The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starting to get the Bear

proth5's picture

Starting to get the Bear

 Even in what passes for "normal" in my life, mid-November to the end of December ranges from busy to insanely busy.  There are jams to package, candies to make, and cookies to bake.  Being the designated holder of family culinary traditions, the doing, packaging, and shipping can take on a life of its own.

As the one or two of you who read my blogs know, 2010 hardly started out as a "normal" year.  I had high hopes it would quickly settle to normal. But it was not to be.

 Doesn't mean I don't keep up with the bread, though.

 Lately I've been getting some big bear bites as I try to adjust my usual formulas to use two pre ferments.  I'll have to admit, my mental mise en place was somewhat lacking and some very, very odd things came out of that fancy, new oven.  Today, however, I looked over at the days baking and thought - "It's far from perfect, but that's some nice looking bread."

Twp Preferments - same day

I've been varying the percentage of flour in the preferment all over the map.  What I found, is that reverting to my old faithful of 12-15% of the total flour pre fermented once again, did the trick.  

 The formula (for 6 loaves of about 10 oz of dough per loaf) (And y'all are going to have to put up with ounces...):

 Total percentage of flour pre fermented: 15%


Percentage of flour in the poolish: 10%

 King Arthur All Purpose Flour           3.7 oz

Water                                            3.7 oz

Instant yeast                                        generous pinch


Percentage of flour in the levain: 5%

Hydration: 100%


King Arthur All Purpose flour                   1.7 oz

Water                                                  1.7 oz

Seed                                                    0.35 oz

 Final dough

67% hydration

Desired Dough temperature 76F


King Arthur All Purpose Flour                   31.35 oz

Water                                                  19.2 oz

Instant Yeast                                         0.05 oz (Yes, that little - that's 0.135%)

Salt                                                        0.55 oz

All of the poolish

All of the levain


Mix the flour, water, polish and levain to a shaggy mass.  Autolyse for 30 mins.

Mix in mini spiral for 3 minutes at single speed.  Moderate gluten development. (Could also be mixed by hand or stand mixer.)

 (At this point I divided the dough in half, with one half receiving a normal bulk ferment, and the other half sent into the refrigerator for a retarded bulk ferment of about 10 hours.)

 Bulk ferment 4.5 hours at 72F, stretch and fold at 2 hours.

 Divide and pre shape.  Rest for 25 minutes.

Shape. (At a mere 7% of the flour in the levain, I achieved a dough that fought back during shaping.  This 5% of flour in the levain handled very nicely.)

 Proof for 1 hour 30 minutes.

 Slash and load.

 Bake 5 minutes with your favorite home steaming method at 500F conventional bake.

 Switch to convection bake at 480F (I love my new oven...) for 12-13 minutes.

 Since I have the convection oven, all my loaves (even the ones where the bear gets me) sing pretty nicely and the crusts are quite crispy even after the bread is cool.

 The taste?  Not a really assertive levain taste, but definitely more flavor there than a typical poolish baguette.  The crumb is much more yellow than I can capture with my negligible photographic skills.  I would describe the taste as "creamy."

This formula hasn't passed the "I baked this for many weeks and it is consistent" test, but I though I would share.

 We'll see how the other half turns out tomorrow (In general I've not been best pleased with shaping after retarding with these mixed pre ferment breads, but we shall see...)

 Happy Baking!

Added by edit:  The batch of baguettes that received the retarded bulk ferment were removed to a proofing box at about 72F for an hour and a half before shaping.  Thye still fought back a bit, but not nearly as badly as other batches.  Unfortunately time ran out for picture taking, but they had a more open crumb than the first batch.  My official bread tester declared them, the best bread, yet. I, of course, was unhappy with the shaping...


trailrunner's picture

We need usually 6 loaves at a time. The plan looks very doable. Will give it a try and post back. Have a wonderful holiday, Pat. c

proth5's picture

 - now I just have to bake the formula over and over to make sure it is reliable.

And branch out a littlle and make that brioche which was my "rationale" (OK - "excuse") for buying a mixer...

Cooky's picture

Good lookng bread there. I never thought of trying both poolish and levain in one recipe. Very ineresting approach.

And I know what you mean about the color. I love that hint-of-butter tone you get with KA flour. I know some people are addicted to blinding-white crumb, but I'm a sucker for the off-white.



proth5's picture

for your kind words.

pmccool's picture

I'm glad to know that you are back in your old haunts, Pat.  And up to your usual pursuit of excellence.  It's also nice to hear that the new toys are getting a workout.  Certainly there's a sheeter somewhere out there with your name on it...


P.S. Remind me to tell you the joke about the bear and the rabbit someday.

proth5's picture

I didn't think I would have room for the spiral - but during baking deprived months I kept mentally re arranging my kitchen and finally found space.  Now I 'll have to think about space for the sheeter.

Any time you want to tell me the joke, please do.  I love a good joke - or even a bad one.

wally's picture

That's an intriguing recipe, combining both poolish and levain.  Did you notice any difference in the retarded dough?  I'm wary of retarding poolish-based doughs because of my fear of too much protease activity degrading the dough.  So I'm very interested in your experience.


proth5's picture

by Team USA.  I could just get their formulas, but I find that my altitude usually forces me to tune them anyway.

The retarded dough fought back a bit during shaping, but did have a more open crumb.  It did suffer in the area of grigne, but that could have been operator error.  In general, I don't like the results when I retard my baguettes either for the bulk ferment or after shaping.  There is always something subtlely wrong with the dough and how it acts.  Maybe I am just so used to working with the dough the same day that I haven't quite gotten the hang of working witht he colder, stiffer dough.  I have considered that if I worked at higher hydrations, I might see different results. I do like being able to deliver fresh baked loaves to my faithful limo driver, though, so I am soldiering on with retarding during  the bulk ferment to see if I can get it to work.

Hope this helps.


LindyD's picture

Nice looking baguettes, Pat.  And very nice grigne.

What steaming method are you using in your new oven?

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Pat.

I have the dough for your getting the bear baguettes fermenting and will report on the results.

In transcribing your formula, i don't find where you added the salt. I added it after a long autolyse. (A dash to the farmer's market in the meantime.)

I was skeptical about the single S&F at 2 hours, but the dough strength looks like it's going to be good after incorporating the salt. I hand-mixed the dough, BTW.