Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rising Slowly

I love making bread.  I made my first loaf over a year ago.  It is a complicated and time-consuming process, and that is probably why it is so comforting.  That, and the smell.  Despite the fact that I love to do it, I have not had great success in making bread.  There always seems to be some problem.  Sometimes the crust comes out hard and chewy.  Sometimes it is dense and bland.  I want it to have as much whole wheat flour in it as possible, but that doesn't always improve the taste.  I have a bread machine, and like it for quick jobs, but baking it in the machine doesn't always provide for enough control, and besides, I like kneading the dough myself.  I got the recipe for my latest attempt from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  Reinhart is a proponent of slow-rise bread making.  According to the recipe, I made two different doughs first.  On the left is the biga, which is bread flour, yeast, and water, and on the left is the soaker, containing the whole wheat flour, salt, and milk.  I left these in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and then kneaded them together, adding more yeast, honey, and flour.

This rises once in the bowl (above) and then again in the pan (proofing it).  It baked up quite nicely.  It is soft and "damp-crumbed" and tastes pretty good.  The main problem I had this time is that middle of the loaf is a bit unstable - like Yeats said, "the center can not hold, things fall apart." :)  So when you slice it, the middle tends to crumble away and you get jelly slipping through your toast.  More research needed, I suppose.  I kind of think I let it rise too much when it was proofing, but I don't know if that is the source of the problem.

I am pretty happy with the result.  I think I read somewhere that even the worst homemade loaf of bread is going to be better than the best store-bought.  I don't know if I entirely agree with this, but I am enjoying putting it to the test.

Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor

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