March 10, 2006 - 6:40pm
I baked 2 loaves today (#'s 4-5) which were my best effoerts to date. I held back 7 oz of dough to use as my preferment tomorrow. Any suggestions on how to proceed from here? I was thinking of just using a standard recipe minus the poolish, but am now thinking the dough may be too dry. Any thoughts?
I'd trust your gut: if it feels too dry and you think you should throw in an extra quarter cup of water or so, do it.
When it comes to hydration, it's always different. The flour, humidity, altitude, alignment of the planets, can all affect how much water the recipe takes. So it's better to develop an idea of what the dough needs, using your formula as a starting point.
So, if it were me, I'd follow your forumla as before, omitting the poolish. Then while mixing, dribble water in until the dough is the consistency you're looking for. It's always safer to go a little on the wet side, since you can pick up some flour during kneading. Not too much, or your dough will taste like raw flour.
It's been drilled in my head so much that baking is science (and I'm a big wingit guy) that I get a little paranoid. I'm also a little impatient I suppose, and want to make the perfect loaf NOW. :)
So I know I just need to bake more- then bake more. See lesson 0.
I think the "you must follow the recipe, or you will be struck down" type of thinking really applies to cakes, souffles and such.
Bread making is more art than science IMHO. That's why I like it so much. Just have fun with it.
Until I took a scientific approach to breadmaking my results were very poor and inconsistent. Since I started using bakers percentages and keeping an eye on the time and temperature during the process my bread has improved out of sight. I've been baking cakes for more than 20 years and have to say that cakes are much more forgiving of too much or little of some ingredient than bread. A 5% increase in sugar for example is going to be much more noticable in a loaf bread then it would be in a cake.
Weigh the dough that you are reserving. Feed it with 2/3rds the total amount of flour and 1/3 the amount of water. Let rise overnight, and then refridgerate. This will be at least a decent sourdough starter as it ages.
I agree with KazaKhan - bread, to be consistently good, needs to be consistently weighed and measured. Bakers percentages have been devised to achieve exactly this, and to be able to scale the size of the loaf up or down while keeping precisely the same hydration.
I think it is essential to weigh the flour, the water and the starter - it is the one thing which I have gone over to using metric for as it is so much easier to understand the bakers percentages - the moment ounces turn into pounds it all becomes a headache!
Once you've got used to how the dough feels at exactly the same hydration, you can then begin to add or subtract the minutest amount of water to make up for any variables in the humidity of the flour - but they really are tiny. In 2 kilos of dough, 3 or 4 grams of water more or less can be the difference between too wet or exactly right hydration.