Monday, August 24, 2009


I've gotten a lot of cooking (and thus learning) done recently. Yesterday I made three separate batches of tortilla-like flatbreads using different techniques and flours. I've decided to go back to my old technique of starting the dough with 50% hydration by volume and then adding flour until the mix is workable. I feel that less mixing (and thus hopefully less toughening) happens this way, and I tend to be happier with the final dough. Also, sandwiching the dough between two Silpats helps make wet doughs less problematic to roll. Resting has a definite positive effect on the rolling process, and rested doughs can probably be rolled thinner. I am still uncertain, however, whether there is any effect on the texture or taste of the cooked dough. Baking on a pizza stone works fine, but it may not be any more effective than cooking in a pan, which is somewhat easier. Finally, I am starting to wonder if what I used to think of as an uncooked flour flavor in my flatbreads may in fact be simply a young dough flavor, and adding flavor, perhaps through a sweetener, might be a good solution.

Today I made a new batch of yogurt, mixed up a Roasted Peach and Whiskey Ice Cream, and baked the three baguettes pictured above. Di got me The Bread Baker's Apprentice for my birthday, and I finally made the defining recipe, Pain a l'Ancienne, starting the dough yesterday and baking today. The baguettes look quite pretty to the untrained eye, but I believe the way the dough split on the slash marks betrays their disappointing crumb, which had much smaller holes than I was hoping for. I think my actual hydration was somewhat lower than what Reinhart called for, or maybe I moved too slowly in getting the dough into the oven, or perhaps it was my failed steam method (following Bittman's advice, a cast-iron pot with rocks in it, pre-heated), or maybe even that my stone (a very thick slab of slate I used for the first time today) was not hot enough yet. Having so many variables is one of the most frustrating parts about bread baking. Anyway, the bread was still very tasty, so I'm still excited to try again soon.

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