While the baker in me is disappointed by the negative impact the heat has had on my sourdough, the science nerd side of my brain has been giddy at watching how this blast of summer temperatures spun the dial on one of the variables in the delicate process.
My fellow Western-North-Americans know this all too well right now, but if you’re not from around here you may have not heard that we’re in the early half of what is turning into a week-long, record-breaking heat wave.
Many of us (and our winter-ready homes) are ill-equipped to handle such heat. My house is designed to contain heat, reduce air circulation, and stay warm through eight months of sub-zero temperatures.
I don’t own either an air conditioner or a personal swimming pool.
I personally prefer the weather to be about ten degrees Celsius and I am far more comfortable in a wool toque and ski gloves than a sun hat and sandals.
In other words: It’s hot. I’m uncomfortably warm. And it’s going to be scorching for at least a week more.
In the midst of this blast of irregular heat, I ran out of bread (a regular occurrence) and went about my regular routine of making dough and getting a couple of loaves of sourdough ready to bake.
Now let me back up one step: regular readers know that I have been making bread two or three times per week for the last sixteen months of this pandemic. I have a recipe and a process that I follow with rote precision, step-by-step, to produce a consistent loaf.
For comparison, a pair of loaves that I baked with a blend of local rye flour a few weeks ago turned out great, rising on the counter for about twelve hours pre-bake after an overnight proof in the fridge.
Great rise. Consistent crumb. Pleasant overall result:
Compare the successful loaves from the second photo to the less-than-stellar loaves from first photo in this post.
I cut into one of those squared-off loaves this morning and found a dense, poorly-risen, heavy bread that more resembled a dense bagel then a fluffy sandwich bread.
For comparison, those first two loaves proofed and rose on my counter for only about eight hours before I had to turn the oven on mid-day (in the hottest part of the afternoon to boot) because they were obviously starting to over-proof, losing cohesion and loosening up.
To be clear, both pictures are loaves from the exact same flour blend, from the exact same bags of flour, from the exact same process… save for that the average outside temperature is about twenty-five degrees warmer this week than two weeks ago.
This means also that my kitchen is currently at least five to ten degrees warmer than normal, despite my best efforts to keep it cool.
The heat has completely revved my yeast into high gear causing what seems to be an accelerated, runaway proofing that I have no great experience (yet) working with. If I bake anymore loaves this week I’m going to need to rely less on watching the clock and more on watching the pans.
And to sum up…
Baker me: sad.
Science-nerd me: neat!