Monday, May 4, 2009

Almost no-knead bread: Attempt #2 (still burnt)

UPDATE:  My oven is indeed running hot, so take that into account when reading this post.

My photos with the step-by-step recipe can be found on flickr here, while the Cook's Illustrated version($) is here.

As you can see, the crust here is once again superb. Presumably the work of the preheated dutch oven... but I'm not entirely convinced this is really the way to go... because, as you can see below, I burnt the bottom again. I think I'm going to try other methods to see if I can get similar results... minus the burning of course... with more control. Cookwise suggests a preheated baking stone with a pan full of water on the bottom of the oven to mimic commercial steam injected ovens, so that may be the way I ultimately go.

Now, I forgot to spray the parchment paper with cooking spray this time... though I didn't forget last time and it was burnt too... so that may be part of the problem. However, the bread was done way early again... so it is more likely to be our oven temp being too high... thus I ordered a new oven thermometer to check it. In both of my bread making attempts, the parchment paper as burnt underneath of the bread...  I'm not really sure what role it might ply with the bottom of the bread burning as well, but I have to say that at the moment, I'm not terribly pleased with the parchment paper solution of Cook's... though that may change if I discover our oven is wacky.  If it's the parchment paper's fault, I wonder about trying to slide it out after I take the cover off the dutch oven?  Would it help if I sprayed cooking spray on the pan itself before lowering in the parchment paper plus dough? The parchment paper sling certainly does make it really easy to get the dough into the burning hot dutch oven.

A pretty good "crumb" as the bakers say... but not quite my ideal. I prefer a lighter and airier bread (i.e. "open crumb bread"), but it was tasty... worked great with the soup we made... and was excellent the next day as toast.

There's a recipe for ciabatta (kneading required) in the latest Cook's Illustrated so that may be what I try next... though maybe not, since it calls for a stand mixer(which we don't own and have no plans to buy) due to how wet the dough is. So maybe I should go with a wetter mix and stay with the no-knead approach? With 15 ounces of flour to 10 ounces of liquid (7 water/3 Bud) is 66.7% hydration... maybe I want something more like 75-80%?  Interestingly, the original recipe that Cook's "fixed" had a much higher hydration level (85%). But do I also want a longer autolysis phase?  I'm not entierly clear on what that contributes...  might have to check my McGee.  This woman, who seems to know a thing or two about baking, uses an 18 hour initial rise (and a hydration around 80%). Hmmm.  My oven thermometer should have arrived by next weekend, so maybe a no-knead ciabatta will be my next project.

I think this might be first time I have felt the Cook's Illustrated version of a recipe steered me wrong. Of course, because of their discursive nature and anal methodology it is incredibly easy to see what decisions were made and why and then just... change them.