I’ve been pacing myself. We can only eat so much bread, after all. So, I’m aiming for one good loaf per week.
The kicker being: a GOOD loaf.
This is apparently more complex than it sounds, and the experimenting continues as the house fills with the aroma of yeast and baking bread, and the dust pan picks up more and more stray flour from the kitchen floors.
Homer, my sourdough starter is moderately mature. He bubbles away in the fridge for most of the week, patiently blossoming as I ponder his feeding schedule. I was never quite sure what blend of voodoo and science would be involved in owning such a pet, but as it turns out it’s about as much work as owning a goldfish. A goldfish you can put in the fridge for most of the week before you bring him up to room temperature for a couple hours and then cut him in half and sacrifice his writhing corpse to the bread gods occasionally to… ok, maybe not the best analogy.
I also bought a book. This tome of a hardcover monstrosity called Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza which, in a very brief review, I’ll tangentially add has good bread-making advice but comes across a little bit elitist about it all. I bought this book and I’ve gone from kneading away at these dry-ish lumps of flour and water, to creating velvety mounds of butter-soft dough, folding it in a gluten-twisting minimalist effort.
The results have been varied. The variation comes from the fact that my kitchen is not equipped to the same standard as the dude who wrote the book, and until I buy commercial baking equipment I’ve been improvising everything past the “here thar be dough” phase of the instructions. My leavening has gone from too short to too long. I’ve baked lumps of bread so dense and inedible that it went almost directly into the trash. I blossomed another overnight and came downstairs the next morning to find a puddle of doughy goop all over the counter-top. What did stay in the pan baked up nice, if a little oddly shaped.
This book also has indoctrinated me into the baking-by-weight philosophy. Gone are my cups and measures. I’ve been weighing out precise grams of flour combos and drip-dropping water into a tared container on a scale. 500 grams of flour. 400 grams of water. 12 grams of salt. And a good wad of starter. Go.
I’ve also been swapping between a standard loaf shape and, uh, mound shape (I guess). The loaf shape goes into my cast iron loaf pan and seems to make a pretty respectable sandwich loaf… when I get the temperature right. Much easier has been to just let a wad of dough rise on my 10 inch cast iron skillet and bake the whole thing. It bakes a bit more evenly, but the resulting round loaf needs some creative cutting to fit into the toaster.
So far –and when it actually works– it’s been worth it. I made a loaf this past weekend and even Claire paid me an almost-compliment: “Dad, this tastes like it came from a factory!” I think she meant it in a good way. Though it did make just about the best damn grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever built.