The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

poolish

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jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Greetings from Finland!

After years of reading your posts (and drooling over your tasty and beautiful loaves) for inspiration, I thought I'd start my own blog here too. During the days I'm a stay-at-home dad exploring life with my two boys (ages 4.6 and 2 :)). The rest of my time, mostly when my family is asleep, I try to split between baking, writing and some other creative experiments. And browsing The Fresh Loaf.

--

In the past summer, I managed to spoil my starter by not refreshing it during the summer vacation as we were traveling around Finland. Ever since, I have been making breads with yeast, procrastinating with the idea of training a new starter. The Ale and Yeast Poolish recipe from Richard Bertinet's Crust has become my current favorite bread.

Today, once again, I made a batch: I usually follow the recipe as printed, except that for baking, I use a cast-iron frying pan covered with a clay pot for the first twenty minutes -- my cheap version of a dutch oven. To fit the breads in the pan, I divide the dough in four pieces instead of the two instructed in the book, and shape the dough into boules instead of batards.

Here's how it looked this time:

 

C B Findlay's picture

Poolish vs whole dough overnight fermenting

January 9, 2012 - 7:06pm -- C B Findlay

What is the end difference between using a poolish, or portion of the dough fermented overnight, vs. letting the whole loaf sit overnight? In an Italian bread baking class I took the teacher leaves his whole batch just sitting overnight at room temp in a bucket.

Do you just get a stronger flavor that way?

Do the two methods affect texture?

C B Findlay

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's picture
Anonymous (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

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