02 February 2010

Doubled in Size

ciabatta dough on the rise

That's what she said...he, he, he.  Clearly, my new found love for 'The Office' has gotten the best of me. 

Almost every bread recipe you find will tell you to let the bread rise until it has doubled in size.  I let bread rise every day and this still baffles me.  How are you supposed to remember the original size in order to know if it has doubled?  If you're anything like me, ie impatient, you check the dough every five minutes to see if it is ready to go into the oven.  Okay, maybe I don't check it every five minutes when I'm making a couple hundred pounds of dough but if I'm just making a small batch...I check it every five minutes.  I actually tell my students to find something else to do for a couple hours when they are baking at home.  Forgetting about the dough is the best option, sometimes.

I find the best way to know if the bread is ready to bake is the finger poke test.  This is so easy and it works every time.  Simply poke a fingertip into the dough and watch it spring back.  If the dough immediately springs back and holds its original shape, it's not ready, not even close to ready.  If the dough deflates when you touch it, you have over-proofed dough that will not rise again.  If the finger dimple springs back slowly and still leaves a slight impression in the dough, it's perfect.  You can bake away.  This works every time with every kind of dough.  There you have it, doubled in size - demystified.

Don't worry if you don't get it right.  I still jump the gun.  As a matter of fact, just last week I grossly under proofed a batch of brioche buns.  The hotel next to the bakery wants brioche buns to use for their burgers.  They want them ASAP.  They have, after all, been waiting for a month for the bakery staff to return from winter break.  There was not much wiggle room for product development, just get the buns to the tables.

Last week I had sick babies and my husband's truck is in the shop.  I had to bake extra early in the AM so I could be home in time to get him off to work.  I was pressed for time.  Friday morning, I mixed a batch of brioche for the big bun test.  After 5 hours of poking and waiting, the buns still didn't seem proofed enough.  I should always trust myself but in this case I didn't.  I thought, gee these things have been in the warm, steamy, proof box for 5 hours, they've got to be ready, right?  Nope, they sucked!    I baked them off thinking, well, I don't know what I was thinking but they weren't light and fluffy.  They were dense and they split open because they were, drum roll, under proofed! Don't worry, they didn't go to waste but they weren't ideal either.  Apparently, someone from the hotel wanted to come talk to me about what brioche is supposed to be like.  I am so glad he didn't and I bet he is too.  I will be the first person to notice and the first person to admit when one of my breads doesn't turn out the way it should.  I will also be the first person to correct the problem and send out a stellar product the second time around.

Sunday morning, I mixed another batch of brioche.  I tweaked the formula a little so the dough would be slightly more forgiving than the very delicate brioche I normally mix.  I shaped the buns and let them do their thing.  Five hours later, my baking was done but the rolls weren't ready (yes, I used the finger poke test).  I tagged out and tagged Mark in.  Mark had, after all, proofed and baked thousands of rolls very similar to the two dozen I made, when he was responsible for the 2, 30 pan convection ovens at Amy's Bread.  I left a big sign on Mark's work station so he wouldn't forget the little guys.  Later in the day I got a text message saying that the buns were beauties!  Mission accomplished.

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