Pizza time at the old corral tonight. So dough needs to be wrangled. Got up earlyish (4 AM) and got to work. Result? Two dough balls.
One went right into the fridge for use tomorrow. I left the other one out just to see how much it would expand at room temps. Three and a half hours later I said to myself "Hmmm, maybe I should put this in the fridge as well for a bit. So I did just that.
Can you guess which one was the one that sat around for a few hours ...?!
Gluten is that magic protein that gives pizza and other breads their wonderful stretch that leads to a great interior crumb and a crispy crust. I'll talk more later about gluten specifics but thought for now just a quick picture is worth a bunch of words. This is one of the dough "balls" that's been fermenting and enlarging on a baking sheet. Because it stuck against another dough ball, when I separated them it tore a bit. And what do we see? Inside that smooth exterior is a honeycomb of linked strands of dough going every which way. As the dough ferments, the yeast gives off carbon dioxide (yeast farts!) and the gas is trapped at bubbles. But rather than expanding outward like a balloon (which can also happen) the more regular thing is to expand a bit here and a bit there and a bit everywhere. The structural "girders" of the dough ball - the gluten proteins - hold it all together, leading to a puffy dough that just loves to either rise in the oven after its been shaped into a loaf or into a pizza disk. Pretty neat looking, yes?
During lockdown I've been working on bread. Sourdough first occurred to me because there was no yeast in the markets. Not a lot of flour either, so I gave up on that for a bit. But then ... flour started to return. Enough so that it looked like keeping a sourdough starter alive was a real possibility. And, happily, yeast then became available again. Only just in the large economy size and so now I've got both bases covered.
All of them except ... gluten. Bread flour is higher in protein than all purpose yet all the supermarket seems to get is all purpose. Great for cakes but not the best for stuff like pizza and artisan loaves. What to do, what to do? Well, here's what. Look for Bob's Red Mill Vital Gluten. This stuff is 70% protein and I figure I can just mix it in with all purpose and VOILA! Bread flour. But, of course, no Vital Gluten in the store, week after week. Sigh ....
Sigh, that is, until I visited Whole Foods! OMG, look at that. No bread flour but there is Vital Gluten! I nabbed it and ran home, giggling all the way.
Once in my kitchen I pulled out a piece of paper, did some algebra, and figured out how much gluten and how much all purpose I needed to create 400 grams of "just as good as bread flour" flour. And then I proceeded to bake a loaf. I used a 70% hydration because I wanted it to expand and figured I'd deal with the stickiness. Baked it on a pizza stone at 450 degrees.
The result? The best sourdough I've ever baked! (full disclosure - I've only baked two).
However, in all objectivity I have to say it was (and is - half is in the freezer) really good. Beautiful interior crumb, the taste was fantastic and the crust nice and crunchy. I learned some lessons that'll help the next one but no complaints with this one - I'd have happily paid money in a fancy pantsy bakery for one like this.