Right. Grandma has M.D. for the day so I have the ability to make bread without transient time frames. What to do, what to do. I chose fougasse because Paul uses a quasi-sponge technique (I say quasi only because he only leaves it for 4 hours, whereas normally it is left over night). The ‘sponge’ technique is where you pre mix some of the flour, water and yeast into a thick batter. This is allowed to grow and develop flavour before you return and add the remaining ingredients, making your dough like normal. This adds a greater depth of flavour and is quite common in European breads such as ciabattas.
I have decided, after the last blog fiasco, to follow this recipe to the letter! I have even made sure we have all of the stuff in house before I start. There are two extenuating circumstances that need mentioning. 1) I am also making the ‘Rees’ family loaf at the same time and people who know me know that I am a messy kitchen user at the best of times so the kitchen may or may not have looked like a bomb site. 2) We have a new oven!!! It is amazing, it is brilliant, it is shiny and it has never been used before this bread – the downside being that we have no idea what it is like. We don’t know if it is a hot fan oven, or runs cool. We don’t know any of the nuances yet, so I was half expecting to find the bread come out like blocks of charcoal.
Mixing and Kneading
Beating the batter was hard work. Using half of the flour, all the yeast and most of the water makes a surprisingly dry batter so you will get very sore forearms if you mix constantly for the five minutes Paul advises.
After 4 hours the batter has risen and fallen, so the rest of the ingredients are added and kneaded in – including the onions and bacon which have already been cooked. The knead was easy enough (white flour, and all). The dough is left to rest for an hour before splitting into three and shaping.
The shaping involves rolling out the three doughs into a 1 inch thick ‘circle’. I then used a small pizza cutter to incise the leaf pattern. Paul then says to leave it to rest for another hour before baking. In hindsight (everyone’s best friend) I should not have just followed his instructions. The slices made should be opened up by gently stretching the dough and an hour was far too long (if his picture is anything to go by, mine must have been twice the thickness).
Anyway, I just cut it like he said and left it for an hour. They were now ready to bake.
Like I said, the oven was new. It was so new it had not cooked anything yet so I was not surprised that the cooking times were all off. I had the oven on 230 and baked for 15 mins like Paul said, but the bread was still doughy. I left them in for another 10 mins, giving the results below.
The bread is nice. Nice, that’s one of those words isn’t it. Nice; not great, not disgusting, not life changing or even delightful – just, nice. And that sums up this bread. It is inoffensive but nothing spectacular. M.D. likes it, which means I also know the dogs do too. I don’t think it was worth the time spent making it. I may try it again, after the challenge is over, to see if it gets better with practice.
History of Bread
The social implications of bread are fascinating, if frustrating. Ultimately we cannot know the true meaning behind certain statements or turns of phrase in Ancient Greek literature when they describe the ‘bread of slavery’ for instance. It is obviously a dramatic description, but it could possibly be reflective of a type, or types, of bread [perhaps one made of inferior ingredients?] but there is not yet any way we can be sure. Here are just a couple of instances:
Apollo is speaking – “In you I brought myself to taste the bread of menial servitude, god though I am.” Euripides, Alcestis, 1
Clytaemestra is speaking – “Get down from the car and do not be too proud; for even Alcmene’s son, men say, once endured to be sold and eat the bread of slavery.” Aeshcylus, Agamemnon, 1039-40