I mentioned earlier that Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
was a pretty awesome book, and now I have his more recent (2007) one
out from the library. And my first reaction reading it was a good old-fashioned LOL WHUT.
It's all about whole grain breads, which is cool, but the entire book is built on this incredibly weird
theory of baking.* Reinhart over-sells it a bit in his introduction (soooo much talk of breakthroughs and revelations and serendipity and arrgh), but pretty much every recipe in there uses two
separate pre-doughs plus
a really large amount (like, tablespoon-per-loaf large) of commercial yeast, and I have to agree that is pretty fucked up. Totally friggin' works
though, or at least it worked last night. I could have sworn that I badly mishandled that dough, but my first ever 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf (no extra gluten and no white flour; enrichments including yogurt, honey, and oil) turned out goddamn near perfect.
It may even have been the best loaf I've ever made. Heavy, yet fluffy; rich, yet sweet; holds together at any slice size, and has that thick grainy smell that my East Olympia childhood trained me to crave. The roommate described it as having "no flaws," and, uh, yes. (I credit the recipe; like I said, I had no idea what I was doing.) Furthermore, it was surprisingly time-efficient, with a remarkably small amount of active work involved. I will be investigating this further,
'cause damn. In the meantime, PB&J for lunch.
Also, I've been thinking more about that ciabatta. The hole structure in the crumb was still all wrong last time, although the loaves tasted great and looked right from the outside, and I'm trying to figure out which stages need to extend, contract, or slide around. One of my theories is that Reinhart's "spray the walls" technique is actually a bullshit heat-theiving trap, so I'm going to try ditching it next time. I'm also thinking that the water I drop in the steam pan needs to get fairly explosive when it hits, so I'll try a rolling boil straight from the kettle and see what that does. The two of those things together might increase my oven spring, and if I can also improve my rustic dough handling technique, that miiiiiiiight give me the air I need. We'll see.
God, I love a project.
* So far as I understand it, it's all about letting enzyme activity run way further than it's generally supposed to, setting up delayed-effect limiters on the enzymes to keep them from causing structural damage, and then skipping the enzyme-related parts of the traditional baking process. In practice, this means making a dough with salt but no yeast and a dough with yeast but no salt, and letting them both just sit around overnight (with the yeasted one in the fridge). Like I said, it's bizarre.