Thursday, August 13, 2009

Speaking of hearty brown bread...

as I did in passing near the end of my last post, I baked a loaf recently. It's just the second half of the batch of batter bread dough I made last month, but I baked it with a substantially different technique and got substantially better results, although, to be honest, I'm not sure why.

If you just re-read that first post or if you've got an exceptionally good memory, you'll recall that the batter bread was made without kneading which naturally resulted in a soft, crumbly texture from the lack of gluten. Since then I've given some thought to the matter and I wondered if I could adapt techniques used for other low-gluten breads made from batters like cornbread.

I've only recently started freezing dough so I'm not sure of the most appropriate way to get it ready for baking. What I've been doing is defrosting in the refrigerator overnight, putting the dough into a loaf pan in the morning and letting it sit, lightly covered, on the counter until I get home from work to give it enough time to come up to room temperature and then rise.

This time, instead of a loaf pan, I used an 8x8 inch baking pan. This dough, I figured, would be loose enough to spread out. I neglected to take a 'before' picture, so you'll just have to imagine a sizable lump of what looks rather like clay in the center of the pan. Here's the 'after' picture. The dough spread out nicely and rose to just about exactly fill the pan. There was a bit of a rise above in the middle, but the dough stuck to the parchment paper I used to cover it so it deflated a little when I removed it.

I was hoping for one of our usual summer afternoon thunderstorms to keep the room humid and blot out the sun, but it was a bright dry day and the dough crusted over in the oven-like heat of my kitchen. That, no doubt, hampered the rise, but this dough didn't have the structure to hold itself up very far anyway. I spritzed the top with water and olive oil to soften it up before baking.

Instead of the wacky baking method in the original recipe, I used a more standard cornbread/cake method of baking it at 350 degrees until a knife inserted in the center came out clean. It took about 40 minutes. There wasn't any extra rise in the oven; In fact it looks like it shrunk a little and the top crusted over hard.

On the other hand, take a look at the texture inside--dense and bubbly with a bit of chew. Even the crunchy barley bits softened pleasantly. Miles better than the texture I got from this same dough last time. Maybe I accidentally used the no-knead method and got gluten to form just by leaving a loose dough to sit?

I'd experiment more, but all this rigmarole hardly seems worth the effort if the point is to simulate a loaf properly made in the first place. Might be a good way to salvage a poorly kneaded loaf, but then so is kneading. Maybe I'll just write this off as a one time thing unless you guys see some practical upshot of all this.

1 comment:

kat said...

I guess you don't have a ton of hands on time the day you bake but that's the only thing I see that makes this better