Back to Basics

I'm trying Dan Leader's country french again. It's a lean bread recipe that's reliable and get's me back on my feet when I'm in a "lean bread slump" as I tend to get into once in a while. I often don't have the patience and discipline required for lean/sourdough breads. This poolish method is a pretty good compromise. However, I often change the method over time so once in a while I need to reset myself and go back to the book and do it by the book.

Poolish was prepared from 150 grams all purpose flour and 50 grams of a wheat/rye mixture of flour, a 1/4 t of Red Star yeast and 200 grams of water. It was stirred about 50 times with a wooden spoon and allowed to sit on the kitchen counter overnight at room temperature (rt).

Dough Prep
Poolish, 200 grams
water, 400 grams
yeast, 1/4 t
all purpose flour (Pillsbury), 500 g
wheat/rye flour, 100 g
salt, 2.5 t

1. Poolish was diluted with water and stirred until smooth.
2. Yeast charged and mixture placed in pan of bread machine.
3. Remaining flour and salt charged and kneaded by machine for 10 minutes.
4. Dough was not too slack, came together well.
5. First ferment, 2.5 h.
6. Punch and rest, 40 min.
7. Loaf shaped, round.
8. Final rise on parchment, 1.5 h.
9. Baked @ 425F with steam shot for 45 minutes.
10. Cut the first piece about 1.5 hours after the oven.

Pretty happy with this one. Slightly larger than 2.5 lbs. after baking, about 10" diameter, 4" high. Excellent crumb texture; a combination of open holes and good texture. Heavy crust, almost a bark. Didn't get crust crackling on cooling.? Tastes great, but I'll be evaluating this over the days to come. A great bread should taste great, even when it begins to become stale.

I sampled several pieces but as I cut into the loaf, I stumbled on it's big flaw. It's a 2.5 lb ROUND loaf and consequently a lot of the mass is interior. I undercooked it. Afraid of burning the exterior (in retrospect, I had plenty of room to keep cooking), I underbaked it. This is also consistent with the absence of fractures that usually appear on the surface of the dough on cooling.

In conclusion, I think this "failure" was darn close to being stellar. Next time, I'd do half the size loaf. That big a loaf is tricky to bake to completion; those problems never occur with a baguette. I'd probably do two 1-lb loaves or chubby baguettes. However, the big round is a grand looking loaf and is convenient for sandwiches.

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