Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pain à l'ancienne: A perfect rustic bread

From The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart which I have been baking from for a year now, comes pain à l'ancienne, a truly lovely bread, full of texture, delightful crumb and flavor. The secret to this bread comes in the careful handling and retarding the fermenting in a refrigerator. The dough is a wet one and not easy to shape. If you try to shape it much, you will lose the characteristic holes made by the gasses in the bread. It can however be formed into baguettes, focaccia, pizza, ciabatta, pugliese, stirao & pain rustique, all of which are favorite breads of mine. In this case I did baguettes, but I plan to use this formula over and over again in different ways. 

I have been involved with a group of food bloggers doing the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge for the last year. It was started when one of my favorite food bloogers, Nicole from Pinch My Salt started the challenge. The goal is to bake through the book, one formula at a time, usually once a week. This formula can be found on page 191 of the book. Mr, Reinhart explains a few important things about this bread: 

"The unique delayed-fermentation method, which depends on ice-cold water, releases flavors trapped in flour in a way different from the more traditional twelve-stage method. The final product has a natural sweetness and a nut-like character that is distinct from breads made with exactly the same ingredients but fermented in by the standard method, even with large percentages of pre-ferment. 

This bread shows us another way to manipulate time, and thus outcomes, by manipulating temperature. The cold mixing and fermentation cycles delay the activation of the yeast until after the amylase enzymes have begun their work of breaking out sugar from starch. When the dough is brought to room temperature, and the yeast wakes up and begins feasting, it feeds on sugars that weren't there the day before. Because the yeast has converted less of the released sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide, a reserve of sugar remains in the fermented dough to flavor it and caramelize the crust during the baking cycle. While this delayed fermentation method does not work for every dough (especially those that are enriched with sugar and other flavor infusing ingredients,) used appropriately, it evokes the fullness of flavor from the wheat beyond any other fermentation method I've encountered." 

The actual method is simple, it takes two days, like most of Mr. Reinhart's formulas, but really, the actual time it takes to make these loaves is minimal. 

6 cups of bread flour are combined with salt, yeast and then ice water. The dough is then immediately placed in an oiled bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The next day the dough has still not doubled in size and it is removed from the refrigerator and allowed to finish the ferment for another 2-3 hours. Once it has developed, then it is carefully placed on a floured counter and cut into the sizes needed for whatever shapes you are making. In this case I cut the dough in half, from one half I made three thinner baguettes and with the other half larger sandwich size baguettes. 
I turned two sheet pans upside down and coated with cornmeal, then placed the cut and formed baguettes on them. 
The dough does not have a second rise at this point, just a rest of 5-10 minutes. It is then hearth baked directly on the hearth stone on parchment with some cornmeal to keep it from sticking, I used a peel to slide the dough on the parch
3 ment to the bottom of the hearth. Steam is incorporated by both a steam pan and spraying the inside of the oven with water. 


Richard Jesse Watson said...

Oh man, these look so scrumptious. It is hard to find a better delight than fresh out of the oven bread.

susies1955 said...

Wow, this looks great.
Come on.....let's get to baking. :)

Devany said...

Absolutely Susie. Back in the saddle again. I think this was one of my favorite breads.

susies1955 said...

You're somewhere around the same recipe as me right?
Glad I can still bake along with someone.
:) Susie

Devany said...

Yes Susie, we are close!