For those of your with broadband, you can watch the whole thing in this three-minute video. For the low-bandwidth version, see below.
You know that I enjoy baking. You know that I’m still on a quest to create a really good loaf of whole wheat bread, a loaf like the ones I bought at Whole Foods back when I lived in the US. And I hope you know that these continual mishaps and disappointments are real, not just staged for your entertainment.
After my last attempt, I felt I had at least arrived at a recipe that had good flavor and good self-rising capabilities thanks to the sourdough starter I’ve been nuturing. The problem was, the loaf wasn’t big enough to fill the pan.
This time I increased the recipe by 50%, approximately how much more bread I needed in the pan to get a loaf big enough for sandwiches.
Somewhere after the first rise I got distracted and decided to bake the bread in my French loaf pan. I don’t know why I didn’t stick with my normal rectangular loaf pan. Changing pans meant that I wouldn’t be able to compare the volume of the new loaf to the old one. But some whim captured my fancy and the French loaf pan seemed like a brilliant idea.
At first, it seemed like a success. After the second rise, I had a beautifully shaped loaf that looked a lot like a real French batard. I was even able to score the surface without any tearing or deflating.
I popped the pan into the oven, added hot water to the cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven in order to create steam. (Now you know why there are rust stains in it.)
Fifteen minutes later the aroma of fresh-baked bread began to fill the house. Oh, I just knew I was on the path to success!
When it came time to pull the loaf out of the oven, it was a little dark on the outside – note to self: lower temperature next time – but the internal temperature indicated that it was cooked through.
The problem came when I tried to remove the loaf from the pan. The pan, which has a thousand or so tiny perforations to allow the crust to crisp on all sides, was supposedly non-stick. In fact, a previous loaf I baked in it had pulled away with no problem.
But this time the dough had risen into hundreds of those holes, expanding as the loaf baked and essentially gripping the pan like hundreds of little fingers. I couldn’t remove the loaf!
I tried using a silicone spatula to slip between the crust and the pan. No success. Ultimately, 80% of the loaf came away while 20% stayed with the pan.
The upshot was that despite its hideous exterior, like Victor Hugo’s Hunchback, the loaf contained a complex, delicate, and rich interior that was worth knowing. Especially with butter and preserves.
The downside was that I had to “stew” the pan for several hours over low heat, basting it with water, in order to loosen the lower crust. Even then, I still had to take a toothpick and clean out each of those hundreds of holes, one by one. Next time, despite the claims of non-stickiness, I’m using parchment paper.
The starter is back out of the refrigerator, though, so I’ll try another loaf this week. Stay tuned…