Monday, July 26, 2010

The Meteorite

About 350 millions years ago, a 1.2-mile wide meteorite weighing 15 billions tons and traveling at the speed of 6 miles per second impacted the area we now know as Charlevoix County in Central Quebec, completely altering its geography and disrupting climate patterns the world around.
While not quite as portentous, the reintroduction of good bread to Charlevoix County (see
The Gift of Bread
) at the beginning of the 21st century was seen as a major event, deserving to be heralded by a groundbreaking loaf. The bakers at
Boulangerie La Rémy
accordingly devised a daring recipe and, for maximum impact, decided to call their signature bread, the meteorite.
Boasting a 100% hydration rate and calling for a minimum of two folds and very high baking temperatures (500º F/260º C), the meteorite is made with all-purpose flour milled at Moulin de la Rémy and it is quite tasty, thanks to the addition of firm levain to the straight dough. Since the grain milled at the mill comes from La Malbaie, no bread can rightfully claim to be more local than this one and the customers love it.
The day I visited the bakery was damp and overcast. The meteorites had already been taken out of the oven (they go in first thing in the morning) and Hubert, the baker, wasn't really happy with the way they had turned out. He would have liked to see the crumb a bit more open. I should have remembered this cautionary tale when I tried my luck at the meteorites myself. The day was stiflingly hot and humid and even though the air conditioner unit was humming steadily in our little camp by the river, there was no escaping the fact that conditions were not optimal for baking. Never one to be deterred, I forged ahead.
Well, one thing is for sure. The breads did look like foreign objects from outer space (or the way I imagine a meteorite looks before entering the atmosphere) when they were done proofing.
And when they were done baking, well, they didn't look much like the meteorites from the bakery. I am not sure what they looked like with their ruddy cheeks, maybe prehistoric renditions of planets in the solar system?
The two little loaves actually came out okay. The aesthetic appeal of the larger one was certainly more difficult to grasp. Let's put it this way: it did look a bit like a meteorite after all, but a meteorite after impact, especially with its blackened bumps all over. The fact is that, probably egged on by the fierce heat outside, my little camp oven (usually very timid and barely hot enough to bake bread) gave it its all. The big loaf went in after the little ones came out and even though I had lowered the temperature, it still got scorched a bit (it actually looks worse in the picture than it did in reality).
The funny part is that even though the breads baked for about 40-45 minutes and their internal temperature exceeded 210ºF/99º C (which is pretty high for a - mostly - yeasted bread), the crumb was a bit gummy. I should have turned off the oven and left the loaves to dry out inside with the door ajar.
As it turned out however, the gumminess was no big deal. We had a cookout with friends and what I did is open up the meteorite horizontally and set it to toast lightly on the barbecue. It took up a delicious smoky flavor from the Italian sausages which were grilling underneath and we enjoyed it very much. Our friends took home what was left of it.
I had fun making it but it took a huge leap of faith to believe that what was basically at the beginning a very soupy dough would actually turn into bread! The folds are what did it of course and I greatly enjoyed feeling the dough strengthen after each one. So if you like baking on the edge, go for it! You'll have a ball!
Ingredients (for one big loaf and two little ones)
1 kg unbleached all-purpose flour (I used flour stone-ground at
The Mill on the Rémy
)
1 liter of water
21 g salt (Baker Hubert uses 26g)
120 g firm starter (mine is 40% whole-grain)
6 g instant yeast (Hubert uses 12 g fresh yeast)
Method (my interpretation of what Hubert does at the bakery)
  1. Place flour, yeast and water in the bowl of the mixer
  2. Mix well and let rest for 20 minutes (autolyse)
  3. Add the levain (cut up in small pieces). Mix until incorporated
  4. Add the salt and let rest for 15 minutes
  5. Mix briefly
  6. If necessary mix again briefly after another 15-minute resting period. Repeat if necessary.
  7. Transfer to an oiled container and cover
  8. Proof at 75º F/24ºC for one hour
  9. Give the dough one fold (north-south), wait a few minutes and give it another (east-west).
  10. Repeat the folds as necessary until the dough feels strong enough (I did four but Hubert gets away with two)
  11. Let the dough rest 15 minutes and divide as desired with no pre-shaping
  12. Let proof upside down on a floured couche for a maximum of 30 minutes
  13. Turn the loaves before sliding them into a very hot oven (500 ºF/260ºC), directly on a preheated baking stone (at the bakery, the ovens are so tightly built that no steam is necessary. The breads generate their own steam. I did steam mine, which might be the reason the crumb turned out wetter than it should)
  14. Bake for 45 minutes.
The Meteorite is expected to re-enter the atmosphere on Susan's Wild Yeast blog just in time for this week's Yeastpotting.
For all practical info regarding the mill and/or the bakery, please refer to the Moulin de la Rémy's website.

3 comments:

  1. I always know that when you send something to Yeastspotting it will be spectacular, so I make sure to jump to your blog right away!

    Awesome post! Loved it.... I hope I can try to make this bread before my upcoming move and having to face a kitchen without an oven (sigh)
    - FOR A FULL YEAR! (can you imagine that?)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your kind words, SallyBR! No, I cannot imagine a full year without an oven. That would be torture! Maybe one of your friends or neighbors in the new location will let you use hers or his in exchange for some bread. Where are you moving to? Any place exciting breadwise?

    ReplyDelete
  3. MC, you really have a good time don't you!
    I am baking the last of my breads before I go off to Ecuador, this might be one to bring for the family.

    Happy Baking!

    ReplyDelete

 

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