This is it. THE ONE. The cover bread. You know, that gigantic loaf in the apprentice's arms? Yep, I finally made it to that formula—Poilane-Style Miche. So how did it go? Funny you should ask...
I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with a number of other amateur bakers (I'm not sure how many are still with us, and a few have finished!). Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:
- Pinch My Salt BBA Challenge page—master resource for the challenge
- Buy the Book Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
- List of Breads See what's coming up.
- Blogroll See who's baking. Great list of some amazing foodie (and not-necessarily-foodie) blogs.
- Flickr Group Photos, photos and more photos!
- Twitter Search for #BBA to find challenge tweets.
This is a whole wheat bread leavened entirely with wild yeast (aka my starter, "Tim"). That, along with lots of flour, some salt, and some water, is all there is to this bread. Well, as far as ingredients go. As far as getting all of those parts to come together and behave they way you want, that's an entirely different story. Lionel Poilane, Peter Reinhart and many others have spent more time that I can imagine getting this bread just right.
All of the initial mixing steps went without a hitch. The dough rose on schedule and looked about perfect to my novice eyes. I was just thrilled that this one rose, unlike my ill-fated 100% sourdough rye. It was a the shaping stage the I finally remember to, you know, DOCUMENT the process.
This bread calls for a banneton, a proofing basket or bowl specifically for bread. If you've ever seen a loaf of bread with concentric rings on the top, you've seen a bread proofed in a banneton. The rings are the result of the shape of the basket. They can be pricey, but you can easily improvise at home. Daniel at Ährelich Gesagt made his with a piece of linen sewn around a colander. I used a shallow stainless steel bowl lined with a floured dishtowel. I chose one with a nifty waffle pattern (from Crate & Barrel similar to these) to give the crust some added interest.
I (gently) dumped the dough onto the work surface...
And worked it into a boule.
(Get a look at that gluten structure!)
The shaped dough then goes into the proofing bowl, seam side up.
I covered it and let it proof, and in exactly 3 hours, it looked like this:
Unfortunately, I sort of screwed up after this. I transferred the dough to my peel by putting the peel over the bowl and turning the whole thing over, trying to degass it as little as possible. I sprinkled corn meal on the dough instead of on the peel because of the whole inversion thing I attempted.
That worked great, but I wasn't prepared after that. I didn't have a razor blade handy and the dough sat on the peel FAR too long. You can see how much it "spread" from the previous photo to this one.
I had the oven cranked for "hearth baking" and managed to get the dough on the stone, did the steam song and dance and hoped for the best.
All in all, I'd say it turned out "OK". I was disappointed with myself for having let it spread out and was disappointed in the pale crust. One of these days I'll get that part down. It did look nice, though, just not *quite* what I wanted. I mean, look at the cover of the book... then look at mine. See?
As far as the taste goes, I was very pleased. It was distinctly sour, as it should be, and the crumb was dense and chewy – in a good way. Because I'm not a fan of sourdough, this wasn't a favorite for me. The tang wasn't overly strong, just not my cup of tea – or slice of bread, as it were.
Regardless, it was a good experience. I was quite worried after the 100% sourdough rye and this turned it all around. Hey, look at me. I CAN make a decent 100% sourdough bread - hooray!
For an incredible read on this bread, within the Challenge and out, please visit parts 1, 2 and 3 of Daniel's in-depth look at Le Pain Poilane. Daniel talks about his experience with the bread as a baker and a consumer and provides tons of information on the bread and its bakeries.
Please check out these other BBA posts as well:
Oggi at I Can do That
txfarmer's blog - the text is Chinese, but the photos are stunning!
Katya at Second Dinner - lovely loaf baked in a clay baker
Janice at Round the Table