Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A New Personal Best with thanks to 'Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, by Ken Forkish

This loaf is I believe my best home baked loaf of bread yet; and I have been making a mess in the kitchen for quite some years, believing that one day I will discover the alchemy of good bread.
Well I just took a very proud step in that direction with the help of a new book by Ken Forkish, titled Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast; The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. The book recently won the Baking section of the IACP 2013 awards and based on my first loaf I would have given it the award too.

There are a lot of explanations at the beginning of the book and quite a bit of the background to how Ken Forkish took a complete career change to become an artisan baker. For the first time in memory I read the full introductions and notes before I started baking. A number of the techniques were not new to me now, but they would have seemed quite alternative several years ago.

The dough is kept very hydrated with a typical flour to water ration of 10:7.2. The dough is treated to a number of folds/turns during the bulk proving stage and the fermentation times are long with formulas that use minimal amounts of yeast. Time is treated as an ingredient whereby slow fermentation results in significantly greater flavour development.

The part where I found myself on totally fresh ground was in the baking. The book has you shaping boules of dough which are proved and then baked inside a dutch oven/cast iron pan with the lid on. 

With this first recipe I had been a bit impatient and shaped some of the dough into small rolls to get a small batch of dough baked off earlier. The rolls were fine in terms of flavour and were ok in texture but nothing remarkable. It was when I baked the boule things really took off.  All this magic, however, is taking place inside the pot, completely out of sight, so it was not until I dared take the lid off the pot that I knew the loaf had transformed itself as it baked. The rise, or oven spring, to give it a baker's term was way better than any bake I had managed in this oven before. As the loaf finished baking with the lid now removed from the pot, the colour of the crust turned a very healthy golden colour.

On cutting the loaf I was delighted to see a beautiful thin but crisp crust had developed, and the flavour was really very good. All this from the most simple recipe in the book, the Saturday loaf, which can be started in the morning and ready and on the table for your evening meal the same day.

Here is a picture of this loaf as shown in the book from which you can see I did not get the very open texture to the crumb and my crust was a much lighter colour, but not a bad comparison for a first go.
I am planning on giving this loaf another try in a few days and certainly want to repeat it before I move on to some of the more traditional recipes that use an overnight fermentation. I am also trying to build up a sourdough starter so I can eventually work my way through the whole book.
All the recipes in the book are for quite basic loaves, as the title suggest fundamentally just flour, water, salt, yeast. The pizza recipes also look very appealing and there is a section on working through the development of your own recipes.I wonder how much I would want to deviate mind as despite my love of fancy cakes I have always liked my bread to be simple, but perfect, so this book is just right for me.
A loaf of bread, some good butter and a glass of wine and I am very happy.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely looking loaf of bread. I recall making a slow fermented, dutch oven loaf once but was put off the final loaf by having to oil the pot to stop it sticking and getting a slightly oily exterior to the loaf at the end. Yours looks fabulous and I'm tempted to buy the book, but I really don't need another book!