Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Oh yeasty goodness

Now look what I’ve done.

I started this on Saturday, and popped it in the oven today. Richard Bertinet wasn’t kidding when he said that longer fermentations and rising times produce a gorgeous rusty-red crust, full-bodied flavour and the slightest nutty sweetness. Oh my lordie. I could have an entire loaf as a snack, or perhaps all three. I hadn’t planned on taking a span of 3 days to bake this, but I’m glad I did. Now I only wished I had doubled the batch. Half of it’s gone already.

And of course my shaping leaves much to be desired. They’re suppose to look like baguettes but ended up mangled. Tsk.

That wasn’t all that I made with the dough though (say that ten times fast!). I could jump around the house in joy, bouncing off the walls like a chimpanzee on crack and red bull both at once because I thought three baguettes would satisfy the family enough, so I took the last ball of dough and made this:

Tomato-based pizza with portobello mushrooms, smoky back bacon, capsicums, black olives and mozzarella cheese.

I am beside myself with disbelief. Still.

Sure I had issues with making a perfectly round base, and sure I burnt the parchment paper that I used to slide this baby into the oven (now that just sounds gross), stinking up the house with acrid smoke and alarming my dad into rushing into the kitchen, thinking I’d suddenly chosen to participate in Qing Ming…

But boy was it all worth it. I could squeal with happiness.

Then, of course, I feel like smacking myself over my head with a baguette because I know what this means. You want to know what this means? I’ll tell you what this means. This means a future of a thousand and one potential pizza combinations. Mexican, vegetarian, Pizza Bianca, Pizza Magherita, Pizza E Funghi, Pizza-every-single-type-of-cheese-stinky-or-not-in-the-world, dessert pizzas, fruit crumble pizza, hot fudge with toasted slivered almonds and banana slices…

I’m a little hysterical, as you can tell.

I can forget about finding another job. Unless some of you would love to fund my new obsession in return for Pizza Experiment No. 6000, which I would be more than thrilled to fill your stomachs with.

Pizza Experiment No. 2

The first pizza attempt I had was on Friday. If I had spectators witnessing the brain addling chaos I was creating in the kitchen, they’d be roaring with laughter. I invented a contraption to slide unbaked and very tricky pizza bases into the oven. Inventing isn’t one of my strengths, and never will it be. Let’s just say it was an epic fail, because my first pizza landed in a heap in the 300C searing hot oven while I was struggling with the blast of hot air in my face, and the crust wasn’t so much a crust as it was a cushiony, soggy, under-baked bed of dough for the dense layer of toppings I so enthusiastically piled on it. Strike one. That’ll teach me to be greedy.

Crumb shot.

I am maddeningly obsessed with bread. I’ll have you know that I barely eat rice in a week as opposed to the copious amounts of yeasty carbohydrates that I consume. I’ll be heading to Europe in June, where I’ll probably die in obscurity, digestive system clogged, bread blocking essential egress and yeast thriving amongst my intestinal villi.

That’s heaven for me.

Pathway to heaven

Baguettes with Fermented Dough adapted from Crust, by Richard Bertinet

Do note that this may be very intimidating and time consuming if this is the first attempt at bread you’ll be doing. I’ve struggled with the decision of posting up a recipe because there are technical terms which are confusing and entirely foreign to most people. But here it is anyway. If you have an electric mixer at home, it’ll make things easier for you since I’m unable to go into detail yet about the technique for kneading a dough of such high hydration/ water content. So my advice is, if you don’t have a stand-mixer/ bread maker with Dough program you may not wish to try this short of tearing your hair out in frustration from how the dough clings to your fingers like a parasite.

I’m not quite sure how in depth I should go with my bread recipes because if there isn’t a demand for them, then explaining in great detail about each of the components and equipment would be in waste. So do drop a comment to let me know your interest.

Also, this isn’t a recipe for a pizza base though I used it. I encountered many difficulties with this and I’m still searching for a good one.

For the Poolish Ferment*:

  • 88.5g bread flour
  • 62g water
  • 2g salt
  • a pinch of dry yeast

For the Bread:

  • 424g bread flour
  • 22g dark rye flour
  • 321g water
  • the Poolish Ferment
  • 12g salt

Makes 220g x 4 baguettes

Directions for the Poolish:

1. 3 days before, stir yeast and salt into water in a mixing bowl and add the flours and mix well. Take out of the bowl and knead it till smooth. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and place in a fridge for a maximum of 48 hours (the slower and longer the maturation, the better the flavour).

Directions for the Bread:

1. After 48 hours, take the poolish out from the fridge at least an hour before using.

2. Mix the ingredients for the bread except the salt and leave it to rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes. Do not knead it yet. Using an electric stand mixer with dough hook attachment or a bread maker, add the fermented rough and the rest of the ingredients except the salt and mix for about 15 minutes, starting at slow speed. After 15 minutes, add the salt and let mix for another 3 minutes until smooth and elastic. The dough would still be sticky and tacky.

2. Lightly flour the surface of your workplace and pour out the dough, folding it into a ball and covering it with a damp cloth, letting it rest for 1 hour 30 minutes.

3. Fold the dough by stretching the right side and folding it in thirds in the middle, followed by the left side as if folding a sheet of paper into thirds. Do the same for the top and the bottom and leave to rest for 1 hour.

4. Lightly flour your work surface again and divide the dough into 4 sections of 220g with the help of a metal dough scraper, weighing each for better accuracy. Shape the dough into baguettes, or leave them in rounds/ boules if uncertain how to shape into a baguette. Place the shaped dough onto a floured cloth and make a divide in between each by pinching up the cloth so that they remain separated while rising, or you could just place them far away from each other. Cover with another cloth and place in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

5. Take the dough out for at least 1 hour 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 250C with an inverted metal tray in the middle rack/ or a pizza stone if you have one.

6. Sprinkle some fine semolina flour your peel/ flour it well to prevent sticking (a wooden board for pushing unbaked bread into the oven. Like one of those that people use to make pizzas. Any clean plywood board would do.) and place 2 baguettes on it if possible, or more if your board is big enough. Score the tops in diagonal slashes with a sharp knife/ lame/ razor once the oven is ready and quickly slide them into the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes till golden brown. Remove and cool on a rack.

* A poolish is a pre-ferment, also called a sponge/starter and is added to bread dough before kneading and baking to give a greater complexity of flavour because of yeast and bacterial action.

6 responses to “Oh yeasty goodness

  1. nattietan April 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    OMG! I can’t believe you baked this. The baguette looks gorrrrgeous! And so does your pizza!! *drool* I’ve never had the patience to bake bread what with the resting time and all. You’ve got some talent girl! No scratch that. You’ve got a whole LOT of talent!

    • Christine Leow April 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

      Actually, the total amount of physical work only adds up to about an hour at most. Other than that you’re mostly letting the bread chill and do it’s thing. Ha. Yeah, most people ask me why don’t I just buy supermarket bread. I think the pictures say enough. XD

  2. Mitsy Forest April 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    What, exactly is the ingredient Walt in the poolish? And the poolish step 1 mentions to “…add the flours…”; is that what walt is, or is there another flour not mentioned?


    Looks wonderful!

  3. Christine Leow April 20, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    My bad. Heh. Let me know how it goes!

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