Let’s try this again

I’m back at it this week following a brief hiatus this past weekend. There are a few key things that I need to improve upon, namely better managing bulk ferment temperature and overnight proofing temperature. I most definitely have some room for improvement in the technique side as well though – I’ve watched a number of different YouTube videos on shaping technique for the Tartine-style loaf that I’m going for. The technique for the FWSY-style loaf was far simpler, so it’s amateur hour over here. Practice of course makes perfect, but it’s unfortunately somewhat difficult to manage ongoing practice for the once weekly activity of the amateur baker.

My plans for managing the starter this week are to remove it from the fridge on Wednesday evening for two full days of recovery time as a first test in comparing starter strength – for my first attempt I gave it three full days. I’m also going to include some rye flour in my starter feedings to try to garner a little more acidity in the final loaf.

Feeding schedule is as follows: 6PM Wednesday evening removal, 6AM and 6PM feedings through Saturday morning with 40g starter, 40g room temperature water, and 30g white flour and 10g rye flour.

I couldn’t have picked a better week to take another shot at this as the weather has been -20°C all week, so it has been quite cold indoors. Luckily, my ambient thermometer showed up so I’ve been able to keep track of the temperature in which my starter is… starting. I’ve had some fun in trying to find a place for it, first trying the oven with the light on and the door closed (forgetting it seems that it made my dough too warm previously), then testing it with the door open in various positions of proximity to the light. After some trial and error, I seem to have found a position which maintains approximately 80°F (my target temperature), though unfortunately holding the door wide open isn’t the best idea when you have a 10 week old puppy running around.

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Starter hanging out at a balmy 80 in the oven.

I also took the opportunity to configure my fridge temperature using the new found glory of my ambient thermometer. To slim down my power bill (I’m sure it’s not much, if anything), I’ve typically operated my fridge at a little lower than the recommended setting. As expected, this setting did not result in the 38°F that I was looking for. It was actually around 45° – bonjour, overproofed boule.

At this point the tally is: two things that needed fixing, fixed. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, but I forgot to check my final dough temperature… running a tight ship over here.

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Levain prior to mixing with dough.

Following bulk fermentation, it was time to put to test what I’d seen done many-a-time on YouTube over the week: pre-shaping using my bench knife and shaping. The pre-shaping did not go quite as planned. I was expecting the dough to be far easier to manage, but, boy, it was sticky. Needless to say, I did not get a very tight pre-shaped boule as I had a hard time keeping it off of my bench knife. Next time I’ll try using a light dusting of flour in the pre-shape.

The shaping itself was not too bad, however. While I’m sure it could have been a tighter outer layer, I managed to get through it without any serious issues. Seam side up and into the proofing basket for 15 hours at 38°F – overnight proof engage.

After having managed bulk fermentation and overnight proofing temperature quite well, my resulting loaf still seemed, again, to be overproofed with a pretty small resulting boule. I’ll need to double check the fridge temperature, but assuming it was accurate I may need to toy with proofing time a tad. It would help if I would remember to try the super scientific ‘finger dent test’ as a check.

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Final result.

Regardless of over or underproofing, again I was not too disappointed with the final outcome. The crust looked great with some nice micro bubbles across the exterior with an enticing caramel colour. The crumb, again, was not quite as aesthetically pleasing as desired, but the mouthfeel, taste, and texture were all great, honestly. Oven spring was pretty good, but I think if I can dial in the proofing it will be much better. I think I may slice into the loaf a tad too early so I end up with a somewhat muddy crumb, but it is hard to wait when I eat this for breakfast on Sundays. That said, the crumb has the desired glossy sheen and has decent airiness throughout, so it’s not a total loss.

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Crumshot: slightly muddy as I am slightly impatient.

Things to improve upon next week: pre-shaping technique, shaping technique, proofing time and temperature. I am also considering giving bread flour a shot as I’ve typically simply used all purpose, and most recipes call for bread flour.

Bon semaine!

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