Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bread Baker's Apprentice: Pain a l'Ancienne in a Pot

With all the bread I've been working on, I've actually managed to neglect the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge, meandering off somewhere around Marbled Rye.  I still appreciate Peter Reinhart, but I've become besotted with Jeffrey Hamelman, and it was hard to wrench my attention back. Still, I think that it's worth while to continue through the book, and in order to make it happen, I'm combining the project with another one I'm working on, testing recipes and techniques in the clay bread baker made by Judy.

Judy now has several friends (including my mother, in her first blog appearance) market testing and reporting on variations of the bread bakers, and my plan is to prepare the upcoming Apprentice recipes as much as possible according to the book, and then shape for and bake in the pot, unless that would mutate the recipe entirely too far. This way, I can make the Reinhart recipes, and learn how they are, and at the same time see how a variety of techniques and formulae behave in the baker.

My first foray back was the Pain a l'Ancienne, a wet dough usually used for baguettes, the central feature of which is a long overnight retarding in the refrigerator. I nearly doubled the refrigerator time, to about 24 hours, but otherwise left the recipe alone except for cutting it in half. Like most of Reinhart's recipes, I found it under-hydrated, and added a little extra water, and still could probably have managed more. Once it had woken up out of the refrigerator, I shaped it into a boule and proofed it on a floured napkin, while preheating the oven and the pot to 450. Baked for 23 minutes with the lid on and another 20 or so with it off, the finished product was the best I've done in the baker, better shaped and more attractive than the no-knead variations I've been trying, with a surprisingly soft crumb given that there were no oils, and a very crisp crust with those little cracked patches bakers love so much.
Bread whispers and cracks a lot when it comes out of a hot oven, and this one was chatty.


Kelly said...

Gorgeous bread! How cool that you made it in the baker instead of baguette- excellent idea!
I love, LOVE that clay baker! Do you need a tester in Indiana? ;)

Anonymous said...

Love your chatty bread! The clay baker is a very cool idea. Is it a special kind of clay baker you used?

Judith Motzkin Studio said...

I will make the next batch of bakers in February. I will post on my blog when they are ready.
Judy the potter

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misterrios said...

This is my favorite recipe from the book, and I have made it at least dozen times, but never in a vessel. Your bread is so beautiful that I have to try it that way. It just looks so inviting, entreating you to take a slice.