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Hamelman's Poolish Baguettes

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sephiepoo's picture
sephiepoo

Hamelman's Poolish Baguettes

This is potentially a retarded question, but I appreciate any insight you may have :)


I just made Hamelman's Poolish Baguettes for the first time, as other threads had seemed to have positive bakes from his formula.  I'd been playing with David's 5hr baguettes (from his baguette surprise and challenge thread) for the past few weeks, and thought I'd try a formula with a preferment instead of adding starter discard to David's formula.  The 5hr baguettes have a 70% hydration, and Hamelman's have 66%, so theoretically, the Hamelman baguettes should have a somewhat stiffer dough, right?


Not the case for me, apparently.  David's dough (for me...) turns out to be stiffer than I thought it would be.  It felt really nice to fold in the bowl, and shape - not stiff at all, but not super slack.  Significantly stiffer than a ciabatta dough, but not so much that it just sits in a lump if you don't handle it, if that makes any sense.


Hamelman's dough today was very slack in comparison.  It was a little stiffer than Mark's ciabatta dough in his video (Back Home Bakery) but not by a whole lot!  And it stuck to everything - floured hands, wet hands, floured bench scraper, wet bench scraper... :) When it was resting on the bench after preshaping, it pretty much puddled when the gluten relaxed, even though I had preshaped a little tighter than normal.  Is this because the poolish is supposed to add extensibility, which seems to translate to me as strength in stretchability? But also seems to "feel" looser and lighter? Or did I just do something horribly wrong? :)


They came out nicely, with decent spring, but the crust was definitely chewy, and not crisp like David's bags were for me.  Crumb is also not very open, which is kind of surprising to me, since it felt so much wetter than the previous doughs. Considering I accidentally dropped (like a moron) the first baguette when I was loading and had to physically pick it up and reposition it (nice finger indentations!) and then it sprang back just fine in the oven, I thought it would be more open than it was.  Just a few medium-large holes here and there, but not a ton.


Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated


Sephie

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Sephie.


If you made two batches of baguettes with 500 gms of flour in each, the difference between 66% and 70% hydration would be 1 T + 1 tsp of water. Not much, but noticable.


However, if you used different flours for the two batches, that could make the comparison more difficult. The degree of gluten development and how organized the gluten was also matters a lot. Likewise, differences in fermentation and forming. So many variables! And they all matter. <sigh>


Now, if you made a 66% hydration baguette dough with just AP flour, and you had moderate gluten development, I would expect it to be tacky but not sticky. Certainly not "slack." Is it possible you measured the flour or the water incorrectly? Something's screwy.


David

sephiepoo's picture
sephiepoo

David, you're my hero :) Thanks for the response.


The past couple months, I've been working on learning how to better shape, mix, and generally work with higher hydration doughs, instead of assuming I had the "feel" and could figure it out.  I've been forcing myself to use the formula exactly, and follow the procedure as it's written, instead of what I think or feel like it should be (ie, no tinkering allowed).  I hadn't actually done the math, but you're absolutely right - that's not a whole lot of water difference! I used the same flour, water, salt, and yeast for both batches, so at least that is the same.  I wondered myself if I had measured correctly, and I'm about 99% sure I did, but now I'm doubting myself because, as you pointed out, that 4% isn't much, but would be noticeable.  Theoretically, Hamelman's should have been noticeably stiffer, which would imply I definitely measured wrong :(


Hamelman's method calls for using a mixer, so I did, and mixed according to his direction.  I also included the stretch and fold during the bulk fermentation.  As the dough was in the mixer, I was noticing already that it seemed much looser than your dough was for me - and I did yours completely by hand.


I really feel like I measured the ingredients properly (it's an Oxo scale - should be fairly accurate?), so I also wonder if humidity might have affected the resulting dough that much? I feel like the answer is no, but thought I'd ask anyway :) Could the use of the poolish have really changed the dough that much?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Sephie.


I've found Hamelman's instructions to be the most reliable of any bread book I own, as long as you know exactly what his basic methods are. Let me be explicit about this, because "it matters:" The mixing times Hamelman gives are for commercial spiral mixers, not for the kind you and I have. What you need to pay attention to is the degree of gluten development you actually have, not the time you have mixed.


If you did measure everything correctly, and your dough was gloppy when you stopped mixing, this means you didn't mix enough. If you were using a KitchenAid mixer, with a 66% hydration dough, it should clean the sides of the bowl and stick to the bottom of the bowl just a little (a 3" ring, say) when finishing mixing for medium gluten development. If it is still sticking to the sides of the bowl while mixing at Speed 2, you need to mix some more (or do some extra folds during bulk fermentation).


A preferment should actually enhance gluten development, unless you seriously over-fermented it to the point that proteases were degrading the gluten.


I hope this helps.


David

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I'm curious about the flour you used, Sephie.  Was bread flour used for both the poolish and the final dough?

sephiepoo's picture
sephiepoo

I knew Hamelman's book was going to be a must-have and a good read, and thankfully my brother sprang it for me for a present this year. I must just be doing something dreadfully wrong :) The poolish sat on the counter for about 12 hrs, and the ac keeps the air at about 73 degrees (dratted TX heat) so even though the book says 12-16 hrs, it's possible it over fermented?


Bread flour was used for both poolish and final dough, and is the (don't kill me) bread flour from Sam's - ConAgra I think? I haven't gotten pictures downloaded to my computer yet, but hopefully tonight, and hopefully I figure out how to post them!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Sephie.


Nice brother! He either was nice to do good research himself or he takes a hint well.


The thing about Hamelman is that it may deserve the title "The Bread Bible" more than either of the other two books (by 2 different authors) of that name. Like the scriptures, you get something new out of every chapter each time you re-read it.


I've seen so many bakers go right to the formulas without studying the introductory materials - the first chapters and the parts of each chapter preceding the formulas. That's a big mistake. When you really understand the processes and the techniques, you will be able to do your own problem solving. 


I don't see how your poolish gave the result you described. I'm betting on your mixing. The issues with the flours you used are 1) You used the same flour each time, so differences didn't derive from different flours, and 2) higher gluten flours do require longer mixing to fully develop the gluten. Again, you should learn to judge this by how the dough looks and feels, not by watching the clock. (The recently much-maligned window pane test is a good way to do this.)


David

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I agree with David.  It's tempting to just jump in and have fun, trusting to your instincts, but if you don't feel completely comfortable with somone else's formulas, you should probably read any background they're willing to give you.  It may answer questions before you need to ask them.


With that having been said, almost nobody ever gets it right the first time, even with the best directions.


If Sephie were to post camera-phone photos of her poolish the next time she does this (before and after photos) we could maybe give her some good suggestions.


--Dan DiMuzio

Steve H's picture
Steve H

I agree I've found a lot of good info in the non-recipe section of Hamelman.  Still there is something to be said for getting your hands dirty before absorbing all of it. :)

sephiepoo's picture
sephiepoo



They're not the prettiest, but this is what I ended up with today.  Yes, absolutely, to reading the actual information in the book instead of just jumping in head first.  DF likes to make fun of me because sometimes that's all I do is read the books instead of heading straight for the kitchen.


When I mixed the dough in the KA, it wasn't gloppy - smooth and cleaned the sides of the bowl, and as you said, stuck to the bottom of the bowl.  I stopped it when I thought it was about done, after around 3 mins on speed 2, scraped it off the hook and made sure I picked up everything from the bottom of the bowl, and gave it another 30 seconds just to be sure.


I've lurked the forum for the past few months, started here because I was learning to raise my own sd starters, and got hooked on the wealth of info here - and decided I knew zero about high hydration doughs, which was what so many sourdough threads were talking about.  So I assumed because most of the doughs I had worked with previously had been lower hydration, this would be a different ballgame and needed to ignore what I thought might be right or wrong, and follow the recipe as it was given from the book to see how it handled.


I'll start another batch of poolish, and try it again :) shaping definitely needs work, of course, and well obviously lots to improve on! The dough just felt so much wetter than other doughs, and I started doubting when I was weighing and dividing.


My brother probably bought it because I promised him a loaf of bread next time I visited! But he is pretty awesome, as are all of you.  Thanks for your continued help :)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The loaves look nicely shaped. The crumb looks about like my first dozen tries at baguettes. My hunch is you need to learn to shape with a gentler hand. "Iron hand in a velvet glove" is the saying. My own baguette breakthrough came when I got the feel of this. Read Hamelman on shaping baguettes 3 more times. ;-)


The scoring should be more parallel to the long axis of the loaf to get the traditional pattern.



You're off to a good start. You just need to practice. It will come.


David

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Hi, Sephie,


I also baked David's Surprise baguettes several times, and after finally doing the recipe exactly as written to fulfill his challenge, I changed the recipe a bit, adding starter as you have mentioned. This is how the recipe goes (Basically David's recipe with starter and a little rye):


150 g 100% hydration starter


50 g rye flour


450 g bread flour


365 g water


10 g yeast


12 g salt


Follow the directions for the Surprise Baguette. The dough is very slack, and I use flour when I fold it, which I do as many times as the dough can tolerate it the first couple times. The folding develops the dough very nicely.


This recipe has many of the virtues of the original including enhanced flavor from the starter and the rye.


Patricia

AW's picture
AW

I made this for a second time (both times in the summer) and found I did have to add more flour to the formula. It's off a bit. Even though both times I carefully weighed the ingredients the water proportion seems high too my touch. Since baguettes are difficult to get just right, I say you and I just keep trying. :)


-Arlene

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Patricia.


I think you are on a well-traveled road of starting with a "new" formula and tweaking it until you get "there" ... to your own place. 


BTW, if you use less yeast (1/4 tsp only) and another tsp or two of water, you have the makings of my San Joaquin Sourdough. The only big difference is the overnight retardation, taken from Bouabsa's method. And I use only 100 gms of starter.


So, how does the formula you are using work out? I'm thinking of trying it myself.


David

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

When you  start out on a new road, only to find yourself, at the end, in a place that is so familiar but you see it with new eyes...travel? or bread baking? At any rate, isn't it interesting that although we try so many little changes, in fact, there is only so much that can vary in water, flour, leavener, and time.


The bread that I'm baking with the recipe above is very good for a quick baguette. In the case of this recipe, the starter doesn't have time to act as it would if it were the only leavening, given the short ferment.


I will make the San Joaquin Sourdough because it must be much better with the overnight retardation. One of the things that should improve is the look of the crust, which in my recipe is a little dull and under-gelatinized. (Some day I swear I will get the photos posted.) It may be that I have used organic flour on occasion. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of barley malt syrup, but I'm not sure it helps much.


Thanks!


Patricia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Patricia said



In the case of this recipe, the starter doesn't have time to act as it would if it were the only leavening, given the short ferment.



Ahhh ... The added starter may not have time to raise the bread, but it does contribute flavor, acting as a pre-ferment. That thought makes me want to add even more starter, in the proportions one would add a pate fermentee, for example. The thing is, at that point, you would have a sourdough bread spiked with yeast. Then, do you really need that added yeast?


I'm getting dizzy, going around in circles like this!


David

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

And this may just be more of the circle game, but the reason I added the starter was to enhance the flavor of the quick baguette...if we go to pure sourdough, then we're back to the long rise, and the idea of the baguette ready in a few hours is out. Or am I missing something?


Wouldn't be the first time!


Patricia

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Unless we both are.


David