Sunday, February 7, 2010

Should a Soaker be Soaked and the Biga get Bigger?

Things have been a little tight lately - a cinch many have felt in the last year - and, like many of those people, its caused me to reexamine how I shell out my hard earned dough.

Which led me straight to dough. Of the flour-kind. 

I took a hard, creative look at my pantry as part of my reexamination exercise, to see what I could cook with what I already had that was just collecting dust. What I had plenty of was ingredients for baking bread. And lucky for me, my dear friend and former roommate left her kitchenaid on my counter in my care for a short bit. I took the coincidence of ingredients + tools as a *sign*.

Growing up, I loved the smell of freshly baked bread in the house. The way the puffed up tops curled over the edges of the bread pan and how good a slice of mom's latest baking goodness tasted. I also remember the time I attempted to make a loaf for my family only to have it turn out as hard as a rock encased in cement due to excessive kneading - it may have come close to breaking the knife.

Leaving that traumatic experience in my past, I've jumped full force into relearning baking skills. Little did I know I'd also get some lessons in science!


Currently, i'm using a recipe from Apple Pie, Patis, and Pate for a flaxseed and oat bran loaf that includes making a biga and a soaker. The biga, currently resting in my fridge, has not gotten bigger. And the soaker.... isnt really soaking. Its more like play-do really.... Am i doing this right?

Beginning with my first attempt a few weeks back with sourdough, I've quickly learned baking is not a speed hobby. My sourdough starter, like all starters, had to sit for 36hrs before it was ready for mixing in with the other ingredients - the usual bread baking steps, which take 2+ hours for mixing, rising, resting, and baking. 

No one ever told me baking bread would take so long. 

This photo has nothing to do with bread. It was just such a pretty day last week.
Or what a starter was. And that that starter didn't really start much but the waiting game. For ex., I am still waiting for my sourdough to taste "sour" - its more like a light soda bread. But its tasty. I'm not the best at following these recipes to the fractional measurement - i''m better cooking things that i can just throw together. Maybe that's why its not so sour?

But, this newest recipe, is indicating precision is more important. Measuring 1 1/3 cups flour plus 2 tbsp.... really? Will those 2 tablespoons really make a difference in the end? And 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp water? Why not take out the 2 tbsp of flour and water and make it a more "round" measurement?

Mysteries of baking. To be continued... esp since i just read the recipe that my just-stirred, not-soaked soaker has to sit for 12 hrs....

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