Monday, 29 November 2010

A proving box

This week I made a wholemeal wheat bread based on Laurel Robertson's Desem bread. This was the first time I had tried to make it in any quantity, and one of the main challenges was proving it. The original recipe calls for a very short, warm, humid prove. Previously, with this sort of thing, I've either put it the molded loaves in a very low oven or in a plastic bag (as the recipe suggests for home bakers). In this instance, though, our only oven was full of bread, and plastic bags would have meant humidifying each of them separately. Luckily I have in the bakery a large plastic box which has periodically served a number of functions, and a roll of eco-wool plastic loft insulation, which I usually use for keeping ferments cool in the summer. I emptied a kettle of hot water into the bottom of the box, stacked some cooling wires on some empty bread tins, and set the loaves to prove on top of the wires. With the lid on the box, I wrapped the whole thing in the ecowool and set the timer.

It was astonishingly effective. After one hour and a half, the water was still uncomfortably hot to touch, and the loaves were ready to overflow their baskets. Handling them onto the peel and into the oven was quite tricky, but not completely unmanageable. For the second oven load, I halved the proving time. They were much easier to handle, and came out of the oven looking much prettier. When I tried the test loaves, though, I thought the first batch had the edge in flavour and texture, if not looks:

I really liked this loaf. I don't think the recipe is quite finished yet, but I thought the flavour and texture were pretty good, it's extremely wholesome, and we're still eating the last of ours 5 days after it was baked.

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