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Monday, May 16, 2011

Rustic bread with poolish and a new beginning

A brand new beginning on a brand new day

While rejoicing over the triumph of a successful baguette-turned-rustic bread ( due to space constraint in the oven ), a little creature made a similar successful debut into this big, big world just steps from where I was fussing over my baking experiment.

Unknown to me, I have taken in a pot of orchid from my garden, with a pupae attached to one of the stalks. Who knows how long it has incubated in my living room! This beautiful day, while preparing to take photos of the bread in the glorious morning sunlight, I saw a butterfly of splendid colors perched on one of the orchid stalks, resplendent with splashes of blue and vivid markings, wings almost fused together like a pair of praying hands.
Taking a break before taking flight
Should I go or stay ?
For one complete hour, it stood silent, despite my hovering over it. Was it contemplating what to do with the newly  vacated pupa shell? Or totally bushed from the wriggling out of its former home ?
butterfly 'poo'

Another hour on, the butterfly expelled some fluid ( dirtying my antique chest ) and did a couple of slow motion flaps, almost like a rehearsal. Meanwhile, I was fluttering between my bread and the butterfly, trying to capture both with the morning light that is sliding out of my window.
I provided the new creature an impetus to move, jiggling the orchid pot. As if attached with a homing device, it headed to the window grills. Now bathed in sunlight, I see the flashing blue scales on its wings shimmering. It deliberated for a long time, before making its maiden flight out from the eleventh floor of the condo.

Allow me to indulge but this mini episode has a lift to life's little stories. No longer an ugly creepy crawly, it left the comfort of its little world to embrace something better. I have seen the difficulty and the dangers, of embarking on BIG things, but without trying, one never gets to see the possibilities beyond.

OK, end of my philosophy. What was I  baking? Oh yes, bread made with poolish.

After this baking episode, I realized that I have put the cart before the horse, having reversed the learning process. Baking with poolish is a preview of things to come. Wild yeast is captured in this way, with some yeasty catalyst from the poolish. In fact, for those who are not ready to move to sourdough making, this is a useful dry-run. 

A cross between a regular sandwich bread and a sourdough with plenty of character

Prepare the poolish the night before.  Mix :
 156 g cool water
156  g bread flour
1/8 t instant yeast

Combine well, chill for 2 hours and leave it  to ferment overnight at room temperature, 10  - 12 hours

Main ingredients for the next day :

269 g water, room temperature
8 g malt syrup
Overnight poolish
476 g bread flour
3 g instant dry yeast
14 g salt ( I use pink salt )

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl or bread machine retainer. Add water, overnight poolish, salt. Knead for about 6 - 10 minutes, until not sticky and leave dough to rise until double in bulk, covered, in an oiled container. Takes about 1 -  1.5 hours, depending on the room temperature. I used the bread machine to do this, on 'dough' cycle.


Transfer fermented dough onto a floured work surface. Divide dough to 2 portions. To  each dough, stretch it with your palm and fold into thirds, bringing both ends of the dough towards the middle, as like a letter. It should look rather oblong.

Transfer dough to a bake proof pan ( I use a non stick pan ), seam side down. Cover and let it rise for about another one hour, until it doubles in bulk.

20 minutes before baking, score the dough with a sharp razor. This allows for further expansion of the dough while baking. Mist spray dough.

Preheat oven to 250 C, with a baking rack and a shallow tray of water below. This creates steam that allows the bread to open up during the first 10 minutes of baking.

Just before baking the dough, score dough and  mist spray  once again. Put bread, tray and all on the baking rack in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove bread from oven and leave it to cool thoroughly before cutting. Doing so earlier risk mashing  up the cut area as the starch is still not settled down with the heat.

Verdict : its texture is less open than that of the sourdough loaf. As such, it is more ideal for sandwiches with meats or mopping up thick soups.  Its  hint of sourness comes from the poolish that captures wild yeast. Also, this method of baking gives it  good keeping quality.

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