Friday, June 12, 2009

all is well

Turns out the bakery survived my absence. I learned a long time ago, I can never get away, only go away. Truthfully, after four or five days I really start to miss the bakery. I need that flour in my lungs. Hell, couple hours outside and I'm at the risk of exposure. Sometimes, especially on Saturdays after a long Friday night I feel like the guy in the movie "Bridge Over the River Kwai". They lock him up in a metal box and when he is let out he has a hard time, adjusting his eyes to the sun. I get the same feeling when I walk out of the bakery.

We had a nice mention in the Chicago Tribune, yesterday, regarding "Outdoor Dining". Mentions our coffee, sticky buns, croissants and ham and cheese sandwiches. Thanks to the folks there. Next Wednesday(I think), one of the Chicago papers is doing a story about Roeser's Bakery. Been in Chicago's Humboldt park area forever. Very well run, successful, quality minded place. John is my closest friend. I'm not plugging his bakery, but plugging our livelihood. Anytime a retail bakery gets a mention in the press, our whole industry benefits. I suppose even the places that think they are a bakery benefit as well. Tag's Bakery, here in Evanston, put up a new awning. It's beautiful. Head west on Central street and their name and the word "Bakery" is gleaming. We all benefit from that.

Yesterday, Val asked me "how do you choose which doughs to do an autolyse for"? Marc was there and he said "that autolyse thing, is magical to me". These conversations are not going on in places that think they are a bakery. Promise. Autolyse is a technique taught by Raymond Calvel. I mentioned the enzyme protease earlier, when the farmer starts the baking process. I may have mentioned that the enzyme is present in the grain. I mentioned that once the flour is hydrated, the enzyme is activated. Well, when we make our doughs here that will be used for baguettes or sourdough breads, we use this technique, autolyse. We dump the flour into the mixer, add malt if needed, add about ninety percent of the water and start the mixer in low speed. We run it long enough to get the flour evenly hydrated. We stop the mixer and cover the bowl with a plastic sheet. We set a timer for twenty minutes and wait. A lot is going on in that mass. When you tug on the dough, as soon as the mixer has stopped, the dough will tear away, and seem very shaggy. After the rest time, the dough will be much more pliable or "extensible". When you tug on it it won't tear away, it will stretch. Wheat protein, gluten, has two sides, elastic and extensible. Glutenin is responsible for the elasticity and gliadin handles the elastic side. A balance between the two creates dough strength. So the same enzyme, protease, that is responsible for denaturing the membrane between the germ and endosperm, starts to denature the elastic side of the protein. This enhances the extensible side. To us bakers this is a very useful tool. When we shape baguettes, we need to roll them long, during shaping. If the elastic side is to strong, the baguettes will snap back, as it is rolled out. It is equally important when making bread that has a lot of lumpy things added to the dough. Things like raisins, olives, nuts, garlic cloves, cheese cubes, etc. benefit from enhanced extensibility. Once the bread is baked you can see a fine membrane of dough over the lumps. First it will help the pieces stay in the dough, during shaping. Secondly, when you examine the baked loaf, this fine membrane of dough covering the protrusions, the raisins/olives/whatever, won't get quite so dark in the oven.

I know it's a lot of information. I will cover more of this tomorrow. Yes, there are instances that you shouldn't autolyse a dough.

I just ran upstairs to settle an inside dispute. While there I noticed a plain croissant, a little misshaped, reminds me of the fish Nemo. A little on the small side. Just came from the oven. I am protecting our customer. Damn, it was wonderful. I think I could live without sugar easier than I could without butter.


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