Monday, January 18, 2010

Baguettes, part deux

Day 1 (i.e. yesterday), I made a batch of Pâte Fermentée which is just normal french bread dough (65% water, plus some yeast and salt) that you let ferment overnight. The idea is that it ferments in the fridge which slows down the yeast more than it slows down the natural enzymes in the flour that lyse the starches: via some biochemical miracle this gives you better bread.

I mixed it up and left it on the counter "for 1 hour or until it reaches 1.5 times original size". 1 hour later, no change in size, 2.5 hours later, still no change. Meanwhile, I'm reading TBBA and I've reached the part where Reinhart talks about yeast. It turns out that instant yeast (what he uses) is the same species as active dry yeast (what I have), but it comes in smaller pieces that dissolve more quickly (who knew?). You need a bit more active dry yeast than instant (oops!) and you also need to moisten the active dry to activate it (double oops). That explains the not rising. Rather than start over (where's the fun?) I coat the Pâte Fermentée with oil and move it to the fridge (this being Sunday, that's about 2:30 pm). The plan is to leave it overnight and then somehow warm it in the morning to mix into the fresh dough.
At about 10:30 that night, inspiration strikes. What if I let the Pâte Fermentée slowly come to room temperature overnight so it's ready to go in the morning? I get out a small cooler and put in a few ice cubes. I then get the Pâte Fermentée out. I notice that even though it's been in the fridge, it's managed to rise quite nicely to about double the original size. I put it into the cooler and go to bed.

This morning it was about the same size but at room temperature, so far so good. I mix up more flour, salt, and yeast. I add a bit extra yeast to compensate for the use of active dry, but I don't pre-activate it because I'm leaving it to do the second ferment for 10 hours instead of 2, so I figure not activating will buy me time. The final recipe makes enough total dough for 3 loaves: way more than even we can eat in a day. A new flash of inspiration: what if I just leave half the dough at room temp and put the other half in the fridge again? I'll have basically a fresh Pâte Fermentée going and I only end up with enough for 1.5 loaves instead of 3!

It only took about 30 minutes this morning to mix up the dough and get everything ready. One snafu was that the Pâte Fermentée used 3/4 cup water to 2.25 cups flour and claims that that's 65%, but the dough recipe uses 3/4 cup water to 2.5 cups flour and claims that to be 65%. I actually end up using closer to a cup of water to get a decent-seeming dough because I didn't read ahead. I'll have to do the calculation later (or better yet, get a kitchen scale), but I suspect this is a typo and it meant for you to use 2.25 cups of flour. C'est la vie.

I'm looking forward to tonight when I get to try to bake the bread.

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