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Monday, October 31, 2011

Bread Test Run

This weekend, I will be attending a gathering of fellow BBQ enthusiasts from around the Northern California and surrounding states. I offered to provide bread dough, which, means I had to get a biga started. I did that today, it will sit out for a few days, hopefully improving during that time. I started this one with commercial yeast, active powder type, two packages, along with one cup of honey pale ale and 1/2 cup warm water. I like to not use chlorinated water, but, I didn't plan well. Here is the active Biga after 3 hours.

I decided to take this and run a test, so I added 1 cup of it to 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of bread flour and one cup of AP flour. I also added 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast, since the Biga is very young. This was combined and mixed until tight. I then kneaded it in the bowl for 5 minutes, until it pulled from the sides cleanly.

Onto the granite, some light flouring, since I use a highly hydrated dough, I can use up to 1/2 cup flour during kneading. I need this. (get it? :-p) Anyways, I then decided to get lazy, stuffed it into the bowl of the Kitchenaid and put the dough hook on. Three 5 minutes bursts for kneading with 2 minute rests and the dough was ready for a final few minutes by hand. There is no substitute for this. The last 4 to 5 minutes must be by hand, as you can feel the dough become softer and silkier. This is how to tell when it is time to rest the dough. I was going to make 4 small rolls, which changed after I got home and saw the rise. Here are the little balls.

So, this decision resulted in my having rather poorly formed loaves. Oh well, a bad decision. I tried to recombine the balls into two loaves, which I spread with some garlic sauteed in olive oil, some fresh cracked Phu Quoc black pepper and some kosher salt. I get the black pepper from Rob at Red Boat Fish Sauce. It is a great spice. The loaves were cooked at 450F in the oven for 35 minutes, sort of. I checked it and pulled it when it hit 200F internal temperature. Here is what came out.

As you can see, not pretty loaves at all. But, lookie inside.

Since I make the dough without salt, which I believe gives a better texture, as salt is toxic to yeast. I add the kosher salt to the dough before I shape it, it gives a more capriocious saltiness, as the kosher salt doesn't dissolve that much during cooking. Each bite will be a bit different, the bread evolves with each bite. The idea of a salt-less dough may seem odd, but, it is not so unusual when you look at traditional beads, such as those made in Tuscany. At one time, salt was very expensice and bread was for the masses.

This bread had a fine crumb, a soft elastic tooth and a crisp crust. You could hear it cracking as it cooled. There was the expected richness of the garlic and olive oil, the punch of the black pepper and kosher salt varying with each bite. A very good loaf.


  1. I have never made my own bread because that is Alexis' domain. I hog everything else in the kitchen, so I let her do all the baking. I'll have to forward this to her.

    The bread loaves look good in that last shot, nice and soft inside.

  2. Thanks Chris, it worked out, this time.