Okay, so I finally mixed up the flour (and the other “dry ingredients”). And of course I knocked over the yeast, spilling a bunch of it, and made a mess of the flour (more on that later).
I’m not the intuitive type when it comes to this stuff, I’m the “do it exactly as they say” type. That way if something goes whacked, it’s their fault (whoever gave out the specs). Or at least then I can ask them what they think went wrong (and of course something did, the first time anyway)..
I also forgot to mention (see, I need a list) that I got an Escali Primo (what a great name!) kitchen scale on day one. That means I was weighing out rather than measuring the flour. (I recommend that you watch both of the intro videos on how to do the no-knead bread. Or, if you can only do one, do the long one… there’s lots of good detail –like how to measure your flour–in the latter).
Being picky as described I’m using a measuring spoon to drop in or take out a few microns of flour to hit the exact weight. Maybe I overdid it a bit, but I guess it worked out okay. You can never be too precise with instructions when you are totally ignorant.
Disclaimer: I’m not TOTALLY ignorant about breadmaking, since I actually had a recipe from my mother that I used to make in 1970 or so. But I kind of think that is long enough ago to reset my experience level as “beginner.”
In any case, my first batch went fine, and even though there was no kneading element, I enjoyed the dough folding section. Something about actually handling the dough makes you feel like you are actually baking something. Which is important because without that this recipe will make you feel like you are simply someone with a good watch.
In any case the only wacko problem I had in prepping my first loaf was that despite years of highly developed hand and eye coordination skills (mostly due to tennis), I completely fumbled the final handoff (wrong sport?) of the dough from the proofing basket into the hot cloche ( or “clay baker“), and plopped it so the dough was snuggled right up to the edge of the hot cloche.
I didn’t know what to do at that point, since thoughts of a loaf seared up one side and raw on the other were balanced by the horrible deflated mess I might make trying to shove the thing into the center, so I just left it.
That didn’t cause a problem, but the loaf DID come out kind of wierd, that is, uber-crispy and dark on the outside, and a trifle moist on the inside.
I did, of course, follow instructions regarding the in-stick part and the temp was only up to about 165, but with the loaf threatening to take on the color of a charcoal briquette, I thought I’d bail on the interior temp thing and take it out on time.
The resulting loaf was actually edible, if a little crispy on the crust level, and I still thought it a bit moist on the center.
My wife thought it was fine, especially if toasted, and we speculated that maybe the 1/3 portion of whole wheat flour made it a darker loaf.
I spoke with Eric about it and he said that he thought my oven was maybe running a bit hot.
My own thought was that maybe putting the cloche on the bottom oven rack hadn’t been the best idea.
For the next batch Rise (the wife) advised that I change one variable at a time and see what happens. So I moved the cloche father away from the lower heating elements, up to the middle of the oven.
That still produced a fairly dark loaf. In hindsight I’d call it a brunette, since in my third loaf we reduced the oven temperature from the specified 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes to 450, and the second section dropped down to 425, and the resulting loaf was the loveliest blue eyed blonde you can imagine (so to speak).
It was so beautiful, I should have had it encased in lucite, and then maybe that could just be it for my baking career, third times a charm.
But I took a photo instead: