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Artisan Breads Every Day and Sourdough Pizza

Over this past year, I have been testing recipes for Peter Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day. The goal of this book was to find a way to get the full flavor that delayed fermentation offers, but to make the preparation time shorter. Or something. I don't know, because with the delayed fermentation plan, you mix the dough and then bake the next day. Not a lot of involvement in the middle.

But one thing that this book did offer was something along the lines of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day style of making a bulk pre-ferment and then using a part of it each day for up to five days and baking a fresh loaf from that. This actually makes some really good French bread. One of my favorite recipes was the "same day french bread", which uses a pre-ferment to pull in extra flavor. It is called same-day because you don't count making the pre-ferment for some reason (maybe because you can also use it for the next 4 days). But that was some of the best French bread I have ever made. And in the process of testing these recipes, I learned the importance of the "stretch and fold" technique. This is the best way to strengthen the gluten in a very wet dough. Even a dough that has 70% or more hydration can become smooth and workable with the stretch and fold. After doing this, I found that my freestanding loaves gained 50% in height, rather than being so flat.

Part of the reason I though I would write this was that I chose to make some sourdough pizza dough from this book for our Friday night pizza night yesterday. Mmmmm. I do love good sourdough. The dough turned out to be very tasty, though I think next time I will leave out the honey since I think it made the crust brown too quickly. Our old oven died about three weeks ago and our new oven can bake at up to 550°F, which is about where you should be cooking pizza, but not having experience with those extra 50 degrees is making pizza baking interesting. As far as the rest of the family goes, they say they prefer the original Pizza Napoletana recipe from Peter's Bread Baker's Apprentice book. That is a darn good pizza dough recipe, so it is hard to beat it. But I have to mix it up every now and then or we wouldn't ever know if something better came along.

I will likely write more about Artisan Breads Every Day another time, as I find time to work through the recipes. Can anyone say Chocolate Croissants?