Recuperation - My Poolish Never Fails

Sunday, I demonstrated the baking skill of a lemur. My wild starter was used prematurely which (maybe) resulted in a miserable failure of a boule. I then threw together a straight dough American style wheat for the week for sandwiches. Would've been great if I took it out of the oven before it fossilized. I've contacted the Smithsonian, they may want to shellac it and use it in their Julia Child installation. Still waiting for the call. Sunday night, I had the nerve to start a poolish starter; the way Dan Leader does. I then propagated it for a couple days and got an awesome starter with only 1/8 teaspoon of dry yeast. I know it's cheating and it's not Mother Earth and all that, go to hell, it's my blog.

So, last night, I took some of my poolish (300 grams), tossed it in the bread machine and added water (300 g), unbleached white flour (450 g), salt (12 g, kosher, lent you know - and hey go confess) and another 1/8 teaspoon of dry yeast. The machine kneaded for 30 minutes and let rise for an hour to give a nice sloppy dough (slack). I plopped it out of the machine, degassed (the dough silly) and let it rest for 15 minutes. I then took my cloth lined basket (pic 1 of 4) and dusted it liberally with flour, rounded the dough blob into a boule and plopped it in the basket and covered it with a moistened muslin towel and let it rise for an hour while the oven preheated (450F). I turned the dough out onto the peel (pic 2) and slashed it. I then slid it into the clay tile-lined oven, gave it a steam shot (60 mLs from a squirt bottle) and closed the door and let it bake about 50 minutes. Didn't turn it once. America's Next Top Model was on, couldn't be bothered. Took it out probably a tad early. I like my breads dark on the exterior but it still had a pretty good crust, even this morning.

Yeah, I know the yeast thing is sad crutch but I really like the results. I'll keep cultivating the wild yeast thing to see if I can bring it to same level of behavior as the poolish. If you get Leader's Book and want to try it, I have some serious modifications that I think make his methods better. Contact me if you're interested.


Dave said...

Hey Jason,
Thanks for your comments. I need the cheat from commercial yeast I'm afraid. It's the predicability of schedule that I need (got to feed the family - and with little kids, SCHEDULE is everything). I admire your going for the risky loaves. That's cool. When the kid grows up a bit, I'll probably toggle back to sourdough land. For now it's fast, straightdoughs. Thanks again for commenting.

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful crust on that loaf of bread. I have been baking sourdoughs for years and I have never had a problem trapping wild yeasts. BUT, consistently getting those big, beautiful holes and that thick, deep brown crust like you have managed to get on that loaf has been more illusive. (I have been reluctant to line my oven with those damn tiles! I guess that's why.)
I currently have a run-of-the-mill (but flavorful) starter bubbling on my counter. That will probably turn into a rustic sourdough of some sort by the end of the week. I am also preparing a biga for pane francese. I may have to go get those damn tiles afterall...

I love this site. I especially enjoyed the step-by-step photos of the baguette-baking project. That is what a food blog should be. (okay, okay...that is what I want a food blog to be (-: )


Dave said...

Thanks for your kind comments Cammie. I'm not entirely convinced it's just the tiles. These things are simple with respect to ingredients but the process has a seemingly infinite number of variables. But, trust me, I get my share of flops.

Something I like doing lately is incorporating a small fraction of wheat/rye/spelt flours (alone or in combination; not more than 10% of the flour makeup by weight). I think it makes the fermentation more robust resulting in greater volume loaves with the crunch crust.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to use the poolish recipe in 'the bakers apprentice' but the ratio used is 2.5 flour to 1.5 water, and I know I should be getting a pancake batter consistancy so use 1:1. If I use his recipe, I can't even stir it....what does Leader recommend, and further, what do YOU recomend [per your comment]?

Anonymous said...

Hey Rafael,
Actually, the poolish should not be like pancake batter. The poolish should be mixed with equal weights of water and flour (approximately 1 cup flour and 135 g water). This will make a stiff consistency batter. I'm not sure what you mean by 2.5 to 1.5 (if it's cups or weight or volume).

Anonymous said...

Hi ! I'm just in the way to learn how to make french bread (a 4.5 months training period). Poolish is not easy to manage with. What we are told to do is to calculate which quantity of paste you need for your bread production, and then to deduce what are the quantities of flour and water you'll use (you just have to use the recipee).
If X is the quantity of water you'll need, you take X/2 (in liters) to prepare your poolish, you take X/2 (in kg) of flour (i.e. the same weight of flour as water). You don't add salt (salt will be added when you'll knead your paste).
Regarding yeast, we've been given a simple formula. As you know how long you'll let your poolish grow (in number of hours), you just have to calculate :
(40/nber of hours)*nber of liters of water you'll use for your poolish) and this will tell you which qty of yeast you'll add to your poolish.
And when you'll knead your paste, you'll add the remaining qty of yeast to the remaining water, flour and salt.
For the time being, I'm learning all this kind of stuff in the INBP (Institut National de la Boulangerie-P√Ętisserie, french National Institute for Bakery and Pastry) and I hope (I keep my fingers crossed) to become a professionnal baker soon.

HoaAnhDao said...

Your bread looks magnificient . I tried your method but I did not have a bread machine. I still cannot make my bread as brown as yours, though!

All these years I thought only one way to make yeast rise is using warm water until I read a book written by Judith Ryan, she mentioned Poolish made with just cold water , yeast and flour .
Wow! what a revelation!

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for the compliment.

The machine is just convenient; shouldn't make much difference, if any, in the final loaf. Regarding the color, it should turn a nice amber if cooked long enough. There's actually a huge window between the time the bread is done and when it's really done (dark and crispy), so don't take it out too early. Keep trying!