Friday, February 5, 2016

Pain in my Levain, 69% hydration

The New Year is here, and I have come to the conclusion that once and for all, I must figure out what the hell is wrong with my oven. It just does not make good bread. I have found that no matter what I do, when using a combo cooker in this oven, the bottom ALWAYS chars. I tried blocking the heat with a pizza stone. No luck. I tried blocking the heat with a 50 pound block of marble courtesy of my best man, Cookies. Still no luck. I have tried using a hot pan; I have tried using a cold pan; and I even tried starting in a cold oven. No luck with any of these. Another problem that I was having was that the dough has been sticking to the cast iron. Perhaps this is due to using the pot inside a campfire during my bachelor weekend. I decided that I would do a trial run using parchment paper to prevent the sticking. However, I discovered at the last minute that I did not have any parchment paper.

 So I decided to use an old technique of using ice cubes and a screaming hot pizza stone. I made Richard Miscovich’s 69% hydrated Pain Au Levain, a bread that I have come to really enjoy. The sourness that I get from my starter with this formula is wonderful. It is light and subtle but also present, and not harsh at all. The only variation that I made to his recipe was in the timeline. I let the bread ferment in a pretty cold kitchen for 9-10 hours. I did this because lately there has been a lot happening in our kitchen. Kelly has recently taken up cooking on Sunday nights (which is delightful) and she was using the oven. The bread was moving pretty slow so I just kept holding off with my loading time. I think that the bread could have easily used another fold because it did not quite get the expansion that I was hoping for. That being said, the density of the loaf is nice and I enjoy really chewy bread. The final bread also had an irregular air-hole pattern. I think my starter would have benefited from being prepared in a warmer area, but all-in-all, I am pleased with the bread. Before baking this, I mentioned to Kelly that I was going into the bake with relatively low expectations. I have to admit that it came out pretty darn good. I wish the bread didn’t rip at the seam and I was hoping for a bit more horizontal growth, but the bottoms were not burned and the taste is great. The oven problem is not solved, but I did achieve a good bake.

The other new addition to my baking scene is our new Nikon SLR 3300. Kelly and I would like to get into photography. In preparation for our upcoming Honeymoon to the Greek Islands this fall, we purchased a camera. So far, so good, but I have a lot to learn. I am in the process of picking up some books, but I think I am going to speak with the people who I know that take excellent photos and see what tips and hints they have. I must admit that we did go a little crazy with a Kitty Photo Shoot, but it was a lot of fun. I feel that my cat is just as attention-seeking as I am…which is alarming to say the least. 
One funny story before I let you go. The other day my wife asked our cat Lilly, (who mind you, never meows) if she was a person trapped in a cat’s body. Lilly leaped at Kelly and actually meowed. So the cat is out of the bag!....She never makes a peep and usually gets our attention by knocking magnets off the fridge or trying to tip over her water bowl!
Well, it is good to be back, and at least have a tentative baking option. My next loaf will probably be a Miche. I miss ripping it apart with my teeth, and it has such a wholesome almost protein-like grain flavor. It is hands down, my favorite kind of bread to bake and eat.
Bake on
-DW

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