Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tidy Loaf: Introduction

Inlet Creek an hour north of Charleston, SC

We had a glorious spring day's sail through Charleston Harbor to our anchorage on Inlet Creek, just north of the Ben Sawyer Bridge. After Sweet Pea, our Island Packet 32, nestled into a wide place between two bends, dinner included a warm loaf of crusty peasant bread, made under way with no fuss.
This loaf had a dense chew and an egg shell crust 
This bread was in stark contrast to my earliest attempts at loafing aboard. Years ago in the Bahamas, my first efforts left a blizzard of flour dusting the galley and a pile of dirty bowls and spoons slathered in sticky library paste. Given the humidity and the sharp breeze whistling through the galley, the question was whether the flour would blow overboard before it too developed adhesive properties.

That first adventure into the art of baking aboard was less than I had hoped in that the results were not sufficiently tasty to justify all that effort. After a series of similar misadventures we gave up on breadmaking and spent the rest of that cruise chasing rumors of loaves from cay to cay. Occasionally we found a treat but more often than not, the shelf was either bare or it should have been, since the contents were well past their prime.

Over the years I stumbled on an approach that eases baking bread aboard. Sweet Pea's Tidy Loaf produces a crusty bread with a dense chew at minimum of effort and almost no cleanup. The method forgives interruptions of hours or even days, making it easy fit into a cruiser's schedule and into a tiny galley. Making bread aboard a sailing vessel turns a few minutes of effort -- spread over several hours or several days -- into the delight of a hot-out-of-the-oven loaf that is bursting with flavor and texture. 

Dinner was pork loin in marinara over pita chips and a warm slice . . . 

Followed by dessert.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tidy Loaf: Ingredients and Equpment


Water, 1 cup (240 ml)
Bread flour, 3 cups (700 ml)
Yeast, 2 teaspoons (10 ml)
Salt, 1 teaspoon (5 ml)
Oil, 1 teaspoon (5 ml)

Necessary Equipment

Bowl with lid, Rubbermaid #4 which contains 12 cups (2.8 L)
Rubber spatula
Parchment paper

Handy to Have

Measuring spoon
Measuring cup
Dish towel
Dish drainer
Non-stick spray (to lubricate blade when slashing)
Bread knife
Instant read thermometer
Oven thermometer
A bowl, spatula, bread flour, salt, yeast, water, oil and parchment paper are necessary.

With sufficient practice at estimating measurements and baking time, everything else is optional but handy to have.

The bowl's lid has several openings, made with a hole saw. These allow the dough to breathe and permit storing the spatula in the closed bowl between steps, eliminating cleanup. The bowl's round shape and rounded corners facilitate kneading.

Prior to baking I use a bread knife sprayed with a bit of non-stick oil to slash the loaf.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tidy Loaf Step 1: Pre-ferment

I like the yeasty and slightly sour flavor that an initial fermentation adds to the loaf. If there isn't time I skip letting the dough sit and proceed to mixing the Tidy Loaf.

For the pre-ferment add 1 tsp yeast and approximately 1 cup bread flour. 
Stir to mix the yeast and flour and then add one cup of galley temperature water.  
Continue stirring to combine yeast, flour and water. 
Water to flour ratio is 1:1 by volume in the pre-ferment. About one third of the total amount of flour has been added at this point.
Pre-ferment in action. The holes in the lid allow CO2 to escape. Leave the spatula in the bowl to avoid cleanup between steps.

Let the dough pre-ferment at galley temperature for several hours to several days. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tidy Loaf Step 2: Mix and Knead

Add dry ingredients and knead the dough. Continue to add flour until the dough sticks to itself more than to the bowl. Knead until your arm hints that this step is complete.
Add 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon yeast. 
Sprinkle the salt and yeast on top the flour. Otherwise the yeast tends to clump. 

Mix until just incorporated. The dough will be runny and sticky.  About two thirds of the total amount of flour has been added at this point.
Allow the dough to rest (autolyse) from 20 minutes to several hours. 
The dough after 20 minutes of autolyse.
Ready to begin kneading.
Knead by wiping against the sides of the bowl with the spatula. Because the dough is still relatively wet, kneading with a spatula is easy and reduces mess.
Tip the bowl and use the spatula to smear the dough against the side of the bowl, rolling the bowl as you do so.
When the dough is smeared around the sides, use the spatula to scrape it back into a sticky ball and then repeat the process.
When the dough toughens and resists smearing, add approximately 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, kneading between additions.
The dough will become elastic and harder to smear and begin to leave the sides of the bowl. 
When the dough is quite elastic and more kneading seems difficult, scrape it into a ball. Total kneading time is typically 5 minutes.
Allow to rise until doubled in volume. Optionally, chill overnight to several days. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tidy Loaf Step 3: Form a Loaf

The challenge in this step is shaping a loaf without making a mess or deflating the dough. The trick is to use a small amount of oil to encourage the dough to drop out of the bowl onto parchment paper. Then use the paper to handle the loaf. I put the paper on Sweet Pea's stove cover, which makes it easy to move to the oven in the final step.

The rise is complete. Add a small amount of oil to the top of the dough. 
Using the spatula, gently spread the oil over the top of the dough and then work it down the sides of the bowl.
Use parchment paper to handle the loaf.
Invert the bowl on the paper and wait until the dough drops from the bowl. 
The dough lands oiled side down. Notice the oiled sides, which helped release the dough from the bowl.
Use the paper to fold the dough, sticky sides together. 
Gently peel back the paper after folding the dough. 
Shape the loaf by gently running the spatula along the sides or tugging on the ends.  Retain as many fermentation bubbles as possible.
Roll the loaf on the paper until the seam side is down. 
Clean up is easy and uses little water.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tidy Loaf Step 4: Final Rise

I use a dish drainer and a damp towel to form a chamber that keeps the surface from drying. After the loaf reaches final size and shape I trim the paper to size, leaving a tab that helps handle the loaf in the oven.

Fold a clean cloth into quarters and wet the inner corner. 
Use a dish drainer to create a chamber for the final rise. 
Cover and let rise for about an hour or so.
The final rise ends when the loaf doubles in volume. Optionally slash three diagonals, using a bread knife lubricated with nonstick spray. 
Trim the excess paper, leaving a one inch border. 
Leave a tab on one side to use when flipping the loaf in the oven. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tidy Loaf Step 5: Bake

Sweet Pea's stove cover functions much like a peel when I transfer the loaf to the oven. With practice I find that I can, with a quick motion, slide the parchment paper onto the oven rack.

Slide the loaf into a 475 degree oven, still on the parchment paper. After 10 minutes, use the paper to flip the loaf over and remove the paper.

The paper removes easily. The tab makes it easier to flip the loaf. 
Bake until the internal temperature is 205 degrees. 

Cool on a rack or dish drainer to avoid a soggy bottom.