Bread making is a new faze I am going through. I am a bit old for fazes but the rewards are so enticing that I have to keep trying. That is not to say I've really made a loaf of bread I am proud of yet but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I certainly know what doesn't work.
This is bread making the old fashioned way - baked in a clay oven (of sorts). My “clay oven” is an inverted flower pot.
Making bread starts with some kind of fermentation. It can be a sour dough ferment. This is a flour and water mix that someone started fermenting in 1850 in Greece, then placed a small container in a sock and smuggled it into this country where it has been fed faithfully on a regular basis by thousands of people like me. It is called a sour.
You can also make bread by kick-starting your fermentation process using yeast. That's what most people do. Sours and yeast are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to choices. In between is a poolish. A poolish is a flour and water mix that contains an ever so small amount of yeast – 0.1% yeast with equal amounts of flour and water (120 grams each for two 750 grams loaves).
The process I have been taught takes forever. If I want to bake bread at 6AM on a Saturday morning then I get started with the first steps on Thursday afternoon. So on to whole wheat bread. Make a poolish and let it ferment – 12 to 15 hours. By the way, all measurements in this recipe, including time, are metric. It is now early Friday morning and time to mix our poolish with more flour and water – 280 grams of whole wheat flour, 400 grams of white flour and 410 grams of water. You can't use volume measures here; they need to be weights. Mix these well but don't mix forever (about 5 minutes).
Now we start fermentation in earnest. Temperature is important. It should be in the mid-to-high 70s in the room and that should be the temperature of your ingredients. I guess I was wrong, not all measurements are in metric. This bulk fermentation process takes a couple of hours. You'll know you are done when you can stretch the dough and make a window pane out of some of it. If holes appear too easily then it doesn't have enough gluten. The window should be “dirty”. Too clean a window means too much gluten. Our window should be Goldielocks-like.
Lay out the dough like you were making pizza. Lift and stretch, lift and stretch until it is a large rectangular pie. Now fold length-wise twice and fold the folded dough twice again to make a nice mound. Let this rest for an hour or so and repeat. DO NOT KNEED THE BREAD.
You are now ready for the final “proofing”; the final fermentation. Cut the dough into halves and place in bannetons. These are breadmakers proofing forms; usually made of reed.
Let the breads rest for a few hours at room temperature and then slow down the process by putting them in the refrigerator for up to 18 hours. It is now 6AM on Saturday morning. Take the breads out of the fridge and let them warm up for a hour or so. As the time to bake approaches put your clay ovens into the oven (base and pot) and warm them to 500 degrees F. Open the over, remove the pot from your oven, and place a bread into the center of the base. Cover it with the inverted pot and bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Now remove the pot and bake for another 20 minutes.
So what does this have to do with Computer Science?