Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finally #15: Italian Bread

I totally expected hubby's football coaching schedule to be the thing to interrupt my bread baking. And I was fully prepared to be very resentful of that fact.

I never expected that it would be my insane work commitments that would force me to break my promise to myself of one bread per week. But it was and it did, and I actually almost didn't bake this weekend either (so tired and busy!)...but that seemed like a dangerous slippery slope. Plus, I was getting guilt emails from the lunch group at work about how long it's been since I brought them any bread.

I tried something new with this bread. I've been having an insanely hard time getting my KA to knead my dough satisfactorily. I always end up having to finish it by hand. Don't get me wrong, I totally enjoy kneading by hand...but given how busy we've been lately, it's not always practical. First I thought that maybe it was because the book says to knead the dough on medium, but I always knead on speed 2. The KA manual says that any speed over 2 can/will burn out your motor...I love my while I contemplated trying to mix on 4, I decided it wasn't worth the risk. Then, in some of my bread baking discussion browsing, I found a discussion about the autolyse method on The Fresh Loaf. It suggests that if you mix the flour and water and then leave them for 20 minutes to let the gluten start to develop, you don't need to knead (ha!) nearly as long.

Would this work to help my dough achieve the windowpane when mixed in my stand mixer? It did! I mixed the flour and water (and actually the yeast, too, although I later learned that I should've waited adding it), let it sit 20 minutes, and then kneaded it for four minutes in my mixer. The temp was a little low (so was my water temp when I added it), but I got a windowpane! Without having to do any extra kneading!

Unfortunately, I then read that the dough needs to rise for 2 - 4 hours before getting refrigerated. And it was already after 8:00. I let it rise for almost two before I caved, degassed it, refrigerated it, and went to bed.


I tried the autolyse technique again with the main part of the dough this morning. Again, with minimal mixing, I was able to achieve a windowpane, although not the required temperature. Still, even without being as warm as it needed to be, the bread rose in the suggested time.

In technique, this was pretty similar to the baguette, although it was enriched with malt barley (I used syrup), oil (I used olive), and a little sugar.

I was able to shape it into a batard while still maintaining a lot of the gas: check out the bubble on the left end of the far loaf!

And now that we've done it a couple of times, the hearth baking process went better than before. I could actually see steam filling the oven...that's a first! And it seemed to work...unlike the ciabatta and the baguette, which were both really pale, this one actually turned golden. It also has the best-looking crumb; the holes aren't huge, but they're the biggest I've gotten so far.

As for the taste? Creamy and delicious and . . . well, doesn't this blissed-out baby girl say it best?


  1. This bread looks PERFECT! Soft, creamy crumb...doesn't need the big open holes ~ like you, this is one bread that I will make often!

  2. The crust and crumb look nice, I think. IMHO, this is the best bread of the Challenge so far. The flavor was incredibly good.