Friday, May 21, 2010

Not quite five pounds big!

OK. I have a habit of opening my big mouth and then, afterward, thinking things through.

I was recently soo smug about getting sixty pounds of flour that I just
had to brag about it. On line, for the world to see, over at the Mellow Bakers.

Now, as it happens, I read for a living. Every day I scan hundreds of pages of text, so you might think that I was pretty good at reading for comprehension. 

You would be wrong.

Turns out that each bag was twenty five pounds. So really, I had seventy five pounds. And I am already through twenty five of those.

After a little good natured ribbing, it was easy for me to boast that I would do the full sized Miche Pointe-a-Calliere while the majority of the other bakers reduced the sizes of their loaves to half or even third size. What the heck - I had the flour, right?

Except, golly gee, I really had not read the recipe. It was a large sour-dough loaf made from wheat flour, not all purpose or bread flour. No problem! I had bought a twenty pound bag of locally milled whole wheat flour just the day before. Got lucky again.

Check the recipe. It says 'high extraction' flour, not whole wheat. Whoops.

I tried to strain some of the bran from my whole wheat flour; but that particular dog didn't hunt too well.  Maybe I need a better strainer.

Check the recipe?

OK, it says to use 15 per cent 'regular' flour if you can only find whole wheat. Lucky again!

Then I got that nagging little voice, and thought that I better check the Mellow Bakers Blog to see if there were any typos or suggestions to be found. There were, indeed, but as I checked my copy of Hamelman's Bread I discovered that I had a pretty recent printing.

Lucky guy.

I had set the sour-dough pre-ferment up by the book. I thought it was too dry and stiff, but hey, I have been learning a lot from this book, so I trusted the recipe and sure enough it all came together nicely.

Put the pre-ferment away in the microwave overnight, take it out, and it just looked terrific. Gladass, my pet sourdough, must like whole wheat as well as she likes rye, because it really was well raised.

As I moved the bowl from the microwave to the counter, it deflated like a souffle. Do you suppose that is the 'slight indentation' they mentioned in the book? No? Ah well, it looked good to me, and by golly, I finally had the time and place to try this third bread recipe for May.

Because of my complaints about not being able to read the tiny little script on the off-colored pages of the book 'Bread', (see how I worked in my excuse list?) the lights were obediently turned on, old man's reading glasses on my head, and I re-read the recipe.


The scale that Sister Demeter had given me was used to weigh out the ingredients; there will be no more of the same mistakes I made with the corn bread. 'Lose your American measurement habits...' I thought, '...and weigh it out!'

So, I did, and instead of getting the promised too-wet dough, I could only get half of the flour mixed wet enough for the autolyse.

I decided to ignore the facts and go by the recipe.

Everything sat the required time, and eventually I got to add the salt, sour-dough starter, and mix it up for a few minutes.

To the best of my memory, this was the first time I saw that Hamelman let us get our mixers past the first speed, but there it was in print; turn it up to the SECOND speed!

Hey, I have ridden enough toy trikes in my day to know that when you get a green light, you go for it! Three whole minutes at the second speed!

Once I regained my composure, I remembered that this was supposed to be a really large loaf, so the KA mixing bowl got a quick washing, a light oiling, and then the dough went back in for the first ferment. Covered with plastic wrap, into the pre-warmed oven, it sat and did its thing.

It was really soft, nice dough, for being nearly all whole wheat. Very smooth, tacky, but fairly dry.

I took it out and folded it three times, every forty minutes, as instructed.

It is very hard for me to resist kneading and rolling the dough.

I like getting my hands into it, so to simply fold the dough and then place back it the bowl was pretty hard. Hey, I never said I wasn't twitchy!

Those are the first and third folds, by the way. Not much improvement in feel, but I thought it looked and felt pretty good right from the start. After the third folding, I shaped it and placed it on my 'super-peel' for the final raise. I went back and checked the book again, read how you could cover it with a large plastic container, and remembered that Paul from yumarama blog used a cover, so I set out to get one and get it washed. Nice time to remember, right?

After washing it and messing around with all the things which had been in it, I forgot to take and pictures of the dough under the box.

Trust me, it looked like a science experiment from the third grade. I had oiled and inverted a small bowl to make an indentation in the top, tried to do some of the fancy stenciling you see on teh intertubes, and then covered it with both plastic wrap and then the upside-down box. Of course, that is when my wife came home, shaking her head and grinning at the fool she had married.

When time was up, I unwrapped it and started to do some scoring work. The plan was to make a large flower of sorts, but during the final ferment what was the carefully measured center-of-the-loaf had done some serious tectonic shifting. Instead of being close to the middle, it had drifted out somewhere in the Atlantic.

So what do you do when there is an emergency? Get out the duct tape! I did not know why, but instinctively I knew that there would be some good that would come from that duct tape.

I used the gray wonder tape to prop up the side of the peel while scoring the loaf. My wife came over, and being the type who is unable to resist looking at a train wreck, started to tell me that the scoring of the center circle needed to be deeper than what was done by the little cup..., I handed her the knife!

(Actually, it did make it better. Thanks, dear!)

The fancy stenciling I tried? It all got wet and dissolved. I took the hint, and sprinkled a little Kosher salt around the top.

Into old Luke went my Miche. If you look closely you can see the fires of hell, glowing red under the pizza stone. You can also see that while the duct tape did correct some of the lopsidedness, it was far from a perfect circle. Hey, I was still pleased!

The final result looks really good. Getting the right angle for the shot will help with that illusion! I circled the loaf a few times before getting this photo - long enough that my Darling Bride started to laugh at me. Again.

I will bring a crumb shot home and append this posting. Right now, we are loading up the killer attack doggies and heading to Wisconsin. Fresh cheese, a home cooked meal by Sister Demeter, and a birthday party for Demeter's Love Slave. It should be fun!


  1. Looks great! I am so impressed by your slashing and decorating (and duck tape creativity) . . . that is one thing that I can just never seem to get right. I'm surprised your dough was on the drier side . . . mine definitely needed to be poured . . . but I guess different flours behave differently, something I am continually learning on this journey! How'd your family like the taste?

  2. good stuff! I bake donuts, and am a Past Master!

  3. Abby, they all said they liked it, but I stayed there just in case to make sure they finished every piece. Actually, Demeter's Dog Ike might have done his share of damage as well!

    Hey 2-BOWL! You get around!