This is the first entry in what will eventually be a series of instructions on how to make breads with very high hydrations, usually above 75%. Because these breads are so good and so many people enjoy eating them, it’s worth a little time and effort to learn how to make them.
The instructions in this section will have a common thread running through them.
- Make a poolish, a 100% pre-ferment.
- Let the poolish age in the refrigerator.
- Add the poolish to the water and yeast and stir or mix with the paddle blade to dissolve the poolish. This makes a slurry.
- Add a portion of the flour and stir to make a thicker slurry.
- Gradually add the rest of the flour and mix, switching to the dough hook if necessary.
- Let the mixed dough rest for a period of time.
- Add the salt and continue mixing for the prescribed period of time.
- Place the dough in a very large pot — these doughs can triple! — and let it ferment for a fairly long time, 3-5 hours.
- Gently fold the dough every 45 minutes or hour.
- Dump the dough onto a bed of flour on the counter, divide and shape.
- Let the dough rise on parchment paper.
- Be careful to limit the amount of raw flour you incorporate into the dough.
- Bake in a dry oven. Remove the breads when the internal temperature reaches 205F.
- Leave the breads in the oven with the oven turned off for 5-10 minutes, at your option, to deepen the crust.
A few notes:
- This recipe is for a very large batch of dough, but it can easily be scaled to any desired size.
- This recipe makes a little over 8 pounds of dough. Because the dough is so wet, there is a high loss during baking, so the 8 pounds of dough will make about 7 pounds of bread.
- Because this is a large amount of wet dough, the photos are almost a textbook on how to handle wet doughs. I figure that if one is going to go to the trouble of making a wet dough, one should make it worthwhile.
- This recipe also calls for rye and whole wheat flours. You can use just about any flour for this bread, it works well with literally anything.
- You can also use milk, or even buttermilk, for a portion of the water. The milk will soften the crust and the buttermilk will give the bread a slight tang.
- I made the recipe in metric units because metric is so much easier to use. I converted to English after I had baked the bread. Try using the metric.
Make a Poolish
|Dry Yeast||1 tsp||5 ml|
Mix up, put in covered container and let sit on counter for 2 hours.
Then put it in the refrigerator overnight. You can let the poolish develop for another day or two or three without hurting it.
Ingredients in addition to the poolish
|Wh-Wh Bread Flour||7||200|
|Salt||2 Tbsp||30 ml|
|Dry Yeast||1 1/2 Tbsp||23 ml|
Because there is so much material and my mixer is so small, I had to resort to some modified handling practices. Once you become accustomed to handling a lot of dough largely by hand, it’s surprisingly easy. Don’t be frightened by the oozing, messy dough; if you stick with the program you’ll be rewarded with some outstanding bread.
1. Take the poolish out of the refrigerator and put it in a mixer bowl with the water and yeast.
2. Mix for a minute or two to start the poolish dissolving.
3. Add some of the flour and mix for a minute or two using the paddle blade of the mixer.
4. Gradually add some more flour until you need to switch to the dough hook.
5. Decide if the whole batch will fit in the mixer bowl. If it will, change to the dough hook, add the rest of the flour and continue mixing for another minute or two. Then set the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
6. If you decide that the whole batch won’t fit in the mixer bowl, pour some of the wet dough into the flour bowl and mix it up a bit. Then add some of this to the mixer bowl.
7. Continue splitting the dry and wet and mixing them together until the whole mass is fairly uniform.
8. Set the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
9. For small batches, add the salt to the dough and mix for 7-10 minutes. Then put the dough in a very large, lightly-oiled pot to ferment for 4 hours.
10. For large batches, place half the dough in the mixer bowl and add half the salt. Add the other half the salt to the other half dough. Mix the two portions, one by hand and one by mixer for a minute or two.
11. Remove half the dough from the mixer bowl and replace it with half the dough from the outside.
12. Repeat the mixing.
13. Repeat the process several times, always mixing the two batches together.
14. Finally, place the whole batch of dough on the counter and fold and knead it for 5 minutes, using a large bench knife or a pair of large drywall knives to scoop and flip the dough. Listening to “The Anvil Chorus” will help set a good tempo.
15. Place half of the dough in each of two lightly oiled large pots to ferment for 4 hours.
16. If you check the photos, you’ll see that I misjudged the amount of expansion this dough would give and had to change to two pots after an hour.
17. The process is the same during fermentation. Every hour, gently reach down into the bowl and bring the bottom of the dough toward the top. Repeat this several times.
18. I you have a large batch or dough, the large amount of bread probably won’t fit in your oven, so you will have to let one portion of the dough rise 1/2 hour longer than the other. This is not a problem.
19. To shape the dough, put some flour on the counter and dump the dough onto the flour.
20. Using the bench knife or the large drywall knife, cut the dough into equal pieces, two, three, four, however many you want.
21. Shape into the loaves you want, but don’t make the mistake of folding the bottom of the dough in and trapping raw flour inside the dough/loaf.
22. Transfer the doughs to parchment paper to rise. You can shape a little more as you place them.
23. Let the doughs rise for 45 minutes.
24. Heat the oven to 475F / 245 C. Have some tiles or a baking stone in the oven. This is a dry oven.
25. If you have a second batch to bake, start shaping and rising about 10 minutes before you start baking the first batch.
26. Bake for 15 minutes, then move the loaves around a bit.
27. Bake another 10-12 minutes, or until the loaves register 205 F / 95 C.
28. Turn off the oven, and then either remove the loaves or leave them in the cooling oven with the door closed for another 5 mintues to
deepen the crust.
29. Let cool and serve.
Here We Go
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