Monday, April 11, 2011

BBA French Bread and Life!

Well, they turned out ok, but there were many things I did wrong with these.  It's surprising they turned out as good as they did.  Crust & Crumb is ok, but not like what it could have been if only..... 

Ok, you are wondering about the CH47 Chinook Helicopter flying through in the middle of my bread post.  That comes later, I will just say it was taken from my front porch.

Here is the Pate Fermente, literally meaning "Old Dough".  It is a common practice to use different preferments, simply put dough from a previous batch of bread.  These are stored several days in the fridge to be added as a seed for your bread, to increase the flavor of the new loaf.

Now I made the dough yesterday, but it still qualifies as Pate Fermente because I aged it overnight in the fridge after it had risen for an hour.

Here it is rising in one of my dough "buckets" which is coated with oil or shortening.  I sprayed the top of the dough with a small amount of olive oil, which will help it to not dry out. After the hour was up, I just put it in the fridge and forget about it for up to 3 days.

Here it is fresh out of the fridge, it has grown overnight and is very cold.  To help warm it up quicker I put it onto a dough/pastry mat and then start cutting it up.
Here is is all cut up, ready for the next step!  Cover them with plastic wrap sprayed with oil, and let them warm up for an hour.  Mine actually took about an hour and 15 minutes, simply because my kitchen was a little bit cool today.  I always work on the doughs schedule, not mine.  It gives you signs when it is ready for the next step and after a while if no one teaches you these, then you will start to figure them out yourself.  Just takes patience.
Here the dough has finished warming, and is all poofy looking from rising.  I poked my finger into it and it sprung back slowly and was warm to the touch, telling me it was ready to be mixed into the rest of the ingredients.
I measured the AP flour and Bread flour, a 50/50 mix, with the yeast and salt.  I combined it with the Pate Fermente in my mixer bowl and coated the pieces with the mixture.  The water is ready to be added next.
Rather looks like chicken tenders getting ready to be fried up!  And this is about where I was, taking this picture when my house started shaking and I heard them coming.
Two Ch47 Chinook Helicopters outside of my kitchen window, barely above the tree tops!  They came through just over my house, making everything shake.  I had the camera in my hand, and by the time I got out the front door onto my front porch there was only one that could still be seen and I managed to snap this photo.  They fly through once in a while, and I remembered when my son was really young and they flew overhead.  He waved at them, and was so excited.  He was about 9 years old at the time and those wonderful hero's overhead whom I respect deeply for all they do for us not only hovered and waved back.  They also gave him his own airshow, doing practice runs up to the mountain, and down through the canyon, and right overhead.  Not once but numerous times, they flew over us and I am sure he will never forget it.  In fact I will never forget it either, that they saw that little boy who was so excited and gave him the thrill of a lifetime!  He's all grown up now, but sometimes I miss that little boy and little girl too!

Ok, back to the dough!  There it is looking very much like chicken tenders.  I added the water and mixed for a few minutes.
At this point, even though it doesn't say to, I always do an autolyse.  That is I let the dough rest for 1/2 an hour so the water is fully absorbed into the flour.  This prevents me from making a mistake of either adding to much flour or to much water at a critical stage in mixing.  It often starts out looking REALLY wet, sticky and totally unmanageable.
Then when I come back, it looks amazingly like bread dough!  I started kneading it, for a total of 6 minutes and it was looking GREAT.  Just like I would expect.  I had used the formula rather than the written out recipes, because I wanted two loaves rather than three.  The hydration level was 65%, which I thought was low, so I raised that to about 69%.  It developed into a really nice dough. Then I did my first of a series of mess-ups.
I was so busy taking pictures of my chicago cutlery baguette and french loaf perforated pans from King Arthur, that a skipped a step.  A very big step.  There are no pictures of this blunder, because I realized it as I was taking the pictures.  I measured and shaped my dough into baguettes.  Not a huge error, just one of those I'm getting older moments I guess.  I mean the pan was out, isn't that the next step?

I mixed the dough back together and hand kneaded it for a couple minutes, trying to recover some of the gluten and moisture I lost with this mistake.  I then put it into my dough rising bucket, and gave it two hours of rising time.  This is where it was supposed to be in the first place!
After the two hour rise, I then shaped the loaves and readied them for baking.  Here is the next mistake, totally forgetting to set a buzzer and then guessing how long I should set it for.  I had covered them with plastic wrap coated with oil, so at least they weren't going to dry out.  Trouble was, that I turned on my oven and even though I moved them to another counter it warmed up my kitchen a lot.  This caused my dough to rise well, a little to well.  Then 45 minutes into the proof (I think), and I glanced at my oven and realized not only was my stone NOT in the oven, the oven was set to 350*.  It would take another 1/2 hour to get my stone into the oven and even close to temp.  Normally I do it for 45 minutes, and it's just right.  I should have simply reshaped the dough, since it was slightly overproofed anyway.  Not me though, I waited half an hour and then went ahead and slashed it.  That was another mistake.  My razor was dull and I should have, would have, could have replaced it, but you guessed it.  I used it anyway.  Sigh, so over proofed, badly slashed, and in a warm kitchen.  Then it was time to slide it into the oven, and as I was sliding it off the pan and onto the stone I got it off center and by the time I got it straightened out the ends of the loaves were hanging a little over the edge and were somewhat deflated. 

Then there was my final mistake, one I usually don't forget.  I had a pan of water in for some steam in the oven, but totally forgot to spray with my spray bottle.  Needless to say, my slashes weren't deep enough, there was no oven spring, and the crusts came out nice but not like they normally do. 

I am making a new piece of old dough right now, so that I can make this again the right way.  I just wanted to share with you the mistakes I made, even when I knew exactly what I was supposed to do.  It's not that these were "bad" loaves of bread, in fact they tasted great, but they could have been so much better if I had just listened to myself!
Links to my fellow baker's in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, 2011!  Here are links to their versions of this bread.  They are all very talented baker's, who have gotten together to share their results from baking the Bread's in Peter Reinhart's book Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Our host Chris at A Ku Indeed 
Coz at ScratchBaker 
Jim at OvenMinded
NancyB at Bread&Cake&More
Adam at WithinReason

I will post others as they finish theirs!


  1. I think your bread still looks great! Crust has a good color and you managed to snag some holes in the crumb...I enjoyed the French bread, but I love the Italian bread much better!

  2. Thanks Frieda! I haven't even looked at the Italian bread recipe, might be time I do. I really like bread made with water, flour, yeast, and salt. Not sure why, but they are my favorites. I enjoyed reading your shaping techniques, a little bit different than I learned.

  3. Joanne, your loaves still look great,I am always amazed how bread dough can be so forgiving of our goofs!I know exactly what you mean about listening to that voice that I too ignore at times ,For me it's usually when i'm trying to do 6 things at once!
    I know your next batch will be the way you want!

  4. I enjoyed your story of your son,we all cherish memories of our kids, it's like enjoying them all over again in our thoughts

  5. That is so true Jim, so many good memories! This has been a really long week.

  6. Just a note: I am not saying the bread turned out badly, just that it had such potential. I could tell that it was going to be a really awesome loaf. The kind you compare all others to, I think that God has a way of pulling you back down to reality and He did that with this loaf! There's definitely a lesson to be learned in the making of this loaf.

  7. I love reading your blog and reading the side note on the helicopter. How neat to have that fly over. I also learned about the terminology of "old dough." Didn't know that before.

  8. Thanks Coz, I enjoy your blog too! I really enjoyed this bread a lot better the second time around. The Pate Fermente aged for 3 days in the fridge and it gave it so much more flavor.