Almost There aka Bread # 3

This one turned out pretty good.  I still want to work on getting an airier interior, but this is the best looking bread I have achieved so far.

Bread #3

Sponge:

1 1/2 Cups (213 g) Bread Flour

1/2 Cup (68 g) Whole Wheat Flour

1 1/2 Cups Water, Room Temperature

1 Cup Yeast Starter

Dough:

1 3/4 Cups (217 g) All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup (71 g) Bread Flour

2 1/2 tsp (14 g) Kosher Salt

So the night before baking, I mixed up the sponge by combining the flours in a bowl and then adding in the starter and water.  I gave it all a good stir, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a moderately cool room (50-60 F).

8 – 12 hours later and there were bubbles!

Now, add in the rest of the ingredients and stir them around.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 20 minutes. Until it has a nice soft, smoothness.  Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rise for about 2 hours.

Now that that rise is over, lightly reshape the dough.  I diverge from my typical MO, pressing down the dough and only gently reshaping it into a baton.  A friend of mine who makes some really nice bread, told me that he has been getting better results with the oven spring and a more airy texture by just punching down the dough and popping it in the oven.  So I’m giving it a go, granted I’m still handling the dough a bit more than I think he did.  The dough is not quite as firm as I’m used too.  I’m fighting the urge to not just throw some more flour on it and start kneading again.  With a wetter dough, the rise seems more outward rather than upward.  (I find this to be true of myself as I age and drink more beer…)  This is why I’m reshaping it a little; I’m trying to encourage a little upward mobility.  I’ve read that a wetter dough can make for a more complex crumb, granted a dough that is too wet will not rise.  Since, I’m baking at altitude, a little extra moisture helps overcome the dry climate.  Anyway, here it is on my makeshift peel:

Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour.  Preheat the oven to 450F with a pizza stone for 30 minutes.

Okay, now it’s ready to go in.  I shake the “peel” a bit to loosen up the bread and make a slash down the center.

I spray a little water, from a spray bottle,  onto the sides of the oven to build up steam and then slide the soon-to-be bread onto the stone.  It bakes for 5 minutes and I spray the oven walls again.  Note: When spraying the oven use caution that you do not spray the light bulb in the back of the oven.  Some oven models have protective coverings on the bulb and some do not.  Mine does not.  During one baking experience I hit the bulb and it exploded.  Little glass pieces flying everywhere.  Luckily no one was injured, but it did make a mess.  An alternative method of introducing steam without spraying is to add an empty pan to the oven during the preheat.  Then bring a couple cups of water to a boil and just before sliding in the dough, pour a cup or two of hot water into the hot pan.  Presto Stem!

After 15 minutes of baking, lower the temperature to 350F and continue baking for another 20 minutes or so…

Ding!  Bread is done.  It looks nice and brown, and sounds somewhat hollow like a drum when tapped on the bottom.  You could also check the internal temperature.  It should register about 210F.

Allow it to cool completely before cutting into it.

So with this loaf, I feel I could have baked it another five minutes.  It was not doughy or anything, just a little moister than I think it needed to be?  Maybe that is nitpicking…

The bread tasted really good.  A light sourness, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a sourdough.  Good crisp crust.  The crumb was nice.  It needs to be lighter with more and larger bubbles.  Especially, in the lower center of the loaf.  Texture was a great balance between soft and chewy.  I’m looking forward to Bread # 4!

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