I’m doing something novel here and writing about a recipe the day I actually made the recipe. I mean, I’m something like five recipes behind in my blogging but I’m forging ahead. Anyway, it’s novel because I’m a mom to a five-year old child, a woman with a full-time job (ish because I’m at 90% FTE but it’s pretty much full time) who actually finds herself with “me” time on a girls trip to the mountains. No one is asking me for anything. No one is expecting anything of me. It’s awesome. And novel because it’s a rare occurrence. A lovely moment in time to reflect and appreciate the things in my life and enjoy a much-needed break.
This recipe is the first of the advanced yeast and enriched breads chapter in the book I’m following. (Reminder for those who haven’t read my earlier posts that I’m following the Culinary Institute of America’s textbook on baking and pastry and I just started chapter 2.) It requires the use of two things that are new to my bread baking. The first is a soaker. This is simply a bunch of dense grains and seeds that are placed in liquid and allowed to plump up overnight or at least 6-8 hours. The second is the use of pâté fermenteé which means “old bread” in French. In the past, the practice was to save a bit of dough from the bread you were making that day to use the next day or another day as a starter to the next bread bake.
I decided to try this recipe up in the mountains at a high altitude to see if I could produce a quality loaf. I also knew I’d have the time to focus and honestly, I wanted to share some tasty fresh bread with meats, cheeses, and wine with my girls. So, the soaker part was easy. Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and a nine grain cereal mix (Ezekiel 4:9 almond brand) were combined with water and left to soak overnight. There was just enough water to soak into the grains and seeds to fluff them up. If you’ve ever soaked any sort of bean overnight before cooking, it’s pretty much the same thing. Next, I had to address the old bread, namely I didn’t have any. So, after I got situated at the cabin we rented for girls weekend, I made a basic lean bread which if you remember lacks fats of any kind and consists of only flour, yeast, water, and salt. I set aside a chunk of the raw dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. I baked the remaining dough into a small round and it was good. A little misshapen perhaps but perfect otherwise. I’d show you a picture but I forgot to take one.
The next morning, I checked the dough in the refrigerator and realized part of it had expanded beyond the plastic wrap and was exposed to air. Pity. It means that the exposed bit was hardened and had to be pinched off and tossed away. It also meant that the old dough bit was a little shy of what I needed for my bread. Not much though so I just decided it was good enough and I would just keep going. The soaker was ready to go. It looked a little like ground beef said both of my friends. It kinda did. Time to do this.
Bread and wheat flours measured. Water, salt, barley malt syrup mixed together and then added to the flours. Note that I skipped bringing my stand mixer so this was going to be done all by hand… and no yeast. Say what? The pâté fermenteé is what served as the yeast or starter to my recipe. I had to incorporate the old bread into the new bread and knead for a bit, add half the soaked grains, knead some more, add the remaining grains, knead some more, and then knead until it was the right consistency. It’s a work out! I even enlisted one of my friends to knead. Here’s what it looked like when I was done kneading and after the bread did its bulk ferment/proof thing.
I decided I wanted to make a loaf instead of large rounds so I brought my Pullman pan with me to do this. I had to guess on quantities. I went with a quarter of the recipe and figured that I’d have enough for a two-pound loaf. The dough went in the Pullman pan for the final rise. It could have been more but I was fine. It didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped in the final proof but it was going to be a sizeable loaf. One thing I hadn’t factored was a cold kitchen. I had to run one of the ovens (two ovens are just awesome) to try and keep the area warm so my bread would rise. I let the dough hang out for about 75 minutes in total before I baked it in an oven with steam. To create steam I placed a baking tin in the oven while it reached temp. When I put in the bread (lid oiled and on pan), I added some water to the tin to create steam and closed the oven. One of my friends asked me why you add the steam. It’s twofold in my mind. One reason is to increase moisture and the other reason is to make a nice, crispy crust.
The load took about 30 minutes in a 475 degree oven. I thumped the bottom and listened for the hollow thump sound a finished bread makes. Knock knock knock. The finished product is a thing of beauty. Soft, warm, delicious and excellent with fancy cheeses and meats. It would also be great as rolls or sliced and toasted. Overall, this is a really satisfying multigrain bread with a crispy top and chewy center. I’d definitely make it again.
Now back to my wine and break before it’s time to cook the steaks. I’d grill but I’m afraid of gas grills for some reason. It is what it is. Plus it’s snowing. No thanks.