Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bread Bread everywhere and not a slice to eat

Salt free bread. Hmmmm

There's roughly the same quantity of salt in seawater as there is in bread. It's an obscene amount of salt and simply cutting that out makes a huge difference. I went to every bakery in town (so I thought) and they all said “No” including one of the chain franchise bakeries that supposedly can produce salt free bread if it's requested. I gave up.

Some whining and whinging at work and someone suggested a bakers in town I hadn't visited.

On entering I was immediately happy. Huge posters adorned the area behind the counter explaining the dangers of salt. Success!!!!

No, they use “organic salt”. WTF????

“OH, NO” they explained, “normal salt is bad, but we have “Organic Salt” (you could hear the capitals in her voice) and that's good for you.” It was pointless trying to explain. If they could hold such a stupid idea so passionately there was nothing I'd be able to do to shift it. Never try to teach a pig to sing, it will frustrate you and annoy the pig.

So I was thrown back on my limited resources. I'd been told that salt is *essential* to bread making and that bread made without salt will rise out of control and then collapse, taste insipid (or “inedible”) yet strangely the salt is also described as not making the bread taste of salt in any way. It also “improves crumb” however I have no idea what that means, improved in what way? Lastly it makes the bread last longer. I've found every single one of those statements to be false, except for “improving crumb” (the inner part of the bread) which may be true, false or meaningless.

I found this recipe on the net.

Like so many recipes on the net it uses volumes rather than weights and things like “pkgs” as a measure. Still it was a starting point. I wouldn't say that I've got it right yet. Well I have, but sadly haven't recorded it! What I have worked out is that the correct yeast is 16 grams. The rest of the measures don't seem very critical and even the recipe says 5-6 cups of flour!

The exact method seems less than critical too. I personally mix all the dry ingredients, form a well on a table and then pour in the oil (I used extra virgin olive oil) and water, mixing as I go. I let it rise for 2-3 hours then knead again, divide and put in pans, allow to rise for about an hour or so (judged by size), cook 'til golden at 175 C.

So how does it turn out? Despite the dire warnings on the net, the loaf rises evenly and is quite stable. Far from being inedible as some websites describe, the taste is divine. Gone is the salty flavour that overpowers the taste of the bread. Instead it tastes like fresh bread smells. Warm nutty and slightly sweet. It brings to mind fields of wheat and the smell of fresh mown hay. Far from the familiar manufactured product taste, it feels and smells like it was once alive. The structure of the bread is very good. It holds together well, cutting cleanly without splitting or crumbling. The foam takes even quite stiff spreads well without compacting and turning back into dough. Far from the salt preserving the bread I've found that it keeps *better* than store bought bread. This is a slice of week old bread. Kept at room temperature there is no sign of mould (the spots are seeds) and it's still quite palatable.  I ate the model after the photo shoot with some boutique strawberry jam.

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