I decided to make a slew of loaves to bring on our family beach week vacation, so in the week preceding vacation I baked up a storm. Some were made to become garlic bread, and others will be offered up for slicing to go with cheese and meats in our traditional appetizers.
Since baking the last two loaves, I’ve gone to the Container Store and bought a pretty glass container for Constance to live in and a combo cooker by Lodge to partner with my Dutch oven. It’s round, so it will more easily accommodate the round loaves I’ve been making, and I decided it was just that bit more useful than a round Dutch oven. I’m still bummed that Broadway Panhandler in Manhattan closed (and the space is still empty! It’s been years!), because their annual Le Creuset sale was amazing.
All this to say that I only felt confident making 2 loaves at a time. On Sunday I fed Constance almost straight out of the fridge and 5 hours later the starter had risen significantly but not entirely doubled. I was antsy so I forged ahead with my scaled-down Hobb’s House Baker No-Knead Bread recipe, but in the future I’ll either be sure to let Constance sit out for at least 1 hour at room temp before feeding or I’ll give it an additional hour to double. (Either way, it needs just about 1 more hour, so guess it just depends on how my morning is going.)
I had inexplicable trouble forming these into loaves. The first one gave me so much trouble that I left the second in the bowl for an additional round of stretch and fold. It was better after that but not as easy as it had been in the past. One thing that I’m not sure makes a difference: I used water straight from the tap, because I wanted it to be warm, instead of the room-temp filtered water we have out. They say NYC water is some of the best tap water around, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt too much.
Based on some descriptions I read online, I decided not to take the dough out of the fridge in advance, taking it instead directly from the fridge to the parchment paper (this time, I cut the parchment to match the vessels it’d bake in, and I still crumpled it up a few times). I debated how to cut and went with this zig-zag with wheat stalk for both, based on a design I’d seen on Instagram. Immediately after scoring the round one I remembered I was supposed to dust it with flour first. Oh well!
I baked these for 25 minutes with the lid on, then 20 minutes with it off. They got nice and dark and had okay oven spring. It’s clear I’m not scoring deep enough where I want the deep cuts, but it’s not terrible. I sliced into the round one because it’s my bread for the week here at home, and again the crumb felt kind of “wet” to me. I resolved to give more time in the covered DO the next day.
While the oven was preheating on Monday, I mixed up more starter to make two more loaves. Again I mixed the loaves separately, and this time I used filtered water. After the autolyse, I added diced dry sun-dried tomatoes (the kind not packed in oil) to one of the bowls. I say “dry” sun-dried tomatoes, but these were very pliable and moist; maybe if they’d once been completely dry they were now more like “rehydrated.” (I found them in the fancy meats, olives, etc. area of my grocery store.) I guessed at how much to dice, chopping them up pretty small until the pile looked right to me. Because I wanted to be able to re-create this in the future, I measured my pile: It was a generous 1/2 cup. After folding the salt in, I dumped the tomatoes on the dough and folded them for a bit, too.
After my difficulty the night before I gave an extra half-hour to the bulk fermentation and an additional stretch and fold. The dough was MUCH stronger by the end, I could feel it—it felt as if the dough were pushing against me when I tried to do the fold, it was so leavened. Forming them into the loaves was not hard at all; I’d been wary of working with the dough with the sun-dried tomato bits but it gave me no trouble.
Because of a mid-morning dentist appointment and an extreme aversion to waking up much earlier than I have to, these got a longer proof in the fridge—probably around 17 hours, instead of the 14 the ones the day before had received. Like Monday, I took them straight from the fridge to my pre-cut pieces of crumpled parchment paper. This time, I went with a bold angled slash in order to get an ear (I think I’m obsessed with the ears), then some perpendicular wheat stalks, inspired by this source material. I did the same design on both; I’m enjoying seeing how the designs look on round versus banneton shapes.
I. Love. These. Loaves. SO MUCH. The ears are amazing, the design shows up so nicely, and it’s clear my slashing has gotten better. I baked these for 30 minutes with the lids on, then about 20 minutes for the sun-dried tomato and 22 for the round with the lid off. The moment they went into the oven I could smell the sun-dried tomatoes, and I was afraid they were burning, but it looks okay in the final loaf if you peer inside the ear. Later when I cut into it I was quite pleased:
Again while the loaves were baking on Tuesday, I had starter proofing for another pair of loaves. Because this back-to-back-to-back breadmaking has been really good practice, I decided to mix all the dough together at once, then I’d divide the dough when shaping the loaves—might as well give that a whirl. After 3.5 hours of bulk fermentation WHOA was the dough a strong, resistant, puffball! I think I did a pretty terrible job halving it (one of them looks far smaller than the other!) but I didn’t have too much difficulty with the shaping.
These proofed in the fridge for about 17 hours, like the ones from the day before. I went more bold in the cuts, trying something different. (Seems I only photographed the round loaf.)
With 5 minutes left in their bake times, Jason mentioned that they smelled more strongly than usual. I shrugged and said I wasn’t sure why. And then I realized and went screaming racing into the kitchen: “I FORGOT TO REDUCE THE TEMP WHEN I PUT THEM IN THE OVENNNNN!” So I yanked the loaves out of the oven and they were for sure more dark than I’d want. I let them cool, wrapped them up, and brought them to the beach—and when I cut into it later I found it was juuust fine on the inside. The crust had a lot more flavor, veering toward bitter, but it was great with cheeses.
A pretty successful six loaves of bread. Which was far far too much bread for even our family. My mom even took a whole loaf home with her!