But anyway, back to bread. I’ve been refining my skillz0rs lately, since M just got his expert bread-making mitts on Richard Bertinet’s Crust. I’ve watched videos of Bertinet online and did a little research on The Fresh Loaf and other websites, and reached the conclusion that (a) the dough I was using could be drier; and (b) it’s all in the shaping. Turns out both were true, and my bread is improving with every loaf and bun! While I can toast muesli and make yoghurt like nobody’s business, bread still sometimes feels like a gamble: I feel like every triumph is worth a blog entry. (Maybe a couple.)
Bertinet has a really good attitude towards breadmaking: there’s a lot of affection and respect towards the bread, but not towards a lot of the pomp and rules that people insist upon when cooking. When reading about breadmaking, you sometimes get the impression that it’s a sacred alchemy and you have to have eggs at a particular temperature and must never use salt that has been looked at by a pig and so on — it’s that whole “cooking is an art, but baking is a science” attitude I’m pretty sceptical about. Bertinet gives the impression that he has his head screwed on, loves bread, and that breadmaking is not at all esoteric or specialised.
But here’s the bit of basic maths that is really rocking my rolls. 70% hydration dough: sounds kinda technical and like I know what I’m talking about, huh? The hydration percentage is how much water versus how much flour you’re using. 100% hydration would be equal parts water and flour; 50% hydration would be half as much water as flour (or twice as much flour as water, if you like). To get 70% hydration, I weigh the flour, and then take 70% of that weight, and that’s how much water to add (by weight). So three cups of flour usually clocks in at around 420g (this is off the top of my head, and your results may vary), and 70% of that is about 294g – so I use 294g of water. (And there’s yeast and salt and a bit of olive oil in there, too, but I don’t factor that in when weighing.) Some good kneading, and leave to rise. Fold, rise again, then shape. Here they are, sexy and enjoying their final rise before baking:
The important thing when shaping seems to be to get a really taut surface. You do this by curling the dough under and into itself, a few times: trickier on a loaf, but dead easy on rolls. (Look up Bertinet on YouTube and you’ll get some good videos.) When they’ve had a chance to rise again and look ready, brush with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds — or, if you’re me (and if you’re reading this blog, chances are you are), a dash of gomashio. Then slash the tops and pop in the oven. And then things get sexy.
I’m very proud of this batch. Rye flour gives a fine, soft crumb and the flavour is…well, it’s wonderful. I can’t put my finger on what it is I notice about the taste of rye bread. Something reminiscent of sourdough, but not as sour? Not sure. These babies sure are tasty: rye + avocado = OMGNOM.