it down and then add in another 1/2 cup of water and a cup of flour

By 10 pm it has risen again:

Prepare a couple of baskets.  Line with muslin squares and add a liberal sprinkling of flour. Best to do this before getting wet dough on your hands.

Now mix in enough flour to make a firm dough, tip onto a floured tabletop and knead away for 10 to 15 mins.

Divide in two and pop into the waiting baskets!

Cover with another floured muslin square and loosely on top of that, cling film.  This helps the surface drying out too much.

By next morning:

Now's the time to preheat the oven to it's highest temperature.  Put a metal tray of water in the bottom of the oven and a baking stone (pizza stone, ceramic tile) on a shelf near the top. (but leaving some room for the loaf of bread to sit on top and to rise!)
Tip each loaf out onto a floured baking tray:

Peel off the muslin carefully.

Slash with a lame, or a sharp knife.

Some deflation is innevitable.

Next slide the loaf off the baking tray onto the baking stone (preheated for 1 hr)  in the oven.

Bake for 40 mins, turning the loaf around after 20 mins to ensure even colour.


I'm alwayse keen to analyse my results to figure out how to improve!

This loaf was a 'tired'. It had risen all it could before being baked and as a result it didn't have any 'push' left. You can tell from this angle:

After slashing it didn't really recover any volume. Fearing this I might be the case I actually 'knocked back' the second loaf and kneaded all the air out of it, divided it into three and set these loaves to rise (while I walked the dog). My plan had been to roll/stretch them into baguettes and prove them a few hours more before baking. Life's never predictable and on my return my other half had not only removed the first loaf from the oven, as requested, but also put the 3 proving loaves into the hot oven.  Despite the short 30 min rise, and the lack of any slashing, these loaves did better than the first loaf! 

They did expand in unexpected places, but as you can see they had plenty of 'push' !

The texture of the loaf was good.

but the texture of the intended baguettes were better.

Conclusion: I need to adjust my timings, or allow for another rise before baking.

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