Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monster Bread

I just can't stay away from a bread challenge.

While I was reading through some of my favorite blogs the other night, I discovered a new 'sisterhood' of bread bakers -- the Bread Baking Babes. Now, I sort of feel like I'm crashing their party, but Mary (The Sour Dough) and Karen (Bake My Day!) did encourage other bakers to join in, so that's what I decided to do. I've been baking bread a looooooong time, so I'm quite willing to give a new recipe that old college try.

For the Royal Crown's Tortano, you create a preferment the night before, using just a minuscule amount of yeast. Twelve or so hours later, you begin the process of making the dough, and a wet one it is. To be fair, I had to add a bit more water than the recipe called for. Flour type and humidity can affect the moisture content and I knew from reading the other blogs that my current dough was too dry.

After mixing the ingredients, the dough is left to ferment for four hours, with four interruptions to fold the dough, which develops structure and redistributes the yeast. I went a little longer than four hours for the total fermentation, and finally poured the dough out onto the board. After letting it rest for 20 minutes, I managed to form it into a ring-shaped disk.

Now, the real fun began. First, I had to transfer this monster to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Right. Let's see how many places this guy can stick while I'm trying to pick it up. Shoot. With one huge effort, I just heaved the thing onto the parchment, and it wasn't too worse for the experience. While it was enjoying the final proofing, I got the oven ready, complete with baking stone, which, sadly, was about the same size as the unproofed loaf. Not wonderful.

Ok. Time to bake. Well, this turned out to be exciting.

So, I open the oven and attempt to snap the loaf of bread onto the heated stone. Hah! The 450 degree oven is trying to melt my contact lenses, and during the final rise, one side of the loaf decided to glue itself to the baking sheet, so it doesn't 'snap' with the rest of the loaf, leaving the whole thing half on the stone and half on the rack and a string of dough hanging on to the sheetpan. And I can't see. So, blinking wildly, I scrape off the offending piece of dough as quickly as I can, flip it onto the loaf, and shut the oven door. What's done is done. I pray for great oven spring since one side is now sort of caved in.

Actually, the spring happens relatively quickly, and except for the odd non-ring-like shape, you'd never know it was near-disaster. Half-way through the baking time, I managed to turn the loaf, putting it completely on the stone while simultaneously removing the parchment. It came out a little too dark for my personal taste, but it did survive.

Waiting to slice it was difficult, because I wanted to see what the insides were like. Not bad after all. How do you like those holes?!

This was rather fun to bake, in a weird sort of way. With all the struggle, it still worked, and it looked alright, and tasted really good. It's huge, though, and heavy. Almost a weapon.

So, I'll send along this little post to the bread-powers that be. Thanks for such a tasty and exciting challenge. For the recipe, check out the blogs of the Bread Baking Babes.


Karen Baking Soda said...

Great story featuring a great bread! Hope your contacts survived to see the beauty holes in this one, hehe.
Thanks for baking with us.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Looks gorgeous! What an adventure you had trying to bake this!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What a fabulous story for a crown!!
I'm so very glad you baked with us Judy!!!
It does have just incredible oven spring!!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Good save! The transfer to the oven part was particularly tricky. Your loaf looks lovely, though with a very nice crumb. Great job!

Andrea said...

Holy cow! The rush of hot air probably did cloud up your contacts... Your loaf turned out great, though!!

breadchick said...

Wow! That is one monster loaf you have there!! Contact fogging and odd sticking aside, I'd say you can definitely play in the wet dough end of the pool with us any time you want!

Thanks for baking with us.

Judy said...

Thanks for letting me play, too. I'm just a sucker for fresh bread, especially when I can make it myself.

Madam Chow said...

"Almost a weapon" - HA! I thought about hanging it on my door like a Christmas wreath!