Mixing a Stiff Pre-Ferment by Hand into the Final Dough
Today I made a couple of loaves of Rustic Bread from Hamelman's Bread book. The recipe involves a 60% hydration pre-ferment that is incorporated into the final dough. As is the case for all recipes in Bread, there are portions for a commercial bakery as well as for the home baker, but the general instructions envision large mixers. As Hamelman states in this recipe, "As the dough is coming together [in a spiral mixer], add the pre-ferment in chunks."
I like to mix by hand, and a 100% poolish or sponge is fairly simple to incorporate. What I did in this case was combine the flours, water, salt and yeast in the final dough and then plop the pre-ferment on top, spread it around, and dimple it in. Then I did a combination of pinching, folding, and pulling for several minutes until the entire mix was "supple and moderately loose, with moderate gluten development" (again quoting Hamelman).
The result was good (two photos with the crumb being from the loaf on the right of the duo), but I am not certain that I achieved as good a blending of the pre-ferment into the rest of the final dough as would have been the case either with a stand mixer or by doing something by hand other than what I did. At times I worried that the new flour was coating the pre-ferment rather than becoming uniformly mixed into and with it. So I have a question.
Specifically, for those of you who have used a stiff pre-ferment and mixed by hand, did you break the pre-ferment into small pieces (similar to what would be done with a biga)? Or do something else?
Thanks for any suggestions. As I indicated the bread is tasty and seems to have turned out ok, but I am always trying to learn more.