Monday, December 20, 2010
Not-Quite Crocodile Bread
This bread took a total of three days. Here's roughly what I did.
1 cup fed starter
2 cups water
2 cups bread flour
Let stand 12-24 hours in a cold room.
All of sponge
Additional 1 1/2 cups water
(about 2 cups bread flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Mix together well and using your hand, pretend you are a mixer on slow speed (you can skip this step if you have a mixer). The dough will be very sticky. After ten minutes of pretending to be a mixer (or not) cover with cling film, still in bowl and let rise another 12-24 hours in a very cold place. My kitchen is about 62 degrees F. You could use the fridge if need be. In this time, with a rubber spatula, give the dough a fold every four hours or so. I wouldn't get up in the middle of the night to do this, but if you're getting up to go wee, or whatever it is people get up in the middle of the night to do-give the dough a gentle fold. Cover it, go back to bed.
After 12-24 hours, you should have a very wet, still not holding a shape, but puffy bread. Without stirring, or doing anything to deflate the dough, gently turn the bowl over onto a well-floured baking sheet and let the dough gently fall out of the bowl. Don't touch it. Lightly dust the top with some flour, cover it with a tea towel, and leave it alone for 2 hours.
At this point, scatter another baking sheet generously with corn meal (this bread will stick like the dickens-so really, don't skimp on the cornmeal). With a knife, quickly divide the dough in two doing your best not to deflate it more than absolutely necessary. Using a couple spatulas, lift the dough gently stretching it into a long, flat shape and plop it (that's a technical term) gently onto the prepared sheet. Repeat with second half. Again, dust lightly with flour, cover and let rise another 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, in the hour before, preheat your oven. You'll want steam, so if you use a pan in the oven for steam, preheat that as well. I do mine at 450 degrees F. but admittedly, that is hot and you'll need to reduce the heat after the first 20 minutes to 425 degrees F. This is a matter of personal preference. You could bake it straight through at 400 as well. I prefer a really hard, chewy crust on these, as it tends to soften with storage.
Because of how wet these are, slashing is kind of pointless (and they're already flat and spreading sideways) but you can if you wish. I brush mine with a mixture of salt and water, but if you have a bottle for misting, that would probably be better.
Before loading bread into oven, brush with salt mixture and create steam in over (a bit of water tossed in the heating pan works well, but some people like using an ice cube). Bake 20 minutes, ten carefully open oven (remember the steam) and rotate pan. Bake another 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees F. Cool on racks. Sourdough improves with standing at least 8 hours after baking.