Poilane-Style Miche from BBA
I took a week away from baking last week. It could have been a visit to the East Coast, or a pulled muscle in my back, or a very unpleasant gut infection. In fact, it was all three. But the good news is (1) the absence of discomfort now seems like heaven, (2) I didn’t forget how to bake, and (3) I got the chance today to try the Central Milling “Organic Type 85” high-extraction flour for the first time. And I never knew what I’d been miche-ing!
Brother David had a good experience with the same flour (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20962/miche-michel-suas039-quotadvanced-bread-and-pastryquot) which I had scored a few weeks earlier. David suggested I try the Miche recipe from Peter Reinhart’s A Bread Baker’s Apprentice. So, I did.
I hadn’t previously tried any of Reinhart’s sourdoughs. His Miche method is elaborate (though, I gather, not as elaborate at Suas’). You make a liquid levain (kinda like a bubbly bowl of superglue). Then you use it to make a stiff pre-ferment that is refrigerated overnight. Then you mash it up with flour, water and salt, knead for 15 minutes, ferment three hours, shape in a huge boule, proof for two to three hours and bake with steam.
I departed from Reinart’s method in a few ways—some because of preference, some because of necessity. First, I used the Organic Type 85 flour instead of sifted whole wheat. Nicky Giusto at Central Milling had said that this flour is the closest to the flour used by Poilane. Second, instead of just letting the dough sit for a three hour primary ferment, I did a few stretch and folds. Third, because of the large size of the loaf and the small size of my oven, there wasn’t room for steaming apparatus. So I tried the stainless-steel bowl method for the first time. With a 16 quart bowl! Note the bowl overlaps the stone; I was concerned about this, but I don't think there was too big a shortage of steam.
Here’s the loaf after the bowl was removed.
I also got to try the SFBI couche material for the first time, using it to line a big bowl for proofing the loaf. As David had said, the fabric is like Teflon. Looking forward to trying it for baguettes tomorrow.
Working with a four-and-half-pound ball of dough was a new experience. Hand mixing and kneading that quantity of fairly stiff dough was a good workout. The texture of the dough became silky and airy, and it behaved well.
The bread came out nicely. The crust is crispy (for now) and the crumb is wonderfully moist and toothsome. The flavor is delightful—nutty and complex. I think I will try the Organic Type 85 flour in a 50-50 mix with white flour some time.
This bread was a perfect accompaniment for a chicken stew, and would be great for a BLT or toasted with jam. I’ve never had a “real” Poilane Miche, but I’m pretty happy with my facsimile.
And I’d never before baked anything bigger than Tasha (who is rightfully tense since she is not--in theory--allowed on the counter... one of those silly human rules that only applies when they're watching).
Tomorrow, I’ll use a combination of Central Milling flours in my San Francisco Country Sourdough. I need to finish before dinner with David who’s coming to town for his next SFBI adventure.