02 July 2012

Cold-Proofing Bread

I have this "ideal" breakfast I've concocted in my head; I think it stems from watching Gary Hustwit documentaries and a few shorts on noma. Plus reading Dwell, on occasion. I'm sitting at a table, probably made of some reclaimed wood. It is a small table - suitable for two - though the room is larger. Everything about the surroundings are rustic; I bet there are even terrariums hanging from the wall. It is in Scandinavia, of course. I'm eating breakfast with my partner before we head to work; a slice of toast cut as thick as a sandwich, a pad of butter with a light sprinkle of sea salt. Some fresh jam on the side. An egg, sunny side up and cooked to perfection.

Well, I can make part of this breakfast no problem. I've done it with E a few times now - I just steal a piece of dough from whatever loaf I'm cooking up and get fresh bread for two without prematurely staling the rest of the loaf. The egg, jam, and butter are all at hand. The crucial thing missing is the texture - the crust should be thick. When you look at a slice head on, you should be see a thick, brown ring around the center like bark on a tree. I'm not there yet, but I'm trying.
I have two angles of attack, which I'm currently pursuing one of. The currently ignored angle is the steam/dutch oven approach. I know this is necessary, but it is also relatively easy to figure out - you get crust from cooking bread in a humid environment. The easiest way to do that is to enclose the bread in a dutch oven for the first part of baking (or to use a steam bath in your oven, which I find difficult). The other angle of approach is in the proofing. Letting the dough dry out slightly can form a darker, deeper crust. Having read the Tartine book, as well as a few brief mentions of "cold proofing" in Reinhart, I've been adapting my usual loaf to the method.
The way I have usually cooked by bread, known to some as "No Knead", is a strech-and-fold followed by overnight cold fermentation and proofing at room temperature. That is, you make the dough and let it sit in the fridge for a night or two, then you shape it, let the dough proof, and cook it. The cold proofing is like that; instead of the rise happening the fridge, its the proof. Mix the dough, let it rise, then shape it and throw it in the fridge. It goes directly, the next day, from the fridge to the oven. The crust is a much deeper color and scoring the loaf more effective.
The only non-obvious part is that, when moving the dough from the fridge, you want to make sure you aren't refrigerating it on the same surface that it bakes on. You want the heat to hit the bread instantly, and a cold baking sheet going in the oven with it will ruin that. I've taken to proofing it on parchment, which is then placed on a plate and covered. I make sure a baking sheet is in the oven when preheating, and then carefully slide the parchment onto the sheet when the oven is hot. This gets a very even crust, instead of a pale and weak bottom.

1 comment:

  1. " It is in Scandinavia, of course " == hilarious

    This whole "overnight" and "waiting" bread making method... I don't understand. It takes so long!! Good to know about pre-heating the baking sheet!

    Lovely photos! Looks tasty!