Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pain a l'Ancienne (Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge)

Or Pain A'I'nmyass, if you'd care to know its biblical name as I have christened it, but we'll touch on that a bit more later on in the post.

This week's Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge has us making what is perhaps Peter Reinhart's most innovative and unique bread recipe, Pain a l'Ancienne. What makes this recipe different from any other recipe we've tackled to date? We used ice water in this recipe. Ice water! I would have thought that the yeast would have been too busy looking for sweaters to do their job! And in a roundabout and very Mag-way of thinking, that is what happens. Mr. Reinhart, who coincidentally has a professional background in the science of bread baking instead of one in amateur blogging like myself, explains this in a much more technical manner in his book. By using ice cold water, we substantially delay the fermentation, enabling the sugar to break out of the starch before the yeast have their chance to feast. The resulting bread has a much more developed flavor than when standard fermentation practices are used.

This recipe started out easily enough. There are only four ingredients: bread flour, yeast, salt and ice water. All are mixed and kneaded, then placed in the refrigerator overnight. (That's when the yeast are too concerned about finding a sweater to bother with feeding themselves.) I removed my dough from the fridge at 8:00 this morning, thinking that with the two-three hour fermentation predicted, I'd have bread by lunch. Evidently my yeast were teenagers, and there must have been a lot of partying and sweater tossing going on in my fridge last night, because I could not get them to wake up this morning. Here's my dough at 11:00, three hours into fermentation.

WAKE UP!!! Time to rise and ... well.. RISE!

Finally at 1:00 I thought it looked like the dough had doubled, so I started the baguette making process. Oh my. Just.. oh... my. Sticky, wet, sticky, wet..wet..wet! I had flour and dough stuck on everything! There was no way this dough was going to allow me to shape it into anything resembling a baguette. As I was sweating and swearing it out and wondering what to do next, I remembered that this dough can also be used as pizza dough, so midstream I changed horses and decided we would be having pizza for lunch (late lunch, even.) I struggled to even get the dough off the counter and onto the pan. It was misshapen and sad looking when I finally got it in the oven. While I waited for my failure to bake, I sat down to do a little writing.

(HEE!)

This story actually does have a happy ending folks. The pizza crust was some of the best I've ever tasted. Crispy where it needed to be crispy, and chewy where it needed to be chewy. And oh so full of flavor! A total unexpected success after what I thought was going to be such a complete disappointment.

I really think I was just too afraid to use as much flour as I needed to when I was trying to shape the dough. Had I used as much flour in trying to form the baguettes as I ended up using to make it into a pizza, I would have been successful with the baguettes too, I'm sure.

This recipe is definitely on my list to try again, now that I know what to expect and how to remedy it. I can see this becoming a new pizza crust family favorite!

To Mr. Reinhart: If your ears were burning this afternoon, I apologize for all the filthy, foul names I called you. I didn't mean any of them, swears.

To Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Thank you again for including us all in your challenge. I'm still having a blast!

23 comments:

lakegirl16 said...

That looks sooooooooo good! I love pizza and the crust is my favorite part.

Barbara Bakes said...

It really does look like perfect pizza!

Brandy said...

I made Pizza with mine, too. Never got the baguette working but so so so want to try it again with a little less hydration because the flavor was so good!

Alyssa said...

Oh boy. I've heard that this one is a PITA, but now I see it. Yikes! Well, I'm not nearly as far along as you, but I think I'll be heading over to take a look at the Fresh Loaf site for tips before tackling this one. We eat homemade pizza every Friday night, so if worse comes to worse. . . Looks tasty!

stephchows said...

oh MAN that pizza is making me hungry!!! I love your (not so) hidden message in the flour :D and thanks for the idea to look on google books!! you rock!

June said...

mmm ...talk about the ability to make lemonade outa' lemons. You DO ROCK, Mags. The pizza looks incredible and I'm darned hungry right now. Cold pizza? Oh yumm! Now do you think the pic of the writing in the flour would pass the food porn gods? LOL

oggi said...

It seems this dough makes the best pizza; it looks so yummy.:)

Mags said...

lakegirl: Thank you!

Barbara: Thanks...I seriously do think this was the best crust I've ever made.

Brandy: You'll have to let me know how your retry goes, OK?

Alyssa: Good luck on your attempt at this recipe. I hope it goes well for you!

Steph: Thanks! And you're welcome!

June: LOL@ the food porn submission. I'm sitting this round out. I think they're sick of me over there.

Oggi: Thank you... it really was delicious!

Lady P said...

your pizza makes me wanna run out and start that crazy, needing a sweater bread dough ASAP
you make one mean looking "pie" there, mags

Mags said...

thanks Lady P!

Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

Your pizza looks amazing! I think I will give this a try, but I need to work on my bread baking a bit more first. Yeast + ice water is a bit too challenging for me at this point!

Mags said...

Jen: Bread baking certainly is a learning process, isn't it?

Rosemary & Garlic said...

I am frightened. I have the dough in the refrigerator, who knows what tomorrow will bring. But I'd settle for pizza that looks that good.

Mags said...

Rosemary: Wishing you the best of luck! And just remember, you can always turn it into pizza...lol

HoneyB said...

You make coming here SO FUN! Love your post and especially love your this sucks sign. ;-) I always leave here smiling!

Mags said...

Awww thanks Honey! I love visiting your blog too!

Frieda said...

I'm still laughing~ loved your post and dreading my turn at the PITA bread...wish me luck!

Mags said...

Frieda: Good luck! Hang tough and don't let the dough win.

Janice said...

This dough WAS a pain. You are so right. I guess I need way more practice in dealing with wet dough. So glad you made pizza dough out of it though. I persisted and made long, low loaves - mine didn't even have the giant holes that the wet dough is supposed to have. Did absolutely love the flavor, so I'll be trying the PITA again . . .

cindy said...

My dough for this bread is in the fridge right now. I'm so glad i read your post before i attempted to make baguettes. Now I have a plan B in case things go awry!

Your pizza looks yummy and as usual, you made me laugh.

Mags said...

Janice: Aren't you glad that these difficult-to-work-with doughs at least turn out to have good flavor?

Cindy:Can't wait to see how yours turns out. Good luck!

misterrios said...

Beautiful dough and pizza, but I must say that I had no problems with this dough and I've made it a bunch of times. One of the tips I learned is to use enough flour to be able to manage the dough and make it do what you want. It has a high enough hydration that it can take a bit more flour. Good luck making it again!

Mags said...

misterrios: I think I just need more practice with handling this type of dough. It's coming along, slowly but surely, but I can see where experience is a bread baker's best friend. Thanks for commenting!