After baking Dan Lepard’s Simple White Loaf last week, I decided this weekend was a good time to bake one of the breads from the Hamelman BREAD Mellow Baker’s group. Of the three breads scheduled for this month I chose to begin with the Rustic Loaf.
I had been looking forward to this most out of all the six breads scheduled for April; not because it was different or exciting, but because it sounded like a good, decent tasting bread.
Last week I made a tin loaf and half a dozen bread buns from the “quick white loaf” dough. The bread buns made a nice accompaniment to the pea and mint soup I made up, so I decided to follow a similar pattern this week. As well as a stock pot full of soup, I set out to bake a round loaf and six bread buns using the “rustic loaf” dough. To get the right amount of dough, I took one tenth of the metric weight for each ingredient – with the exception of the yeast, as I use instant instead of fresh, so that was reduced to a third again.
I began, on Saturday evening, by mixing up the preferment. This is, I believe, a pâte fermentée which basically makes it a viable bread dough in it’s own right. I tried hand mixing it in the bowl, but it just wasn’t working…
I then covered it in a shower cap (I have been going crazy collecting these from hotels when I have stayed away with work recently!) and left it to its own devices overnight.
For some reason, I hadn’t expected it to rise much. I think I confused it with a biga (another form of preferment) which, in my experience, tend to move quite slowly. Not this one! When I came down, in the morning, it was pushing off the shower cap! You can see where it stuck in the photo below.
As a result, it was a little tough to work out if it had domed in the middle, so I decided it was ripe enough and pushed on.
After mixing the remaining ingredients together, I incorporated the preferment and kneeded for around ten minutes, until I was able to form a gluten window pane. I then rounded the dough, and placed into the (freshly cleaned and oiled) mixing bowl, as modelled by Seb:
Bulk fermentation and folding followed, as per the basic recipe in the book. During this time, we made some soup and ate a portion for dinner.
With the soup drunk (I believe that is the correct verb) it was time to divide and shape the dough.
For my round loaf, I used a cane proofing basket. My mother, knowing I enjoyed baking, had recently bought me a bag of malted wheat flakes because she thought they would make a nice topping to some bread. This seemed as good an opportunity as any, so I scattered flakes into the basket before adding the rounded dough to prove.
Unfortunately, at this point I encountered a little problem. I obviously hadn’t coated the tray with enough semolina – or spread it well, at least – so the loaf stuck to my makeshift peel. I was able to force it off, but it’s elegant, rounded shape was slightly mutated in the process.
It tasted great, and I was (pleasantly) surprised by the texture. The crust was quite chewy, almost like a good sourdough, and the crumb was nicely open. I’m certainly looking forward to a toasted slice for breakfast tomorrow, and a taste of the bread buns to accompany a little more soup.