I purchased the Calvel book, The Taste of Bread
(Le Gout du Pain
), as a Christmas gift to myself, so I thought it might be useful to post my reactions to the book now that I have read a good part of it.
First and foremost, the book is about bread making. There is a casual reference to pizza (and pissaladiere
) in the Specialty Breads chapter of the book, but that is about it.
As I view the book, it is essentially broken down into two parts. The first part covers the physical and biochemical aspects of dough making, and related production aspects, and the second part covers actual dough formulations. The technical part is fairly detailed and would be of little interest to those who are not interested in the technical aspects of dough making or who cannot comprehend it. I personally would have preferred more technical detail because I like a lot of detail because I think it helps me understand things better. For example, a good idea as to the level of detail that I like, which is a few steps further than Prof. Calvel's, is given at this useful website on dough making: http://www.classofoods.com/ukindex.html
. No doubt, Prof. Calvel has gone into greater detail about many aspects of dough preparation in the over 100 articles that he published, but they are, unfortunately, for the most part only in French.
All of the dough formulations in Prof. Calvel's book are given in baker's percents. Also, the quantities of many of the doughs produced using those formulations are commercial quantities, of up to 75 pounds, although there are a few formulations, for example, for pain brioche
, and milk and sandwich rolls, that yield around eight pounds of dough. So, for those who do not want to use baker's percents or who do not know how to use baker's percents, for example, for scaling purposes, this would not be the right book to have. At $75, even with free shipping, the book would be a waste of money.
As our members know, Prof. Calvel is perhaps best known for his having come up with the concept of autolysis (autolyse). However, while many (but not all) of his dough formulations call for using autolysis, the actual description of the autolyse method appears only on a small part of one page of his book (page 31) and also in Footnote 2 on page 91. Those descriptions are essentially as I and other members have written in posts on this forum. However, the aspect that I was most interested in when I read about autolysis in the book was the duration of the autolyse rest period. As it turns out, the durations of the autolysis given in the dough formulations run from about 13-30 minutes, depending on the particular dough formulation. Remember, however, that this range is for dough batches of up to about 75 pounds, not for an amount of dough for say, a single loaf of bread, which would be similar to the weight of a single pizza dough ball. I could not find anything in the book about how to scale the autolyse rest period for a very small dough batch.
In the book, Prof. Calvel also describes the use of natural starters and preferments, including poolish
/sponge and old dough (prefermented dough and chef
). He also acknowledges the use of a hybrid preferment (levain de pate
) that comprises a natural starter or preferment supplemented with a very small amount of commercial yeast. The "hybrid" method is used mostly in cool weather, from September 15 to May 15 in France, and the amount of commercial yeast is kept very small so as not to overtake the preferment and its flavor contributions.
Pehaps the most dominating theme in the book is the need to avoid over-oxidizing and bleaching the dough by overworking or overkneading the dough, because of their effects on the damage done to carotenoids, which contribute to the aroma and taste of the finished crust and crumb. In great measure, Prof. Calvel's concern with oxidation issues stemmed from the fact that many bakers had gone to the "intensive" method of dough production, which entailed aggressive mixing of the dough at often high mixer speeds in order to shorten the fermentation and, hence, total production time. Also, some bakers had taken to adding bean flours (e.g., fava bean flour) to dough formulations, which apparently also led to over-oxidation of the dough. As best I can tell, this is not a practice that was widely used in the U.S.
There are a few other interesting tidbits that I took away from the book. First, Prof. Calvel stresses the need to get the correct finished dough temperature, using water temperature to achieve this result. Second, Prof. Calvel recommends using a moderately strong flour with a protein content of 11-13%. In France, the ideal flour would be the Type 55 flour. Again, this is for making bread dough, not necessarily pizza dough. In the U.S., a good quality flour would be bread flour, even though it is not the same as the Type 55 flour. Third, I noticed that Prof. Calvel uses malt extract and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in many of the dough formulations. The malt extract appears to be diastatic malt. The use of diastatic malt seems to make sense since the French flours, like the Type 55, have less starch damage than the types of flours we use in the U.S. It may also be that our flours are more heavily malted at the millers' facilities. The ascorbic acid provides an acidic environment for the yeast and should result in a higher dough volume, which is a desired characteristic in a bread dough. In the U.S., it is also common to include a small amount of ascorbic acid in commercial yeasts, for the same purpose. Fourth, many of Prof. Calvel's dough formulations call for using lecithin. Lecithin is commonly used in bread doughs because of its anti-oxidant properties and, hence, protection of the flavor complex of the finished bread. It is not something usually seen in the context of pizza dough making, although there is nothing to suggest that it couldn't or shouldn't also be used in that environment.
I also found it interesting that Prof. Calvel does not favor prefermented doughs over the straight dough method. He seemed to be very fond of breads made from the straight dough method and, if I had to guess, if he had been forced to choose between the straight dough method and a prefermented method, he would have selected the straight dough method, albeit with a healthy dose of diplomacy. From his perspective, the straight dough method was simpler, took less time, required no pre-culturing and lent itself better to commercial production methods. Of course, the dough for the straight dough method had to be properly prepared, especially with respect to minimizing over-oxidation of the dough.
I'm sure that as I re-read portions of the book and read other sections that I have not yet gotten to, it is possible that I will have other thoughts and comments to pass on to the forum.