The Fresh Loaf

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slowing down a poolish

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sallam's picture
sallam

slowing down a poolish

Greetings

I'm trying to think of ways to slow down a poolish..

I bake once a week, and I use a combination of both the old dough & poolish methods: I always take about a cup of last week's proofed dough, and keep it in the fridge for next week's baking, to use instead of yeast. The night before baking I take the old dough out, keep it on the counter for an hour, then mix it with a 100% hydration poolish that has all my recipe's water and an equal amount of flour. The next day, about 9 hours later, the poolish reaches its peak breaking point (I know this when cross indentations start to show up on the poolish surface) I then add the rest of the flour and other ingredients, knead and proof.
The problem is that this cycle takes about 14 hours. My baking should be ready for my family by 6 pm, which means I should start making my poolish at 4 am! ..so inconvenient. I need to slow down my poolish about 4 hours, so that I can start the poolish at 12 am.

Here is a few ideas that I'll try this weekend..

  • keep poolish flour in fridge to use it chilled
  • use cold water from the fridge
  • use old dough right from the fridge without letting it sit on the counter
  • add recipe's salt to the poolish
  • keep the poolish in a colder spot (near a window) instead of kitchen counter

Do you think those tricks could buy me 4 more hours?
I know I can just retard the poolish in the fridge, but a container for 2kg of dough plus expansion would occupy much space there, plus I don't know the time it would need to peak in the fridge (any idea?)
If you have any other ideas, please share them with me..

Many thanks.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

  • keep poolish flour in fridge to use it chilled
  • use cold water from the fridge
  • use old dough right from the fridge without letting it sit on the counter
  • add recipe's salt to the poolish
  • keep the poolish in a colder spot (near a window) instead of kitchen counter

Basically, taking measures to use COOLER water as opposed to very cold water can help to slow things down, as will any other measure aimed at cooling down the temperature of the poolish.  But a mere reduction of 4 to 5 degrees F in the temp of the poolish right after it is mixed might do the job.  Maybe 8 or 10 degrees.  Depends on your kitchen's temperature during fermentation.  We're only talking about 4 more hours, so extreme measures probably aren't necessary.

OR -- you can also add a very, very tiny amount of salt to the poolish to slow down the fermentation rate just a bit.  Take the total weight of flour in your poolish, multiply that by .001, and there's your desired weight of salt to add for slowing things down.  For a small batch of dough, perhaps the tiniest pinch of salt would do -- experimentation might be necessary.  I probably wouldn't use the salt-addition measure unless cooler water isn't working or if enzyme activity becomes excessive (your dough gets sticky).  Reducing the poolish temp is simpler.

By the way, the traditional use of "old dough" in European baking methods is generally limited to 24-48 hours if you can keep the old dough refrigerated.  I wouldn't say that you shouldn't use it after that if you're happy with your present results, but things like dough degradation can complicate your process if you do.

-- Dan DiMuzio

sallam's picture
sallam

I probably wouldn't use the salt-addition measure unless cooler water isn't working or if enzyme activity becomes excessive (your dough gets sticky)

It does get sticky. Are you saying that using salt in the poolish reduces dough stickiness?

By the way, the traditional use of "old dough" in European baking methods is generally limited to 24-48 hours if you can keep the old dough refrigerated.  I wouldn't say that you shouldn't use it after that if you're happy with your present results, but things like dough degradation can complicate your process if you do.

How about mixing the recipe's salt with the old dough before refregiratring. Wouldn't that slow down both the old dough's cold ferment and later also the poolish?

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

But a recommendation of "no" to the second question.  The more complicated you make your "old dough" addition, the less reason there is to use old dough at all.  Old dough should be an easy way to add flavor and strength to a bread dough, thereby shortening the necessary bulk time for the final dough.  That's how it originated -- to use up leftover dough. The more we fuss with it, the less convenient is the method and the more reason there is to use a dedicated sponge or biga instead.  Ferment a sponge or biga at about 60% hydration, 70 degrees F for 24 hours or so and you have an almost foolproof way of doing what you're attempting to do with the very old-old dough.

I'm not convinced that your poolish is causing the problem, unless it is too warm during its own fermentation.  Try 70 degrees F for 12 to 14 hours, or maybe 65-66 degrees F to go the 4 hours longer.  Try to locate the poolish as it ferments in a location that is about the same temp as the poolish itself, or make other adjustments as you see fit, but, at least in your case, don't go over 70 degrees F if you want to keep the fermentation of the poolish under control.

BTW -- your "room temp" is warmer nearer the ceiling and/or over the refrigerator, and cooler near the floor and farthest from your heating ducts.  Just leave a quick-read thermometer in any spot for 5 minutes or so and you'll know what the temp of that spot is.

-- Dan DiMuzio

sallam's picture
sallam

Many thanks Dan for the good info. Your suggestion of using biga instead of poolish is very wise.

I think I'll use both salt and less hydration (75%), as factors to increase the fermentaion time.

Is it Ok if I increase the amount of biga to 85% of the final bulk dough? I'm askung because its easier for me to use all the water in the biga.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I've never done that, so I can't say whether it would work or not.  I've never used any sort of pre-ferment that comprised more than 40-45% of the total flour used in a dough, and I don't know anyone else who has.

I don't think that splitting up the water used is difficult, as long as you keep accurate notes.

--DD

Darxus's picture
Darxus

Use less old dough.  To reduce the ratio of yeast to fresh dough.  I think an 18 hour ferment should still give you fine flavor.  

But I'm still quite new to this stuff.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I think you worry too much, what if you let the poolish age an extra four hours, I doubt that it would have a huge effect on the final product. If it does I would play with the ratio poolish to total dough weight.

Gerhard

sallam's picture
sallam

I've decided to do a 75% hydration pre-ferment (can I still call it biga, or poolish?) (1000g flour:750g water) plus 250g old dough. Its now 11 hours, and it has already doubled in size.

Should I stop there, or keep it going? What is the peak signs, or break point, to tell when to use it? In 100% hydration poolish I can tell it reached its peak when I notice that crosses started to show up on the surface. But what signs should I look for in more firm 70% hydration pre-ferment?
In poolish, the cross signs appears when it has more than trippled in size. Should I allow the 75% hydration to reach tripple its size too?