Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New things

1. Joe the dough: has quietened down, but still some bubbling. Smell is pleasanter but still not right, but I shouldn't be expecting it to be yet.

2. New oven: I haven't adjusted yet. Both recent loaves have come out too soft in the crust, which I think means I should up the temperature setting. I've been using 220c, so will try full blast 240 next time. Here's the result of my banneton baking:

3. Bakery bits: here they are. The banetton did its job in keeping the loaf from spreading, but I've clearly not got the knack of the grignette yet: the loaf above is supposed to slashed in a grid patter. Also slightly disappointed that the spiral pattern doesn't show on the loaf.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Such trivial things make me happy

This morning's post brought exciting things. Not just my new Charlton season ticket, but my banetton, grignette, and dough scraper.

The banetton is a proving basket made of coiled cane. The idea is to let the dough have its second rise in it, with the sides of the basket preventing stotting. (I'm sure stotting is the word, but I've not been able to find it online. It describes the way wet dough can spread after you've formed it into a loaf, leaving you with unpleasantly flat bread.)

The grignette (or lame) is a small sharp blade, used to cut a pattern on the surface on the bread before baking. It is extraordinary how much this can affect a loaf, and not just decoratively. The cut edges cook more, so provide a nice crunchy caramelised feature.

And the dough scraper does what it says. It helps keep the worktop and your hands clean, and is nearly essential when kneading very liquid doughs.

To test out this equipment I'm doing a fairly basic loaf:

200g strong white flour
100g wholemeal spelt
200g liquid, inc half a tsp sugar and a level tsp dried yeast
1 glug rape seed oil

I've mixed and kneaded it, and (at 1315) I'm going to let it rise overnight in the fridge.

Actually, I should point out that the banetton, etc, came from Bakerybits. I ordered them yesterday, and they were here by 10 this morning! Brilliant service, you must agree.

Sourdough day 4

The fierce bacterial activity has calmed down now. I guess this is the point when many people think their dough has died, but as I understand it, the bacteria have now reduced the pH to a level where yeast will be happy and randy. So I've fed and watered it, and wait to see what will happen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sourdough day 3

My baby is surprisingly lifelike. It farts and stinks, so I've wrapped it in clingfilm. That's what you do with real babies, right?

In truth, it's being very active, and is full of gas and holes. The smell is pretty horrible - not yeasty at all, and apparently this is because the early activity is all caused by bacteria, which prepare the way for the yeast by making the dough more acid, reducing its pH. It seems I can expect this to go on for 2 or 3 more days. Then it's likely it will look as if it's died, but I must be patient and on the 7th day it will be a properly yeasty beasty.

Meanwhile, after my spelt failure, today I'm baking a 33% wholemeal tin. Nothing too exceptional: except that I left the biga overnight in a mild kitchen. By this morning it had sunk back, although was still lively. I then added the wholemeal flour, salt and oil, and gave it 2 hours.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sourdough (1)

I've decided to try to raise a sourdough tamagotchi. I was reading up on it, and it's less trouble than I thought, and this is probably the best time of year to start it.

The basic idea of a sourdough is that you mix flour and water and wait for wild yeast to develop and start fermenting. While you're establishing the dough, you regularly throw away half of what you have and feed it with more flour. I think the idea is that this selects for yeasts that like flour so that they prosper at the expense of more promiscuous yeasts.

One of the versions I've read suggests that the wild yeast is more likely to come from the flour itself, rather than from the Catford air. That seems to make sense, and it's why I'm using organic wholewheat flour, where there's more chance that yeast from the outside of the grains will be present.

Unsurprisingly, accounts differ on the amounts to use, but I've gone for equal weights of flour and water. I started with 50g of each, but that looked pathetically small, so I've doubled that. The dough is now sitting in a bowl on top of the fridge, covered with clingfilm. I'll check it again tomorrow, and meanwhile hope that the plums I bought today will be sharing their bloom with the kitchen air.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm back! With a new kitchen, finally, and an oven that has big numbers on it, rather than gas marks. I'm getting used to it and have made a couple of fairly basic loaves, but today I'm using wholegrain spelt flour for the first time, from Sharpham Park.  (Incidentally, how amusing that the blogger spellcheck doesn't recognise "spelt", or "blogger", or "spellcheck".)

The other thing I've acquired is a solid Kenwood hand-held mixer, with dough hooks!

So, for today's bread, here are the basic ingredients:

300g wholegrain spelt flour
pinch of salt
1 glug of rapeseed oil
200g liquid, inc a tsp sugar and a tsp dried yeast

All mixed together at 1245. I used the mixer at first, then hand-kneaded for about 5 minutes. The dough is quite nice to work, somewhat lighter than wholemeal wheat. It's currently proving, and taking its time, presumably because of the weight of the grain.

At 1435 the dough had risen nicely (since my last post, summer has happened) and I've formed it into a kind of bloomer shape for the second rising. I'm intending to bake it on the stone, but without added steam.

Which is what I did, but oh bugger the bread had stotted quite badly, and was disappointing. Also, the taste ain't all that; it's not as interesting as wholemeal wheat or as sweet/nutty as kamut. But I've got most of a kg left of it, so will try again.