I have been neglecting both my bread baking and poor Goth Panda recently. First I closed on the house and moved all my worldly possessions. Then we started arranging everything, buying all the things we need for a house that we didn’t have (I don’t want to count the number of times or amount of dollars I have recently spent at Lowe’s), and hosting an open house. So this weekend, I tried to get back into my bread baking routine. I started by making the biga for the Italian bread on Saturday. But somehow I didn’t get to baking the bread on Sunday.
In fact, I was too busy to make it until almost the very last minute. The biga is supposed to be good for three days in the refrigerator, and I made it on Tuesday after work. I started by taking the biga out to warm up to room temperature.
Unfortunately I forgot about it and went out to caulk. [And also get eaten alive by mosquitoes.]
So after almost two hours had gone by, I saw the biga on the counter. I was almost afraid of it.
But I went ahead. I mixed together the rest of the flour, yeast, water, olive oil, malt powder, salt…am I forgetting anything? Oh, yes, and the scary biga. And mixed it all together. I started using the dough whisk, and then ended by mixing it by hand to make sure everything got incorporated.
Then I kneaded it for four minutes in the Kitchen Aid. You know, I bought my Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer not too long ago. I wavered between getting the Artisan and the Professional, and I remember reading a review that said the only reason to get the more expensive Professional was if you would be using it frequently for kneading bread. I thought to myself at the time, I won’t be needing it for that.
Little did I know.
Then I finished kneading by hand. I popped it into a King Arthur Flour measuring beaker.
It was almost 8 p.m. by this point, and I was really hoping that my bread would rise quickly because I wanted to go to bed at a decent hour. I will admit that I was willing to sacrifice bread quality for a decent night’s sleep.
Still, when I checked on my bread after an hour of rising, I didn’t expect to see this:
I quickly set about shaping. I think I did it badly, because the loaves turned out very similar to the baguettes of the last challenge, very long and slim. I think Italian bread loaves should be shorter and fatter than these.
I baked them on the sheet pan again, because my pizza stone is too small to fit both loaves. Since the move, though, I do have a standard-size oven. Maybe on one of my next trips to Lowe’s I should pick up some of those unglazed quarry tiles everyone is always talking about.
I will also confess that I didn’t “prepare my oven for hearth baking” this time. I was in a rush to get this bread finished, and I didn’t want to mess around with a steam pan or spritzing. I also have been wondering what the difference would be, so I thought I would refrain this time and see what happened.
I think the crust turned out softer and less crackly. I did hear the fabled crackling crust on the cooling baguettes last time, but no crackles this time.
I also think I’m not doing a good job of slashing. I was reading Reinhart’s instructions, and trying to keep the blade almost parallel to the loaf, but I think the result has been that I am not slashing deep enough.
My crumb shots came out overexposed, so you will have to trust me when I say the crumb was very even, with not a lot of big irregular holes. I wonder if I should have hydrated more?
However, the bread tastes really good. I was surprised at how sweet it tasted. I would like another try at this recipe when I’m not so rushed.
Since I now feel like I have fallen behind on my BBA baking, I am considering trying to knock out both the Kaiser Rolls and Lavash Crackers this weekend. This plan could get pushed to the side if the weather is nice, because our pool is still open and it hasn’t lost its novelty yet. I have a neat little pink pool float with a canopy shade and everything. If that is the case, I can almost guarantee that I will be busy making coconut rum daiquiris instead of working on my bread baking skills.