Due to the last weeks success I decided to attempt a bread sans recipe. I ordered two exciting things during the week, a book "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast" and a bread banneton / lame set. I was really excited to use the banneton/lame and very intimidated by the cookbook. So a no recipe bread experiment seemed like a good idea.
The long and short of it - I was not ready to make bread without a recipe. I had romanticized a scene from "Cooked" (a netflix special with a bread episode that you shouldn't miss) that shows Michael Pollan confidently folding and mixing bread just by "the feel of it" and figured, I've made bread once or twice, why shouldn't I be able to do this? And I did, and it worked, but not really. Heres the gist of what happened:
My bread was full of GIANT air pockets. Like, I could have pulled apart the top from the bottom. Honestly the texture and flavor were fine (it was a little under seasoned) but it really wasn't that bad. A quick google search for "why does my bread have giant holes in it" taught me the error of my ways.
I rushed the initial stages of my mixing. I mixed it, folded it few times over the first hour or so, then shaped it and let it proof in the fridge. What should have happened was a rise at room temperature before shaping and proofing. The single long proof in the fridge gave bubbles a chance to grow and grow uninterrupted, so when it finally cooked I was just left with giant holes.
I was relatively pleased with the bread all things considered though, and was happy to learn by example the importance of the bulk rise.
Why was I intimidated by "Flour, Salt, Water, Yeast"?
Bread making requires a new vocabulary, new techniques, and lots of variables that seemed paramount to the success (or failure) of the bread. While I was excited to learn about the importance of things like autolyse (allowing your water/flour mixture to rest together before adding salt and the starter) the complicated time tables and temperatures made me feel like unless I really had a free weekend to dedicate to bread making that it just wouldn't work and I shouldn't do it. Everything seemed hyper specific and intense and it took this casual bread making experience to push me to give it a try in week three!
Other improvements I wanted to make:
- still reducing the amount of starter I'm throwing out
- sticking (the banneton needed to be "seasoned" so the following week should be better), you can also see that the un-banneton loaf had an unreal amount of flour stuck too it to prevent sticking, it could have been more appetizing.
- size of the holes
- creating a "levain" rather than just using starter straight from my container
Check back to see how week three goes (spoiler alert - it was pretty good) and happy baking!