The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why does Hamelman not preferment his whole wheat flour?

janij's picture
janij

Why does Hamelman not preferment his whole wheat flour?

I love Hamelman's multigrain breads.  Both the levain version and the preferment version.  My question is, why does he not preferment or use the whole wheat flour in his levains?  I would think, and I am NO expert, that it would enhance the flavor to use part of the whole wheat flour in the preferments instead of the bread or AP flour.  Does anyone have any insight on this?  I think I will try using the whole wheat in the levain this time and see what happens.  I use fresh, hand ground flour.  So I don't know.  Anyne got any ideas on this?

Salome's picture
Salome

i've asked myself the same question before and I'm curious whether somebody here has got the explanation on hand. I'm sure somebody does?

Salome

janij's picture
janij

Dan,

I never thought of it in that context.  It makes sense that in a big barkey you are not going to make all kinds of pre-ferments when you can use one for all of them.  So thank you, now I understand why.  Since I am not running a barkery I think I will continue to pre-ferment the whole wheat flour.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Here is my understanding: Pre-ferments originated as a method of improving bakery time management without sacrificing flavor. It has been recognized for ages that a long slow fermentation is necessary to develop the best possible flavor in bread, but to schedule your work so that you would have bread ready for the morning customers meant working all night. However, if some portion of your dough was fermented ahead of time, it would contribute its virtues of improved flavor, gluten strength and delayed staling to the final dough and permit the production of good bread with a shorter time from mixing to baking.

To achieve the same scheduling advantages without using a pre-ferment, the baker would mix intensively (to develop the gluten faster, but at the cost of dough oxidation and poor flavor) and use more yeast in the dough.

On the other hand, the baker can always return to the older method of slow fermentation. We see a trend in this direction, as exemplified by McGuire's "pain de tradition" that Shiao-Ping has shared with us. It still makes wonderful, fully flavored bread. It's easy for the home baker who can hang around the house and fuss with his/her dough every half hour or so for 6 to 8 hours. I would not want to make bread by this method if it had to be ready for sale at 7 AM though.

So, that's the pre-ferment story as I read its history.

As for why Hamelman doesn't pre-ferment whole wheat, Dan's explanation makes sense to me. Would the bread be (even) better with the whole wheat flour pre-fermented? I suspect it would. Reinhart thinks it is, as I understand his whole grain baking book. 

David

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

While pre-ferments may have originated as a time-management tool - I disagree that one can simply return to the 'older method' of slow fermentation and expect the exact same result.

Multi-stage levain builds, multiple pre-ferment doughs and other more sophisticated applications of preferments go much further than simple 'short cuts'. Bread science just doesn't support the notion that 'total dough formula' + mixing + time are the only factors that affect the final result. Complex enzymatic processes, development of acids, gluten development (or degradation), effect of salt etc. etc. all play roles which are procedurally sensitive.

I'm not saying that great bread can't be produced by straight dough method - it blatantly can - but to imply that straight-dough + time can replace any formula that uses pre-ferment - or that given enough fermentation time, preferments are rendered irrelevant just doesn't seem feasible to me.

FP

 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, FP.

I don't believe I said one achieves identical (or better) results with a long bulk fermentation than with the use of pre-ferments. I was saying, in my long-winded way, what Dan said in one sentence.

However, one does gain some of the same benefits of pre-ferments from a long bulk fermentation (development of acids, gluten development, etc.) Personally (so as not to over-generalize), the best tasting baguettes I've made have not used a pre-ferment, but they did use a long cold retardation. Those were the Gosselin baguettes. The second best tasting baguettes were actually Hamelman's "No-Knead" baguettes.  I have yet to make baguettes with poolish or with pâte fermentée as good as these. Perhaps it's time to try again.

David

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

I apparently misunderstood your initial point. However, I suspect baguettes are not the best bread to explore preferments vs straight doughs.  Then again...they might be - it's a matter of taste. One is not better than the other - simply different.

Perhaps my view is slightly skewed since I spend most of my time working with sourdough which is a preferment by default.

FP

 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Of course, I also bake with sourdough 90+ percent of the time - Not that I am averse to spiking the dough with some yeast on occasion.

I actually bake with poolish or pâte fermentée 2 or 3 times a year. Thus, I freely admit to basing my statements on a vast accumulation of others' experiences.

Happy baking!

David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mini