Close Encounters of a Sandy Nature!
My wife and I were in NYC last weekend for her birthday and had planned to return on Tuesday. Our long weekend turned into one day and two nights in the city before we flew out on Sunday to avoid the potential chaos to come. We were in a hotel near 24th Street and 6th Avenue. The hotel lost power on Monday evening and is hoping to get power back on Sunday or Monday. Being a visitor on the 20th floor of a hotel, no power, no subway or buses, and no way to fly home would have been miserable. We are glad we heeded the call to get out. It is hard to imagine the contrast between being in Mid- or Lower-Manhattan and above 36th where life is far normal. Over the past few days I have felt I was living in two alternative universes – one of me is in that hotel on 24th, hunkered down and trying to figure out how to get home; and the other is here at home with everything “normal”. Having lived in Houston through hurricane recovery I know how challenging it can be and how weeks without power can be an eternity. There is no graceful easy recovery from a real storm and my sympathies and best wishes go out to all those who are suffering from the storm!
Traveling and working off frozen bread slowed my baking in October – plus trying to limit consumption to keep my weight under control! I did bake once but the loaves were not notable and I was rushed so I skipped the blog. But getting home early from New York did provide an opportunity to bake and I took advantage of the opportunity!
I fed my starters (white and rye) on Monday and wanted to use both so I made two half batches (relative to my normal 2.5 kilo formula) – one with each starter. But rather than dividing the dough into (roughly) 1.5 pound boules as is my norm I kept them as single large loaves. Things mostly went well, but our air was uniquely dry on Tuesday so I encountered a few issues worth sharing. And the rye loaf turned out very nice so…I definitely want to share that!
The “white” loaf pretty much followed the normal procedure that I have outlined many times. It was 74% hydration and used an organic stone milled White Whole Wheat for 7% of the loaf. I could sense the starter was a bit slower than it ought to be and gave the levain build an extra two hours to develop. In mixing the final dough, I decided to develop it a bit more than normal before the bulk fermentation. During the bulk fermentation I gave it two sets of four stretch and folds – one each at half hour intervals. I used a larger, linen
lined brotform for the proof – to accommodate the larger loaf. I baked it on a heated stone at 450 oF with my normal steam generation. The loaf was a tad overproofed by my taste (as indicated by the lack of rip) and dry air threw me off in a couple of ways. The oven was clearly a bit dry and the loaf had a bit of a dry skin which led it to puff up. This shows in the second photo where you can see the rounded edge of the loaf – where it lifted from the stone. When the oven is well steamed and the loaf has no skin, the loaf
should have a less rounded profile – the bottom edge should be more abrupt. Crumb was fairly good. I was hoping for it to be a bit more open and random but a dry skin also subdues the crumb so it is a bit more closed than I intended. However, I have often done much worse! Good taste. Good loaf! But I need to remember to pay more attention to humidity when the air is dry!
The rye loaf was impromptu and as a whim I made it as a 20% rye, walnut boule. I started with my 100% hydration, 100% rye starter and expanded it as follows: 65 grams of starter plus 130 grams of water and 130 grams of KA Organic Rye flour. The
expansion was allowed to ferment overnight. The rye levain was quite robust so I decided to forego the IDY so often added to give an extra “kick” to lower protein rye breads. This decision also reflected my decision to use First Clear flour for the white flour. First clear flour is a high protein, high mineral flour that includes more of the outer portions of the grain than regular or patent flour and is commonly used commercially for making breads using rye and other low gluten grains. This too followed my normal practice The final dough was 78 percent hydration. I did have one snafu on this loaf – I left out the salt – and realized it about thirty minutes after I mixed the final dough. So I had to knead the salt into the finished dough. The dough was pretty stiff so I added more water also. I did not weigh the extra water but the final dough was close to 78% hydration (first clear flour absorbs more water!). I also added 25% of the flour weight as toasted walnuts. (I toasted the walnuts by zapping them in the microwave for 3 minutes.) The loaf was baked in a 450 oF oven for 20 minutes. Then the temperature was dropped to 400 degrees and baked for an additional 50 minutes. The final loaf was a bit over 4 pounds and the internal temperature was 207. This is one of those loaves you should make ahead and hold for at least a day before cutting or freezing as the flavors will develop for several days.
The crumb on this loaf was definitely a tighter than I intended, but my faux pas and extra kneading certainly did not help, nor did the humidity. As a result I was pretty pleased with the final result. This is a really nice loaf to serve with a good blue cheese. We had it last night with a roquefort from Gabriel Coulet. It was divine!