The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I’m finding online many bulletin boards and tutorials devoted to artisan bread making. Some of them are geared towards amateurs, and the Cook’s Illustrated and New York Times “No-Knead” recipe features heavily. It seems that as Star Wars brought millions of people into the science fiction world, the no-knead has started off many people into bread baking. I realized pretty soon that while the recipe got good results, I wanted to do “real” bread. I still maintain that the very first bread I made was one of the best looking. But I knew so little then. Just as I know so little now.
Example: kneading may not be necessary. Not just for no-knead, obviously. I’ve found a couple videos of people folding slack dough, and mixing by hand just enough to incorporate the ingredients. As I understand it, the proteins will relax and form gluten strands when you let them sit for a while, or you can knead to manually link them together. The no-knead uses this principle, and is basically a slack dough with a long pre-ferment. What I liked about the no-knead was the final result, but the kneading wasn’t really a problem, it was the timing of the pre-ferment. Now since I’m making poolish anyway, it’s fine having dough sitting around or in the fridge for a day or two. And if I can fold instead of kneading, that means I don’t have to wash the dough hook! Hooray!
I also found a fantastic spreadsheet for bread recipes, thanks to Dolf Starreveld. I’ve decided to switch to weighing and percentage methods, and I want to put all my recipes into one sheet that I can keep in the kitchen, rather than referring to notes on Post-Its, and modified recipes in large books. With this spreadsheet, I can get as detailed as I want. Plus, scaling should be much easier. I figure if I’m trying to become more professional, I should at least be weighing and using baker’s percentages for all my recipes now. And since I’m making modifications to all the recipes anyway, I don’t have to keep them in my head. What I really like about this spreadsheet is that you can incorporate the cost of ingredients to get your profit margin. I don’t think I’ll be making enough to buy my dream car just yet. Maybe in another month or two.