Sunday, February 19, 2012

Math in Bread Making

Yup, there's math in bread making. The amount of flour used determines the ratio of all the other ingredients in the bread. There's an actual formula professional bakers use to figure out their recipes.

Until recently, I've always just made bread by "feel"--adding water or flour to the dough as needed, but after reading up on bread baking, I purchased a scale as an experiment. I wondered if this would take the fun out of bread making for me. I want bread making to be relaxing and enjoyable, not dogmatic.

What I learned is that I'm, generally, heavy handed with the flour. For example, my 3 1/2 cup of flour is quite a bit more than 16 ounces. I always wondered why I end up adding much more liquid to the dough than called for in recipes. I guess one of the tricks of really good bread is to use just enough yeast to make the dough rise effectively. Changing the flour and liquid ratios affects the yeast's ability to do its job. So, by weighing out the flour, liquids and other ingredients, my doughs are more consistent. I'm moving over to the "weighing the ingredients" camp. It doesn't take that much extra effort and I do think it's making a difference in the quality of my bread.

What do you think? To weigh or not to weigh? That is today's question!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Bread Shack

Look for a sunny yellow building on Rt 4. (Grabbed these pictures in the afternoon sun, so the colors are a bit washed out).

Managed to get all the way back to Old Town without digging into this olive loaf. So looking forward to din-din!

The variety of loaves, soups, sandwiches and baked goods offered at The Bread Shack  make it difficult to choose a favorite. Definitely worth the trip!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ciabatta al Formaggio

Another foray into pre-fermentation! The recipe I used for ciabatta al formaggio called for poolish: a flour, water, yeast starter with the consistency of very thick pancake batter.

This sits in the refrigerator overnight bubbling away and fermenting slowly and, then is added to the ciabatta dough recipe the next day. I added cheddar, provolone and romano cheese to the dough first by layering it on top of the dough.

Then by folding it in. (The dough can actually be wetter than this and still work).

Here's the dough ready for its second to last rise (before it's shaped and ready to go in the oven.

The shape of this bread is supposed to resemble a dancer's slipper. I need some practice...but here's the dough ready to pop into the oven. are the finished loaves of ciabatta.

I think I worked the dough a little too much when I was getting it ready for the oven...This bread, characteristically, has large holes in it and I'm sure I popped some of the bubbles when I was shaping it, but, still I'm happy with the final outcome...a tasty addition to tonight's dinner. The cheese filled in some of the air pockets for a nice little burst of flavor. Definitely going to try this recipe again.


BTW, you can find the recipe I used in Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." This is the second recipe I've tried from the book...loving it so far! The instructions are clear and the illustrations make it easy to know what the bread's supposed to look like at various stages.