The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Do I only sacrifice flavor by eliminating the preferment?

enchant's picture

Do I only sacrifice flavor by eliminating the preferment?

I'm trying to perfect an Italian Peasant bread that I've been making for a few months.  I like the flavor and it's our go-to loaf for sandwiches and alongside pasta dishes.  I know I'll be asked for the recipe, so briefly, here it is:

153g water
.5g IDY
50g AP flour
55g WW flour
28g cornmeal
ferment  approx 10 hours

153g water
2.25 IDY
330g AP flour
12g salt

Mix biga and everything except salt, then autolyse 30 min.
Add salt and knead 5 min (I use a stand mixer)
Bulk ferment 1 hour
Stretch 'n' fold
Bulk ferment 1 hour
Stretch 'n' fold, shape into batard and bench rest 15 min
Tension pulls, then into a banneton basket, proof for 45 min.
Into a LL combo cooker, score, mist with water, into a 500F oven for 20 min.
Remove combo cooker cover, reduce heat to 450, bake another 14 min.

Ok, now that that's out of the way...  I'm very happy with the taste of the bread, but I'm finding the crumb a bit dense.  I'm trying a few experiments to see what effects they have, but my question is this:

If I were to eliminate the preferment stage and simply mix all the ingredients into a dough.  Would I have pretty much the same bread, but with a much plainer flavor?  The reason that I ask is that I'd like to run more experiments, but that means thinking ahead and making the biga the night before, and I don't always know my schedule.  Today is a perfect example.  My afternoon plans fell through and it'd be a great time to bake a loaf if I only had the preferment ready.

Ford's picture

The dense crumb sounds as though you are under proofing.  You say you proof for 45 minutes, do you check  by the two finger poke test to determine whether the dough has risen sufficiently?

Yes you build flavor through the time elapse.


enchant's picture

I've never been able to get much from the finger poke test. More experience will help with that. I'm hoping to add to the proofing, but in a few ways.  The experiments on my to-do list are:
Eliminate the bench rest and proof for 1 hour.
Proof in my heated proofing box (I've been going with RT).
Increase hydration

albacore's picture

Your recipe has a lot of salt - I calculate it at 2.94%. I'm just wondering if it's enough to slow down fermentation and give the dense crumb you are experiencing.

Besides that, current thinking on salt and health suggests a maximum of 2% and preferably 1.8%.


enchant's picture

Ok, I can add that to my list.  My wife wants less salt anyways.

clazar123's picture

You can get pretty reasonable flavor with a straight through dough. You want to make sure you don't use a lot of yeast. It will be a little slower for the bulk fermentation but that is where the flavor develops. I would use about 1/2 tsp (my mind is blanking on grams right now) for your 408 g flour.  You can also dissolve the yeast in a some of the warm water first with a bit of the flour in it. Let it sit for 10 minutes. It really gives it a jumpstart. Bulk ferment at about 80F.

As for the density, I would definitely decrease the salt to 1.8%-(7g in this recipe). That will help the dough be more elastic, not inhibit the yeast and generally taste better.

Also, this dough is about 75% hydration. You could try increasing that to 80% and seeing if that will help loosen the dough a bit,also.



Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I'm a bit puzzled; perhaps I'm not reading things right. Usually a biga is a firm starter, but your recipe has 153 g of water and only 78 g of dry stuff (flour plus corn meal). Does the corn meal soak up that much water? I was thinking that the dense crumb might be a result of too low a hydration, but the recipe looks like a fairly high hydration (though could be higher for a lighter crumb). I would also try a longer bulk ferment, until the dough is very puffy.

enchant's picture

I'm not an expert on terminology.  I'm just parroting what I read in the original recipe:

However...  In my rush I did omit the 55g WW flour.  The result is still not firm at all - very liquidy.