Sunday, September 24, 2006


It's Sunday, and of course that means baking bread. Since purchasing the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum a couple of months ago, I've made several attempts to duplicate the pugliese, which is featured on the cover of the book. Each time, my loaf has turned out about the size of a Big Mac bun without the 53 sesame seeds on top. It tastes great, but just looks pathetic. So today I'm going to demand no interuptions from the family, and will follow the recipe through to the last full stop. I'm usually summonsed to drive teenage daughter somewhere just at the crucial moment when the dough needs folding, ending up in overproofed then deflated dough.
I'm going to make good bread today, like it or not family! The "biga" is resting on the bench, waiting to be transformed into something more appealing than a frisbee. Fingers crossed.

Biga after 24 hours

Today I'm using a new flour that I can't get hold of at any of my supermarkets. Teenage daughter and I "did lunch" in a neighbouring town on Tuesday of last week. The town has a quarter of the population, compared to here, but I managed to find some Laukes Wallaby Bakers flour at the local BiLo supermarket. I've read on other Australian blogs that this is supposedly the "bees knees" of flour, and yet my Coles supermarket (which, by the way, owns BiLo supermarket chain) doesn't even stock it. I will definitely lobby them to do so, otherwise a round trip of 82 kms for a 5 kg bag of flour works out at about $20 per loaf, given the ridiculous cost of fuel here at the moment.

Ok, I've measured and weighed and even tested water temperature down to the poofteenth degree. Mixed the dough in my KitchenAid to the last second as per Rose's instructions, thanks to a digital timer. I blamed not having one of these as the reason for my flops in the past, but now I have no excuse, or need to come up with another reason.

The dough is silky soft and smooth as the veritable baby's bottom, which is what it is supposed to feel like. I've done the business letter turns, 3 in total, the dough resting in between for 30 minutes each time.

Dough after 2nd business letter fold

Final fold, shaped into a ball and waiting for the miracle of rising. It always fascinates me how a ball of gluey blob which is so sticky it could hold two bits of wood together, can work it's magic and transform into a loaf of edible bread. It fascinates me because this transformation has always eluded me with this loaf. Hopefully new flour and lack of interuptions can do the trick, however it's a rotten blustery windy spring day here, and the dog is frightened stiff of the wind, so she's not sure whether she wants to stay inside or indulge on the lamb roast bone that she's just been given. She's been let in and out at least a dozen times in the last hour.

Waiting for the metamorphosis


The next step is where I really fall into a heap, or at least my dough does. I have to transfer this wobbly, light as a feather dough to the bench, without letting any air escape (yeah, right), shape it into another ball and place into a banneton. Each time I've tried to do this, the dough deflates like a puntured bicycle tyre, and sits upside down in the banneton doing absolutely nothing at all. Hence the hamburger buns. Puhleez, oh mighty Bread God, look down on me and give me pity for once. If this flops, I'm going to blame the banneton this time, as I'm using a makeshift cane basket, lined with a gauze sling which my neighbour had been given after surgery to his elbow, still trying to justify whether the cost of the banneton is going to make a major difference. I'm know it makes the bread look fantastic, but does it miraculously make it rise up like a phoenix?

Ok, I did the best I could. I felt like I was detonating a bomb, taking care not explode it in my face. Luckily my kids weren't around to see it, or else they would have commented something along the lines of "you treat your bread better than you treat us". Actually bread and kids have striking similarities. They both leave a mess behind them, and both do what they like, not what they're told to do.

Now the dough is supposed to rise again for another hour and a half. Time to chop the wood and light the woodfired oven outside. I hope this typically crappy spring day behaves itself from now on, and decides whether it's going to rain or shine. We need the rain badly, really badly. But dear Bread God, can you give a yell to the Weather God to just hold off for a while?

Obviously Bread God isn't talking to Weather God, because no sooner had I lit the oven, and gale force winds have sprung up. I'm not really keen on cooking bread whilst dodging flying debris.
Just to make my life miserable, the bread is ready to But the oven is taking its sweet time in reaching the right temperature. The inclement weather isn't helping matters either. This is what it looks like after the 90 minute rise.

Finally, into the oven.

The end product. Phew!! I'm pooped. Time for a gin and tonic.

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