Shiao-Ping, whom I regard as my bread baking mentor, set The Fresh Loaf forum alight with a post some months ago now, which was her homage to Gérard Rubaud. Many folk on that forum started making GR's bread, including me, and it quickly became one of my favourites. Shiao-Ping referenced Farine's blog on Gerard Rubaud as the source of her inspiration. I acknowledge and thank Farine and Shiao-Ping for alerting me to this wonderful baker and his bread.
Like many, I like to try lots of different breads in amongst my rolling repertoire of regulars. I've been doing more new ones than regulars lately, and hadn't baked a GR bread for quite a while. I had a sudden urge to do so yesterday, and baked it this morning.
For those of you who have not tried making Gérard's bread, I'd strongly recommend you give it a go. It's not an easy one due to the 80% hydration of the dough. Whenever I make it, I wonder whether I'll find it easier than the last time. I use it as something of a gauge as to whether I've improved.
I'm still a bit hit and miss with the shaping. The dough can get very sticky and hard to handle. These days, I use Rubaud's batard shaping method, which I prefer to Hamelman's or Reinhart's, but you need to be liberal in sprinkling flour over your working surface to avoid the unholy mess that can result if the dough sticks (to surface or hands, or both!). I also sprinkle some over the dough itself to make it a bit easier to manage. Not enough this time, as it happened!
Scoring can be a challenge with a wet dough like this one. I managed it quite well this time, but in my haste to finish the slashing and get the thing into the oven before it slumped flat on the peel, I scored it unevenly (see pic). Still, the rise ended up not too bad, especially considering that some ciabattas are less highly hydrated than this baby!
I basically stuck to Shiao-Ping's recipe directions, but halved her quantities, making a large single batard instead of a boule. I also altered the baking times as follows:
- Oven on max (250C), load dough, drop to 225C. Bake with steam 15 minutes.
- Rotate loaf, then bake @ 215C for another 15 mins.
- Lower temp to 200C, bake 7 minutes, then out.
- Cool for 2 hours before attacking.
The flavours of this bread really are special IMO. I'd forgotten how damned good this is. Also, there's an intriguing quality about this crumb that I can only describe as a sensation of coldness when you bite into it. I've experienced that before with other breads, but not often. Tantalising stuff.
Anyway, enough of my blah. Here are a couple of pics:
Best of baking to you all!