here it is everyone...
My perfect crumb to date. Baked on Saturday, July 25th, 2020.
I wanted to share this team accomplishment with you today, because if you've followed for a while, you'll remember my story about "The Ugly loaves" when I first started to figure out baking in our new MIWE oven.
Those were anything but beautiful loaves...
~ William Edward Hickson, A British educational writer
Part of our mission is to share with you a little bit about the artisan craft of sourdough, and our journey towards continuous improvement and innovation.
The Voyageurs Journey is a story of many failures, and many successes. It will continue to be that way, because we are always seeking to do new things, grow our skills as bakers and bring exciting products to our community.
As we share our failures, we also love to share the successes. And when the perfect crumb comes out in a loaf... that's newsworthy around the Voyageurs Bakehouse.
So what do we look for with a perfect loaf - and how do we tweak our process to continue to improve?
Here are 4 simple things we look for, and that you can begin to admire yourself in the perfect loaf; crumb, beauty, rise, and crust.
1. An open crumb
The crumb is a sign of perfect timing. You need a healthy starter, good quality flour, patience, and a gentle shaping technique. If we fail at any one of these parts, we won't have a successful loaf, and definitely not a nice open crumb!
Without getting too technical on you, the open crumb is the result of the "exhale" of the carbon dioxide from the lengthy fermentation process.
With a strong network of gluten created during the dough-making process, it will trap the air that is exhaled during fermentation, and create the small holes in the dough.
The next time you have a loaf in your hands, take a moment to admire the crumb, and appreciate the role of gluten.
2. Beautiful, Creative & Aesthetic Scoring
The scoring of a loaf is the slice in the dough's surface made with a sharp razor blade right before it goes in the oven. This gives an intentional area for the loaf to expand during baking, to control the direction that bread expands during the “oven spring.”
In the sourdough world, we try to make an "ear" on the bread, which is the sharp angle that usually gets nice and crispy dark. With other loaves, we want to create an even expanse. It all depends on the type of bread, and then the creative score given to each loaf design.
Ultimately our goal is to create beautiful aesthetics in the bread. We believe if what you're eating looks beautiful, then you're going to enjoy it more, and thus feel happy while eating it. Some research even shows that this ultimately helps you to digest your food better.
3. A nice even rise or "Oven Spring"
The happiest days at the Bakehouse are when the loaves come out with the perfect rise. It's technically called an "oven spring", and when we take a loaf out of the oven, we are looking for a good even dome on the loaf. There are so many factors that go into the rise; including temperatures, humidity, proofing time, type of flour... the list goes on.
However, there are days when the bread comes out with less of a rise, despite following the same exact process. This is the continuous challenge of natural fermentation and hand-crafted artisan bread. It doesn't mean it's any less of a good loaf. It's an aspect to pay attention to and reflect on the many variables that go into the bread making process.
4. A blistery, brown crust
The color should be a nice caramel brown; too light and you miss out on a lot of potential flavors, and too dark it might taste burnt.
Our goal is to make a lot of "blisters" in the crust which visually shows off the fermentation and creates a pleasing texture in your mouth with every bite.
We also look for a lot of contrasting colors on the exterior of the loaf. The colors should be vibrant and have a lot of life to them.
All of these things are what makes sourdough so interesting, challenging, and dynamic. It's an endless experimentation process, which keeps us on our toes.
With that, we hope to continue to share this experimentation and allow you to explore the world of taste through a shared love of bread!