Discovery

Making bread in the winter is challenging for us because we keep the house cool.  Our kitchen is maybe 62 degrees … to rise, bread dough wants to be 75-85 degrees. Usually I  solve this problem by waiting it out. Twelve hours? Who cares? A slow rise for cool dough can make the bread richer, actually. Not in a hurry.

Except when we want to have it for dinner.

So Saturday night we made a neat discovery with the help of our friend, the Interwebs, and came out with a hearty multi-grain boule.

The recipe is here.

I didn’t have any buckwheat flour — and neither did the usually reliable Wealthy Grocer. (Thanks to Nick Hughes for that apt description.) But I remembered some quinoa flour in the back of the baking supplies drawer, and I would have used it except for the hole in the bag. One of our autumn mice had been there first. We added more whole wheat and some extra oats.

But the cool part came (yes, literally) when the dough didn’t rise. At all. Our house is chillier than usual this winter because we have a new woodstove and we’re still working out the upstairs/downstairs details — stove is downstairs, kitchen upstairs.

After an hour or two of not noticing any rising in the dough, I googled bread-problem-cold-rising and was happy to see that other people live in the Northeast.

The solution I liked best seemed almost too simple: put the dough in the oven with a pot full of boiling water.

Huh? The oven is cold. At this point, 62 degrees. How much would a pot of water heat it up, even if it was boiling when it was on the stove?

Well, when I checked back an hour later the temp inside the oven was about 150 degrees, or perfect.  The dough wasn’t 150, but the air around it was. (I know the dough wasn’t at 150 because it had risen considerably, and yeast dies at 140 degrees.)  We took it out, kneaded some, rounded the loaf and put it in a makeshift banneton for a second rise and put it back in the oven with a new pot of recently boiling water.

It baked well, and after allowing it to cool for 10-15 seconds, we sliced off some hunks and ate well. As Ruhlman said, the crust was as satisfying as a pretzel.

We had it with this Chicken Adobo.

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