Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cold Rise Bread is the Best Ever

I have been making bread for over 40 years, but until recently, I knew little of the theory. After receiving a a donation of "new" books from the local Dacotah Prairie Museum through my sister-in-law, I sort of glommed onto one of them and have been going strong ever since. I have been talking about this book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart repeatedly in my blogs of the last almost 2 months. It is highly recommended if you, like me, love making bread and enjoy a new challenge. I have made a starter dough from scratch, allowing the wild yeasts in the air to populate the starter, then the "Mother" starter or "barm," as PR calls it. I proceeded to make an Onion Deli Rye Bread, a Sunflower Rye Bread, a 100% Sourdough Rye, Challah and a white Sourdough Bread. I also found one of the recipes in his book to be exceedingly similar to my Mom's bread recipe, and adapted the theory and practice to Mom's recipe, making the best batch of her bread, ever!
Baguettes from Pan a l'Ancienne

I had all these breads, and have frozen one or two loaves of most of them, so I was less inclined to jump into another one too soon. Man (woman) cannot live by bread alone! But I started getting the itch to try another one, and one that had caught my eye right at the beginning of this adventure was "Pan a l'Ancienne". This bread is not made from the wild starter barm, which is one reason I hadn't made it yet to date. Looking for ways to use the starter was my goal. But this bread kept calling to me, so I finally sat to read the whole recipe over and over, in order to absorb the details. It calls for mixing up a very simple flour, water, yeast and salt dough; the difference being that the water called for is ice water


Usually, bread making calls for warm water anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees. Then of course, with instant yeast, which can be mixed into the flour and doesn't even need to be proofed, the warm water is not truly necessary. It can be helpful when it is really frigid outside and the house temperature causes very sluggish reactions from the yeast. But it's
not necessary. So reading this recipe, which calls for iced water - ice cubes in the water to keep it very cold till needed - I was intrigued. So far, almost everything I have made following PR's descriptions has come out perfectly, so I certainly didn't want to go changing things at this point. Ice water it would be.

Once the dough is mixed with the icy water, then kneaded, it goes directly into the refrigerator overnight. Since I mixed the dough in the morning, it was in the fridge for nearly 24 hours before getting it back out into room temperatures. Another intriguing aspect to this recipe was that the dough was cut into thin strips for baguetttes, but not "formed" as is usual; very rustic. The oven is heated and prepped for "hearth baking" and the bread is baked as soon as the oven is at temp. The directions concluded with the admonition that this could also be made into ciabatta simply by allowing the baguettes to proof for a couple of hours, in which time they would spread more and develop the larger holes. A third possibility was to make focaccia. I decided to try using half the dough for baguettes (3) and half made into a focaccia. 


PR does things a bit differently from any I've seen in regard to making a home oven act similarly to a bakery's hearth. Rather than trying to maintain moisture over the bulk of the baking time, he says that anything past the first couple of minutes is counterproductive. A dry pan is placed into the oven to heat. Once the high temperature is reached, the bread is placed in the oven and one cup of boiling water is added to the empty hot pan. Even with boiling water, once it hits that super-heated pan in the oven, it splutters all over the place. One cup of water in an oven that hot does not last for long. The next step in this process is to use a spray bottle and spray the oven walls after 30 seconds, then again after another 30 seconds, and then once more after 30 seconds. At this point, the oven temp is lowered and the bread is left to bake. No more moisture is added during the remainder of baking time.

Peter Reinhart stated that it is possible that the dough in the refrigerator may have risen a little overnight, depending on the temperature of the fridge and how often the door is opened. By morning when I pulled the container of dough out of the fridge it had actually doubled in size. I was ahead of the game. So all that was left was to allow the dough the 2 hours on the counter to lose the chill. This dough is very, very wet. It is not actually "water" wet, but just a dough with a high moisture content and exceedingly soft. It is difficult to "work" with this type of dough, so it is good that PR calls for very little handling. Turning it out onto a heavily floured surface to avoid any sticking helps. PR calls for cutting apart the dough into the pieces necessary, using a bench scraper or knife. No sawing motions either; just straight cuts.  
Three baguettes left                                                            Focaccia with herbed oil right

I cut the dough in half. One half I cut further into three pieces, which are gently stretched to the length of the pan while transferring them to the pan. The other half, which I made into focaccia, was gently lifted onto another pan lined with parchment and a liberal amount of herbed oil. Then the dough is dimpled and spread without completely deflating, topped with a lot of herbed oil and left to rise for 2 hours.  The baguettes I baked right away. Once cooled, I tasted an end of the bread. 

Focaccia from Pan a l'Ancienne Dough


Obviously, since the one major difference between this bread and most others is the ice water and the chilled rise, these factors have to be the reasons for the amazing flavor in this bread. The focaccia was equally fantastic, with the added flavors of the herbed oil soaked in. I used about 1/2 cup olive oil, adding one huge clove of garlic, minced, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil and 2 teaspoons each of fresh thyme leaves and rosemary. All of this oil was either on the parchment underneath the bread or puddled into the dimples on top and most was absorbed into the baking focaccia. Amazing. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.