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a few questions on (what else?) dough

alfanso's picture

a few questions on (what else?) dough

Hello fellow bakers,

I have a few questions that I’m certain the talented folks on this website can answer for me.  But first a bit of the background driving the questions.

This week I made baguette dough twice, the first time using a poolish and the second just a straight mix.

Poolish baguette:
50% poolish consisting of 100% hydration with 0.10% IDY.  The final mix dough hydration was 75% (poolish included) and the total IDY was 0.34%.

  • The poolish had 12 hours of bench time, which was completely sufficient for rise.
  • The final mix had a fast rise time of 2 hours from initial mix through autolyse, french folds and letter folds.
  • Followed by divide and pre-shape, etc.

Straight mix baguette:
Bouabsa style with 75% hydration and 0.16% IDY.

  • The mix consisted of autolyse, french folds, and letter folds with a wall clock time of just under 2 hours before retarding in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

By the time that the poolish baguette dough was ready to be pre-shaped, it was still quite sticky and so I donned my latex gloves for the pre-shape and then the final shape.

The straight dough was already exhibiting significant silkiness by the time that the first letter folds were done.  This continues through the entire long retardation, divide, etc.

The poolish baguette did not score well although it did open up somewhat on the bake – scoring sticky dough even with an oil tipped razor lame is a challenge with all of the drag.  Since I began experimenting with cold retardation doughs back in November I hadn’t used a poolish for a baguette bake.  But I do recall that back then I had similar issues with high hydration baguettes that used a poolish in the formulae.  

The Bouabsa style straight dough baguette scores beautifully every time, and opens quite nicely on the bake.  They both bake with steam on the front end of the bake.

1st question – as they are both 75% hydration doughs is there a clear explanation of why the poolish dough is so sticky, especially in comparison to the straight mix dough, even when the straight mix is at the earliest stages of its development (i.e. first letter fold after a 20 minute rest)?

2nd question – is there a set table or rules of thumb guiding the diminishing amounts of IDY used in fermentation?  For example: a 2 hour bench rise at 78 degrees vs. 4 hour bench rise at 78 degrees vs. 12 hour cold fermentation at 40 degrees vs. 24 hour cold fermentation at 40 degrees, etc.  Other than trial and error or following in the footsteps of others is there a clear way to determine the amount of yeast to be added based on the time and temp?

3rd question related to the above – is there a similar table or rule that can be applied to employing levain starters to the mix to determine rise times?   

Thanks in advance for considering these issues.


mariana's picture


Michel Suas (Advanced Bread and Pastry, 2009) indicates that for a 12 hr poolish the appropriate amount of yeast would be 0.1% f r e s h yeast (based on the amount of flour used in the poolish). I.e. your 0.1% IADY was 3 times more than necessary and that probably affected gluten. Hence the stickiness.

You also gave a very long fermentation (2hrs at unknown T instead of 0.5 hr at 23C(73F)) to the baguette dough. This would make a difference as well. You have pre-fermented a large portion of flour in the recipe, so the dough itself should not take long after being mixed to get ready to be divided and shaped. 

You can find a set table or rules of thumb guiding the diminishing amounts of IDY used in fermentation in textbooks, Miches Suas's is one of them. jeffrey Hamelman also gives guidance (p. 89, Bread, 2nd edition)

 is there a similar table or rule that can be applied to employing levain starters to the mix to determine rise times?  

That would be nice but impossible to achieve. I.e. just as we have many kinds of yeast, strains with different gas output: regular IADY, osmotolerant, fast rising, etc. with different leavening capacity in plain dough , starters differ among themselves. So for a particular KIND of starter one might come up with a table, from experience. But for all of them - no. 

alfanso's picture

Hi Mariana,

Thanks for your reply.  Two pieces of detail that I left out about the sticky dough: the room temp for the bulk fermentation was 78 degrees.  The dough was composed of 100% white AP flour.

The formula that I used was from FWSY titled "white bread with poolish".  Ken Forkish is a graduate of the SFBI program (doesn't mean much in this context) but he is also a long time disciple of Michel Suas.  

In FWSY he uses 0.08% IDY for his poolish.  So I do have too much (0.02%) IDY in my pre-ferment.  Thank you for pointing that out.  However the overall formula specifies 0.34% IDY which is the amount that I had added.

As an aside - the converter that I use to calculate fresh yeast to IDY yields 0.37g of IDY for each g of fresh yeast.

Point two - Ken's formula specifies a cooler ambient room temp than I have here in FL.  So I can cut the poolish fermentation time down a bit.  And the two hour quick rise, as you point out, may still be too long as it is, so I'll cut back on that as well, even though the book has a 2-3 hour bulk rise window and I adhere to the short end of that.

Both of the above points may indeed affect the dough's consistency.  But the difference in the sticky-slackness of the FWSY dough vs. the silky-smooth tight feel of the straight dough was quite stark even at the 20 minute mark.

BTW - I understand that FWSY formulae in the book are primarily designed for boules baked in the DO.  But I am still stuck in my world of baguettes and ciabattas, and probably won't emerge (with few exceptions) until I master them sometime by the end of the next millennium ;-) .  I think that I have a pretty good handle on baguettes but, unfortunately for me or not, I am a bit of a perfectionist about rolling and scoring baguettes and so I still have a ways to go.  

I do recognize that dropping a boule of dough into a DO can and does create great bread.  But the craft of the hand-work involved in the creation of a baguette (or the delicate care and stretching of a ciabatta loaf) is what really pushes my "on" button.


mariana's picture

Well, Alan, if it's Ken's formula, then the only way to track the source of discrepancy in the final result is to see where you deviate from his conditions.

If air is warmer and moister in your kitchen than in Ken's bakery in Portland, or you use different yeast, it will affect the dough fermentation rate. More important is quality of flour, and how strong is your poolish's structure. At no point the poolish should sag or god forbid collapse.

In that sense, I would have had better success with Ken's bread made in Florida, if I gave poolish short time at room T and finished poolish fermentation in the fridge. Then follow his process for the dough as written. Or else use salt to slow down protein breakdown and gluten softening in your poolish. Does your flour contain ascorbic acid? It would help as well. 

The rate of conversion from fresh yeast to IADY depends more on the way a specific recipe introduces yeast into dough, than on anything else. Fresh and Instant dry have different moisture content, obviously, but less obviously, they differ in gas production rates in lean dough and in their response to different methods of re-hydration and reactivation. Thus, IADY can be taken anywhere from 0.25 to 0.5 from the amount of fresh yeast in the original formula. 

I am not familiar with Ken's methods, so I can't contribute to conversation about that. I had his book, but didn't proceed to bake any from it, so I donated it to the library.