Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rosie Makes Filone. It's Bread.

Back when the Hawthornes were on the road,
I bought a copy of Saveur magazine
at the IGA supermarket
in Red Lodge, Montana.

I keyed IGA in the Garmin
and was delighted when
"Loretta" announced our arrival 

But I digest.
The Saveur issue was about artisan breads
and I savored that magazine 
and the pictures of those beautiful loaves
as we drove across country and back.
I've been looking forward
 to baking bread ever since Red Lodge

 What, you might ask, is artisan bread?
Artisan bread is what its name suggests -
the bread is crafted, not mass produced.
An artisan baker must understand the science
behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients
and know how to provide the best environment
for the bread to develop.

Bread is like cheese or wine.
Control of the fermentation and action of natural bacteria
can produce anything from a light, delicate flavor,
to a deep, strong, rustic flavor.

Take a look at your mass-produced, pre-sliced,
cellophane-wrapped, bleached-white supermarket breads,
whose blandness is their selling point.
The ingredients for a store-bought loaf
might have nearly twenty ingredients.

The basic building blocks for artisan bread
are flour, water, yeast, and salt.
 No extra minerals or chemicals -
just the same ingredients used for baking bread
for the past few thousands of years.

The author of the Saveur article
embarked upon, what he called, his "52 Loaves" project.
He pledged to bake a loaf of pain de campagne
(country bread, si vous ne parlez pas le Francais)
every week for a year until he could produce
the sublime object of his desire.
After 20-30 disappointing loaves,
the honey-combed, open-celled crumb structure
he so craved still continued to elude him.
Eventually, a semi-retired baker
forced a container of his 12-year old
sourdough starter on the author,
explaining, "to go to the next level,
you have to use a levain."
He had no choice but to try.

A levain is a mother, or starter.
Until then, the author had been using commercial yeast,
like most home bakers, to leaven his bread.
Flat bread, essentially flour and water
cooked on a hot stone, dates to the Paleolithic era.
The ancient Egyptians discovered that if you added yeast,
the dough would rise into a loaf.
About 6000 years later, Pasteur would
unlock the secret why.
Yeast is a living organism.
When fed sugar, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol,
the process we call fermentation.
Meanwhile, flour, in the presence of water,
produces gluten - those long, tangled protein chains
which give elasticity to dough, helping it to rise.
Kneading the dough stretches the coils out,
aligning them side by side so that they can bond,
forming the strong elastic network
that enables the dough to stretch
and capture the carbon dioxide gases
emitted by the yeast.

Commercial yeasts provide plenty of carbon dioxide,
but not much else.
As the semi-retired baker explained to the author,
for flavor and texture,
you need to use yeast that's been around the block a few times;
that is, a starter, some type of pre-fermented dough
made from wild yeast gathered from the air.
Wild yeast is a different species from cultivated yeast.
A mature starter
contains bacteria and hundreds of organic compounds
which provide the signature taste and smell
we identify with freshly baked artisan bread.

 A starter, also known as a levain in French,
a biga or lievito madre in Italian,
or a mother, starter seed, or sourdough starter in English,
is made by mixing flour in water to form a pasty mixture.
Over time, the process of fermentation sours the mixture
as it picks up natural yeasts from the air.
Time, temperature, and humidity can all affect how a loaf turns out.
A portion of the starter is then mixed with fresh flour and water
to form a sourdough culture that further ferments,
thereby deepening the flavor.
The sourdough culture is then combined
with more flour and water to make the dough.
This two-step fermentation process is responsible
for artisan bread's characteristic, and pleasant, tang.

 I learned another lesson from this article:
there is a stage before kneading the dough
when you let your just-mixed ingredients rest for twenty minutes.
This is called autolysis and it allows the flour
to hydrate in the wet ingredients.
 This step is beneficial in producing a smooth,
 evenly crumbed final product.
If the flour doesn't fully hydrate before kneading,
there can be small pockets of raw flour in your dough.
Autolysis comes from the Greek words
meaning "self" and "splitting."
Autolysis refers to the destruction of a cell by its own enzymes,
or "self-splitting."
The enzymes in flour (amylase and protease)
break down the starch and protein in the flour.
Starch gets converted to sugar and the protein to gluten.
Since kneading the dough develops gluten,
why would you want to do this?
Rosie's gonna tell you.
When you knead dough,
you oxidize it (expose it to oxygen).
Over-oxidized or over-kneaded dough
results in both flavor and color loss,
making it tasteless and pale.
By allowing the mixed flour and water
time enough to go through autolysis on their own,
you achieve the same result,
but without the unpleasant effects of oxidation.
The flour is allowed time to soak up all the moisture,
which results in more orderly gluten formation.

 Now that you know more than you probably cared
about bread,
let's make bread.

The first bread I'm making is called filone,
and it is similar to a ciabatta.

For the recipe, click here.

Image Credit:  Todd Coleman

The above picture is a photograph of the filone
that was in the Saveur magazine.
Mr. Hawthorne walked by, took a look, and said,
"Oh, is that what your bread is supposed to look like?"
I, a little too quickly, responded with, "No."
Just in case.
Rosie likes to cover her bases.

But guess what.
Not to worry.
My bread came out just fine.

Did you have any doubts?
This is a bread of substance.

Filone is made with a lightly fermented traditional Italian starter,
called a biga.
Using a biga adds complexity to the flavor of your loaf.
After letting the biga ferment overnight,
it is then added to the bread dough
and goes through a second fermentation.

Step 1:  Make the biga.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water and 1/2 tsp yeast.

Let sit until proofed (foamy).
 10-15 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup flour and mix until a dough forms.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface and ...

... knead until fairly smooth.
About 3 minutes.

Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl,
cover with plastic wrap,
and place in a cold oven.
Let sit for one hour.

An ideal temperature for feeding your starters
and fermenting your sourdough is around 75 degrees.
Since home kitchens vary in temperatures,
it is advised to put starters and doughs to rise
in a cold oven, which keeps a constant temperature
slightly above room temperature.

Transfer bowl to refrigerator
and let sit for at least 8 hours
or up to 24 hours to ferment.

This ball of dough is the biga.
It's a simple and fairly quick starter
that will impart large bubbles
and a slightly fermented flavor to the dough.

At this point,
I called it a day and left the biga in the fridge for tomorrow.

Fast forward to tomorrow.

And Step 2:  Autolysis.
Take the biga out and let it come to room temperature.
About 30 minutes.

Turn the dough into a large bowl and ...

...  add 1 1/3 cups water and ...

...  1 tsp yeast.

Stir ...

...  until the biga breaks up.

Add in 3 1/4 cups flour and ...

...  1 tsp salt and  ...

...  and 1/3 cup olive oil.

Stir until dough forms.
Let the dough sit for 20 minutes
to let the flour hydrate.
This process is called autolysis.

Step 3:  Kneading.
Knead dough in the bowl
until it begins to tighten and becomes smooth.
About 4 minutes.
This is a wet, sticky dough,
which helps the bread achieve its light and airy texture.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface
and continue kneading ...

... until dough is smooth and elastic.

 Step 4:  Rising.
Transfer dough to greased bowl
and cover with plastic wrap.
Place in cold oven and let rest until dough doubles in size.
About 2 hours.

Step 5:  Forming the loaves.
Ooooh.   This looks nice.

Turn out bread onto lightly floured surface.

Look at that big bubble.

This is what it looks like.

Divide dough in half.

Fold the top and bottom edges of one piece toward the middle
and flatten dough at the seam with the palm of your hand.

Turn dough over, seam-side down,
and form into a 12-inch log.
Repeat with other loaf.

Transfer logs to lightly floured parchment paper
on a rimless baking sheet.

Make a little tent between the loaves.

Cover the loaves with plastic wrap,
set in a cold oven,
and let rise until double.
About 90 minutes.

Step 6: Preparing the oven.
Place a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven.
Position a rack above this and place a baking stone on top.
I turned my oven to 425 degrees at this point.
I want to be sure that baking stone has time to heat.

Step 7:  Baking the loaves.
Carefully unwrap plastic from loaves.

I like bubbles.

Cut down the parchment between loaves.

Give your logs a nice dusting of flour.
This is not only aesthetically pleasing,
it also offers another flavor component from the toasted flour.

My pizza stone is only big enough for one loaf,
so the second loaf gets wrapped and has to wait.

Slide the loaves, still on parchment paper
onto the baking stone.

Add 1/2 cup ice to the iron skillet.
The ice produces steam that allows the loaves to rise fully 
before a crust forms on the surface.
Bake until dark golden brown and crisp.
About 50 minutes.

Now that's a pretty loaf!

Light, airy, and bubbly.

Nothing better than bread just out of the oven with butter on it.

I like the crust.
It's both crisp and chewy.

I loved the texture and the flavor.

My boys went through two loaves in no time.
I will be making this again.

Stay tuned for my next bread - a baguette.


SweetPhyl said...

Wow Rosie...thanks for the Bread lesson. I'm definitely going to try your method with the starter...and I love the ice in the cast iron trick! I could almost smell that crispy, chewy, yeasty goodness...Bravo!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Hey SweetPhyl. Please try the recipe. It's very good bread. And it's got that slight sourdough "tang."

Next up is what they called a 4 hour baguette. I started at 10 and finished by 5. I was in no hurry.

Marilyn said...

That does look good. Even better than the bread I had last night at the fancy-dancy restaurant.

Marilyn said...

I wonder if I can interest the Foodie Daughter in the fine art of bread baking? I like to bake bread. She likes to bake sweets. I might even make a her a bread-convert.

Unknown said...

Is that a teaspoon of yeast cause it looks like a TABLEspoon

Rosie Hawthorne said...

itoravit20, it was actually 1/2 tsp. It's all relative sizes.

BTW, I made bread tonight. Absolute best so far. Post forthcoming.