Saturday, November 6, 2010

Par-Baking Artisan Breads

  Par-baking bread is a great way to increase variety and still produce exceptional quality. The process, as I use it, is very simple.
  First of all, I only par-bake sourdoughs. They are mixed, given full ferment, then made up, and retarded overnight. The next day they're given a final proof and baked. That is the same as always.
  It is the baking that is a little different. The breads are baked at a slightly lower temperature for a little less time than usual. For instance, plain sourdough normally bakes at 450 for fifty minutes. To par-bake, it is given forty minutes at 400 degrees. Most specialty breads are baked for the same amount of time, but at a slightly lower temperature (375). The crust color is light, but the bread is baked through. The loaves are cooled almost completely, then double wrapped in plastic and frozen, and I can then pull the exact number of loaves I need to finish.
  Finishing is simple. In fact I often use a convection oven set very hot (425-450) for this. I just slide the still frozen loaves off of a peel directly onto the oven racks and bake them for about 10 or 15 minutes.
  Can I tell the difference between a freshly proofed and baked loaf and a par-bake? Well, yes, I can. Are my customers able to tell? No, probably not. In fact, many of them buy the frozen par's to finish in their ovens at home!