The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Poolish -- First "Flight" -- Questions -- All-Poolish Loaf? Adjusting for Hydration after Soak, and, and....

Koyae's picture

Poolish -- First "Flight" -- Questions -- All-Poolish Loaf? Adjusting for Hydration after Soak, and, and....

'Just tried to do a sourdough loaf with presoak and had it end up /very/ doughy. I've been learning for a few weeks now because most commercially-available breads are absolute garbage health-wise, and the good stuff (from the farmers' market or frozen at the natural foods -stores) runs a good $6-per loaf. I'm determined to learn and not afraid of making mistakes (as you'll soon learn.)

Anyway, trial went something like:

(36-hour 65°F to 70°F) presoak :
3c Bob's Red Mill Unbromated unbleached white
1/2c Hungarian high-altitude whole-wheat
1/4c whole-wheat germ
1 3/4 c low-fat buttermilk
1/2c low-fat yogurt

(12-hour 75°F) poolish :
1/16t Rapunzel Rize active dry yeast
1 1/2 c of presoak taken at its 24-hour mark

(20-min) proof :
2 1/2 T white granulated sugar (kneaded in)

final dough :
1/2t salt
2T cornstarch
15-minute knead
45-minute warmed rise
1T cornstarch
10-minute knead and frissage
1-minute stretch and fold
50-minute warmed rise

actual loaf :
30-minute preheated bake at 375 degrees F

Obviously I did a ton of things wrong. Mostly factors of timing, I felt. The reason I didn't do at least two more rises and a rest-period was because I was trying to get this ready for someone so they could have a few slices before they headed overseas for a few weeks. The dough itself had turned out well with quite a sharpness to it. The slices from the loaf were alright after being toasted for a bit. The crust turned out brown and very thin on top, and a bit thicker and paler on the bottom (like "German light rye" if you've ever been so lucky to've had it) and completely gorgeous; the dough had been too wet to really slash as it was going in, but it browned and split just slightly on its own during the bake. I'm kicking myself presently for not having taken a few photos.

So, since I'm not an optimist, but a utilitarian, I figure I can use the experience, and pose a few of the questions I came up with as the process went on. Questions follow:

Afterwards (after having sliced off maybe 1/5 of the shallow dome-shaped loaf) I lowered the oven-temperature to 200°F or 250°F and tried putting the bread back in for an hour or so but to no avail as the next slice came off close-to-as-doughy as the previous. I ended up cutting the whole thing into slices after that and leaving them in for maybe an hour after upping again to 300°F.
Q - Is there a reason bread seems to utterly refuse to bake after it's been sliced once?

Next... I know I could do a poolish simultaneously with the soak, but it occured to me...
Q - Is there such a thing as bread that's made entirely from poolish, or would such a loaf fall, or otherwise fail during baking?

I used cornstarch instead of normal flour during knreading because I wanted to minimize phytates that I'd get from adding dry flour back into the soaked mix.
Q - Do folks just use white flour to minimize phytates (because AP-flour generally doesn't have tons), or is there another flour (like potato-flour, or cornflour) or thing (like cornmeal) that is used for that?

Generally I end up with /very/ hydrated flour starting into adding the final ingredients, and kneading and so-on because I want to make sure everything's properly damp so my culture or acidic base can do its thing properly. Like I said, as I worked with the dough it was /very/ wet.
Q - Is there a standard method for adjusting for dough-hydration on the fly (keeping the above concerns about phytic acid in-mind)?
    Q - Will most doughs rise properly if not kept covered in order to help lower their moisture-content?
    Q - Should I just try sprouting my grains instead if I'm so paranoid about this stuff?

Finally, and you won't be quoted on this...
Q - Would a loaf with this amount of hydration ever rise and bake correctly?


janij's picture

This dough is around the 80% hydration range if you don't count the yogurt and the wheat germ.  That is really wet for anything close to a loaf.  And I am not sure that cornstarch was such a good idea.  I am really not sure what that would so.  I have never heard of cornstarch being used for flour.  The other thing is that 30 min at 375 is not long enough and not a high enough temp.  Maybe 425 for 30 min would have gotten you closer to done.

I think the real key here for you is to figure out exactly what you want the bread to be like.  I am not all that knowledgable on the phytates.    Are they really that dangerous?  I have not idea.  Now I guess I should go find out.  But from what I see, you feel the ned to presoak the whole grain or whole grain flour for health reasons.  But you are only using 1/2 c of whole wheat flour.  So I am not sure what the issue is there.

So questions 1.  I am thinking maybe the cornstarch made it gummy and what you think is not cooked.  I could be totally wrong but that is my thought along with the high hydration.

2.  What do you mean by poolish in question 2?  A poolish is normally a liquid preferment.  So by nature, no you could not really make a loaf out of a poolish.  It is too wet. 

The next couple question I can't answer about the phytates.

But you can let the dough rise uncovered, it will just form a skin over the top that will not be nice to flod back into the dough when shaped.

In my honest opinion, and you can totally diregard this, but if I were you...  I would kind a good standard formula.  Like let's say, this is one of my favorite formulas based on 1 lb flour it will give you one small loaf.  Use 68% hydration.  Use up to 30% of the flour weight and mix it will and equal weight of water and add 1/8 t yeast.  Make this as a poolish the night before.  Next day add the rest of the flour and the water and 2% of the flour weight in salt and 1/2t yeast.  You can use up to 50% whole grain flour if you want.  Just use as much as you can of it as you can in the poolish.  Get good at a standard formula, then add in the crazy stuff like srpouted ground grain and the like.  This way you will get to know how bread dough is supposed to behave and feel and bake. 

I don't think I was much help here. If I hit close to answers on anything and you want more info just holler.  Hopefully someone else will help as well.

ehanner's picture

Ok you get an A for trying to be serious. Just about everything you are writing about sounds like you are spoofing us....

If you seriously want to make bread and you said you wanted to make sourdough, I suggest you start by learning to bake white bread first. Start with lesson #1 on the front page and follow the directions carefully. After you try a few of the lessons, use the search tool for pineapple starter and read up on how to start a sourdough starter.

You can't make sourdough without a natural yeast and if I be so bold, flour. But you knew that.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Koyea.

Welcome to TFL!

Jan and Eric made some good points. I'm going to add some general advice regarding learning to bake good bread, and I gather that's your goal.

1. First, as Eric's advice implied, start with a simple recipe before you mess with complex ones. "Simple" means 4 ingredients: Flour, water, salt and yeast (or sourdough starter).

2. Make one or two recipes over and over, until you have mastered them. You will learn the feel of dough, how to develop the gluten, how to form a loaf, and other techniques without worrying about the effect of this or that exotic ingredient.

3. Get a scale. You cannot measure precisely by volume. Believe it! (Exception: once you have mastered a particular bread, you know the dough and can make adjustments by feel. That's months off for you, if not years.)

4. If you want to make sourdough bread, and I recommend it, you need to grow, buy or beg a sourdough starter and learn how to keep it going.

You cite good reasons for learning to bake your own bread - health and economy - but it's also a soul-satisfying process, as you will hopefully discover.

Do read the basic lessons and try them out yourself. Consider buying or checking out a good baking book which gives you enough of the science to let you know what you are doing enough to start understanding why things work and sometimes don't work. (Read the book reviews on this site and other topics related to bread books.)

And happy baking!


flournwater's picture

I had a list of issues to explore, but after reading David's comments there is nothing I could add to expand, in any meaningful way, on what he wrote.  I strongly suggest you follow David's advice and come back to discuss any problems you experience. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You remind me of myself! 

The flour only needs to be wet for 6 hours to reduce phytic acid.  It doesn't need to be too wet.   So reduce your yeast so the bulk rise takes a little longer.  Problem solved.  Try to incorporate as much of the recipe flour as you can so it has a chance to moisten without being too dry.   Then let the dough sit 30 minutes, covered.   The little bit that you use for bench work and shaping is so small that it isn't a problem.   If you retard your dough anytime in the fridge, phytic acid problem also solved.  

To play with some of your thoughts... 

If you feel you have to add lots of flour late into the dough and soon before baking, use sprouted flours or grated nuts or fine dried bread crumbs (remember there is no helpful gluten in nuts or crumbs but they soak up lots of moisture so don't overdo it.)  The best would be to avoid getting your dough too wet.  Experience is the teacher as written above.  But crazy things do happen.   You can always look at wet wet dough like cake batter and just plop it (pouring breaks bubbles) into a greased bowl or form and let it bake through.  Give it plenty of head room or it might go over the edges and make a mess.   It will rise on the outside edges first and slowly rise to the middle.  Might take an hour or more but that is when a probe thermometer is handy.  Just stab the thing half way thru and see if the middle has reached a high enough temperature to call it done.  If anyone asks, "it's a batter bread."  Let it cool at least 10 minutes in the form before trying to remove it.

In baking the bread and cooling it down, the bread goes through many changes.  If the loaf isn't done in the middle, it is very hard to finnish baking it once it starts cooling and compacting.  Don't ever go below 300°F for it takes even longer.   Stay above 350°F or go higher if browning isn't a problem.   The loaf also needs moisture to bake properly otherwise you are just drying it out.  Wrap tightly in foil to create a protective skin to trap in moisture if crumb is exposed, that goes for warming up loaves too.

Now, relax and have fun!


Added link to inform and update:

Koyae's picture

Okay, it took me a while to get back to this, but I figure I'll set a few things straight.

"...But you are only using 1/2 c of whole wheat flour. So I am not sure what the issue is there."

You may not be familiar, bur Bob's Red Mill Unbleached White is wheat flour.

"I don't think I was much help here."

Here's where you're wrong, janij. Your answer about poolish and what it actually *is*, was very helpful, and it's also helpful to know that rising in itself isn't inhibited by a lack of cover if I'm trying to allow some adjustments to hydration to happen, thanks!

"You can't make sourdough without a natural yeast..." + "If you want to make sourdough bread, and I recommend it, you need to grow, buy or beg a sourdough starter and learn how to keep it going."

Textbook definitions aside, as I mentioned in my post, the dough itself was bitter (and good), so *shrug.* As I've read, a poolish allows for sourdough-esque traits in a loaf, although it would not be plausible to argue that poolish loaves and sourdough loaves are the exact same thing, one ofcourse being an abbreviated form of the other... Once I get back home I will be turning my attention back to yeastwater and starters and so-on.

"3. Get a scale. You cannot measure precisely by volume. Believe it! (Exception: once you have mastered a particular bread, you know the dough and can make adjustments by feel. That's months off for you, if not years.)"

I've got a scale, 'just don't have access to it over the holidays. I know I can't get optimal results without weighing stuff. I'm not /that/ naïve!

"From the way you talked about slicing off bits of the loaf, it sounds like you might not have let the bread cool before cutting into it, this would almost guarantee a doughy interior."

'Loaf was given the minimum 15 to 20. Was that too short of a span?

Finally, Mini -- Thanks for the advice, that's all stuff I can use, definately. I'm glad someone else knows a bit about phytates and such too -- I'd rather get a humble looking wheat loaf than some gorgeous brick of powdered sugar and shortening. And thanks for not scolding me -- like I said, head-first is the way I do things, and with a bit of advice from folks like you, I can learn faster from faceplanting than I can from being too timid.

CeraMom's picture

I agree - 15 minutes out of the oven and my bread was still over 170*, and might have been over 190*. I'd give it at least an hour, preferably till quite cold...

Your loaf continues to rise in temperature after being taken out of the oven, and the steam continues to cook the interior. I found that if I was eating the entire batch at once, I could deal with the slightly-to-very doughy interior... but it rather ruined the rest if I attempted to fridge it.

You are right that Bob's Red Mill Unbleached is a wheat flour, but it is not WHOLE wheat, as it has had the bran and endosperm removed. ( Just nitpicking for future posters, no offense intended )