Well; the best way to learn how to bake the perfect loaf is learning through trial and error.
This is the best way for me. No matter how many books or blogs I read, my own experiences with baking bread are the best teachers for me.
More than that, I am an experimenter. I would love to follow recipes, but to tell you the truth, I like improvising better; observing the thickness of the dough, the rise of the dough, the oven-spring of the loaf, the crust, taste, and crumb, and all the conditions (warmth while rising/proofing, minutes/hours of waits/rise/baking, amount of ingredients, etc.). And then coming up with conclusions to bake a better bread next time. That is priceless 🙂
So, last week I decided to try an over-night dough recipe – I have got the idea from internet (there are many useful sites out there). They say that while the fridge will slow down the activity of the yeast, the long fermentation (in the fridge) does enrich the taste of the bread. Intrigued, I decided to go for it 🙂
I must say it has been a great learning experience:
- Now I know how to handle a very sticky/batter like dough better
- Now I know that over-night fermentation of the dough is okay and, as they said, may even be better for the texture of the bread
- Now I know that the sticky/high-hydration dough should not be proofed/baked on cookie sheets – loaf pans/oven dishes that support the dough are a lot better (they support the dough and prevent from spreading/expanding to the sides to form a rather flat-type of loaf that I observed with my trial today.)
- Now I know that proofing may be extended to 1.5 hours (rather than 1 hour), which yielded a better rise for this dough today
- Now I know that I will try some other varieties (e.g. with olives) using this dough some other time. The most bubbles I have ever seen in a dough 🙂
Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)
This dough could have been a great flat bread or a pizza dough; crunchy outside, soft and crumby inside – highly recommended 🙂
1. warm 100 ml water and mix with 1 dessert spoon of sugar; mix well. Add 1/3 dessert spoon of yeast – let stand for 15 min. Yeast will start smelling but not necessarily form a foam (only because its quantity is less than regular yeast mixtures. For a same-day bread, I would have used a full dessert spoon of dry yeast)
2. add 2 cups of flour, 75 ml of water, and the yeast mixture – make a very sticky dough (almost like a batter).
3. let rest for 35 min at room temperature (cover the bowl with a kitchen towel)
4. use a dough cutter (or your hands) and stretch and fold it onto itself (repeat for 3-4 min – the dough will be still sticky). This is supposed to help the gluten form and give a structure to the dough. Note the absence of kneading in this recipe.
5. grease a large pot/bowl (with 1.5 table spoon of vegetable oil) and put the dough in. Stretch and fold again to make sure it gets oil all over. Close the lid of the pot or cover it with cling film.
6. keep it in the fridge overnight.
7. the next morning (after 19 hours in the fridge): the dough/batter looks healthy and flattened itself out. It smells great There are noticeable bubbles in it.
8. add 1 table spoon of salt and stretch and fold 7-8 times. Transfer into a clean pot sprinkled with flour. The dough is coherent and sticky, and prior to the stretch and fold there were large bubbles in it (they are removed during the stretch and fold procedure). Sprinkle flour on top, close the lid of the pot, place over a kitchen towel and rest at room temperature for 1.5 hours (to help it reach the room temperature)
9. transfer the dough on a clean surface sprinkled with flour, stretch and fold a couple of times, and form a baton shaped loaf. You may flour the hands and the surface as required, but do not be tempted to add too much flour.
10. bench rest for 10 min (covered)
11. Place the dough in an oven dish sprinkled with a generous amount of cornmeal, [if using cookie sheet like myself; support the loaf on both sides by stretch film-covered long boxes (stretch films better be greased). I would rather recommend using a deep oven dish for this dough if you are aiming for a tall bread…], place everything in a big shopping bag, loosely tie the bag, and put it in a warm oven (warmed to 100 F with lights on), and proof for 1.5 hour.
12. Apply whole egg wash gently without deflating the dough, sprinkle with generous amount of sesame seeds, and score the surface. Remove the supports from the sheet
13. Place 2 cups of boiling water in an oven-safe dish and place in the lower shelf. Bake for 35 min (375F the first 15 min, and then 400 F)
Bon appetite! 🙂