Peter's Blog, August 8th -- Alright, Controversy!!

I'm packing and getting ready for the big book launch over the next two weeks in SF and the Bay Area, so will keep this short.  The schedule is listed below in my previous Peter's Blog, if any of you can make it to any of the classes or book signings. There are still a few seats left for the classes but you'll have to call the venues for more info.

But this week I think we're going to have to address the controversy that emerged in the Comments section of my last posting, thanks to someone named Scott007 and a few other voices, including another Scott -- Scott123. It's actually kind of exciting -- apparently, I've pissed a few people off and am not sure why but would sure like to find out what I did (if you aren't up to speed, please check out the Comments thread in the recent Peter's Blog -- last time I checked there were 14 comments).  So, what I'd like to do is open up the discussion here on this posting, via a new Comments section, the one on this posting, and ask any and all of you to chime in.  If I've trashed NY pizza culture, as Scott123 accuses, or passed on misinformation about pizza methodology or dough science, let's get it all on the table so we can clear it up.  Scott(s), how about getting specific and make your case -- I hear that 123 is a well respected pizza authority so maybe I have something to learn from you. None of us have a monopoly on the whole truth and Pizza Quest was created to be a forum for the sharing of our mutual pizza journeys and celebration of artisanship. I'm open to learn from you but also would like to know the actual specifics of where you think I went wrong, rather than generalized attacks.  The only rule for this discussion is civility -- I reserve the right to edit out ad hominum attacks, unnecessary language, and nasty language.  But differences of opinion -- sure, I'm okay with that. So, for those who want to play along, go ahead and express yourselves -- but let's do it respectfully, please.

I won't be posting another Peter's Blog till I return at the end of the month, but will try to join in the Comments section from the road if my i-Pad and local WiFi will allow it. In the meantime, let's get to the heart of it -- we're on a search for the truth (or, perhaps, truths). Let the discussion begin....




#1 Pappy 2012-08-10 08:21

Thank you for the invitation; I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me.

As you well know, and as you correctly explain in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Philip Gosselin’s great innovation was the long, cold autolyse, using only flour and water, which allows a head start for amylase activity to produce, without competition from yeast, sugar in the dough. This innovation is particularly vital for commercial baguette bakers in France, as the baguette, by law, can only contain flour, yeast, salt, and water. Essentially, Gosselin found a natural way around the law to get more sugar in the dough. Gosselin’s baguettes are noted for their rich, caramelized crusts, and sweet flavor.

#2 Pappy 2012-08-10 08:24
But Americans, the primary audience for your books, don’t have French law to contend with while baking. We can add sugar to the dough when making baguettes or pizza, and get a similar effect. Why bother to go through all that rigamarole? Sure, it is fun for the geeks, of which I am one, but the average amateur home baker should have this explained.

#3 Pappy 2012-08-10 08:26
Now, the above criticism pertains to use of the original Gosselin formula. However, in your book the recipe for Pain a l’Ancienne uses yeast and salt right out of the chute, with no autolyse. What’s the point of this change? Yes, yeast activity is retarded by the cold temperature, but so is enzyme activity. And while retarded, yeast activity still occurs; the yeast is eating the sugar produced by the slowed amylase activity. I doubt sugar production is getting any significant head start during this rather ordinary cold-fermentation, which has been a common commercial pizza making method for decades. Granted, the ordinary long, cold ferment offers significant improvement in flavor over traditional room temp short ferments, due to increased fermentation time under controlled temperature conditions, but the revolutionary nature of Gosselin’s new method is lost in the translation.
#4 TonyC 2012-08-10 11:54

I have to say that from my own experience, a cold or retarded fermentation yields better tasting results than a long refrigerated autolyse.

At low enough temperature, I understand that yeast metabolic activity halts but the residual enzymes both from the yeast and also (although I suspect to a lesser extent) in the flour continue to work. In other words adding yeast before refrigerating increases the level of enzymes at work while the refrigeration prevents the fermentation concerns you raised.

So perhaps a "hybrid method" that uses yeast but no salt in the refrigerated dough is the best option?

#5 Peter Reinhart 2012-08-10 14:15
Great insights from both of you. I agree, Gosselin's version uses no yeast or salt and I doubt if it would work as well if did have the yeast, mainly because in the volumes he has to produce it would be too difficult to reduce the temperature enough to protect against over-fermentation. What I found in my versions is that the small batches were able to cool down enough to accomplish all the enzyme action, plus some nice acidity and flavor development from the slow fermentation, yet not over-ferment. Over time, I ended up creating my own hybrid version using Gosselin as an inspiration but I went with higher hydration and cooler retarding. The result allows me to make a number of great tasting breads, none of which are exactly the same as his but the discovery process has been a lot of fun.
#6 Peter Reinhart 2012-08-10 14:22
BTW, the autolyse method doesn't always require no yeast or salt. There are methods that add it before the resting period (aka autolyse) and some where you add one before and one after. In other words, it's a method that's main purpose is to allow maximum hydration and development with minimum mixing (and, thus, minimum oxidation). So what seems to be happening now in the bread world is that many bakers are creating their own variations and applications of this principle based on the circumstances of their production schedules and needs. There really does seem to be more than one path up the proverbial bread mountain, which is why I love this journey so much.
#7 Pappy 2012-08-10 14:50

I use a 30 minute autolyse that includes salt and yeast when I make both pizza and bread dough primarily, as you say, to allow for maximum hydration and development with minimal mixing.

I am assuming that a 24 hour cold autolyse w/out yeast or salt would exhibit considerably less bacterial activity than a 24 cold ferment with the addition of yeast and salt. Is this correct?
#8 TonyC 2012-08-10 14:52
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Prof. Raymond Calvel defined autolyse as flour + water (not necessarily all of the flour + water) as is the practice at Gosselin
#9 TonyC 2012-08-10 14:54
Pappy: Bacterial activity is significantly lowered by the addition of salt
#10 Pappy 2012-08-10 16:33

Although Calvel's classic definition of autolyse excludes salt and yeast, there is some variation, even in his classic text, A Taste of Bread. Many people, myself included, find little difference when yeast and salt are added before the autolyse period.

The main point to autolyse is reduced, gentle mixing time and minimal oxidation of the dough. Oxydation harms beneficial flavor compounds.

I made four pizzas yesterday using a 30 minute autolyse with added yeast and salt. Three minutes in the mixer on 1 and a 2 minute hand knead got me to windowpane. Given that I did a 6 hr room temp ferment, I could have mixed less.

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