Friday, February 02, 2007

Soft White Oatmeal Sandwich Loaf - Biga Style

biga, fermented 2 days
I have been in love with bread for so long and I have probably lost any sense of perspective on it a long time ago. But, on the other hand, I have developed a very liberal interpretation of what makes bread bread: it can be flat like a tortilla, crusty like a hearth loaf, sweet and soft like brioche; And there probably isn't as many bakers as there is in variations of making bread. That I believe.
Artisan-style hearth loaves have since become better and better by leaps and I've heard in the US. Unfortunately for me (in Manila), I have yet to purchase a true artisan loaf, with the crisp crust, chewy interior and a flavor that is clean and tasty from the preferment.
I like using the sponge method in making my breads, sourdough a bit to far off for my taste. A favorite would be using a biga. It is like the old dough method, where a small piece is cut from the large batch to be used as the giver of flavor for the next large batch of dough. A biga is very easy to handle and is not time sensitive. You can prepare it up to 3 days in advance and leave to ferment in the fridge; or prepare it 8pm tonight, come 8am the next day, it is ready to use.
I like the texture of the finished loaf, it is springy and sturdy. A sandwich bread that won't go soggy on the mustard, ketchup and grease. The oats were just an after thought, a last minute addition to give texture and bite. The crust is vulgarly crisp; that which crackles with every press and cut. My chopping board was left with shards and shards of crisp crust, it was a complete mess! But a messy perfection, that is.

Soft White Oatmeal Loaf

1/4t instant yeast
1 C lukewarm water
2- 21/3C all-purpose flour

1/2 t instant yeast
2C milk
4-51/3 C bread flour
3/4 C rolled oats
1/4C honey
5T oil or melted butter*
1T salt

1. Make the biga at least 12 hours before you wish to bake the bread: Dissolve yeast in the water and stir in 2 C flour. Knead until smooth. Adding flour if it is too sticky. The finished dough should be smooth and tacky. Place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, touching the surface and let stand 12 hours to 3 days. Refrigerate if letting stand for more than 24 hours and bring to room temp before using.
2. Cut the biga into 5 pcs. In a mixer bowl, combine yeast, milk, 4C flour, the salt and the biga. Using the dough hook, knead at low speed, adding flour 1/4C at a time until it comes together. Increase to medium-high speed and let it knead until gluten development. It will be smooth and springy.
3. Transfer to a clean greased bowl, let rise 1-11/2 hours. It is well-risen when the indent remains when poked with your two fingers.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface, divide into 3. Roll each dough to remove air bubbles and tightly roll into a loaf, pinch the edge. Place into well-greased 9x5 pan. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled and top of dough is 1" above rim of pan.
5. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 400deg F. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden and crisp. The bottom of the pan will sound hollow when tapped.
6. Unmold and let stand on a rack before slicing. Makes 3 loaves.

The oats may be omitted, no adjustments necessary. The dough is huge, so you might want to half the recipe especially when only using a 4-5qtz mixer.

*butter will give better flavor, oil keeps loaf fresh longer.

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