Sunday, November 30, 2008

Slashing and Steam

I played with covering the steam vent of my oven in an experiment to see if it would help in improving the appearance of the slashes. High energy prices has forced me to bake without a baking stone and my conclusion is that it is possible to get good results on a sheet pan.

I decided to give the baguette a rest this time round as I have been baking these for the six to seven bakes consecutively. It is time to use up some of the whole-wheat occupying premium freezer space. I have been using a liquid preferment and long bulk fermentation recently and since I like the results, I did not change it in this bake. 

The results were very satisfactory indeed as I was able to get the results I had hoped for. The only problem now is having to wait for morning so that I can feast on these beauties accompanied by some fresh pesto which I had made earlier in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More baguettes

I found myself making baguettes again. The process I used evolved out of necessity because of my busy work schedule. The combination of a preferment followed by a long bulk fermentation guaranteed their excellent flavor and the hand mixing ensured that the dough was not overmixed. The result was a creamy crumb, irregular air pockets and fantastic flavor. One of the constraints was that they were baked on a sheet pan and the oven was barely preheated.

In the past bakes, I had been a little disappointed in the way they looked. The grigne was hardly there and they were all splitting at the bottom. I managed to solve that with a little bit of failure analysis and I was able to get a more decent grigne. 

I know that I am still a long way from perfection but that's the best part since the pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Levain Baguettes

Dan Lepard once made 3 different styles of baguettes for comparison and his verdict was that the levain baguettes was the best. My starter culture has been neglected in the fridge lately as a result of my busy work schedule. I have had no time for anything lately as work at the office has been piling up this month. 

Strangely, despite the hectic schedule, I found myself working at a new level of efficiency and creativity,  gaining insights which helped to solve some long festering quality problems. One of the insights I had was to realize that the polar effect of solvents could be the root cause of a problem which some co-workers had been working on. I used to demonstrate this effect in science experiments for my kids in the kitchen and it was ironic that this should come in handy at work. 

I had been waiting for the week-end to make some levain baguettes but since I had run out of bread, I had to do it earlier. Unfortunately, the starter was not properly refreshed and that affected its power.  Coupled with the longer than optimal fermentation period as I had returned home late, I was certain that the baguette would be a disaster. Fortunately, it worked out better than I had hoped. 

I am undecided if the flavor and taste of these levain baguettes beat those poolish baguettes that I had been doing for the past weeks. The levain baguettes while having a complex flavor and taste, lack the clean refined flavor of my regular poolish baguettes. Hopefully, I can improve on this the next time round.