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Zoethe

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What big ears you have! [Aug. 23rd, 2011|09:55 pm]
Zoethe
New breadmaking experiments. Including a very excellent suggestion for better baking conditions by baking the bread in a Dutch oven (thanks belong here: http://fitfool.livejournal.com/261756.html). The result? The most beautiful loaf I've ever baked:



The bread has lovely "ears," the little curled up bits of bread at the edges of the cuts. It's risen beautifully, and I can't wait until it's cool enough to cut.

What you can't see is the lovely sourdough scent that wafts from the loaf. I am beyond tickled by this scent and hope the bread lives up its aroma.

One of the things that is difficult to find here in Ohio is the kind of sharp-flavored sourdough bread that is associated with San Francisco and the West Coast. The sourdough starter I cultured last winter was fine for rising bread but lacked that wonderful kick. So this time I decided to start with real San Francisco sourdough starter. The directions for incubating the sourdough aren't difficult, but it's rather like a baby: you have to keep it warm and feed it regularly in its infancy.

After the first couple of days, I thought the baby wasn't going to make it. The starter batter looked funny, smelled funny, seemed way too runny, and wouldn't stay incorporated. Since I'm pretty much incapable of following directions that I doubt, I increased the flour and decreased the water for a couple feedings, and things started looking up. Then when I stirred it this morning, I got that distinctive sourdough smell off of it.

It's still a couple days too young to be considered a full-grown starter, but I couldn't resist making bread with the part of the starter I was supposed to discard. It took more flour that usual, and though the dough was nice and pliable, it was really soft and wanted to spread, so I proofed it using a towel-lined bowl as a makeshift brotform, which worked reasonable well.

The real trick, though, is the dutch oven. What home ovens lack is a way to keep the baking bread nice and steamy through the first part of the baking. Steaming prevents the outer layer from gelatinizing too quickly so that the bread can benefit the most from oven spring and the crust can be thin and crisp instead of tough. A dutch oven solves much of this problem by holding in the steam released from the bread and keeping it nice and moist.

The trick is preheating a 17-pound, 7-quart dutch oven to 450 degrees and then getting the proofed dough into it without incurring third degree burns. An extra-large piece of parchment paper allowed me to lift the bread in, a quick spritz with a squirt bottle assured enough steam, and silicone gloves got the whole thing in and out without burns.

Loaves of artisan bread like this cost $5 or more at the market. I will more than pay for the dutch oven in less than a half-dozen loaves of bread. And now that I've sliced off a sliver, I can report that the crust is crisp and the crumb tender. The sourdough flavor is not quite the strength of a good San Fransisco sourdough, but I'm hoping that it will develop.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/782907.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: longtimegone
2011-08-24 02:23 am (UTC)
Oh god my stomach just growled at me. That looks DELICIOUS!

I rarely make my own bread, as I tend to EAT IT ALL, but I might have to rectify that asap!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:32 pm (UTC)
By letting the bread rest a long time after stirring it together, I can really cut down on the kneading time. It is so much easier - kind of a combo of the "5 minutes a day" techniques and regular bread-making. Totally worth it!
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[User Picture]From: longtimegone
2011-08-25 01:48 am (UTC)
Good point. If I think about it, my most successful bread attempt was when I mixed it all up and let it rest in a warmer area while I went grocery shopping. Came back, did the kneading and it was perfect!
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[User Picture]From: oceansedge
2011-08-24 02:33 am (UTC)
the dutch oven trick really does make a stunning crust - it was a revelation to me too when I learned it
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:34 pm (UTC)
It's brilliant. I'm completely sold.
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[User Picture]From: jojomojo
2011-08-24 03:25 am (UTC)
I am intrigued by these dutch oven ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:40 pm (UTC)
Well, considering I can't manage to stop talking about bread, I just hope you don't eventually regard it as spam!

For the record, mine is a 7-quart Lodge cast iron one, purchased through Amazon. (Eligible for free shipping, which is substantial for 17 pounds of cast iron!) It's not as pretty as a Le Creuset enameled one in bright colors, but it's much less than half the cost and did a great job. I suspect that it will be called into service for other cooking tasks as well. I personally love cooking with cast iron and am slowly rebuilding my collection.
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[User Picture]From: creentmerveille
2011-08-24 03:46 am (UTC)
Don't mind me... I'll just sit down here, drooling on your shoes. :D

WANT. :9
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:42 pm (UTC)
I won't object. It totally deserves that reaction.
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[User Picture]From: geli_tripping
2011-08-24 12:24 pm (UTC)
That is a pretty loaf! I can almost smell it!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:46 pm (UTC)
I am tickled with it!
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-24 12:26 pm (UTC)
That makes me so happy to see! Glad it worked so well for you. And I've learned a new term. I hadn't known those edges were called ears. You sound so much more advanced than me in knowing how to bake bread though. I just follow the instructions and keep wondering if I'm doing it correctly :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 12:50 pm (UTC)
I've been reading bread baking books, so I have some terminology, but I wouldn't have known about the dutch over trick if it hadn't been for you, so we are pooling our knowledge nicely!
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2011-08-24 10:32 pm (UTC)
It's not just the terminology -- you seem to have a feel for how the dough should look and feel! When I hand knead, I just knead until I get tired. My dough tends to fail whatever tests I've read for checking whether or not it's done. The windowpane test? My dough just rips. Still lots of room for improvement here. But yay that I had stumbled on a trick that worked so well for you. I love that the internet lets us share all of that. Oh and it was another LJ friend who first inspired me to attempt to make bread from scratch without a breadmaking machine. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 11:53 pm (UTC)
Hooray for the Internet!
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[User Picture]From: pachamama
2011-08-24 01:01 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous loaf! Congrats!
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From: anonymousalex
2011-08-24 01:23 pm (UTC)
Score another one for cast iron! And what a gorgeous loaf of bread it (and you) made.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 03:28 pm (UTC)
Cast iron is the bomb.
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From: anonymousalex
2011-08-24 05:01 pm (UTC)
Also, sourdough starter. I'm told that, once it's properly started, it's surprisingly resilient. And you can do all sorts of things besides bread with it.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 07:49 pm (UTC)
I've made sourdough flapjacks but haven't experimented further.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2011-08-24 04:43 pm (UTC)
i never thought of using the dutch oven ... duh ... to bake in. ROFL
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-08-24 05:02 pm (UTC)
Me, either.
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[User Picture]From: myskat
2011-08-25 01:05 am (UTC)
beautiful!! I wish I could taste it :)
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