I have recently rekindled my enthusiasm for rustic breads, after getting a bit bored with the predictabilityof the bread machine. This currently represents my proudest achievement:
The impetus for this has been the purchase of a baking stone (a ceramic tile heated up in the oven onto which the risen dough is deposited). Strangely a breadmaker mixed dough removed from the machine and then baked on a stone for baking tastes completely different to the standard machine loaf. If, in addition, you save a small amount of your dough from one day to the next you can reduce the dried yeast to a minimum and the taste and texture is transormed to another level.
But on the way adjustments (and some experimentation) are required.
Firstly rising times may need to be varied. A slow rise can be adventagous as you can leave the dough to its own divices until you have time to fit it into your daily schedule. Secondly you have to rise your dough on something else while the baking stone heats up and then transfer the fragile risen loaf onto the stone. Sounds simple but this is the area I have needed to experiment most with. Due to my tendency to raise the loaf above the oven (while the stone is heating) the dough can get a bit too warm and spongey and so hard to move, without losing those precious bubbles that make the bread light and airy. The third area of experimentation is, or should be, the fun bit - slashing the loaf to allow for controlled bursting of the crust. In fact there is an art to this as the picture below shows. This is the same dough divided and treated in two different ways. The one on the left was round but got a bit squashed as it was slid onto the stone. Because it was baked with the same side up as during the raising the skin on the dough persisted and was dissapointing. The second bageutte shaped loaf stuck to the baking sheet it was being raised on and had to be reshaped and given an extra rise on a now heavily floured backing sheet. Then it was rolled off the sheet onto the stone so that the soft underside was exposed and given a quick multiple slashing with the scalpel I reserve for this purpose. The results have convinced me of the need to (gently) turn risen dough over rather than slide it from the baking sheet to the stone.
|Raised dough at the ready|
Here's an underside view of a baked loaf that demonstrates what happens when you try to slide an overproved round loaf which is partially stuck to the baking tray onto the stone. It's a bit like a crash. On the positive side this does however demonstrate what a beautiful bottom crust the stone gives you!!
Hope you enjoyed my little excursion into the home breadmaking domain!
*Strictly speaking I should call it a "sourdough hybrid"