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BBA's Poilane bread too dense

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sitzhaki's picture

BBA's Poilane bread too dense



I tried the Poilane bread from BBA as well as the 100% rye bread from the same book.

The loaves came out very tasty, but very heavy and dense.

I prepared the started the day before and it stayed in the fridge for the night.

The barm was fed the day before I made the starter and really jumped to the sky...

I let the loaves rise according to the recipe, although the ambient temperature might have been a little cold for them (around 70F).

Any ideas? Should these loaves be really dense?





Uberkermit's picture

In general, 100% rye bread should definitely be dense. Less so if you use light rye flour and more so if you use a coarser whole rye or rye meal. In Germany it's really treated as a different food item than what you or I might think of as bread. According to a German friend, a slice of really good rye bread is a meal. Not a wrapper for a sandwich or a butter delivery vehicle, but a thing of substance, flavor, and beauty. (Though I've never been to Germany, he has smuggled me back some of his favorite rye bread, and by my standards I would definitely call it dense).

bwraith's picture

Hi Sitzhaki,

You may want to look at the various miche recipes in my blog ( There are several, if you just scroll through the entries to find them. Many of the recipes there are close to the recipe in the BBA for the Poilane miche, which I too had tried before moving along to the ideas you will see in the blog. Don't worry so much about the flours I use, as the basic idea of a mixture of whole grain and white flour is there (or high extraction flours, that have similar handling issues). Focus on the handling, such as the soaking of the whole grain flour, autolyse, folding during bulk fermentation, and so on.

I added some of the links...

Some basic things to think about are:

1) The dough consistency shouldn't be too stiff or dry. It should be relatively soft and supple when you mix it. The dough will become more stiff as the acids build up and the gluten develops in the dough.

2) Learn about folding your dough during the bulk fermentation. This is something the BBA doesn't give too much attention that is a real help. If you start with a softer, wetter dough, and then fold it during bulk fermentation, you should see a very big difference.

3) Consider soaking the whole grain portion of your recipe overnight. Take a portion of the total water from your recipe, enough to be about 80-100% of the whole grain flour in your recipe, and mix the whole grain flour with that portion of the water and let rest overnight. Mix the soaker with the rest of the flour and water at the point you mix the final dough, and proceed normally from there.

4) Don't overferment during the bulk fermentation. It's better to stop the bulk fermentation a little before it doubles in volume.

5) Don't overproof the shaped loaf. It's better again to stop a little early, so that the loaf is not overproofed. You'll get better oven spring and a lighter crumb if you stop the final proof at the right moment, which is before the dough has risen as high as it can go.

6) This point is possibly a little controversial, but here goes. Use a somewhat smaller "firm starter" than is specified in the BBA recipe, moving the flour and water you didn't put in the firm starter to the final dough. The rise times will be a little longer, but I think the gluten quality is better when you keep the proportion of fermented flour in the final dough a little smaller. Or, add 1/4-1/2 tsp of instant yeast to the BBA final dough recipe to get it to rise more vigorously and quickly.

Almost all of the issues above are discussed in the various miche entries in my blog.

Good luck with it. The BBA recipe is good, but these details of handling can make all the difference. It's not a problem to let the firm starter rise by double and then refrigerate it overnight. I do that all the time without problems. Don't let the firm starter ferment for a lot more than the time it takes to double, especially if you will be refrigerating overnight.

I hope some of this helps.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi Shai,

If you want a lighter crumb, read Bill's suggestions above.I don't know how dense "too dense" is by your standards, but Reinhart's Poilane-style Miche is a lower hydration dough than the Miches in Hamelman's "Bread" or in Leader's "Local Breads." It does make a denser loaf.

Personally, my favorite of the group is Hamelman's "Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere." It has the most open crumb and is, to my taste, just about the perfect wheat sourdough. (I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday and breakfast this morning. I'll have it for dinner tonight with a lentil soup. Just so you understand I kind of like this bread.)

 Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere crumb
Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere crumb

On the other hand, I find that Reinhart's Miche is actually closer to the Poilane original, as I remember it, than either of the others.

Again, all this aside, if you want a less dense crumb, follow Bill's suggestions.


bwraith's picture

Hi Shai,

I agree with David that density is a matter of preference. I've never tasted or seen a real Poilane Miche, so it may well be that the BBA recipe matches the Poilane Miche's density.

Some of the miches in my blog, like David's miche mentioned and pictured above, are closer or directly derived from some of the recipes in Hamelman's "Bread". That book also has some very good explanations of folding and mixing techniques that were very helpful to me when working on these miche recipes.

I think, even if the hydration is lower like the BBA recipe, it's possible to inadvertently add too much flour, especially if kneading by hand and dusting with flour. The sticky, shaggy phase when a dough with whole grains has first been mixed makes it very tempting to use more flour. I don't know if this is happening, but if the dough is already on the low end of hydration, it can be made too dense with the addition of small amounts of flour. Also, different whole wheat flours absorb more or less water, to really confuse things.

As David says, if you want a less dense miche, it probably will help up to a point to make the dough softer, i.e. wetter. However, wetter doughs usually benefit from some folding during the bulk fermentation, as suggested in Hamelman's recipes and many others. An exception might be the Genzano loaves in Leader's book, where you mix the daylights out of a high hydration dough with a machine at the beginning. You could check the Genzano recipe out in my blog (, too, or check out Zolablue's blog ( where she did the Genzano loaf. It's another recipe for a miche to look at, where the hydration is very high, and it is mixed aggressively at the beginning and not handled much after that.


sitzhaki's picture

Thanks for the elaborated answers and thanks for the links. I certainly have some homework to do. David, the bread had very very small holes, and was very heavy, nothing like your Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere.
Wetter dough might really be part of the solution.
I will follow the rest of the tips that you suggested.

Thanks Again,