Thursday, September 22, 2005

Add 1/384 teaspoon yeast to the bowl

You don't often see a recipe with an instruction like that. Now where did I put my 1/384 teaspoon sized measuring spoon? Or should I just throw in a few grains of yeasts? The method is quite a bit simpler, thanks to the recipe writer, as I'll reveal below.

But where would you use 1/384 teaspoon? In a homeopathic bread recipe? In this case, it appears in the biga, or leavener, for a ciabatta recipe that appeared in Rolling in serious dough in the September 21 LA Times Food Section. Writer David Colker describes "Camp Bread":

Camp Bread was actually less like a camp and more like an extremely lively academic conference, with labs, except that you could eat the results.

It was serious bread. Artisan bread-making processes are based on those used in Europe for centuries to make hearth breads. They often begin with a starter (sourdough or one made with commercial yeast) that's allowed to develop for at least 12 hours.

The main dough is mixed for a relatively short time, just four or five minutes in some cases. Then the risings of the main dough — professionals call the first rising the fermentation stage, and the second the proofing — can take as many as three or four hours.

The general rule: small amounts of leavening and large amounts of time to develop flavor. [emphasis added]

The ciabatta recipe that was included in the article starts with a biga that ages for 24 hours then is blended into the main dough. The first few steps are

1. Sprinkle the 1/4 teaspoon yeast into 1 cup warm water, stir and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Mix the bread flour, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and rye flour in a bowl. Measure one-half teaspoon of the yeasted water into the flour mixture. (Throw the rest away; the point of step 1 was not to proof the yeast but to measure 1/384 teaspoon yeast.)
[Next steps: add water, mix, let sit for 24 hours. ]
So that's how you get 1/384 teaspoon: extracting 1/2 teaspoon of 1 cup water + 1/4 teaspoon yeast. And that's an instruction that will cause convulsions in anyone who normally uses the metric system in the kitchen.

Even though I live with easy access to Acme Bread, Semifreddi's, Grace, the Cheese Board and more, I plan on trying the ciabatta recipe this weekend. Will it turn out like this? Not likely, given my unpredictable oven. But the process of bread baking is rewarding, to see the inert become living, to work with the dough, to fill the house with that indescribeable aroma. I just hope I don't put something like 1/380 or 1/390 teaspoon of yeast into the biga...

tags :: : : :

1 comment:

burekaboy said...

did your ciabatta ever work out?

you chose one of the most difficult breads to make! i make mine by hand, the old way. messy but fun.

as with most of those beautiful looking breads, much of it has to do with long ferments and proper ovens and hydration (misting) of the bread during the initial baking....but somehow i am sure you already know that ;p

just stumbled onto your blog. it's great.

regards from canada