It’s Been a Real Slice
It’s Been a Real Slice

It’s Been a Real Slice

Screw slice of life. It’s time for slice of bread and other baked goods!

I went through my sourdough phase the year before it was cool, so I’ve made some pretty wet doughs, but King Arthur’s Pan de Cristal was my first 100% hydration. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision and of course I didn’t have bread flour in the house, so per my MO, starting off on the best possible foot. But I had nothing but time and a willingness to fail (failure in this case being pouring yeast batter into a buttered dish and ending up with oven-fried semi-flatbread, woe is me), so I went for it anyway.

Since AP flour has lower protein content than bread flour, I knew I’d have to put a lot more work into gluten development to create anything other than flour soup, and I was not wrong. I stirred it in the mixing bowl until there was some visible stretch, and then I did an extremely prolonged course of that first pan fold. After that rest, the coil still wasn’t happening, so another extensive pan folding ensued. Then I was able to lift the dough once, but it broke, so the dough and I had a pan/coil combo session. I probably added 90 minutes to their 6-hour estimate trying to get the elasticity going, but I prevailed!

I’ve been writing this book for 47 million years. Your silly little bread isn’t going to defeat me.

I dumped the still-extremely-soft dough out onto the counter, chopped it with the bench scraper, and scooped it onto parchment for its final 2-hour rise because the insides wanted to ooze out like lava cake. It did spread some during the rise, but it didn’t turn into a puddle.

Two lumps of bread dough, liberally covered with flour, rising on parchment

They were almost erotically jiggly by the time they went in the oven.

I’m A Poor and don’t have things like baking steels and stones (or most of the pans and utensils I “need” to make half the things I somehow manage to make anyway), so I threw a heavy sheet pan in the oven while it was heating and slid the jiggly puffs, parchment and all, onto it—and didn’t burn myself doing it, which is always nice. They got a good spring (yay internal steam). The crust on first cut was crisp as a potato chip, and look at these bubbles!

Oblong loaf of bread cut open to reveal thin-walled bubbles like a wasp nest

The structure reminds me of a paper wasp nest. (Oh, hello, Plot Bunny. How are you today?)

There’s a skimpy amount of yeast in the recipe, so I think the extra time I needed let the flavor develop more. If I make burger buns, I use the smallest amount of yeast possible so the bread doesn’t overpower the burger and everything on it, but for any other plain bread to be Good Bread, you really need to be able to taste the yeast. These just barely squeak over the flavor wire, and I’m not sure they would with less than 8 hours or whatever it ended up taking me.

I’m not in a hurry to spend all day swishing around in sloppy dough again, but if somebody gifts me bread flour, I’m willing to try it the “fast” way for the sake of comparison.

I think the next most recent noteworthy experiment was brown sugar vanilla ice cream with an apple-cinnamon swirl and lattice pie crust “cookies” to serve on top. I used Jacques Pépin’s galette crust for the cookies because it’s sturdy and easy to work with, wove the strips, cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter (though I now see triangles would be more evocative of pie…), gave them an egg white wash, and covered them with cinnamon sugar. 

Scoops of apple cinnamon ice cream in a martini glass with a lattice pie crust cookie for garnish

The cookies were the best part. I ended up eating most of them solo. Crust is the worst thing about pie, but some sorcery makes the scraps, even intentional ones, absolutely amazeballs.

You could do this à la mode thing with store-bought vanilla ice cream, canned pie filling, and premade pie crust (just cut it into your desired cookie shape if you don’t feel like weaving strips!), and it would be just as good (better if you warm the pie filling and spoon it over the top instead of stirring it in cold) much more efficiently. Honestly, with the exception of semi-successfully recreating a long-gone limited edition B&J flavor, I have not found homemade ice cream to be worth the bother of giving up 20% of the freezer to the canister, enduring the horrible racket for 25 minutes, and washing a sinkful of prep stuff. It’s much easier to buy a bucket of cheap vanilla or chocolate, scoop some into a bowl, and add anything you want to dress it up. And every time, you can add completely different things so it’s like there are 20 ridiculously overpriced single-serving boutique ice creams in that bargain bucket!

And now, of course, I’ve talked myself into craving ice cream while I’m stranded out in the boonies and can either make my own or do without. Either way, the ice cream maker gets the last laugh…

Louise Belcher laughing maniacally against a background of flames, but her face has been replaced by a Cuisinart ice cream maker

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