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Pain l'Ancienne flatbreads

At the suggestion of a friend, I wanted to demonstrate the process of making "Pain l'Ancienne", from Philippe Gosselin via Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  The basic process is to make a straight flour/water/yeast/salt dough, knead it, stick it in the fridge overnight for a long cool rise, remove it, and shape it without punching it down--trying to preserve the lightness starting from that cold rising time.  I strongly recommend getting hold of the book and reading all the whys of the recipe, and better yet, reading the whole book.  It's entirely worth it.  The photos below document prepration of one batch of topped flatbreads made using the Pain l'Ancienne technique.

Of course, as I am an unrepentant wholemeal crank, I make it with whole wheat, and really don't make an special concessions to the whole wheat aside from adding a little extra water.  The start of the process, the milling of the wheat, is shown on my "Bread from Wheat to Eat" page. 

Next, I follow Peter's baker's percentages of about 78% water (I might be off a bit on that, will check back to verify and delete this when I do), 2% salt and 0.7% yeast, I scaled the recipe for 500 grams of hard white wheat flour, with 10 grams of salt, and 3.5 grams of instant yeast in the food processor.  You can, of course, do the whole kneading by hand, or by mixer, but this is how I do it.

in processor

Added 1 2/3 cups water (about 400 grams), gave it a quick whirl in the food processor (chopping blade, about 20-30 seconds 'on')


but after giving it a few minutes to let the flour hydrate, it was still quite firm,


so I added a little more water, slowly, through the drop hole, as it was in motion, in quick pulses, until the texture looked softer (about another quarter cup)

close up texture

let it sit another few minutes to finish hydrating (some gluten development is happening during this time, and the long hydration seems to benefit the whole wheat especially), and you can see how the soft dough has sagged a bit but not collapsed all over the bottom of the processor bowl
after rest

then another quick whirl to complete the kneading:  the dough has mostly cleaned up the sides of the bowl


dump out on floured work surface

onto surface

push it around a couple of turns to develop a nice skin (showing here the lumpy underside, which will be the bottom when I turn it into the bowl for rising)


flip it over into my trusty measuring pitcher (love my Tupperware pitchers!)


see how pretty that surface is?

surface up close

And it fills the pitcher to about the 20 ounce line

Then put the pitcher in a plastic produce bag, and, keeping as much air in as you can, use a bag clip or twist tie to 'seal' the air in (it can't be completely air tight or gas from the yeast will rupture the bag; but you want enough air in the bag to keep the plastic from collapsing onto and sticking to the dough as it rises).

bagged up

Then off to the refrigerator overnight....and in the morning, it's all misty and damp inside the plastic, which is still holding enough air to stay off the dough surface....


And inside the bag the dough has risen well, and still has a nice soft surface because the bag held the moisture in well.  It's now at about the 48 ounce line
risen ii

And here there's a bit of a gap because I couldn't both gently remove the dough from the bowl and photograph it at the same time, because it must be removed gently to avoid degassing it.  The dough was gently rolled out onto the floured surface, lightly coaxed into a circle, and cut into wedges with the bowl scraper.  Here you can see that I've already rounded a couple of them (gently!) into balls.


I put the balls of dough onto a sheet well floured with semolina to keep them from sticking,  as this is what they'll rise on, before the final shaping, and I need to remove them again intact.

That same produce bag, cut open into a sheet, covers the pan nicely to keep them moist while rising. 

covered to rise

While they were rising, I sliced up and sauteed some onions


And again prepared some baking sheets with semolina where each flatbread will bake. 


Risen and ready for pulling into pizza shape:  unfortunately I was a little careless with the rising, and they got a bit hard/dry from being too close to the preheating oven with range hood fan on as they rose, although their risen volume was very good:


After gentle tugging and patting and persuading, this is what they look like before topping.  Not so pretty, but they'll be tasty anyway.

Topped with the onions, some toasted walnuts, grated cheese, and given a spritz of olive oil, they're put in the oven--the bricks are about 500°F after a long preheat.   In theory, if I were really coordinated, I'd be able to pick them back up off this and set them directly to my bricks with a peel, but in practice I was lazy this evening.  So they're baking on the pan on the bricks. 
to oven

And about 8 minutes later....


On the racks to cool

Inside view
inner view

And very tasty.

Will repeat with the baguettes another day.

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