The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

poolish

booch221's picture

I stopped using a poolish and still get great flavor

November 27, 2011 - 10:55pm -- booch221
Forums: 

I've always used a poolish for my no knead bread recipe. It called for one cup of APF and 6 oz of water and 1/8 teaspoon of  instant yeast. I would let it ferment over night and then mix it with 7 oz of bread flour, 2 oz semolina flour, 1-1/4 teaspoons of salt, 4 oz water, and another 1/8 teaspoon of yeast. I would let this triple in size (5-6 hours) and then refrigerate it overnight before baking. 

This takes a long time but makes a great smelling and tasty loaf of bread.

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

This is what I made for myself of all the things that I have learned so far.  I'm finding that there's a huge amount of information from various sources, all with spoon-fed amounts of usefulness.  So, here's my attempt to help others out there, whomever might actually find this.  Please note that my use of the word "yeast" means the brewer's instant yeast, and starter means the friendly creatures (or "the fish", as it is called in our home) that are cultivated from flour and water.  The numbered parts are all of the steps to actual bread making that I've found out.  I'm just now gleaning information about the preferment/poolish step (just learned a few weeks ago about the existence of such a step, and was relieved to find that "sponge" "poolish" "pate fermente" are all the same thing phew).  Here is basically what I've learned in the past four years:

 

EQUIPMENT    scale, oven peel/large spatula, unglazed quarry tiles or baking stone, measuring spoons/cups, bowls, wooden spoons, towels for bread, thin long stemmed thermometer to HIGH temperature

 

ABOUT STARTER

Not rigid method. Repeatedly successful recipes can fail.

Use variables to gain some control and predictability.

Variables include-- time, temperature, humidity, water quality, dough density/hydration

Use scientific method---only change one variable at a time

Starter bread characteristics:  large irregular holes, crumb, structure;  spreads, advantages (can make starter yourself, doesn't need extra food in the recipe, more room for creativity, ability to do more with texture and flavor, English Muffins, French bread), disadvantages (rise time less predictable, needs help to keep shape, needs to be tended and fed)

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating yourself

Yeast bread characteristics—small crumb, regular small holes, less notable structure), tends to rise not spread, advantages (more predictable rise time, not need fed), disadvantages (cannot make yeast yourself, needs food added to recipe, flavor is entirely in the recipe--little creativity, has to be degassed)

 

MAKING STARTER

½ c whole grain flour with ¼ c water (equal weight).  Keep in glass or stainless steel with lid

Watch for life signs (bubbles) after 12 hours, if no signs for a few days, start over (check water quality)

Check the PH of your water---should be neutral or slightly acidic….basic is no good for starter. Add fruit juice or citric acid if needed

Feed when life signs, every 12 hours:  throw out ½ amount in there.  Put in exact same amount flour in there as in there already, plus ½ that in water (or equal weight of both)

*change container often*

Recommended stainless steel, glass, or glazed ceramic containers with lids (to keep bugs and children out, and moisture in)  starter reacts to most metals

After 3 days of consistent rising and falling, switch to white flour (to avoid bad critters)

Will smell like fish, should change to wheaty smell

After 1 week of consistent doubling, ok to use

Only use small amount of old starter to new starter (Tablespoon at most), keep discarding/baking—do not keep….ends up being a sponge not a starter

Note peak and fall times   starter:flour:water

Recommended 1:2:1 once a week feed fridge always, keeping Tablespoon amount or so

 

 

 

Once get good, can keep different teaspoon sized starters for each type of bread (CHEF)

More flavor=more time between feedings

 

1 PREPARE STARTER

Called preferment, sponge, poolish, bigas, levaine, pate fermentee (all the same)

Develops flavor, texture, lighter bigger air

More sour, more acid, longer shelf life

Note peak and fall times

Recommended 8-12 hours before dough mixing/kneading, 25% of total dough (so subtract from recipe flour and water used)

Add to bread at peak time

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

 

2 AUTOLYSE AND MIXING

Mix flour, water and poolish together, let rest five minutes or so (keeps from adding too much flour, and helps in kneading)

Most variable amounts are water and flour (coarse/fine ground flour, humidity, etc)

Set aside CHEF

Starter eats flour, doesn’t eat sugar.  Any sugar in recipe you will end up eating

oil--lending or not lending its flavor depends on recipe

Do NOT add salt directly to starter—mix in flour as a buffer first to keep starter alive

Do NOT use iodized salt—iodine becomes a gas in the oven—messes up your bread

 

3 KNEADING

-helps prevent too much flour being added--easier to add flour than water

-Palm push quarter turn only good for FLAT breads like pie crust, crackers

*Stretch&Fold:  adds air and builds structure—gluten sheath.  Also called French Kneading, or Slap Happy, etc.  Take the dough; slap the furthest side away from you down on the counter and away, while drawing the nearer side towards you.  Taking the nearer side in your palms (do not break, draw evenly like drafting wool) draw up and over further side, stretching sideways under and around, making a heart shape almost.  Make sure while you are drawing the dough over the further side to incorporate a nice big air bubble.  Turn the dough over and a quarter turn around (flip and turn like clockwise/counterclockwise).  Repeat.  Should change in feel and look—it will begin to pull dough off the counter and fingers.  Only dust the counter with flour if large pieces of dough are sticking—you want it to be tacky.  Shoot for 20 minutes of kneading. 

-Windowpane test—dough stretches between fingers fine enough to let light through without breaking

 

 

 

 

4 BULK FERMENTATION

Do not let ferment on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Use oil to keep from sticking (using flour at this stage creates flour dumplings inside your bread)

Use heat during winter to help, especially in the North—direct heat ok at this step  70-90 degrees F optimal

Stretch and fold at least every thirty minutes to keep gluten structure from relaxing, and to distribute temperature evenly (fermentation heats up dough) S&F twice minimum during this stage

For smaller crumb, deflate while S&F

Bigger holes, keep as much air as possible

 

5 SHAPING AND PROOFING

This is the stage to choose your shape:  boule, baguette, loaf, braid, rolls, etc.  A shape doesn’t define a recipe, a recipe enhances the shape.  (good recipe, good rolls, etc)

Do not let proof on pan---acidity tarnishes pans

Starter spreads---need to use something to help.  Linen towels with flour method, proofing trays/counters, baskets heavily floured, etc.

use flour to keep from sticking--lightly

Do NOT use direct heat source (like oven light) to keep warm --creates a second crust that will not fill

Harder crust---use towel and let dry out to create a rind

Softer crust—let proof in moist environment (covered with bowl, etc)

More starter % in bread, less proof time---acidity breaks down gluten

Overproofing---when bread collapses---gluten stretched too far and cannot recover (make toast!)

Ready for oven:  when you poke it, it fills back your fingerprint but not all of the way

 

6 BAKING

Use flour on baking pan to keep bread from sticking (oil fries the bread and usually sticks)

Oven spring—put in already hot oven.  Oven high temp for 5 minutes, then lower temperature for optimal oven spring (example 450 degrees F, lower to 425 or 415)

Baking stone acts as heat sink to increase oven spring, can use unglazed quarry tiles---ALWAYS put into cold oven and let heat up and cool down with the oven (or break)

Slashing loaves a way to make the oven spring more predictable.  If bulges out near tray---temperature different in pan and air, etc.

Harder crust—spray dough with water right before putting in oven.  Do NOT steam oven directly if electronic---it will destroy oven entirely

Internal temperature 204 degrees F and above best indicator of doneness.  Cutting open stops the cool pressure cooker effect of the inside.  Thump test does NOT work.

If bread fell or didn’t bake well, make toast immediately

 

7 STORING

Sourdough:  Store in paper bag and bread cabinet if have one.  Fridge hastens going stale, Plastic keeps too much moisture

If bread contains milk products (milk, lots of butter or sourcream), or has a lot of moisture and sugar (cornbread or banana bread prime example of both), keep in fridge.  They only last about 2 days before going bad : (

Sourdough: make toast if going stale or out too long.  Bread should last for about 4 days, unless quick pour sugary breads like banana bread.

gingersnapped's picture
gingersnapped

[crossposted to my general baking blagsite, yeastvillage.com!]

The day you find yourself laboring over a fine grained sieve sifting the bran out of otherwise a-ok whole wheat flour: might as well admit it you’re addicted to yeast.

relax piggybank, it's turkey

open up; sandwich time

Personal success: half batch + stretch and fold + autolyse with a hella wet dough and shaped! appropriately! neatly!  It looks like bread when it came out of the oven! (this is perpetually delightful and surprising)

Personal failure: forgot to score and got ants in the pants and pulled it out before the crust could fully harden.  The biggest advantage I’ve found to cooking in someone else’s oven — I tend to walk away and leave well enough alone (perhaps an important life lesson there).

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Despite failing to post about it, I'm still at my quest for a perfect, hole-y ciabatta.  The last two weeks were interesting, to say the least.  

If you recall, two weeks ago I baked Craig Ponsford's ciabatta (a la Maggie Glezer), with results that were just about perfect.  Last week I tried to replicate the experience.  First, the formula and proceedure:

Biga:

  • 300g King Arthur AP flour (the original calls for 200g Bread Flour and 100g AP) - 91%
  • 15g Whole Rye Flour - 4.5%
  • 15g Whole Wheat Flour - 4.5%
  • 185g Water - 56%
  • 0.016g Instant Yeast - 0.005%* 

*(originals calls for mixing 1/2 tsp yeast with 1 cup water, then measuring 1/2 tsp yeast-water into the biga. I have a scale with 0.01g graduations, and just measured 0.02g. )

Final Dough

  • 325g King Arthur AP flour
  • 342g Water
  • 12g Salt
  • 1.55g Instant yeast (1/2 tsp)
  • Biga (All)
  1. Mix biga ingredients together until smooth.  Biga will be quite stiff.  
  2. Allow to ferment for 24 hours, or until tripled (Two weeks ago I didn't keep track, last week I only waited for a little more than double, possible a mistake).
  3. Combine all final dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the hook for 5 minutes.  Dough will be very gloopy.
  4. I gave it 30 stretch and folds in the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Not sure if this had any effect--I'll probably skip in in the future.
  5. Ferment 3 hours.  At 20, 40, 60 and 80 minutes, dump the dough out onto a well floured work surface to stretch and fold.
  6. Divide the dough in half, making two oblong shapes.  Fold each oblong in thirds, letter style (this will produce something vaguely square).  Gently stretch each dough piece into an oblong, and place on a well floured couche (I omitted the stretch last week--I think this was a mistake), seam side down.  Yes, down.  Cover with plastic, but try to keep the plastic off the surface of the dough.
  7. Proof 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500 degrees (or with my POS oven, 535)
  8. With wet fingers, make small dimples all over the exposed surface of the dough.
  9. Flip the loaves onto parchment on a sheet pan or peel.  Slide the loaves into the oven, turn temperature down to 450 and bake for 35 minutes, using your favorite steaming method for the first 15.
  10. Crack the oven door, turn off the oven, and wait 5-10 minutes more before removing the loaves to a cooling rack.
This formula is fun to make.  This is the dough after mixing:

First Fold, Before and After

Second Fold, Before and After

Third Fold, Before and After

Last Fold, Before and After

Ready to divide and proof:

Dimpling

Exterior:

Crumb:

This bake was...puzzling.  As you can see, these loaves were awfully tall for ciabatta.  The crumb was tighter than the previous week, more akin to a batard.  The flavor profile was a bit difference as well--the sour and whole-grain notes were stronger, while the poolease-y flavor (what I think of as pain a l'ancienne flavor) was more muted.  Indeed, if I'd stuck a couple of sourdough batards into my oven, and pulled these out, I'd have been neither surprised nor displeased in the least.  Since I in fact loaded a pair of conventionally leavened ciabatta...well, color me puzzled.  

Cut ahead to today.  I had intended to take another stab at the Ponsford recipe, but a number of circumstances prevented me from putting together a biga in time.  That 24 hour fermentation time is tricky to work around.  I did have time for a poolish, so instead I took another stab at SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta, with some modifications inspired by the Ponsford Ciabatta.  It went like this:

Poolish:

  • 190g KAF AP flour
  • 190 Water
  • 0.36g Instant Yeast (1/8tsp)

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour
  • 190g Water
  • 15g Olive Oil
  • 10g Salt
  • 0.36g Instant Yeast (1/8tsp)
  1. Mix poolish, ferment 12 hours.
  2. Whisk poolish with 150g water and oil.
  3. Add 30g flour and whisk vigorously until slightly frothy.
  4. Add remaining flour and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Autolyze 30 minutes
  5. Sprinkle salt, yeast and remaining 40g water over dough.  Mix by hand until smooth (I started with the wooden spoon until the water was incorporated, then did about 60 stretch-and-folds with a spatula).
  6. Proceed as in the Ponsford recipe from step 5, except omit the 3rd fold, and the letter-fold after dividing.

The results:

Curiouser and curiouser!  Excellent crumb this time, much better than my two previous tries.  The dough seemed much stronger than on my previous two attempts, and I think the crumb is a result of that.   The dimpling technique may be a factor as well, hard to say.  Also rather tall for ciabatta, although not as ridiculous as last week.  Crust was nicely crispy.  Flavor was clean, sweet and creamy.  I think I liked the Ponsford ciabatta's flavor more, but it would be somewhat deceptive to say that one was "better" than the other, because they're really very different.  

Proposition: An open crumbed ciabatta requires a strong dough.  Getting a wet dough like ciabatta to be strong is the trick, but multiple stretch-and-folds will do it.  

Happy baking, everyone.

-Ryan

steelchef's picture

Has anyone used or considered wine/beer yeast as a sourdough starter?

April 21, 2011 - 11:44pm -- steelchef

Curious!

I used to make wine in the basement and had great success with natural sourdough starter. It has been six years since moving the wine making to a U-Brew. Now I can't get a natural starter happening.

So, has anyone used a wine or beer yeast to start a poolish?  Any info would be appreciated. I intend to give it a try regardless.

 

honeymustard's picture
honeymustard

My partner's father and sister are here to visit. They each occupy one of the downstairs rooms that I meticulously cleaned before they arrived, so much so that I drove myself into hand-wringing worry over each minute detail in their rooms. Then the cobwebs in the other corners of the house laugh at me.

Bread calms me down, I think. There's something about nurturing it into life (and--in the oven--subsequently killing it, I suppose, but I don't think about that) that I find calming. I rekindled this years-long love of bread-making while sitting in a cramped hostel room in Taipei right before Christmas.

There was literally no floor space save for a two-by-three foot area where the door swung open in on our tiny apartment. We'd just had our Christmas Day supper. We'd found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the owner spoke just enough English and we spoke one or two food words in Mandarin to get across that we'd like chicken soup. He brought us two different kinds. He gave Dave his bowl and said, "Good for man." A minute later, he brought me mine, and said, "Good for woman." He smiled, waited for our reactions. Dave loved his while I didn't like his, and I loved mine while Dave wouldn't touch mine. What a wise man that had served us. He offered us zong: spiced rice with pork wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The spices were just reminiscent enough of Christmas that I didn't miss the overwhelming bright lights, electronified versions of Christmas carols, or ads delivering guilt trips about not giving your loved ones enough presents. But let's be serious, I didn't miss it anyway.

Chicken Soup & Zong

Besides, I had already gotten all my relatives and friends presents, and now it was my turn. To be there when I first arrived back in Nova Scotia, I ordered the Tassajara Bread book. It seemed only fair that as an amateur bread baker, I have a cookbook focused on bread alone.

I feel selfish, because with that bread book, I gave myself more than I had anyone else on my Christmas list. Breads were springier and lighter, tastier and more beautiful. I felt in control of the bread for once, and I fell in love.

I set about to Google many times thereafter, finding more recipes, wanting to find more people who wrote books like Edward Espe Brown, those who seemed to understand the art much more than Betty Crocker. Eventually I found many sites, and it's almost overwhelming. I'm learning how to make bread all over again.

Poolish Baguettes

So for my first trick, I made poolish baguettes. From this recipe. Schmiechel is not amused because she cannot eat it.

Unamused Schmiechel

But my visitors can eat bread. And they will eat all of it.

Franko's picture
Franko

 

Late last week my wife and I were invited to my step-son and fiance's new home for a 'get acquainted' Sunday dinner with her parents and grandparents, so I thought it might be a good idea to bring a loaf of something or other to contribute to the meal. We've met them all previously but not knowing their tastes I decided to go with a bread using poolish rather than a sour levain style bread, settling on Hamelman's Pain Rustique which uses 50% prefermented flour in the formula. The poolish was made on Saturday night and sat for almost 12 hours before being mixed with the other ingredients after a 30 minute autolyse, producing a very slack dough similar to Ciabatta. After 40 minutes of bulk ferment it needed some stretch and folds in the bowl before being able to develop it on the counter using the slap and fold technique. The dough had two stretch and folds over the course of the next hour with a small addition of flour to tighten it up to a point where it could hold a loose shape, then divided into 2 unmolded rectangular shaped loaves, placed seam side up on floured linen for a final rise of 30 minutes. I had a bit of difficulty flipping the first on to the peel and it deflated slightly, but the second loaf held it's shape during the transfer. The loaves were given a single slash and baked at 460F for 35-40 minutes with a spray or two of water during the first 5 minutes. It's been a while since I've baked an all wheat dough and I'd almost forgotten how wonderful it can smell while it's baking, especially when it has a good percentage of poolish in the mix. The first loaf came out the way I expected it would, looking worse for the poor handling during transfer, but the second made a nice loaf with a bit of an ear along the slash. Everybody seemed to enjoyed it for it's open airy crumb, chewy crust, and that it paired so well with the delicious saucy braised short ribs our future daughter in-law had made for the main course of the meal. I've been eating sour rye bread of one type or another since the beginning of the year so this was a welcome change for it's fresh wheaty flavour and light porous crumb, and one that I'll be making again in the months to come.

I'm afraid the crumb shots are a bit too yellow due to light conditions and the flash on my phone camera. The actual colour was a creamy off white.

Best Wishes,

Franko


basbr's picture

Amount of poolish in Hamelman's baguette and pain rustique

April 10, 2011 - 7:17am -- basbr

Dear all,

This weekend I received my copy of Hamelman's "Bread" and it's fantastic. I made a boule from his poolish baguette recipe and his pain rustique.

I was completely surprised by the difference in taste between the two breads. Both were terrific, but the pain rustique tasted like no yeast bread I have ever tasted. I was blown away.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Really?  Week 24?  Something like that, anyway.

Ahem.

Yesterday I made yet another batch of Hamelman's Baguettes with Poolish, continuing my baguette quest.  For those of you who have been following along, two weeks ago I made a batch which I didn't get around to blogging about, and last week I was busy on Saturday and forgot to make a poolish for Sunday.  In past weeks, I've gotten good results in crust, crumb and flavor, and decent to excellent grigne, but my scores keep bursting in the oven.  This week I was influenced by the video BelleAZ posted of Cyril Hitz slashing baguettes.  Hitz says in the video that the scores should overlap by a full third of their length, something I don't think I was doing very well, or at least not very consciously.

Ahem.  To the breads!

Exterior

Crumb

Y'know, I think I could be pretty happy with this. It's not perfect.  There's still some bursting, especially on the baguette on the bottom.  But that one just wasn't scored very well in general.  No bulging in between scores like some past weeks. Flavor and mouthfeel were quite good, as they've been for several weeks.  Crust was a little chewy, although I think this has more to do with the fact that the baguettes came out of the oven at noon, rather than later in the after noon.  Longer sitting seems to correlate to chewier crust.  No biggie.

I'm going to stick with this formula a few more weeks (I'd like to try it as two mini-batards or one large batard, just for yucks), but I think this quest is nearing completion.

Happy baking, everyone.

-Ryan

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