This is it: the last bread of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. I did it! And, the challenge definitely ended on a high note, too.
This bread was one of the most complex in terms of preparation. It took three days to make, and the commentary section in the book cautioned bakers to plan accordingly to avoid stressing during the prep (I’m paraphrasing, but it really did give a word of warning). On Day 1 (Friday), I made the starter using barm, water, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. I let it ferment for 8 hours, but it still wasn’t as bubbly as it needed to be. The book said that, if this was the case, I was to leave it out at room temperature overnight, which I did. The next morning, it was nice and bubbly.
On Day 2 (Saturday), I made the dough. But, before I made the dough I had to roast some onions. I chopped a large onion, tossed it with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roasted it at 500° for about 20 minutes, tossing the slices every 4 minutes or so. While the onions were roasting, I chopped a 1/2 cup of fresh scallions and chives and grated 3 1/2 cups of Asiago cheese. Finally, I had my mise en place together (onions not pictured).
To make the dough, I combined the starter with an additional SEVEN CUPS of flour! I knew that this was going to make an obscene amount of bread, but I didn’t want to halve the last recipe in the book, so I just went for it. [Side note: remember (well, you may not) when I made Polaine-style Miche, and I said I was too lazy to find out what “miche” meant? Well, it turns out that it’s French for, basically, a big loaf of bread. Had I learned that a couple of weeks ago, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the huge amount of flour in this recipe!] Anyway, this is what the starter looks like when I pour it out of the bowl.
After mixing the starter, water, and flour together, I added what seemed like a ton (3 tbs) of olive oil. The dough was very oily and I started to get a little worried. But, after adding the scallions, chives, and half of the shredded cheese, it all incorporated nicely and the texture of the dough was fine. I kneaded the dough for about five minutes and then let it rise for two hours. Again, I got a fantastic rise. Take that, sourdough rye breads!
After the rise, I divided the dough, formed it into two boules, and put them in the refrigerator overnight. I was shocked at how much they continued to expand, just after another couple of hours, even in the fridge!
On Day 3 (Sunday), I took the loaves out and let them sit for about an hour to get up to room temperature. They were pretty giant.
I proceeded to brush them with olive oil and then made a whole bunch of dimples with my fingers (that was fun!). Then, I sprinkled on the other half of the Asiago, and then topped that with the roasted onions. Please enjoy this photo progression:
Since they were so big, I had to bake the loaves one at a time. They baked at 450° for about 40 minutes, with one pan rotation in between. I hovered over the oven pretty much the whole time, watching the progress and making sure that nothing was burning. I was so close to the end, I wanted to make sure there weren’t going to be any last-minute problems. Luckily, they came out looking amazing. Since it was the last bread, I used our fancy dishes to take glamour shots!
This bread is heavenly. How can you go wrong with baked cheese and roasted onions? Answer: you can’t.
So, that’s it. The last bread. I’m still in a state of disbelief. Check back soon for a post on my final thoughts, as well as a comprehensive list of all of the BBA breads.