Proofing board

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Joined Apr 2, 2004
This is my first post to this board so please be gentle with me :)

I've been getting into baking bread and pizza and have been working my way through some of the recipes on The Artisan website (http://www.theartisan.net). In all these recipes, they talk about using either a plywood board or a piece of undyed canvas to let the dough proof on. Can anyone explain the reason for using these materials? Initially I just let my dough proof on some floured baking paper, but after a while I bought some unbleached calico (couldn't easily find canvas), folded it over a few times and used that. I'm not sure that I saw any difference but it sure was easier to confine all the flour to just a small part of my kitchen.

Thanks,

james
 
1,635
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
Hi James - Welcome to our little corner of CyberSpace :)

I don't think the the surface on which you proof your bread will effect your results. You can proof on or in just about anything that works for you. What is important to keep in mind is how you will get the proofed loaves into the oven. I use bannetons to proof most of my sourdoughs. They're nice but not necessary.

Another method I use is to turn a 1/2 sheet pan upside down. I put a piece of parchment paper on it and place mt shaped loaves on the paper. WHen the time comes I can slide the parchment, with the loaves, right off the pan and onto my stone. If you aren't using a stone then you don't need to invert the pan. The important this is that whatever you use, it should be easy to cover (with plastic wrap etc) and you should be able to load the breads into the oven without disturbing the loaves too much.

As to the flour all over your kitchen, mine usually looks like it just snowed :)

Hope this helps,
Kyle
 
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Joined Apr 2, 2004
Thanks for this, Kyle. I hadn't heard of bannetons before but after a quick google search I know all about them. The next step in my obses..., I mean hobby, might be to get myself one/some.

Slightly off topic - after you've left your dough rise the first time, how careful should you be with it while forming it into its final shape? Do you need to preserve the structure which has formed during the rising phase, or can you be a bit rough with it? What effect does this have on the final loaf?

I've tried a couple of the ciabatta recipes off The Artisan and have had pretty good results with them. I even managed to get some of the elusive holes (the dough was very sloppy, I might add). But I found that the dough had stuck to the bowl during rising and some got left behind when I turned it out onto my work surface. Consequently the dough it didn't come out of the bowl cleanly, got stretched a bit, and needed a bit of manipulation to be re-formed into the loaves. I wonder if this affected the final loaf or if I'm being over cautious?

Thanks,

james
 
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
The degree to which you handle the dough, while shaping, will have an impact on the crumb of the finished loaf. The more you aggressive you are the less likely you are to have the big irregular holes we all seek. Peter Reinhart asks why you would spend 4 hours developing nice big air pockets (holes) during fermentation and 30 seconds destroying them all while shaping :) You do need to degas/deflate the dough to a certain degree. I find that turning the dough out onto the board, scaling and shaping provide more than enough. I don't "punch down" the dough.

As to the ciabatta dough, working with a really wet dough is a challenge. I find that the dough is so wet that lots and lots of bench flour is the key. THe dough will tolerate the flour it absorbs and it makes sticking, on the board and in the bowl less likely. Do you have any of those flexible plastic dough scrapers? I use them to help the dough out of the bowl.

Hope this helps.
 
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Joined Apr 2, 2004
Hi Kyle, just another note of thanks for your advice re wet doughs, and ciabatta in particular. This weekend I had my third try at baking ciabatta and it went really well. I let my biga sit for 12 hours and then mixed it to make a super sloppy "dough". I took your advice and didn't disturb the dough too much after letting it rise, but just patted it down slightly and shaped it. The bread turned out great, sprung up quite a bit in the oven and I even got some nice holes. The only things I will do different next time are 1) cover the biga with cling wrap instead of plastic as it had formed a bit of a crust overnight, and 2) knead/mix the biga with the remaining flour and malt a bit better, as the finished slice had a slight swirl where you could see the malt (I'm using a dark malt powder) hadn't quite mixed in. But it was very impressive and both loaves got eaten, which is a good sign.

The other upside of all these wet dough experiments is that the skills I've gained helped me make a spectacular pizza crust tonight. I decided to make it slightly wetter than I usually do (again, using the Artisan's recipe) and it turned out absolutely fantastic - crispy and light but not too bready. As I mentioned to my SO, the only way I could improve on that pizza would be to use a wood-fired oven!

I am well and truly hooked on this baking business now...

james
 
1,635
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
Glad things are working for you! I do have a question for you. WHat's the difference between cling wrap and plastic?
 
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Joined Apr 2, 2004
Cling wrap kind of clings to the bowl that you put it over, making a relatively airtight seal. Plastic... well, I guess cling wrap is made of plastic but not all plastics cling.

james
 
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
I spray the inside of a Ziploc bag with veggie spray and put the biga in it for it's overnight rest. I can expel most of the air and prevent a crust from forming.
I try to keep my chiabata dough as wet as possible to help form these lovely holes. But I find that all the bench flour needed to be able to handle the dough is noticable in the finished product. It shows up as a white, slightly tough line through the slice of bread. You're really good at this stuff Kyle. Any thoughts on it?
I think Sladflob's recipes might call for wood or canvas to proof the dough because they absorb moisture. I have noticed that proofing on a smooth, non porous surface that the bottom of the dough gets extra sticky. I'm not sure it makes a difference in the grand scheme of things but some aficionado might think so.

Jock
 
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Joined Aug 14, 2000
If there is flour on the surface of your ciabatta dough when you make your final folds, you will likely end up with the lines you describe. They are baisicly 'undigested' flour. I try to brush any excess flour from the top of the dough before making the final 3 folds. When you make the first fold you will likely have lots of flour on the part of the dough that had been facing the board. Try and get as much of this flour off before making the last fold. Hope this helps.
 
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
Thanks Kyle. I'm always afraid of degassing the dough too much but what you say makes sense.

Jock
 
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