Long retard

I tried a 'Pane Francese' recipe, it felt too wet, so I added around 50g of wholemeal flour. After some kneading it went into an oil drizzled bowl for what turned out to be an unexpected time in the fridge to retard the bulk fermentation.

61hrs later! I get a day off and remove it from its refrigerated retard.
The oil drizzled bowl had worked well for removing the dough cleanly from it that would potentially be too small for the bulk ferment. Being in a refrigerated state would’ve helped too I say.

I monitored the surface temperature of the dough waiting for it to come up to the 20°C ambient room temperature. This took a good 9hrs! I then tried the proof poke test and really didn't get any feed back from the dough that I could interpret so I slashed it. Bugger all bubbles. I folded it a few times and left it to rest some more. More poking another hr on, still no real sign of life. A bit of stretching and folding again and back to resting it some more. By now it was getting late so I just took it out, shaped it and put it in a 260°C oven inside a Pyrex casserole dish. Before putting the lid on I misted it with water, then again about 10mins later. The lid came off at the 20 minute mark and down came the temperature to 240°C. At the 30min the inside was done (using a probe thermometer)

The crust is crusty but not over the top, even though it looks a little burnt. The inside is nice and spongy without being doughy, the 1st time I've achieved this in a loaf. Does caramelising the outer keep more of the moisture inside thus cooking it better without drying it out?

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