The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie poolish question

shames's picture
shames

Newbie poolish question

Hello everyone I'm a newbie like literally my first time attempting baking bread and I'm trying to make baguettes.

I see most recipes call for a poolish of equal amounts water to flour and a bit of yeast.  When I combine the ingredients it often turns into a loose dough rather then the thick batter that the pictures often suggest it should look like.  It has been pretty humid where I'm from the last few days so could this change things?  Should I just add more water to make it look like the picture and alter the water amount for the dough portion?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks!

chrissibthorp's picture
chrissibthorp

Humidity can be a factor, but high humidity would mean that the flour was absorbing additional liquid from the air, so your poolish should be looser rather than thicker. The "loose dough" you describe sounds about right for a 100% hydration poolish, the thick batter look will develop during the pre-ferment as air bubbles form and cause the poolish to expand, disrupting and weakening the structure of the dough. To be honest the exact hydration of your poolish shouldn't matter too much since you can adjust the hydration when you mix together your final dough, but start off by adding less water than the recipe says and adjust from there, you can always add more.

Since this is your first time making bread my advice would be to follow the recipe exactly, then from your results try to work out what went wrong, what went right, then how to improve your next batch. Keep in mind that the water absorption rates will vary between types and brands of flour, and also on the climate in which you are baking. The only way to tell for sure what works in your climate and with your ingredients is to practice and make adjustments to your recipe based on your experiences, which is a great excuse to bake more often :D

Good luck!

Chris

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

equal weights of water to flour     

If using volume (cups) the poolish will have twice as much water than it should.

shames's picture
shames

Thanks Chris I'll give this a try. 

Sorry yes I weighed both the flour and the water.  Should I be measuring water by volume and flour by weight?

The recipe just lists both as ounces or grams and doesn't differentiate between fluid ounces or whatever so I just weighed both.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)   Stick to weights

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Dear Newbie,  A good number of us approached the high-hydration doughs after working with the leaner doughs for years.  The techniques of working with the "goopier" doughs (meaning, high-hydration) are so very different from those for the denser ones that, often working on one's own, it's easy to get lost.  That you are starting with the harder-to-work dough is amazingly brave.  I hope that you will watch all of the technique videos available on this site.  To see it done helps.  Even more helpful is having a local baker to watch and learn from.  But, better than learning on your own and from The Fresh Loaf, is picking a beginner's text book (not a bread recipe cook book) and working your way through it.  I teach from DiMuzio's Bread Baking because it's short, cheap, teaches you from the ground up, and is full of the exercises which will teach you what you need to know.  It's possible to get it sometimes used for as little as $20.  Learning from a recognized expert who's a teacher him/herself is wonderful.  Doing it from a book allows you to do it on your own time.  You might also try reading through Floyd Mann's handbook which is clickable from the banner menu above on this page.