Monday, January 17, 2011

Better Bread

I've been baking sourdough bread for almost a year. I'm not sure how many loaves I'll have to bake before I'm satisfied with the results. The bread is good, but it's not exactly what I'm going for. I want a better shape, a more sour taste, and a more open crumb.

I'm fortunate to work with home baker Mark Stambler twice a month, which gives me an opportunity to work on many, many loaves at once, hopefully moving me farther along my learning curve. Mark critiques my loaves, as well, and offers suggestions, which has been very helpful.

Lately my biggest problem is my bread "blowing out." It puffs up in the oven like a football and then herniates through a crack in the bottom. Very ugly. I tried slashing deeper - that didn't help. I tried a longer rise time before retardation - to reduce over spring. The loaf pictured here had two hours. You can see that on the left it's a little higher. At the bottom is a scar about 1/2 inch wide where the inside of the loaf was trying to force its way through. I'll try three hours next time.

Do you see the cracks on the loaf? I don't know what it is but I'm smitten by those. I take the loaf from the oven to the open window. At 5:00 am it's cold enough to crack the bread. The sound is sublime.

There's something about bread. It's like swimming in the ocean, or putting your hands in the dirt. Everything else disappears and you become an element of the earth. That's as close to religion as I'm going to get.

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