Blogging Marathon #51; Day 6
Month-long Baking Marathon: FIRE UP YOUR OVEN
Week 2 themed on Sourdough bakes
The best part of reading any book you love is getting to live (or relive) in your mind the lives of the protagonists. I don’t know if others feel this way. But I almost always assume the role of the character in my mind as I’m reading it. More often than not, it is the role of the title character. Sometimes, even when I can’t relate with their personality or characteristic traits, I wonder how it would be to live in their world.
And this is also the reason why I prefer fiction. It lets you romanticise the situation, even unfavourable ones, in a way that you can feel for the happiness or success of the characters in the book, which is different from feeling pain or joy in real life. I think here’s where I start struggling for words! For someone whose verbosity is the bane of her life, not being able to express how she feels bout reading a book, and being immersed in the literary world.
I normally keep away from non-fiction, there are just a handful of non-fictional accounts that I must have read. With an increasing interest in cooking and baking and writing about the two in a book and on the blog, the time I have free on hand to indulge in fiction is far reduced. I find that any available time I have, I prefer to spend reading food/baking blogs online or the dozen-odd cookbooks and baking books I now have in the collection.
With all the bread baking happening at home thanks to little home business I run with my friend –Lotsa Lavender – I’m increasingly interested in breads, and more so, whole grain breads. The whole wheat loaf recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart completely changed the way I bake breads and look at whole grain breads. In fact, that recipe is one among probably three recipes in the book for 100% whole grain breads. Still, the techniques mentioned in the book and the tips on extended fermentation and soaking grains for whole wheat (or whole grain) breads to soften the bran are things that I apply to almost every recipe I make.
Since I largely bake only whole grain breads, I convert any white bread recipe into a whole wheat one using those techniques. The final product will, by no means, be comparable to the original, but it does ensure a good soft loaf of bread despite the whole grains. Here’s a tip you could follow too if only you can plan ahead. Whenever you plan to bake bread with whole grain flours, sift the required quantity of flour a couple of times to separate out the bran and the coarsely ground part of the flour. Soak the bran overnight in water at room temperature and add to the rest of the sifted flour, along with the water, while preparing the dough and adjust for water accordingly. Your loaf will definitely turn out way softer than if you’d made it the usual way.
In the BBA, there is a section featuring a bakery that bakes artisanal breads the traditional way, using a wood-fired oven. There is also a little bit on how the baker – Tim Decker – prepares his oven each night, about how he loads the deck of his oven with local oak and waits till it burns out, taking the oven temperature to about 650 deg F (around 340 deg C), all ready to take in the first set of crust breads. Reading that portion late into the night a couple of weeks ago had me all dreaming about running a small bakery of my own somewhere down the line! It was so fascinating, that I was determined to start off on at least one of the two recipes shared generously by Mr Decker in the book. I say generously, because the two breads are amongst the most popular loaves being sold at his bakery – Bennett Valley Bread & Pastry!
This is basically a loaf that uses the mixed method – both sourdough and commercial yeast. The dough makes use of boiled mashed potatoes for softness and is studded with cheese. The sourdough gives a great flavour to the loaf, while the commercial yeast ensures that the loaf can be made in a reasonable amount of time.
As always, I used part whole wheat flour (regular Indian organic wheat grains ground at the local mill) in place of the unbleached bread flour in the recipe. I used 2.5 cups of wheat flour and 1.5 cups of organic unbleached maida. The recipe also calls for a quarter cup of chopped fresh chives. I used a mix of dried chives and some fresh rosemary since I had it on hand. The loaf has a lovely crispy crust that contrast beautifully (both visually and texturally) with the soft and spongy bread and layers of melting cheese inside. If you have sourdough starter on hand, this is one loaf you must try out right away!
Thank you Mr Reinhart and Mr Decker for the wonderful recipes and keeping the dinner table interesting!
POTATO, CHEDDAR, AND CHIVE SOURDOUGH TORPEDOS
Whole wheat flour – 2.5 cups
Unbleached maida/all-purpose flour – 1.5 cups
Fed sourdough starter – 1.5 cups
Potatoes – 4 (see note 1) – Scrub the potatoes well, don’t peel. Boil it till soft and keep aside
Potato water – 1 cup (use the water in which you boiled the potatoes. See note 2)
Instant yeast – 2 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Fresh chives, chopped – ¼ cup (I substituted it with 1 tbsp of dried chives, some fresh rosemary and fresh garlic greens)
Cheddar (use sharp cheddar if you can) – 6 thin slices (about 110 gm. I used about 80 gm)
- Now, measuring potatoes by numbers is dicey. The book mentions 1 large potato or 2 small ones but also mentions 8 ounces, which is about 225 gm. I had 5 largish potatoes that day, of which I set aside 2 for the bread, hoping to use the rest for some gravy vegetable later that night. Imagine my surprise when I weighed the potatoes and found that all the potatoes together weighed only 300 gm! I had to ditch my plan for the gravy that night. I ended up boiling all the potatoes and using all but one for the bread and the remaining one for thickening soup that night. Lesson – what is large for you may be small for someone else. So, wherever possible, measure your ingredients. If you do not have a measuring scale at home, I suggest you get potatoes weighed at the vegetable shop!
- You could use regular water too, if you forget to save the potato water. But Peter Reinhart mentions that the potato water would have all of the dissolved starches, sugar and minerals from the potatoes and thus would be nutritious and add great flavour to the bread too
Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge 30-60 minutes ahead of when you plan to mix the dough. It should come to room temperature
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the starter, cooked potatoes, yeast, ½ cup of potato water and half of the flour. Keep aside, uncovered, for half an hour
Add in the rest of the flour, salt and potato water and mix till it forms a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for about 6 minutes. Then add in the chopped chives and/or dried herbs and kneads for a couple of minutes till well-incorporated. The dough should pass the windowpane test
Oil the mixing bowl lightly and place the ball of dough in it. Cover with a greased plastic sheet and set aside till it doubles
Once doubled, transfer the dough to the counter and divide into two pieces. Pat out each piece into a rectangle of around 8 inches by 6 inches
Lay the cheese slices equally on both pieces leaving a border of about half an inch all around
Roll the dough tightly from bottom to top like jelly roll, with more force to make pointed ends. The shaped loaf must be plump in the middle with pointed ends, just like torpedoes. Make sure to seal the edges (You can look up the step by step pictures in this Pumpkin-Cranberry loaf to see how to seal the edges)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the shaped loaves on it. Cover lightly with a greased plastic sheet and set aside till it is almost double. Don’t let the loaves over-proof, else the loaves will start loose shape and go flaccid
Preheat the oven to 250 deg C with a heavy-duty steam pan on the lower rack. Simultaneously boil and pot of water
When the oven is ready, make two diagonal slashes on each loaf with a sharp blade or lame and place them on the middle rack and pour 1 cup of boiling water into the pan on the lower rack and shut the door
Repeat this process twice more – open the oven door pour boiling water into the lower rack and shut the door. After the third time, reduce the oven temperature to 220 deg C and bake for 15 minutes
Rotate the pans and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The loaves should be a well-browned on top and sound hollow when tapped on its bottom
Cool the loaves on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing into it
Adding boiling water a few times into the hot oven creates steam, making the surface of the loaves moist and thus crisp when baking