The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baguette w/Poolish

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Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

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.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

I didn't get around to posting yesterday, but I made my 5th weekly batch of Hamelman's baguette's with Poolish.


I had a whole story about what I changed from last week and why, but accidentally hit reload and lost it all.  So I'll be brief.  The changes this week:



I forgot to turn the oven on when I meant to and did a final proof of 75 minutes instead of 60, while raised the preheat temperature to 550 for only 30 minutes to compensate for the stone being cold.


The Results: Exterior


 

Results: Crumb

 

I had a lot less luck with scoring this week--the lame kept dragging rather than cutting cleanly.  I'm not sure if this was from proofing longer--I also didn't cover the baguettes as thoroughly with the folds of my make-shift couche as I have been doing.  Crumb is clearly pretty tight, which is probably my fault; I still need more practice at being sufficiently gentle with these baguettes (or could that be over-proofing too?).  That said, the crumb had a nicer texture to it than I've been getting, and better flavor as well.  The crust was great--crisp all around, and just a little chewy.  A little over-dark on the bottom on account of overheating the stone, but even that wasn't too bad.  If I never get my crust any better, I think I could live with that.

I'm really not sure if this week's batch  was overproofed, or if other problems led to my scoring and crumb issues.  I'm going to stick with the 75 minute proof and see what happens if I do everything else right.  So my plan for next week is to change nothing except a) Be even more gentle when shaping, and b) be more careful about covering the baguettes while proofing.  I'll see how it goes.

Happy baking, everyone.

-Ryan

 

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

The adventure continues!


In this weeks edition of Hamelman's Baguette's with Poolish, I made three modifications to the process from last week (well, more like two and a half:



  • Reduced the yeast in the poolish.  I've been preparing a half batch of dough relative to Hamelman's "Home" proportions, but until now I haven't reduced the yeast in the poolish,  which sounds quite foolish until you realize that the yeast measurement is 1/8 tsp, and nearly every yeasted preferment in the book calls for 1/8 tsp of yeast, regardless of size.  Anyway, I've been feeling like there's a degree of flavor and texture missing, as well as the presence of a pronounced alcohol smell about the poolish (and then the finished dough to some extent).  So I approximated a 1/16 tsp of yeast in 5.3 oz. each of flour and water.  

  • Tried to handle the dough more gently during shaping and preshaping. 

  • Last week I forgot to turn the oven down after loading the baguettes, so this week I made sure not to do that!


 


After 11 hours the poolish was bubbly and had a pungent aroma with just a hint of maybe some alcohol in the background.  It's possible I could have fermented it even less with no ill effects.  One of these weeks, I may try making three tiny batches of dough with three tiny batches of poolish, and test just what results I get from different amounts of time and yeast.


The Results: Crust



 

Crumb:


I was pretty happy with this batch.  Definitely better than before, although clearly not there yet.  I'm not sure if it's clear from the picture, but the crust was definitely a darker color than previous batches, with the same amount of baking time.  This lends some credence to my notion that the poolish was overfermenting somewhat before (or so I understood it from Larry last week--I'm happy to stand corrected on this!).  My slashing is getting more consistent, although unfortunately the scores are consistently too close together as well! Believe it or not, the one in the middle actually had four discrete slashes before it went into the oven...

Crumb was definitely better than last week, although not quite up to where I want it to be.  Texture-wise, also a bit less fluffy and more creamy than before, but still somewhat fluffy.  Flavor was also better--I'm finally starting to get some of the nice nutty notes that I remember from my lucky breaks with this dough.  Just some of them, however.  Crust was thin and crisp on top, but thick and chewy on the bottom--I think you can even see it in the picture.  Not sure what that's all about--possibly a result of leaving the baguettes in to crisp a little more with the oven turned off?

Next week: Further reduction of the yeast in the poolish -- worst case scenario it isn't ready to go when I want to start mixing at 9am, and I start the bread a little later, right?  Also, time to start experimenting with steaming methods.  I'm really intrigued by the steaming method SylviaH posted earlier this week. I would have tried it today, but I didn't want to conflate the results of not goofing up the oven temperature with the effects of the steaming method.

As always, any tips, comments, or smart remarks are welcome and appreciated,

-Ryan

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

My quest for a passable baguette continues.  To recap: In an attempt to improve my baguette skills, I'm making the Baguettes with Poolish formula from Hamelman's Bread every weekend until I get it right(-ish).  Following my experience from week 1, I made two changes:


First, I increased the baking temperature.  Last week the baguettes were simply not browned enough after the 26 minutes recommended by Hamelman.  This surely has as much to do with my oven as anything else--I've always had problems with it's notion of just how hot 450 degrees is as compared to mine.


Second, I resisted my home-baker's instinct to spray exposed surfaces of the dough with spray oil at every opportunity, and for the final proof of the shaped baguettes, I mostly covered the dough with the folds of my trusty tablecloth-couche, and then with plastic wrap.


The Results:


 Exterior 


 Crumb 

The Debrief

Crust was nice and dark but could be more caramelized still.  My scoring was still pretty irregular, but somewhat improved from last week.  More importantly, as a result of omitting the spray oil for the final proof, the scores were easier and the blade dragged less.  On a few of the scores started to get the feel for how the lame ought to bite into the loaf.  But although I got about 2 good scores per loaf, that's not quite enough.  I also clearly need to work on keeping the scores separate from each other.

 The crumb, as you can see, was somewhat underwhelming; the more creamy, gel-like texture still eludes me.  Flavor was good, but not what I know this formula is capable of.  Crust was crisper than last week, but still a bit chewy.

For Next week:

I have a few ideas:

  • Start trying variations on the "turn off the oven but leave the bread in" to get a crisper crust
  • Try to do exactly 4 scores per baguette; I think part of my problem is varying length and number
  • Change the Poolish fermentation time: So far I've had 1/8 tsp yeast in 5.3 oz. each of flour and water, fermented for 12 hours (and I've actually been pretty good about keeping it to 12 hours, not longer or shorter).  Since Hamelman suggests a similar quantity of yeast for twice the Poolish (I'm doing half a "Home" batch), perhaps a shorter ferment is in order.

Any other suggestions, diagnoses, or critiques greatly appreciated!

 

jpchisari's picture
jpchisari

Just recently joined this site and enjoying it very much! I had these photos from some breads I have made in the past. No crumb pics! Breads are long gone. Will Include those in future posts.


Sun Dried Tomato Bread w/Biga



 


Potato Bread-Straight Dough



 


Italian Bread-Straight Dough



 


Baguette w/ Poolish



Old Fashioned Bread w/Biga


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