Monday, November 29, 2010
Lately I've been experimenting with some time-honored techniques for making dough. Specifically, I've been trying to push the limits and thereby understand the characteristics of fermenting dough. The idea is simple and, believe me, not at all new. It has been used, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Like I said, it's really quite simple. Wheat has locked in its molecules natural sugars and texture enhancers.What can I do to unlock them naturally?
As it turns out, quite a bit! It is all about controlling the speed at which the yeast rises the dough. One way is to place the mixed dough in the refrigerator overnight. When you do this, the yeast continues to 'unlock' the flavors in the wheat without significantly rising because the cool temperature slows it down to almost nothing. Another way is to add very little yeast (or none) and mix the flour with water. Leave it to ferment for a few hours at room temperature and only afterwards start mixing the dough. This is important in, say, whole wheat bread where the flavor and natural sugars are locked up tight.
This bread is one of many in this ongoing learning process. It uses both a soaker and a slow fermented dough, called poolish (a flour water slurry). To help out a little, I added about 5g (1 tsp.) of wheat gluten because whole wheat flour is both heavy by itself, and the bran in the dough (it is whole wheat after all) tends to cut the gluten strands and lessen the rise.
This bread takes two days because of the deliberate slowdown of the rising process. It is very healthy and very delicious, well worth waiting for.
Here's What You'll Need:
for the soaker
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup warm water
for the poolish
1 1/8 cups whole wheat flour
about 1 g. active dry yeast (a large pinch or 1/8 tsp. + half of 1/8 tsp.)
5/8 cup water at room temperature
for the dough
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 Tbs. honey
3/4 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium egg
5 g. (1 tsp.) wheat gluten
seeds for decoration
Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. The day before baking prepare the soaker and the poolish ferment. For the soaker place the flour and the water in a container and mix them together. Cover the container and let it stand at room temperature until tomorrow.
2. For the poolish ferment, mix all the ingredients together, then let it sit to ferment for about 4 hours until it starts to get bubbly. Then put in the refrigerator overnight.
3. The next day take the poolish out of the refrigerator an hour or so before using to take off the chill. Then place the whole wheat flour, salt, gluten and yeast in a large bowl and mix. Add the poolish and the soaker along with the egg, oil and honey and mix thoroughly until it forms a ball of dough.
4. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes until it becomes quite smooth and slightly tacky.
5. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).
6. Remove the dough from the bowl, then flatten to a rectangle the length of your baking pan. Fold, de-gassing as little as possible, like a letter, then place it, seam side down, in the greased loaf pan.
7. Let the dough rest and rise for about another hour or until it just rises above the lip of the loaf pan.
8. About 20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Just before placing in the oven, spray the dough with water then sprinkle, if you desire, with some decoration. I used rolled oats as you can see in the photos.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes, then turn it around for even baking, and bake at least 10 minutes more (or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
As I said this is part of an ongoing learning experience. On the way I'm having lots of fun and eating lots of good bread.