I've been struggling for a couple weeks now with bread class. Crafting the perfect or even acceptable bread is such a subtle art. A few minutes can make the difference between just right and under-proofed, which means the innards of the bread are exploding from a few cracks in the crust (this has been my problem). And the process involves a lot of waiting. We're talking hours, even days. For the pain rustique, I made the pre-ferment, a mixture of flour and yeast and water that adds a lot of flavor and some shelf life, the night before using it, and with the sourdough loaf, I began the sourdough starter two weeks before ever getting to use it. That means I babied some fungus and bacteria for 14 entire days before I popped it in the oven.
Patience is not strength of mine. I'm still weighing whether the payoff was worth it. Don't get me wrong, that sourdough bread is pretty good, and after four days and no preservatives, it's just about as good as is was on day one. Homemade bread making is such an antiquated thing these days. No one really values it. People want their bread soft, sweet and of the Wonder variety. It's consistent, pleasing and costs $2 or less and a short trip to the grocery. Gone are the days of fresh rolls with every meal, and I'll be honest and say I'm mourning that yet. I think about the slice of sourdough I ate toasted this morning. It had something, a very very slight sour (I wish it had more), and crunchy crust and a sweet, wholey center that melted butter tucked into so very nicely. Sprinkled with a little sugar, it was a pleasant morning start. As of week three in artisan breads class, I'm not sure about trading bread from the grocer that isn't bad but isn't super for a two-week process, but maybe my skill is still holding me back. I think that's a real possibility.
Pain Rustique: from Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
1 pound bread flour
16 fluid ounces water
1/8 teaspoon yeast
1 pound bread flour
6.1 fluid ounces water
2 pounds poolish (all of the above recipe)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
Make the poolish the night before by mixing and letting it sit out to ferment for 12 to 16 hours.
Mix all the ingredients, starting with the water and poolish to loosen the pre-ferment, then adding the flour and yeast and finally the salt. Let sit (autolyze) for 15 minutes and then complete the kneading process. Knead until the dough has a smooth texture when stretched. Let ferment for 70 minutes. Stretch the dough by the corners and roll over to form a ball twice during the fermentation process. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Form into a round loaf by folding the corners in and pressing out the air. Proof for 30 minutes. Score the bread and then bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown at about 450 degrees.