She'd gone to a bakery in New York run by an Eastern European couple; Czech, I think. They were talking about how bread rises. This is where I learned that yeast is a mold. They used to scrape the walls in the kitchen to get the wherewithal to make their breads rise. Ignoring the immediate idea of how this can possibly be sanitary (?), I think this was when the seeds were planted which have grown into a fascination with how yeast works and how breads rise. Aside from just following recipes though, I've never felt like I was really learning how the whole process works.
Recently I ran into a youtube video of Claus Meyer speechifying about bread. He insists that you should
- use less yeast
- use more water
- knead a lot more
- let it rise at least eight hours
- use more salt
I had tried the Five Minute Artisan method last year and concluded it wasn't for us - it was more bread than the two of us can eat, and it was salty - we're not salt-lovers here. But I liked the idea that you don't have to spend the whole day at it - that you can do it in stages.
Since I'm not baking much during Lent, but will need something around to snack on if I start wilting, I decided to focus on bread-making and last Thursday I thought I'd make the Swedish Limpa Rye recipe from my trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook. But the day wore on and I wasn't getting to it. Still, in late afternoon I was determined, and on a sudden whim, I mixed up the recipe using half the amount of yeast and cool water instead of warm. I kneaded it and put it in the fridge. It was too late to deal with it and I was going to be out the entire next day - I wanted to slow down the process until I could get back to it.
Saturday morning I took it out of the fridge and of course it was very cold. I heated the oven slightly for a place to warm it up. It was a very slow process and all the while the voice inside my head was asking me if maybe I'd made a mistake, maybe it wouldn't rise at all, etc., etc. But what I knew was that it must rise eventually, even if it took a week! And I was willing to wait. And see.
After the first rise was done, I kneaded it some more even though it wasn't called for, but I felt I should. I let it rise again. (there are three rises for this bread). It was finally ready at bedtime for the shaping and the third rise and I was going to put it back in the refrigerator when I decided why not leave it out all night? I shaped it into two loaves and left it on the draining board with a loose bit of plastic and two towels. It was near a window and the night was cold and windy - I almost moved it away, but my inner feeling was that if it could rise a little in the cold fridge, it would come to no harm near a window. Anyway, I was curious! I left it until we came home from Mass. It looked ready to bake.
It worked! Instead of having to arrange my day around the bread risings, I arranged the risings around my schedule, and that's kind of where I want to go with this. Of course, if we were depending on homemade bread every day, I'd have to do things differently, but I have a bread machine, and we buy rye at the supermarket. This is going to be a slow learning process and eventually it may turn into something we depend on in place of store-bought bread, but I don't want to put that burden on myself at the beginning.
Meanwhile, I had a slice
with the butter mixture I make and a bit of honey. Oh, boy!
"It's really a question of arranging matters so that the dough suits your time table rather than the other way around."
- Elizabeth David