Today I wanted to try something different, and Crust fell open on the recipe for baguettes with a poolish ferment, so I thought I'd have a bash at that. I mostly wanted to make a loaf, but there was plenty to make a large loaf, some baguettes and a handful of fougasses, which have become a staple nibble round here.
If I'd decided yesterday that I wanted to make a poolish ferment, I could have made it last night and stuck it in the fridge. But I only decided this morning, so made it when I got up and then had to wait for five hours until it was ready for use. The ferment used a tiny spot of yeast, white bread flour, water and a smidge of rye flour, which I was pleased to be able to use otherwise than for dusting my bannetons.
I made it in a glass bowl so that I could see the texture of it through the side - I'd have been better off making it in a larger bowl as I needed to decant it before I could use it, but the urge to see it was too great.
Over the course of the five hours on the worktop, the ferment rose substantially, and at the end was honeycombed with little bubbles, some of which had popped on the surface, giving a woodwormesque feel. Mixing in more flour, water and yeast, I had a substantial piece of dough which was just the right level of sticky, and really lovely to work with. After an hour and half's rise, I put a kilo and a half into my round banneton, made three 200g-ish baguettes, and fougasses with what was left.
I used a pleated couche for the baguettes, and it worked well - I'd been concerned that it might be wibbly wobbly but it kept its shape perfectly. The baguettes were much slower to rise than the loaf in the banneton - in fact I put the loaf in the oven first and they had an extra 35 minutes' proving.
The proved loaf was easy to turn out onto my metal peel, and looked gorgeous with the concentric circles traced in rye flour. I hovered over it with my lame, considering all sorts of patterns from the minimalist to the absurdly complex; in the end I went as minimalist as I could, and put my lame down unused. Those circles were just too pretty to mess up...
When it was time to transfer the baguettes, I congratulated myself in including this board in my BakeryBits order - it made it so easy to transfer them to my peel (the larger Tallboy one, if you're interested). I wielded my lame on all three, rather tentatively I'm afraid. I've realised I need to pierce the outer layer with a corner, then drag, but I was too shallow in my slicing so the splits weren't anything to write home about. My peel technique with the baguettes clearly needs some practice too - it was hard to get them onto the stone without rolling them over. Ideally I'd have slid them in end first, but the dimensions of my oven required otherwise.
The flavour of the bread itself was lovely, I could definitely detect a difference. I found the quantity of salt too high as the bread tastes salty to me - or maybe it's the way you have to sprinkle it over as you're working the dough some time after the mixing, perhaps I didn't incorporate it well enough. I wondered how much difference the ferment would make to the texture of the bread, and expected it to be much more irregular. There are little round holes, but nothing huge - certainly not like the illustration in the book. I'll clearly need to try this a few more times before I feel I've got it right.
The initial delay with the ferment was agonising - next time I'll be making it the night before. I am far too impatient a baker to have such gaps in the process; I'd much rather start and finish all in the one session.
The following images show the ferment all new and freshly mixed, then with its plastic bag hat on after five hours, then a look at the texture of the ferment, and finally the finished items.