What really matters?

Travelling home from our Easter break, a beautiful weekend of camping and cycling, we realised that we would need some bread to survive until I could prepare and bake a new loaf.  Stopped at a country bakery for lunch and decided to buy one of their loaves.  Despite asking for something with 'body', what we got was little more than 'fairy floss' disguised as bread.

So once again, little in the way of experimentation with this loaf.  I have been using exclusively the stretch and fold technique for the last few bakes and have made some very nice loaves as covered in my last couple of blogs.  For no particular reason, I decided that I would replace the S&F by the 10 second kneads (high impact 'French' technique) - repeated four times at hourly intervals.

My impression was that the dough was more 'together' throughout than it had been with the S&F technique.

Shaped into a batarde used the fold and roll method and then left to prove in a floured tea-towel lined basket.  Baked with radiant heat (no fan) and steam from a dish for the first 15 minutes.  Progressive temperature reduction after that.

Good oven spring and only a minor burst at one end so all in all a very satisfactory result.

Whilst I haven't done a loaf by loaf comparison, my feeling is that it doesn't matter much how you achieve it, as long as the dough is well developed and properly proven the outcome will be pretty much the same and very satisfactory as well as satisfying and far far in front of 'fairy floss'.

3 comments

That's a lovely smooth looking loaf, Farinam. I enjoy your posts.

How do you mean "more together"? Do you mean the dough felt different? What was the crumb like?

What surprises (and pleases) me through this journey into breadmaking is how difficult it is to completely stuff up the result. I've done some terrible things, and still mostly get compliments from those that matter. The worst thing I did was to leave the loaf in the oven "for another few minutes" which turned out to be more than half an hour! That was some crust...

I too like going out on a limb to get an understanding of how it all works - and there's no end of surprises, most of them pleasant.

I don't know if you know Daylesford, but one of the bakeries makes a claim something like being "the best in the world"... but truly it's a very boring old-style country bakery probably similar to the one you describe, producing boring bread and sweet things. Fortunately there are others there, one of which actually does produce good bread.

Kym, thanks for the compliment :)

What do I mean by 'more together'?  That's a bit hard to say.  When I was doing S&F, the dough seemed to be a bit 'stringy' (when the dough was flattened and stretched) and stuck to the hands more, particularly in the earlier stages.  This time there was very little tendency to stick to the hands and the dough was much more uniform, though it wasn't flattened and stretched until the pre-shaping stage.  Possibly the more vigourous kneading develops the gluten a bit earlier.  Certainly when I was using the 'French' technique on yeasted bread, it really only needed a few minutes of kneading to develop the dough.  Possibly it was only the effect of a change in the weather ;)

I have endeavoured to insert a picture of the crumb of the loaf but seem to be having some sort of a problem so if it persists in not working you should be able to follow the link or copy the address into your browser.

Farinams Crumbshot

 http://www.sourdough.com/gallery2/gallery/d/12364612-2/loaf_19_crumb.jpg

I have not yet visited any of the Daylesford bakeries but do have a mind to head up that way sometime soon after getting back from Italy, where I hope to check out the bread quality in some detail /;-{)}

Regards

Farinam

 Oh, that's a really nice crumb - and crust!

I've never really done a comprehensive knead - though some of my looser S&Fs came close. I made a non-SD Ciabatta which required a lot of kneading, but that was all done in the mixer and remained quite fluid to the end. Watching/feeling the sudden change when it all comes together is intriguing. And the potato & rosemary SD is worth making just for the lovely silky feel of the dough.

I'll give the kneading a try tomorrow instead of the usual S&F. My starter was deteriorating slightly, being irregularly fed, so I have brought it back to condition and tomorrow will take extra care with getting everything right... time to inject a bit more professionalism!

Have a fantastic time in Italy!