I got very tired of paying too much for too little tasty bread ($5.72/lb!), and I wanted meatloaf with fresh bread crumbs tonight (recipe to come later, and it is the Best Fucking Meatloaf, Ever). So, after a very long hiatus (and happy to have gotten my cooking groove back), I forged once again into Tartine territory to prep a starter.
But a fresh, anal-retentive starter will not get me bread tonight. What will get me bread tonight is cheating on Chad, with my Kitchen Aid mixer and commercial yeast. Next week I will cheat less on him; this week, I am a perfidious little bread whore.
The Night Before, or (T-X) hours: Poolish
227 g bread flour
270 g water
3 g yeast
Stirred in the mixing bowl, covered and left on the counter until I went to bed, then chucked in the fridge overnight. (It can be kept on the counter for 8 hours, if you are making Poolish and bread in one calendar day. But start early in the am, if you want bread on the table for dinner.)
The Morning After, or (T-(X+8)) Hours: Dough
All the Poolish
227 g flour
90 g whole milk (for a more tender crumb)
5 g salt
Stirred in the mixer with the dough hook until all the moisture was absorbed. Autolysed for 30 minutes, then kneaded on highest speed until it windowpaned. (If that’s more Greek than Geek to you, Alton Brown will show you what autolysis and windowpaning are in his bread episode – available on YouTube.) Formed into a ball (with wet hands!), then back into the mixing bowl until doubled.
Time is fluid, in terms of a bread recipe. A bread recipe can only give you a wild guess as to how much time something will take, because it’s not about a specific duration of time, it’s about the environment of your kitchen and how that environment impacts the desired state of your dough. Ambient room temp affects the rise time, and the method of kneading (man or machine; power of machine; speed of kneading) affects the kneading time. In my 77-degree house using my Kitchen Aid mixer on Ludicrous speed, kneading was 15 minutes (5 before autolysis, 10 after) and first rise was 90 minutes. YMMV, void where prohibited, no cash value.
If you are kneading by hand, I suggest increasing the time of autolysis to 4 hours at room temp (again, YMMV), folding the dough onto itself every 30 minutes, then kneading the dough on your work surface, using as little flour as possible, until it windowpanes.
Some Time Into the Future: The Fold
I could have made a boule or batard, but I wanted the bread to multi-task: crumbs tonight, grilled cheese sandwiches tomorrow. I decided on a sandwich loaf.
The sandwich loaf fold is simple: flour work surface lightly; turn dough upside-down on the work surface; pat dough into a rectangle(ish) shape the length of the pan*; fold the bottom third of dough up to the middle, then the top third of dough over the bottom third, so the top edge meets the work surface; pinch the edge to seal; bring both new top and bottom edges up to the middle; again, pinch to seal; fold the right and left edges in slightly, patting down but no need to pinch. (Divide the dough visually into eight parts – the first and seventh demarcation lines are as far as the left and right edges should be folded in.)
Flopped that bad boy into the loaf pan seam side down, let it bench proof until it peeped over the edge of the pan, slashed it (poorly, as the photographic evidence highlights; my groove is not completely back) right before baking.
Some More Time Into the Future: Frankenbake
If you’ve read my other musings, you know my convection oven kills bread. There are two ways to deal with this, neither of which require any steam-injection tricks that require you to move faster than Peter/Quicksilver from The X-Men.
One is the Frankenbaker (thanks, Chad) – if you have a Dutch oven that will hold your bread pan, you can pre-heat the Dutch oven in the murderous oven, pull out the Dutch oven when ready to bake, pop the bread pan into the hot Dutch oven, cover the Dutch oven with its lid and pop the whole Frankenbaker back into the oven. This setup will allow the dough to generate steam as it heats up and trap the steam in that small environment. The the lid is removed halfway(ish) through baking, to release the steam and caramelize the crust.
The other is the Cold Start (thanks, Chad and a blogger I may have named in a previous post) – the bread pan goes into the room-temp Dutch oven, the lid goes onto the Dutch oven, the Dutch oven goes into the cold oven, the oven is set to baking temp and, halfway(ish) through baking, the lid is removed as normal. All the benefits of Frankenbaking, with half the fuss. I lined the Dutch oven with foil on a whim, seeking to minimize any steam loss.
Frankenbaking works for any oven. Cold Starts work for my convection oven. What will work for your oven is a geeky little adventure, that you should embark on before you attempt to make bread that you actually want to eat. My oven, forged by Beezlebub, will turn out an edible loaf at 450 degrees after 50 minutes from a Cold Start (depends on how caramelized I want the crust).
Achievement Unlocked: Edible Loaf
As soon as I lifted the loaf pan from the Dutch oven, I knew. Lighter heft than the unbaked dough, golden brown crust with slight caramelization, bearing an ear of crust by which I could lift the entire loaf. The math confirmed a good bake – 17% weight loss during baking, which is suitable for a high-hydration dough. Killed an hour with a celebratory adult beverage, then sliced ‘er up and started the mise en place for meatloaf. Next time, I’ll probably turn off the oven, crack the door open a bit and leave the loaf in for 15 minutes, but the final product from this bake is on par with that $5.72/lb dirty hippie sandwich bread, only 85% cheaper.
*This recipe ended up overwhelming my 12″ x 4″ silicone pan. Next time, I’ll make two loaves in my 8″ x 4″ metal pan, or reduce my ingredients by 25% for the silicone pan.