Last time when I was expecting a larger than usual crowd for the pizza party, I tried retarding a few loaves of bread dough by chilling them in the fridge overnight. (I haven’t done this much before.) Usually my bread made with my sourdough starter tend to last really well – up to a week without going stale. However, that time I found my retarded bread drying out after just 3 days, which invoked some investigation.
I’ve read about retarding bread dough before. I know many people do it to get a stronger flavour, particularly for sourdough. After some brainstorming, I decided to try baking 4 loaves of bread using exactly the same ingredients. (This is a very wet and sticky high hydration dough.)
|1st stage||2nd stage|
|1st stage mixing||Friday morning||Friday evening||Saturday morning||Saturday night|
|1st fermentation||10hrs, room temperature||36 hrs, fridge||24 hrs, fridge||10hrs, room temperature|
|2nd stage mixing||Friday night||Sunday morning||Sunday morning||Sunday morning|
|2nd fermentation||24hrs, fridge||3hrs, room temperature||3hrs, room temperature||5hrs, room temperature|
|Shaping||Saturday night*||Sunday morning*||Sunday morning*||Gently turned out and pulled into a loaf (see here)|
|Final proof||10 hrs in fridge then 6hrs, room temperature||3hrs, room temperature||3hrs, room temperature||Straight into the oven|
The 4th loaf is how I normally do my ciabatta. This one was not retarded at all. I tried to shape the other three loaves by following this video. (I don’t have proper bannetons, so the 1st loaf proofed in a basket, and the 2nd and 3rd just proofed on the towel-lined bench.)
And the photo at the very top shows the crumbs of loaves 1 to 4 from left to right.
The reason I followed the video for shaping the first 3 loafs was because I want to see if I can get pretty big open holes in the bread. But it was so fiddly and the holes actually look the best without doing all that fiddly shaping (4th loaf, in my opinion). (The crumb for the 4th loaf is typically what I get from a high hydration dough like this. I never managed getting holes much bigger than this.)
I got the family to be my taste guinea pigs on the day the breads were baked. Every loaf had a devotee or two. They all taste good, just different. The sourness is strongest in loaf 1, and least in loaf 4. The crumb is firmest in loaf 1, and softest in loaf 4.
On the second day, I took the breads to the office for more taste test. Again, none of the loafs were disliked. I think the crumbs became softer and “more developed” if that makes any sense. The 1st loaf’s sourness softened, whereas the sourness in the other 3 loaves became stronger.
I deliberately kept tasting the 4 loaves through a week. The 1st loaf became dry and stale on day 4. The rest of the loaves were still enjoyable on day 6. On the 7th day, I thought the 3rd loaf held out the best, while the other 2 loaves became noticeably dry and stale. Kiwi Bird declared them all stale on the 7th day, with the 2nd loaf being the worst, and loaf 4 justing beating loaf 3. (I made him do a blind taste, and loaf 4 was his favourite to begin with.)
I think I should definitely try doing loaves 3 and 4 again, but I won’t bother with the fiddly shaping process. (Perhaps I’ll try the shaping technique on a dryer dough such as this one.) And perhaps the reason I don’t get big open holes is because I don’t do the hourly “fold” during rising, which the more serious bakers seem to do. I don’t think I’ll EVER adapt this though, because I REALLY do not believe in slaving over food (or more like “baby sitting” food in this case). If that really is the reason I’m not getting big open holes – I can live with it. I think big open holes look dramatic and pretty, and I’d love to get that once or twice, but I don’t fundamentally have a problem with how my sourdough breads taste.
Also, I wonder if I should do a thinner ciabatta baked at a higher temperature. Last time I did a focaccia following a similar process to loaf 3 (i.e., refrigeration which I don’t normally do), I ended up with big holes common for ciabatta. (Loaves 2 and 3 really should have been baked at a higher temperature this time, but I let the ember died down too much while making two big batches of naan breads before baking loaves 1 and 4, followed by 2 and 3. And I also found out loaves 2 and 3 were too long for my indoor electric oven… :-p)
Aah, endless possibilities to investigate 😉 If anyone is happy to share what you think, I’d LOVE to hear from you! 🙂