18 January 2011

More Experiments

A followup on two previous experiments for today. The first, and most delicious, would be the bread (the first link, previously named "Cornmeal Raisin Rolls"). I think, after tweaking the recipe a bit, I've got a new name for it - Chewy-as-Hell Bread. Also delicious. Also containing raisins. I doubled the amount of cornmeal in the dough and slightly upped the raisins - this made it a tad firmer, and infinitely chewier, than the previous recipe. If you want to bake this at home, you can experiment with adding a very small amount of honey (like a teaspoon or two to give it more sweetness) and changing the amount of raisins (up or down, your call).
I just noticed - the scoring pattern kind of makes the loaf look like a pile of crap. Umm, I assure you, it tasted nothing of the sort. I tried two new things on this loaf, in addition to tweaking the recipe. First, I used a poor-mans couche/basket combo to try and shape the loaf better. As pictured below, I prepared a metal boal by putting some paper towel in it, spraying it with a bit of oil, and then dropping the dough in, seam-side up. If we go by finished product, I think it worked, but visually there was no indication of any differences, besides creating a pocketed pattern on the dough (seen below on the right).
The other major change in baking style was to improvise a dutch oven for the first half of baking. I baked in a cast-iron skillet, but put a spare 9x9 casserole dish I had over the top. I think this had an effect on the dough, but I didn't try an A/B test so I don't know for sure. It definitely had a very crispy crust around it, more than I usually get from a loaf.

Chewy-as-Hell Bread
  • 310g unbleached bread flour
  • 255g warm water
  • 60g polenta-grind cornmeal (previously: 30g)
  • 20g raisins (previously: 15g)
  • 7g salt
  • 4g instant yeast
The night before:
Combine yeast and warm water, making sure yeast is active (it should bubble a little, the yeast will mostly dissolve, and it will smell great). Combine all dry ingredients except raisins in a bowl, mix. Add the water and yeast, stirring for a minute with a wooden spoon until all the water is absorbed. Add the raisins, stirring for another minute. Let rest for 5, then stretch and fold four times with a ten minute rest between each. You must stretch and fold - you can see the before and after below. The dough goes from a gooey, sticky mess to an almost-manageable, still sticky ball.
The day of:
2 hours before baking, remove the dough and shape into a loaf on a lightly-floured work surface. Proof at room temperature, covered. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 10 minutes before baking, remove the cover and coat an oven-safe pan (cast iron, no wooden handle) with cornmeal (normal cornmeal, not polenta-grind). Place the loaf in the pan. Right before placing it in the oven, score the dough. Put in oven, cover with another oven-safe metal thing, and reduce heat to 450 degrees. Let bake for 12 minutes, rotate the pan and remove the lid. Let bake for 12 more minutes, turn off the oven, and let the dough sit in the oven for 5 more minutes. Cool for an hour before cutting/serving.

Experiment Two, Shortbread (Longer Bake Time)
And an update on shortbread experimentation: I tried cooking for 20 minutes at 325, using the base "sweet" recipe. Much better - very flaky and hard, a tiny bit browned. I think 350 might be the optimal temperature for 20 minutes because the very center still had a bit of yellow, not white, dough.

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