Le Baking – (Bread Day 3)
This was the Happy Day! The day when everything came together. The fun. The Grand Finale. The day you can hug everyone on the street, then get arrested for being weird.
Started off by taking the two baskets out of the fridge to a warm spot for more room temperature rising for about 4-5 hours. I left them in their plastic bags to prevent any crusting.
We have a 80 year old vintage oven that still goes remarkably strong, but needs a little tweaking to get to the right temperature. That’s why I have a thermometer inside the oven for a more accurate reading than I have on the oven’s thermostat.
The main things in the baking are the initial rise momentum (thus the 500 F) and creating enough steam to delay crusting so that the bread can grow fast and freely without impediments. This operation should go on for about 10 minutes. Then the oven can go down to 425 F and from there on simply watch, and turn the bread till golden brown or whatever color you like it (for approximately 30 minutes).
In French bread baking, there is a whole religion about the art of slashing the bread. Every bread type (baguette, batard, boulle, etc.), need a different slashing pattern. There is a whole science on when to slash, how, and what tools to use. I shrink my science down to making a cross pattern using a sharp Exacto knife. I probably wouldn’t pass the French slashing exam but who cares.
Got the oven going for about 45 minutes before baking, up to 500 F degrees (with the baking stone inside), and in the mean time I turned the bread out on a corn meal sprinkled pizza peel for slashing. I usually do a cross on the round loaves and diagonal parallel slashes on batards. The loaves deflated somewhat because of that.
There is an old trick to do this using an old tray that heats up in the oven. Have some boiling water going, and when the oven reaches the 500 F, slide the loaves into the oven, pour the boiling water in the pan and immediately shut the door to trap the formed steam. I also used a sprayer to mist the loaves surfaces before they went into the oven and also to just spraying some water every now and then on the bread really quick for those initial 10 minutes of baking at 500 F.
The result was to my humble measures fantastic. I finally got the nice big crumb out of all the breads I baked out to now. The thing is to have your dough fairly wet so it can grow nice big Swiss cheese like crumbs. It might be harder to knead it as the dough will be stickier, but if you have a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart mixer (like I DON’T have yet) then you can use that to knead your dough in a more elegant way.
The first two loaves made fabulous BLTs and I have to say that they disappeared in one day. For some mysterious reason, every one in my family gravitated all day long around the tow loaves.
This whole sourdough drama is now part of my everyday life. I bake two loaves every say 3-4 days. Trying also some ‘healthier’ variations like substituting two cups of the white flour with milled Bran Flakes. You won’t have the big crumb as the bread will become heavier, but nevertheless the taste is fabulous!
With the hope that my humble Sourdough soap opera will inspire some of you out there, I will leave you at this, since I need to go make another batch. It seems like once you taste it, you’re hooked!