2011-03-21

Recap of the March 2011 "Taste-and-Tell"

Last night we had our March "Taste-and-Tell" event with the Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers. Nine bakers attended.

Our focus for this month was scoring. To score means to cut or slash the surface of a loaf, after proofing and just before popping it into the oven. 
Scoring . . . may serve a decorative purpose, but it is often primarily intended to relieve the gas pressure within a loaf of bread as it bakes in a manner than ensures maximum expansion and loaf symmetry. --Daniel DiMuzio, Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective, p. 244.
Bakers find various tools useful for scoring, for example: a sharp, thin knife; a razor blade; kitchen scissors; or a baker's lame. (A lame is a razor blade attached to thin, lightweight handle.) 

To the event, we asked each baker to please bring a yeasted bread that was scored before baking. Pictured below, a sample of the breads we sampled (clockwise from top right): A.C.'s 50% rye loaf with fennel seeds and orange peel, J.H.'s rustic country bread, M.P.'s sourdough boule, my sesame egg rosette, and T.M.'s maple-pecan-oatmeal bread.


The photo, above, was taken after we had sampled (dare I say, devoured) most of what we had brought. Below is a shot of husband's loaves and mine, just before heading to the event:


On the left, my diminutive sesame egg breads (a new take on my challah rosettes). The upper one, I scored with scissors; the lower one, I didn't score. Upper right, husband's poolish batard; lower right, his 20% whole wheat biga boule.

A number of the attendees (including husband and I) are actively experimenting with scoring, to find techniques that give the results we desire. Many bakers are using knives, while others are using lames. A couple of bakers felt strongly that, if one chooses a knife for scoring, a serrated knife gives the best results. Another suggested that wetting or oiling the knife is effective. Others swear by their lames.

In the true spirit of the evening's theme, baker P.M. generously brought each of us a lame, which he had made, himself:


The lame features a substantial handle that is easy to grip and a replaceable blade:


Thank you, P.M. We can't wait to try these out!

Baker T.We. counseled us to make quick, confident strokes with the lame, at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the dough. No hesitation--just go for it!

Many bakers brought multigrain breads to the "Taste-and-Tell," and this prompted a discussion about good places to buy various grains, seeds, and nut flours in the Chicago area. Baker A.C. encouraged us to visit The Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square for 10-pound bags of various flours. Baker G.Z. recommended New Leaf Natural Grocery for instant yeast, the kind professional bakers use. We have found large, inexpensive bags of semolina, farina, and graham flour at various shops along Devon Avenue, including Patel Brothers. As we find ingredients, we will continue to update our Chicago Food Shopping Map.

We also discussed places to find bannetons in Chicago, and learned that Sur Le Table in Lincoln Park is currently stocking them. (Of course, there are many online sellers of bannetons, but it can be nice to see and touch them before buying.)

Many bakers like to bake bread in Dutch ovens, such as this one made by Le Creuset. Husband and I have such a Le Creuset, and the knob on its lid is rated for oven temperatures up to 375F/190C. We have therefore been reluctant to subject our the pot to the 450-500F necessary for our breads. Baker G.Z. shared that Le Creuset sells stainless steel replacement knobs. Thank you for making us aware of that solution, G.Z.

We absorbed a lot of information last night. Thank you to everyone for participating and sharing your knowledge--and your delicious bread. What have I forgotten? Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers, please chime in and share what you found interesting at our March "Taste-and-Tell," Focus: Basic Scoring.

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