The other day, I got a shipment of my favorite flour, Azure Market Organics Unbleached Bread Flour. I’ve written about it several times, so I won’t go into detail about it. But if you’ve read this blog, you know I love this flour! It’s so flavorful and wonderful to work with, but until recently, it was out of stock at Azure. They finally got it back in stock and I immediately ordered it. I feel like a kid in a candy store!
I’m excited because this flour has been integral to my flour blends, and with it unavailable, I’ve had to use alternatives. That hasn’t been too much of an issue, but any time you change things up, you need to adjust to the change, and sometimes it takes a few times to get comparable results to what you’re used to, as you tweak hydration, preferment amount, fermentation times, etc. But baking with this flour? It’s like putting on a pair of broken-in shoes. It’s just comfortable, which in turn makes my dough development process comfortable and familiar.
And I’ve realized that a very large part of my progression as a baker has been getting familiar with my ingredients. When you’re used to working with different ingredients, you just know how they’ll react and you can execute your process without having to apply too much conscious thought. Things just become automatic.
I once got in a great conversation with a professional chef. He said that the fundamental difference between him and a home chef is that he knows his ingredients so well that he doesn’t have to think about what he’s cooking. He can just focus entirely on creating his dishes. But more importantly, he said he gets the reps in that build that familiarity. It’s the same way with baking. When you’ve put in the reps, you just know, and as they say, when you know, you know.
As soon as I got my flour, I made the dough for the loaf above. With that loaf, I used a 500% hydration starter (yes you read that right) to ferment a 75-25 Bread/AP flour blend. Final hydration was around 75%. That’s just a basic loaf. But this was a bit of a challenge because I couldn’t do as long a bulk fermentation as I normally do because of time constraints. But knowing this blend and recipe so well, I knew that I could make up for it by doing an extra-long final fermentation. So, this loaf spent about 18 hours in my fridge.
When I checked it baking through my oven’s window, I just smiled and gave a sigh of pure satisfaction. I just nodded and said, “Mm-mm-mm, how sweet it is!” Then when I removed it from the oven, I was giddy. I saw how much the loaf had expanded, and I knew it was going to turn out great. Yes, it has a nice, open crumb, but more importantly, the dough was fully fermented and in no place was dense. So satisfying…
Like many other bloggers, I often talk about experimenting with different ingredients. I think that’s part of the process of developing skill. And while experimentation is great, getting reps in and learning what ingredients work best for you is just as important.
You introduced me to this flour, as you had the only review of it on the entire internet. That was a few years ago. As soon as the Ukrainian war broke out I ordered 150lbs in preparation for shortages. That’s been an investment I do NOT regret! Still thanking you for the tip.
Wow! So glad you were able to get some! When I finally got my shipment and made some dough, it felt SO good working with that flour! Most of my techniques were built around that flour! It’s the best!