in which I finally got religion…
BBA challengers, you know how Peter Reinhart is always telling you to “prepare the oven for hearth baking”? How by this point in the challenge (bread #32…) you have been instructed to do so, say, about twenty times already? You know how he has even taken the trouble to write a whole discussion in the introductory chapters explaining why you should do this?
Well, I sorta kinda ignored him. Because I know more than Peter Reinhart about bread baking after all.
I didn’t totally ignore him–I tried the hearth baking method a few times when we lived in London, before we moved back to the US. I wasn’t all that impressed with the results. I also don’t have a spray bottle and was too lazy to take the idea seriously. (Yes, you go through all this effort and planning to make the bread, but spritzing the oven as you put the bread in to bake is just too much work).
I had gotten so stuck in my ways it didn’t even occur to me that the reason that other BBA Challengers’ breads looked so much prettier than mine could have anything to do with proper methodology. Nope, I just figured, “I’m don’t have a professional baker’s oven, that’s they way it goes.”
Why did I finally stop being such a delinquent apprentice, throwing spitwads and doodling in the back of the classroom, and listen to the master? As it came time to make the Poilane style miche, I wondered to myself how this was going to be any different from any other whole wheat sourdough. Perhaps I felt some sort of pressure to really try hard and live up to the Poilane name. For some reason, anyway, I decided to give the steaming method another try. I only had to boil some water and put it in a pan at the same time as I baked the bread. Real tough technique eh?
Well, I was absolutely blown away. I’m a convert. Late to the party, I guess but I made it. Isn’t she lovely, folks?
After all that, a few other notes on this bread:
I have been putting this off for some time. In fact I have made several breads that come chronologically after the miche already (I have held off on the posts, but you’ll see that they were not baked on the “hearth oven” method. Frankly, the size of this bread completely intimidated me. Then I recalled how Andrea had halved her recipe, and I figured I’d do the same. Halving quantities is easy enough, as for bake time, I baked for 15 minutes at 450F and another 20 minutes at 425F.
This bread really does keep well–considering if you make the whole recipe, you get a 4 lb loaf, that’s a good thing. And it does have a great flavor–the tang of the sourdough, the complexity of whole grain wheat. Also a good thing, if you have 4 lbs of it sitting around. Sadly, I can’t compare this to the real thing, but I hope it does come close.