Thursday, September 1, 2011

Survived 4 days without power...

Hurricane Irene did a number on Long Island and LIPA still has people without power (since last Sunday morning).  We were fortunate in that our power came back on yesterday and, as an added bonus, we even got back cable / internet late last night.

During the outage, I took the opportunity to visit our local library and was pleased to find Reinhart's, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and "Artisan Breads Every Day".   I've been reading the BBA.  This is an excellent book that explains everything you need to know to make some really good bread. (eventually :) )

 The Bread Baker's Apprentice"

One of the first recipes I looked at was for an "Anadama" bread; a classic bread out of Rockport Maine.  Legend has it that a fisherman's wife always made her husband porridge and molasses; something he wasn't pleased with.  Depending on who tells the story, she either left him for another man or simply wasn't home.  He found the porridge and uh, got ticked off.  He threw some flour and yeast into the corn meal and molasses porridge, popped it into the oven and said,  "Anna damn her!"  LOL  It was a hit with the locals :)

Anadama bread story

Well, this dough started out last night as a "soaker", where the corn meal (or polenta if you like) was soaked in water to soften it.  This morning, I mixed part of the flour with the yeast, water and corn meal mixture, covered it and let it pre-ferment for about an hour.  The instructions said, "or until bubbly" and mine was certainly bubbly by the time the hour was up.  Once the pre-ferment was ready, the remaining flour, salt, molasses and shortening (unsalted butter) was mixed in to form the dough.  After a couple of minutes in the mixer, the dough was still very sticky (tacky is OK but sticky isn't OK for this dough).  So, I ended up adding a couple of teaspoons of flour (little by little) to get it right.

After mixing for some time, it still didn't appear to have a very well developed gluten structure, so I decided to do some stretch and folds, rest, and S&F again.  It really is amazing how doing something so simple for a short amount of time can have such an immediate impact on the dough and it's gluten structure.  It literally changes before your eyes.   Once I was satisfied (or so this newbie thought), I put it in the oven to bulk ferment.  The instructions said 60 to 90 minutes (or until doubled in size).  I looked at mine after an hour and it was more than doubled.  (Did I leave it in too long?)

All in all, I ended up with a dough that was pretty easy to handle and form.  I can't explain it but it felt just "right".  Now, since these were going to go into 9x5 loaf pans (first time I've used loaf pans), I didn't think it was THAT important to get the forming done perfectly.  Ah, but that was a newbie error :)

Turns out the bread had a nice "oven spring" within the first 10 min or so and, it looked like I hit a home run.  However, one of the loaves basically flattened at the top and the other did so partially.  This was either due to improper forming or possibly over-proofing.  I'll have to look into it but I'm leaning toward the forming.

This is what the loaves looked like after proofing in the pans (one in stoneware, the other aluminum).  At this point I thought they looked just fine.

Here you can see how the one in the aluminum pan gained some nice height within the first 10 min of baking

But darn it, not too long after, I took a peek and found it had "collapsed" a bit.  I was pretty disappointed...   The other one in the stoneware did the same but only on one side.

Here's what the crumb looked like:

I think the unevenness of the holes in the crumb was just due to my own inexperience at working / forming the dough after bulk fermentation.  Aesthetics aside, the crumb was nice, light and chewy and had a pleasant "sweetness" to it.  I used "Grandma's Molasses" but not the light variety the recipe called for.  I guess this resulted in a "stronger" flavor of molasses, but I really liked it.  The crust (sprinkled with corn meal) had a nice crunch to it.

So, not a total failure after all.  Tastes great and I've learned that much more for the next time.  I'll look through the book, read some more, watch a couple more instructional vids online and do another bake in a day or two.  :)

UPDATE: The responses to the above post on "The Fresh Loaf" forum confirmed my initial "diagnosis" on the finished product.  The dough was most likely over-proofed on the bulk ferment and most  definitely over-proofed prior to baking.  I'm pretty certain I know what to look for now.  Unfortunately, I took the original instructions too literally.  Live and learn :)   I think I'll try this particular bread again, but cut the molasses amount in half and substitue it with some honey.



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