The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Too Wet Poolish?

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

Too Wet Poolish?

Hey all, I've been meandering through this site for the past few months and trying out the various recipes and techniques, and I have been really happy with the results.  This is one of the best sites I've ever come across, and I'm glad it's here.


So here's my question.  I've been experimenting with the formulas in Reinhart's Crust and Crumb with a fair amount of success, so far.  However, last night I made the poolish forumula, and it doesn't look so good.  I used the formula rather than the recipe, but ended up with roughly half the recipe (2c. flour, 2c. water or 300g flour 530g water - the formula says 178% water) I added about 1/8 tsp of yeast (too small for an accurate weight on my scale).  When I mixed it together it was very thin, like crepe batter.  I let it sit for about 5 hours, and when I checked it again, the flour had settled to the bottom and a layer of water had formed on top.  There were a few bubbles on the surface of the water and some holes in the flour underneath, but not the large foamy oles that I've seen in pictures.  I mixed it up once more to get the water back in with the flour and threw it in the fridge.  This morning it looks exactly the same as when I put it in the fridge last night only separated again.  There are no holes, no bubbles and it looks as if no fermentation is taking place at all. 


Did I do something wrong?  I really want to make Reinhart's sweet rustic bread; can I use a different poolish formula?


Please help.


Thanks,
Jeremy

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

No fermentation at all might mean your yeast isn't good.


Colin

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

The day before I made two very nice french bread loaves (from the same book) and they came out great.  This morning, since my poolish didn't work out, I started the brioche recipe, and, so far, the (lower hydration, milk and flour) poolish is developing fine.  I'm using the same jar of yeast for all of these recipes.  The yeast doesn't seem to be the problem, though I am surprised that there was almost no or very little fermentation in the poolish. Can yeast drown?


If I still want to make the sweet rustic bread (another day) can I use a different poolish recipe?


Thanks,


Jeremy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


I mixed it up once more to get the water back in with the flour and threw it in the fridge.



I've never put a poolish into the fridge.  Was that part of the directions?


Mini

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Wow!!! -  that's a surprise.  I don't have the book but I'd sure raise the question as to why you'd water log your flour with that much water.   I use a 100% hydration poolish formula and adjust it to match the recipe I'm working with.  That's wet enough for just about anything I try to bake.  Looking forward to reading input from those who have experience with this publication.

AllenCohn's picture
AllenCohn

A typical poolish is equal weights flour and water. So, yeah, 178% seems like a lot.


Allen
San Francisco

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

The book happens to be on google books, so here is the page with the poolish formula.


http://books.google.com/books?id=H-WRU06X-4kC&pg=RA1-PA36&vq=poolish&dq=crust+crumb&source=gbs_search_s&cad=0


100% unbleached flour


178% water


yeast n/a


I used 300g of flour and 530g of water - I think my math is right, but I could be wrong - to which I added 1/8 tsp yeast. 


Could the formula be a typo?  Maybe he meant 78%, but that's kind of dry for a poolish, isn't it?


I'm surprised it hasn't come up before.


Thanks again,


Jeremy

phxdog's picture
phxdog

I wonder if that should be 78% water vs 178%. Perhaps a typo in the text?

Pjacobs's picture
Pjacobs

I'm with you phxdog. It probably is a typo. When I edited the bread book for Panera's I found a recipie that called for a pound of yeast. That too was a typo. I sent them a correction for which they were so thankful they sent me a copy of the completed book.


Phil

colinwhipple's picture
colinwhipple

There is a recipe on this website called My Daily Bread which calls for a similarly highly hydrated poolish.


I doubt if too high a hydration is the source of the problem.  It is something else.


5 hours is a fairly short time for 1/8 tsp. of yeast to have an impact on that amount of flour and water.  Maybe more time is needed.


Colin

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

Following the recipe, I let the poolish rise at room temp. for five hours.  At the end of that time there were a few bubbles on the surface of the water (which had separated from the dough).  Deciding to continue on with the recipe despite the poor looking poolish, I mixed the batter again to reincorporate the separated water and put it in the fridge overnight.  This morning, the water had separated again and there was no sign of fermentation.  I left the dough out on the counter for another 2 hours or so while I figured out what to do, and there was still no sign of fermentation.  This comes to a total of about 18-20 hours of fermentation time, about 12 of which was in the fridge, with no (or minimal) sign of fermentation. 


The entire recipe for the sweet rustic bread (including the poolish) can also be found here:


http://foppish-baker.blogspot.com/2006/01/sweet-fougasse.html


There is no mention there of the poolish being too wet, so maybe I did something wrong.  I'm still not sure what, though.


I'm hesitant to try again, as it seems like a waste, but I may have to.


We'll see.


Jeremy

Ford's picture
Ford

Peter Reinhart on page 36 of "Crust and Crumb" Says to use 4 cups of flour (18 oz.) and 4 cups of water (32 oz.) That is 178% hydration.  My argument would be that 4 cups of flour, properly fluffed, weighs 17 oz. (4 1/4 oz. per cup).  But Mr. Reinhart is probably using scales and not cups so his poolish is as hydrated as he says.  BUT, I am a maverick.  My sourdough starter is 188% hydrated: 17 oz. flour and 32 oz. water!  Yes, it is thin, but it does bubble/foam.


Ford

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

I'm going to try again with a smaller amount (so I don't waste too much flour).  I measured out a cup of flour, which came to about 147g.  According to the formula, this requires 261g of water.  When I measure out a cup of water, though, I got 212g, so I added the extra 50g onto that.  I threw in a pinch of yeast (just a tiny bit) and mixed it all together. 


At first glance it appears a little thicker than my last batch.  I don't know why this would be, since they're the same proportions, unless I mixed the last batch too much (recipe says whisk for 1min). 


I'll let you all know how it goes in a few hours.


Thanks,


Jeremy

leslie01's picture
leslie01

Jeremy,
Did your bread turn out using this poolish? Today I made the same poolish from the Reinhart's book, Curst & Crumb to make the Pizza II bread. After 5 hours it is still sitting out but badly separated. It is half covered with a thin film of foam with a handful of tiny bubles. Not sure if I mixed it too long (I used my mixer with the paddle attachment) or it it became too warm sitting on the back of my stove-top. Two days ago I made a poolish for ciabatta from Hitz's book with the same instant yeast and it turned out great. (100% hydration to 100% flour and less yeast than today's poolish, same processing.)
I think I will go ahead and refrigerate as per instructions and see what happens tomorrow. I am leery of using it though if it still looks the same, as I don't want to waste more ingredients (not to mention the time).
Does anyone know if I can make a regular poolish (100% to 100%) and still use Reinhart's bread formula? Could I compensate with more hydration in the final formula? (If it's supposed to be this way, I wonder why Reinhart didn't mention it.)

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

Honestly, I don't recall.  I do know that I never made the sweet rustic bread that I was going to use the poolish for.  I think that if I were going to do it now (sadly, no time), I would make a 100% to 100% poolish and adjust the other ingredients to maintain the formula in the book.  If the poolish formula really is printed wrong, though, then the whole formula could be messed up.  I think I remember making one of the pizza dough recipes in the book, too, and it came out fantastic.  But I think I remember it calling for a biga preferment, not a poolish.


Hope your dough comes out ok.  Good luck!


Jeremy

leslie01's picture
leslie01


About an hour after I posted my question as to whether this poolish ever worked out, my poolish looked completely fine. It took about 6 hours. It went quite suddenly from a bowl of separated water with flour at the bottom to looking nicely thickened and bubbly. Go figure! (Could have been our dry and high altitude in Colorado that caused the extended time.) Anyway, I refrigerated it overnight as instructed. However, when I used it the next day, although it still looked good on top, I discovered mostly water under about 2-3 inches of the thickened, bubbly flour. It was difficult to stir back together so I ended up using my mixer with the paddle attachment on low. I added it according to directions. The remainder of the poolish thickened and bubbled back up while I was making the pizza dough so I assumed it was still pretty active.



The pizza turned out just so-so. It did rise, but it tasted more like soft pretzel dough than pizza (I made calzones actually). I probably would not make this recipe again. The super-wet poolish is just too difficult to work with and tell if it's still active. I prefer the thicker poolish in Ciril Hitz's book, Baking Artisan Bread (which is loaded with pictures, including exactly how all of his starters should look. it also comes with a nice 30 minute DVD). Hitz's is more of the typical 100% flour to 100% hydration poolish. but the problem remains in making any of Reinhart's poolish-based formulas in his book, Crust and Crumb, as he bases all the recipes in this book on one basic poolish, biga, etc... I really like the principle as you can use the left-over preferment in other recipes, but I am thinking I will probably skip all of his poolish-based formulas and try some with his biga. Will also check his other books to see if he uses the same poolish formula.


 


 

jmtrombley's picture
jmtrombley

Okay,


After six hours of sitting at room temp. my poolish is starting to bubble up.  It's still separated, but maybe it will come toether during the fermentation?  I don't know what to do with it, should I leave it out or put it in the fridge like the recipe says? 


If it keeps going and holds together I'll try to make the sweet rustic bread on Monday.  Meanwhile, the brioche dough is doing okay.  It's in the fridge and pretty hard, so it's not really rising anymore, but I'll try baking tomorrow and let you know how that goes too.


Thanks,


Jeremy

Ford's picture
Ford

At that hydration, the poolish is going to separate; my sourdough starter does too, but it works.  It will not "come together by itself, but you can stir it together.


I am not sure how much a pinch of yeast is, anything smaller than an eighth of a teaspoon is hard to measure.  However if you are getting bubbles, it is probably good.


Other than that, all I can say is try it and see.   If you refrigerate it, you will have to bring it back to room temperature for it to be active again, and after several days without feeding it may benefit from a half teaspoon of sugar.


Ford

plevee's picture
plevee

IF you are using instant yeast, mixing it  with cold water causes many of the yeast cells to rupture and die. If so, the high hydration and cold temperature might be damaging the yeast to the point where it is inactive.


Regular dried yeast shouldn't be adversely affected. Patsy

hardrockbaker's picture
hardrockbaker

1/8 tsp of yeast that's just right for 300 g of flour.


250 ml water would be enough. There is no other reason other then personal preference, to create a pre - dough with more than 100 % water.


I prefer a rather stiff pre-dough and sourdough.


sometimes I refrigerate overnight for stronger flavor. It’s  common and sometimes fit's my schedule better.


 

jrudnik's picture
jrudnik

Later in the book (I think somewhere in the team USA formula section) PR mentions that his poolish is a higher hydration than the standard 100 percent.