As a home baker, your job is to produce one perfect loaf which you photograph and wonder if your slashes could have been more assured and if you could have got slightly  better oven spring if you’d lobbed a couple more links of red hot chain into the water tray at the bottom of your oven. That sort of thing.

My job is to get to 5.00 p.m. with my customer orders ready (I nearly said “fullfilled”) and saleable. I’ve said before that, if I have any baking talent, it’s recovering from Bad Situations.

Nina Holm Jensen is a great baker. I met her at the first Bethesdabakin’ weekend in 2007 and again when the event came back to Bethesda for the fifth bash. She has always been very generous with her bread formulas and I’ve been doing her Simple Danish Rye for years. But normally in a tin:
simple danish 001 smallWhen we came back from France a few weeks back my wheat starter was taking a bit of time to revive and settle down. A customer bake was imminent so I built quite a large amount of rye starter as a backup. The wheat pulled itself together so the rye was going spare and I thought I’d better put it to use.

Although I’ve made a lot of rye over the years I’ve never felt totally comfortable with it in the way that I do with wheat – I don’t think I’ve ever put together a rye formula. One reason is probably because ryes always seem to come with their own particular starter. This one has an incredibly small amount of starter (6%) in the final build and yet it fully activates the final starter in 24 hours.

I noticed that the final starter was at roughly 100% hydration same as the starter I had lurking about and even though the proportion of the original starter in the final build would have been 33% I thought I would use it as it was.

The dough is pretty wet (Rye 100%, Water 86.6%, Starter 80.9%, Salt 2.5%) which is maybe why I’ve always used tins. But I hate tins and I love the look of free-form, unslashed ryes so I thought I’d give it a go in a banneton:
simple 001 smallsimple crumb smallDidn’t have any problems with sticking to the basket, taste delicious, boy happy.

Strange how things happen. We have always wrapped bread in tissue paper held together with the label. The last batch was crap with every other sheet having to be scrapped. Fortunately we’ve just run out but we just happen to have about a thousand paper bags knocking about so we’ve started using them instead. Problem is they will only take round loaves – batards are too long. So all of my loaves lately have been boules. Next problem is I only have about 30 large baskets and this week I have a 40 loaf order 11 of which are ryes. Advantage is that ryes get cling-filmed.

Boy gets cocky – no problem with rye sticking to baskets so why not use a proving cloth.

It’s a bit tricky shaping dough this wet. These were intended to be round but let’s say they were a bit indeterminate. I positioned them in lines of three on the cloth on the counter with a fold of cloth between each line, covered the whole with more cloths and plastic sheet. Intended to give them about three and a half hours.

About two hours later, in the midst of the bake, I noticed the dough was creeping out from the edge of the couche and was heading for the front door. Pulled back the covering cloths to find virtually a solid mass of dough just separated by the folds. The individual doughs had almost totally merged.

A few years ago I probably would have cried and left home before the customers came. But now we’re made of sterner stuff. I pulled the end of the cloth so that the pleats opened, pushed a floured scraper between the indivual doughs and, using the cloth where the pleats had been, flipped them over one at a time onto my floured hand and wrist and quickly onto a floured baking sheet (there was a lot of flour being used). Then sweated for the next ten minutes while the previous bake finished. Turned the ovens up to about 240C, gave them fifteen minutes, reduced it to 180C and gave them another 45 minutes. Crammed them all into one oven, turned it off and let the cool slowly for twenty minutes with the door slightly ajar. Then pretended it was how I had always intended them to look:
danish 001 smallRather more pavé than boule.


Categories: Uncategorized

7 thoughts on “Boules?

  1. Mick, that was a fascinating read, my ryes are now good but tinned; I’m certainly going to experiment with baskets, but I will pass on the free form versions… Well done to you, my hat is duly off!

  2. Mick, your indefatigability is always so impressive! I’ve had a few of those cry-leave-home-before-customers-arrive moments over the past year. Most recently with a very wet garlic bread that was also heading for the front door. But I’m not brave enough to commit my failures to photographic proof …

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