I was at an event the other night at the California Academy of Sciences. Cocktail party talk. In that context I was asked what I am so often asked, “What is your favorite bread.” It sounds flip, but it is true. My favorite bread is the most recent one I’ve made.
In the case of the bread you see baking here it was, in fact, delicious, not just theoretically so because it was the most recent bread. It is a yeasted white dough on the salty side brushed with olive oil. My standard recipe for pizza and flat breads is 100% flour, 60% water, 1% to 1.5% salt, and if I am in a hurry, as I was the night I made this bread, 1.4% standard dried yeast. Always, when in a hurry, I use warm water so that the dough moves along. This doesn’t make the most complex dough, but it does make a dough that is light and sweet and lets the taste of something as simple as a brushing with olive oil rise to the top.
I am not sure where this set of three videos was made. If you know, please leave a comment. I am assuming North Africa or Central Asia. I have personally never seen an oven of the type filmed here. The baker is using a double chambered oven. There is a firebox that communicates with the section of oven where the bread is baked. This separate chamber facilitates the burning of a variety of materials in addition to brush or branches. One could easily fire the oven with straw, bean husks, or some other agricultural waste.
This first video is terribly short. It does offer a look at how the dough is kneaded. I advise replaying this several times. You need to guess dough hydration from this kneading scene. It looks to me to be a fairly wet extensible dough.
The dough has risen and the breads are being formed and baked. I think you can assume that this is a single rise of a yeasted dough. You can see from the ease with which the baker pulls out a piece that it is a soft dough. There is a bowl of water between the dough and the oven. The baker is keeping his hands wet and is using the water to keep the bread from sticking to peel. Note the dipping of his hands in water and then touching the surface of the bread which then b Note that the bread is formed on the peel and then immediately baked. There is no proofing period.
This video offers the best look at the oven — a craggy ancient looking thing — and also offers the best look at the forming and baking of the bread. I think the real secret to this process is the wetting of the surface of the bread that is placed down on to the peel. Watch carefully. I’d also note the bent wire tool being used to pull bread out of the oven. This clearly seems to be a better choice than a peel for breads like this but might prove to be a generally useful oven tool. It would move pizza’s, too.