Last Saturday I made my sixth consecutive attempt at baking Hamelman's Baguettes With Poolish. My report on it is very late, and my procedure had a couple of forced errors (for a very good reason I'll get to in a moment), but I got some very good results nonetheless.
The key factor affecting both the late report and the minor errors in production is that when I measured my poolish at 10:30pm on Friday night, my wife at that time was exactly 40 weeks pregnant. Her water broke a little before 7am on Saturday. We were off to the hospital and I was more than ready to write the poolish off as a loss, but the midwife sent us home to wait for labor to begin in earnest, and so when we got home at 10am, I set about making my baguettes to pass the time.
So I had a poolish that was slightly overfermented (if you haven't been following this series of blog posts, I've found that I need to start the final dough after 10-ish hours for best results). I went ahead anyway, prepared to toss the whole thing if we had to run to the hospital. As it happened, I got the baguettes made and out of the oven while my wife was still having sporadic contractions. As with last week, I tried extending the final proof to 75 minutes (up from 60 in previous bakes), although I may have been off by a few minutes, since my wife and I went for a long walk during the proof in order to get contractions going, and I didn't pay close enough attention to the time (I'd set the timer for 60 minutes, and it had gone off when we got back, but that was all I knew).
We headed out to the hospital for real just before dinner time, but I ended up cutting into one of the baguettes and scarfing it down while my wife was on the phone with the midwife.
The Results: Exterior
The Results: Crumb
The baguettes were a little pale, and the crust a little chewier than last week--both results of the poolish over-fermenting, I'm pretty sure. The cuts are much improved, though I still need to put a little more angle on them so they don't merge so much. The crumb on the baguette I cut was great in some places, but a little tight in others. However, the texture of the crumb was just lovely--finally creamy rather than at all fluffy. The flavor was up a couple notches from previous weeks as well. I think if I do everything the same, but get the poolish right next week, I should be well on my way (though it will take much more practice to get the cuts and crumb reliable, I'm sure).
So I'm fairly proud of these baguettes. That said, I am infinitely prouder of the other "bun" pulled out of the oven last weekend, my beautiful daughter Miriam Bell Sandler, born at 12:18 pm on November 7th.