|Bread of life, salt of the Earth
||[May. 12th, 2014|09:21 pm]
The bread that I bake is different every time. I would say that I am constantly experimenting, but I know enough about the design of experiments to know that my baking process is not truly experimental. A proper experiment would permit only one variable at a time, and I don't do that. So although I have been wondering whether it makes any difference when you add the salt, or if you leave it out altogether I said that I didn't intend to test the effects of adding salt earlier, I meant it. Nonetheless, I have been gathering anecdotal data, and had better write them down before I forget them.
Main conclusion, unsurprisingly, is that it depends. The marmalade buns are fine without, but the chestnut loaf, I think, tastes better with a small amount of salt. Does it affect the rise (which was the question in the first place)? Probably not: the summer rye with salt didn't rise as extravagantly as the wholemeal walnut loaf without (oh, but the flavour of the walnut loaf suffered, I won't to that again).
All else being equal (as if!) a wetter dough seems to rise better, and I am resisting the temptation to keep on adding flour once the dough is coherent enough to handle. The oatmeal and apple bread (like oatmeal and raisin, but with snipped up dried apple instead of the raisins. It didn't really work: the apple was a bit indistinct in both texture and flavour, and the chunks made the slices fall apart) rose spectacularly, but this made the crumb so loose and open that it was very hard to slice. A month or so ago I made a sequence of loaves that were delightfully easy to slice; now I have loaves that are delightfully light. It seems to be one or the other. Anyway, I shall try reducing the proportion of oatmeal in the next loaf - though come to think of it, it's not the same brand of oatmeal, and may be more finely ground (this is what I mean about too many variables).
The loaf I am eating was probably the highest rising I have ever made, and the dough was the wettest - but not the stickiest, because once I had added a spoonful of oil, it rapidly became beautifully elastic and stretchy. The secret ingredient was a sweet potato. (I bought a pack of three, and oven-baked them in their skins. We had one each with the gammon for dinner, and the odd one went into the bread). I tried to offset this against both the liquid and the solid elements of the bread recipe, but it was pretty approximate - and not helped by running out of both spelt and wholemeal flour (in the end I made up about 4 oz of the flour with chestnut flour: the result was good, but doesn't really highlight the chestnut flour). I'd do it again - so I'd better record that I added salt, though not much, and a tablespoon of maple syrup.
It also came out of the tin with gratifying ease. What are the factors that govern this? I used to think it related to how well-done the loaf is: that it will leave the tin when it's ready, and not before. But there have been one or two loaves which were on the verge of burned - not actually burned, but crusty and dark in colour - which still required a lot of persuasion. The sweet potato loaf isn't underdone, but it has quite a soft crust, and it jumped up willingly when I shook the tin. I begin to wonder whether the secret is to use flour or equivalent on the work surface when shaping the loaf for the tin. Oiling the surface makes the dough easy to handle, and I know that oiling the tin is supposed to prevent it sticking, but it doesn't always work that way for me. Whereas shaping the oatmeal loaf on a surface sprinkled with rolled oats gives a decorative finish - and whether this is cause and effect or not, the loaf fell easily out of the tin.
These are not facts I have learned about breadmaking; they are questions I have learned I can't answer.