Someone asked me recently if I got bored with baking. It really stopped me in my tracks because, although I have been “breaded-out” in my time and it is harder work than it used to be, baking has become part of me to such an extent that, if I stopped, I wouldn’t be the same person any more. Did I absorb baking or was it latent inside of me? Better not say any more on the subject or I’ll be frogmarched out of the cynics union.
But, the thing is, it’s hard to get bored because you never stop learning. Last week Gert wanted a rosemary bread – he was cooking Mediterranean. I got plenty of breads with rosemary in them and a massive rosemary hedge outside the front door but no specific rosemary bread.
A short lesson in how to invent breads. I wanted something light and I wanted to avoid my usual if-it’s-Mediterranean-throw-in-some-olives-onion-garlic-capers-sun-dried-tomatoes-anchovies kitchen sink approach that I’m prone to. So let’s make a simple olive oil bread with rosemary. I took my basic white sourdough formula (flour 100%, water 59%, starter 26.4%, salt 1.5%) and replaced a third of the water with olive oil. I wanted to add red onion to the dough because onion gives a good background flavour to savoury breads. I was just making three 800g loaves and my approach was no more scientific than to add three medium size red onions to the dough. I didn’t even adjust the formula so I ended up with two 800g loaves for Gert and a big overweight one for us. The onions were finely chopped and fried gently with (“a fair bit of”) rosemary. When I recalculated the formula it became flour 100%, water 39.7%, olive oil 19.3%, starter 26.4%, onion/rosemary mix 15.4%, salt 1.7% – I deliberately increased the salt a little – not sure how it had dropped to 1.5% in the original formula. Brushed the doughs with olive oil, sprinkled on a dusting of rosemary and Med Bread was born:
As the amount of olive oil in the dough made the folds reluctant to seal I used the old trick of baking the loaf on the left upsidedown so the seal would open a little in the baking rather than slashing the surface.
This week I thought I would offer it to customers so they could pretend summer was on the way. I tweaked the formula a little to deepen the taste by adding a little herbes de provence and using all the olive oil to fry the onions and rosemary so the whole was fully permeated by the flavours.
I’m pretty happy with them. You’d never think it was a simple adaption of a Campagne formula. Apart from the flavour, it has a lovely soft crumb and that soft but slightly crunchy crust of olive oil breads.
The stand-out for me this week were the ryes. I don’t make so much rye these days but the amour of a good friend of ours has a wheat intollerence but is fine with rye and ordered six. A few more orders brought the total up to 11 large ones which meant I could get properly stuck in as opposed to making twos and threes which, with rye, is a pain in the bottom.
100% Russian Rye + coriander = Borodinski which is what I made. One hour fermentation means it can be mixed on bake day. So, short mix, one hour in the mixer. Then I could set up a completely wet little production line. No dough scrapers, wet hands scoop the dough from the mixer onto a wet bench. Same with scaling; wet hands divide the dough into a wet bowl on the scales and the scaled pieces are lined up in rows of three along a wet work surface. Oil the tins, sprinkle the bottoms with coriander seed. Roughly squeeze the dough pieces into shape and drop the in the tins. Smooth the surface and cover with oiled cling film. Went like clockwork.
The dough seemed to appreciate the smoothness of the operation. Every time I turned my back it rose a little. Within three hours I was urging the breads in the oven to get a move on because the ryes looked in danger of collapse.
The fine sight of ranks of Russian T60 battle tins.
No I’m not bored.