Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pizza Goup and Frankenpatta (Today's Baking Log)

I have the updates from yesterday's baking log: not promising, but not without hope either.

Ciabatta: The ciabatta has tripled in size. I am not kidding. I unfortunately don't have a picture of the original for comparison (clearly I don't have real foodblogging chops) but I have the doubled and the tripled photos:
Doubled in size.
and compare...
Tripled in size.
Now under normal circumstances this would be a cause for celebration. Bread rose, right? It must be good. There are two reasons why I am hesitant. First, this is a baker's yeast recipe. Obvious things with baker's yeast should rise, but over-proofed goods with baker's yeast taste terrible. I obviously can't tell if it is overproofed, but I know that our refrigerator temperature might not be quite as cold or might fluctuate (the refrigerator is a good work-horse, but very old), which may mean that the yeast was not slowed down as much as necessary for Reinhart's cold fermentation process requires. Second, I made one of Reinhart's breads from his book Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor [1] and it had the same Frankenstein properties, and turned out over-proofed, yeasty, and with dense crumb despite it's original swelling. On the other hand, I did not know nearly as much about bread as I do now, so maybe I will get lucky and this bread will turn out fine.

I just split the dough and turned it into two ciabatta rolls. It's possible that I over-degassed the dough because I had to maneuver the dough a lot and I had to cut it with a knife which was more difficult than I anticipated (I really need a pastry scraper). I'm hoping they turn out ok. Wish me luck!
Ciabatta rolls.

No Knead Pizza Dough: So this is probably a dough I should have given up on a long time ago. I guess I just have too much baker's optimism because so many of my slightly-botched creations turned out beautifully at my Alma Mater [2]. On the other hand, although the dough had not changed in size, it was bubbly on the top and a little on the sides (a sign of fairly healthy sourdough starter). So, I followed Rayner's instructions and took a cast-iron skillet (one that has been in the family for at least 3 generations!) coated it with olive oil and semolina flour and poured in the bubbly, goupy mass. Letting it rise for another two hours and them I'm going to bake it. We shall see!
Pizza Goup: Phase 2.
One of the things that is really helpful about Wild Bread is that it delves more deeply than my other bread books into the biology of yeast rather than the organic chemistry of bread which is the primary focus of most books [3]. Rayner says that "you must get to know the individual characteristics of your culture" (Rayner 33) which is why she leaves out instructions on proofing time other than the amount that the dough should have risen. I have never been a particularly good biologist or naturalist (I'm much more of a theory than a practice person). Servia and I are trying determine the activation time of our culture by noticing how long it takes between a feeding and the culture becoming a spongy mass with a layer of bubbles on top (peak of yeast leavening activity) and from there try to follow Rayner's instructions [4]. Maybe then we will have more luck with our pizza dough.

  1. If you like cooking science, Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor is a fabulous book. I learned all that I know about wheats, starches, crusts, and enzymes from this book and I highly recommend it as, at the very least, good reading to make yourself more knowledgeable.
  2. I recently found out that the city of my Alma Mater is one of the best places for sourdough. It may have been the weather and the "yeasty beasties" (as Cerinthus calls them) in the region that helped more than my own personal luck or skill.
  3. Obviously an understanding of the chemistry of bread is essential and as I mentioned before, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor is fabulous in this regard. Understanding Baking is another wonderful text that even has a chart telling you the possible problems to diagnose your problematic loaves. Wild Bread has a similar appendix, but it is only focuses on sourdoughs (Rayner 152-155).
  4. For the biology of sourdough and how to take care of it, see "Caring for a Sourdough Starter" (Rayner 32-40).

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