Baguettes with Poolish

Here we are at bread no. 17 for the Mellow Bakers, Baguettes with Poolish from Hamelman’s amazing book, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

“What, baguettes again? Didn’t you just do these last month?” Yes indeed, I did baguettes last month. However, these are different!

This time around, the dough is made with a poolish pre-ferment (equal parts flour and water plus a tiny smidgen of yeast, left to mature for several hours). Last month’s French Bread was a straight dough and came together in about 4 hours.

So what does the poolish accomplish for us? Because it’s allowed to sit for 12 to 16 hours, it’s got time to ferment the flour and in so doing, develops a stronger dough, superior flavour, better keeping quality and actually shortens the time it takes to make the bread, in spite of requiring a long pre-ferment period. By mixing the pre-ferment ahead of time, taking just a couple of minutes, the action of the enzymes on the dough, when mixed together, speed up the bulk and final proofing considerably.

Of all these aspects, the one that will stand out most to those who eat it is the improved flavour.

Let’s move ahead then and see if this is indeed the case.

The night before, I mixed the poolish, 300 g flour + 300 g water + 1/8 teaspoon of instant dry yeast. This is left overnight to ferment. (Imagine I took pictures here.) So next day…

We have bread flour, water, salt & yeast and our now well-developed poolish which is easily twice its original size. Amazing how a teeny amount of yeast can do that.

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80% Rye with Flour Soaker

This post is about rye bread. Not your grocery store Deli Light Rye but hefty, hearty, packed-with-flavour rye bread. The type that you slice really, really thin and it still can hold up to bold flavours like strong cheeses or spicy deli meats.

The kind of rye bread I like best. But that I’ve never made before. So it’s one I was looking forward to getting at in the MellowBakers.com adventure through Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

So having never made one of these really hefty ryes, it was a little bit of an experience making what looked more like paste than dough, the small amount of rising the bread did. This isn’t your mom’s normal white bread, oh no. At 80% rye, there’s little gluten to be seen here but a whole smacking load of sticky.

But don’t let any of this deter you from trying it, because aside from being just a tad “unusual” it really isn’t difficult. Just different.

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French Bread times Eight

French bread, one of the most iconic styles of all, especially the baguette style. This was bread no. 15 in our Hamelman series for the Mellow Bakers.

This specific variety is a “straight dough” which means that all ingredients are combined at one without pre-ferments and other secondary steps. Mix it, proof it, shape it, bake it: straight dough.

And simple is certainly what this bread is. Let’s have a look at the Mis en Place and see what’s going in:

Bread flour, yeast, salt and water (70%). Can’t get a whole lot more simpler than this. And off we go…

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Bialys: Little pockets of Yum!

Bread number 16 in the Mellow Bakers‘ roster of recipes from Jeffrey Hamelman’s amazing book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes are Bialys, the plural form of Bialy and pronounced “bee-Al-ees” – yes, I had to look it up. It’s a small yeast roll that originated from Jewish bakers in Bialystok, Poland. It looks somewhat like a bagel but without the hole. Instead, the center is an indentation and the dough is stretched to a thin membrane. In this little pocket is placed, typically, a tasty onion mixture.

The other aspects that make it not like a bagel is that this bread is not boiled and is ridiculously quick to make. Start to finish (minus cooling) took me about 4½ hours. And this was my first time at it. In fact, I’d never heard of these until I saw them in the book.

And do they compare to bagels? Let me show you…

First thing I did was prepare the onion filling since it had to sort of sit and “meld” for a couple of hours and that also happens to be how long the bulk fermentation takes. How handy!

I took half a large-ish sweet onion (the book says a medium onion will be fine) and chopped it up quite fine. I added a little bread crumbs – supposed to be 10% of the weight of the onion but I didn’t weigh, I just eyeballed. This is then stirred and set aside. Alternatives suggested are using garlic instead or as well as onion, using poppy seed. I changed my mind after I took these pictures and added a half teaspoon of chopped garlic. I pondered adding some parsley flake for a little more colour but decided to not go too far off the recipe on my first try.

With the onion mix ready and set aside, i got all the ingredients together for the dough.

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Dry Your Starter: Simple Insurance

There you are, going along making another batch of tasty sourdough bread, everything’s going peachy, the dough is in the oven baking, making the kitchen smell heavenly, the loaves are a lovely golden brown and only a few minutes before it’s time to pull them out to cool, when you suddenly realize…

O! M!! G!!!  You immediately feel flushed and light headed, your stomach suddenly knotting up: you’ve accidentally put ALL your starter into the dough and forgot to save some to keep feeding. There’s no way to get it back out of the dough, it’s now bread and well baked.

This is the end of your starter, one of the few ways to actually kill it.

Perhaps you’ve been cultivating this starter for several months or even years, perhaps it was even handed down to you from your great gran from the “old country” and there’s no way to get more. You even washed out the jar so you can’t scrape a little batch up from the smears on the sides and continue on.

Or maybe a good hearted soul decided they’d do you a big favour one day and clean your fridge of all the old stuff, that bottle of sauce with just a teaspoon left, the lettuce that’s seen a better day, that jar of white goo that smells really weird… all into the trash or recycling and the jars washed up. “See how neat it all is?” they proudly say.

Or you have not fired up the starter for a very long time and go to grab your yeasty pet only to find the contents are totally encased in mould.

Oh, I hear a few of you chuckle, “That would never happen to me” you say with confidence. Stop chuckling, this has happened to a LOT of people, people who are totally familiar with and have been using sourdough for years, verily, your “pro” home bakers. All of the above scenarios have happened to people I know.

An inattentive few moments and there goes that starter you created from scratch several years back, gone. The bread comes out of the oven and tastes great but it is a sad affair indeed because it’s the last you’ll get of old Sam or Punchy or whatever you named you pet starter. Gone to sourdough heaven.

All you can do now is start from scratch. In a few weks, you will have a new starter but it will take a long time before it has matured and developed its own character. And very likely it will be different from ol’ Sam.

So how do you avoid that heart-crushing scenario? Simple: dry your starter. Do it next time you do a starter feed. It’s crazy simple and will ensure you can revive ol’ Sam even if you do get a brain fart moment and toss all of it into your latest dough. Here’s how…

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