Focaccia, And The Twelve Steps Of Bread Baking Reduced To Four Activities

-A.J.

Authors write about “Twelve Steps” (or more) to baking bread, which sounds like a lot of processes:

  1. Scaling
  2. Mixing
  3. Bulk or Primary Fermentation
  4. Folding/Degassing
  5. Dividing/Scaling
  6. Pre-shaping
  7. Bench Rest
  8. Shaping/Panning
  9. Proofing/Final Fermentation
  10. Baking
  11. Cooling
  12. Storage/Eat

 

I “simplify” it in my head into four groups of “Activities”:

  1. Scaling
  2. Mixing
  3. Bulk or Primary Fermentation
  1. Folding/Degassing
  2. Dividing/Scaling
  3. Pre-shaping
  4. Bench Rest
  1. Shaping/Panning
  2. Proofing/Final Fermentation
  1. Baking
  2. Cooling
  3. Storage/Eat

 

At the end of each Activity there’s a natural rest break.

 

In effect then, Twelve Steps become Four Activities:

  1. Weigh and mix the dough, and let rest.
  2. Divide and shape the dough, and let rest.
  3. Shape/pan the dough, and let rest.
  4. Bake, cool, and eat.

 

That sounds pretty manageable, doesn’t it? If you don’t count the baking step it’s only three Activities. Easy.

I bring all this up because I’d gotten into the habit of skipping Activity #2 when making focaccia. I’d mix, then coax the loose dough into a parchment-lined tray, allowing for one rise in the tray.

And that was fine, sort of. The focaccia were well-received, though I thought they had the potential to be better. As it turns out, if you don’t skip an Activity that people having been doing for thousands of years the results improve! Behold the power of trial and error!

A two-pound focaccia from Easter dinner:

Cell phone pic, not color-adjusted.

Cell phone pic, not color-adjusted.

A one-pound focaccia we ate with dinner last night:

170422 focaccia

Re-introducing the initial bulk fermentation gives a better crumb structure — the bread becomes more airy, with uniform bubbles throughout. I think that’s partly because the extra rest and handling means that the bubbles get redistributed more evenly. I’ve cut back on the oil too. The end result is a lighter, less oily focaccia.

Both breads:  70% hydration, 6% oil, 2% salt (not counting the pink salt), about 1% diastatic malt, baked at 425F for 24 minutes.

————————

Here’s a Cheap Seat Eats post from January of 2016 talking about a good result due to allowing for an initial 30-minute rise before transferring the dough to the tray. Which means I’ve re-re-learned something. That’s good, right? The biggest difference between that one and these two is that the oil percent for these two were 6% rather than the 3% in the 2016 post. That, and I allowed for a 30-minute pre-ferment in 2016. These two got ~1 hour.

A 100% hydration, 6% oil focaccia, August 2014.

Another 100% hydration, 4% oil focaccia, August 2014. 20-minute rest. Note the somewhat irregular hole structure.

80% hydration, 7% oil, September 2014. 1-hour rest.

70% hydration, 3% oil, December 2015. 1-hour rest. The crumb structure looks fairly tight, though that might just be the photo. It was served with stew, so I might have been targeting that result.

75% hydration, 8% oil, January 2014, topped with onions. No rest. The color isn’t very deep in the photo.

113% hydration, 9% oil, May 2013. 4-hour rest. Beranbaum’s recipe.

——————–

For a good, brief description of the Steps see this Reddit post.

 

 

 

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