I have been handed a challenge; perfect a recipe and produce a bread I have never eaten nor held. The bread is all the rage in Catalunya and is used to make pa amb tomaquet. I have translated two recipes, had my friend check them and looked at two examples on Youtube. In one video, the bread looks unlike any bread I have ever seen; almost like broken lace, the other looks like a very large holey, light ciabbata style loaf. The chef who presented me with the challenge had said they themselves were not yet able to produce the bread, but that it practically disappeared in your mouth, after toasting. As it is a 90 % hydration, no knead bread, I revisited the videos of Lahey,Bertinet, and a few other experts just to examine their crumbs and consider what I might want to incorporate.
I have just completed my third attempt, taking photos of all the trials. The struggles are numerous, not to mention where I live in Japan and my communication skills but a local baker was kind enough to sell me some fresh yeast after my less than happy results my first time round. ( Today, after discussing flour types available here, he has decided he would like to take on the challenge as well.)
Never having actually done more than view two samples on the internet, I can say, reservedly, I am very close to one example and very far from the other bizarre example.I have watched and read almost every no-knead advocate and expert's video, fascinatedly examining the crumb to see if the technique might be adapted. The recipe by Casero uses a Thermomix. Not having one and no vision of one arriving as a gift any day soon, I am following the old tried and true method: my hands, a wooden spoon, a kitchen aid mixer. ( During the first attempt I utilized three bowls, a cuisinart and a magic bullet.)
The other recipe is by Roca, the flour company, because they 'developed' a flour especially for Pan Cristal. The proportions are industrial so I broke it down to 1/10th the original recipe. The recipes are significantly different.
The facts: This bread is 90% hydration, made with harina commun 000 (AP flour but protein percentage is unknown), using a poolish made with fresh yeast, no kneading. The all-purpose flour attempt was not as close as when I used Lysdor flour, often used here in Japan for French bread,or baguettes perhaps because the all purpose flour here is 10% protein per 100 grams while the Lysdor is between 10 and 11.
The casero recipe is:
1.Mix 150g all purpose flour with 200 cc of tepid water and 10 grammes of salt. 2.Mix it well, then heat it on the stove to thicken it a bit. 3.Take it off the stove and add 100 cc of ice water, and when the temperature of the mixture has dropped to 50 degrees celcius, add 1 tablespoon of plain yoghurt. Mix well.4. When the temperature has dropped to about 37 degress, add 12.5 grammes of fresh baker's yeast and let it rest for 45 minutes until very foamy , bubbly, and risen.
5. Add and mix in another 150 grammes of all purpose flour. rest for 30 minutes.
6. Add another 50 grammes of all purpose flour and mix. Rest another 30 minutes until bubbly and foamy.
7. "punch down' air wth a spoon.
8. Put about 3-4 tablesspoons into a baguette form or silicon paper formed into a baguette form. stretch and flatten dough to spread it.
The first attempt I tried to duplicate the thermomix actions by hand but found the heating on the stove as shown in the video was too much. So, the second time ,I used a water bath and this improved the results where by the mixture thickened without become too stiff too quickly. (Perhaps this method which mimics choux pastry was to make the same type of airy centre ?)
The second attempt was improved because I beat the mixture more but in each case I found the resting period for the initial autolyse much longer, more than double, to achieve the required results.
The third attempt has been the most successful to date. I incorporated some of the points of the Harina Roca recipe. The full recipe is
5000g harina de pan de cristal (but nothing is specified clearly what makes this flour unique). 4.500 g/cc? water but using only 3250 for the initial mixing, adding the remainder slowly afterwards. 0.250 lard. 0.115 salt. 0.060 fresh yeast.
The technique, assuming one uses industrial equipment, states: put all the ingredients into the mixer except the reserved water. Mix on low speed for 5 minutes and then on fast, adding the additional water little by little, making sure the dough is smooth. When the dough is completely smooth, allow the dough to rest until doubled in volume.
De-gas the mixture and spoon into molds/forms and stretch to fit as you please. Preheat an oven, without steam, to 250. When the breads rise /spring, lower the oven temperature to 200 and bake until browned. If using a convection oven set to 240 and then lower to 190.
The dough temperature should be between 24 and 26 degrees c.
I utilized the technique of mixing the dough in the mixer with the paddle at slow for 5 minutes and then fast until silky and smooth. I also lowered the temperature after the bread sprung in the oven at 200 degrees. I did not use the lard nor did I change the ratio of flour to water, but I used Lysdor flour ,which incorporates flours from canada, australia and america. The temperature of the dough after proofing was around 35 degrees which was higher than Roca but lower than Casero's recipe.
Here are the two sites which show examples of Pan de Cristal:
I have found another all purpose flour which has only 8.8 grams of flour and will try again to compare them. I am wondering if I leave the poolish/biga overnight if more gluten strands and greater lace will develop, although the flavour ,following Casero's recipe, is lovely if a bit too salty for my tastes. The second and third times I lowered the salt to 8 grammes. Remembering it is used with olive oil and tomato, that might justify the higher salt content.
My next step is to try again and my friend will ask her son, a chef in Catalunya, for any input he can garner. I have until August to crack this mystery.