This is a continuation of Part 2: Experimenting with Bread Dough Process.
I had mentioned I wanted to try adding a longer primary fermentation, a so-called “preferment” or “pre-ferment”. The first one I tried was a simplistic poolish using my typical bread formula and flour amounts. The second batch used too little yeast, and it didn’t rise very well.
The first poolish batch turned into very nice bread, bread that was accidentally ruined after it had been bagged in plastic, ready for slicing the following day and stored in the oven, when I forgot it was there and started warming up the oven for something else. The oven was somewhat over 200F when I remembered the two loaves there, but the plastic had shrunk itself around those loaves. I decided to compost that batch, as I figured that plastic fumes had saturated through the bread.
I wasn’t enthralled with the poolish process, however, because it was more complicated to make, it involved more weighing of ingredients and separate processes (particularly if I had to separately autolyse each), as well it didn’t seem to provide much advantage over the straight dough approach I’d been using judging by the results (but it was and is easy to mix). More work for the same result? That’s when I realized that the poolish methods didn’t autolyse all the flour, at least not a strict autolyse.
So I started wondering if I could autolyse all the flour much the same as the straight-dough process I’d been using, then turn some or all of that dough into a long fermentation that occurred prior to the typical overnight bulk refrigeration. Flipping the question around, it seemed easy enough to simply add a long fermentation step between the straight-dough autolyse and the typical, retarded or refrigerated overnight fermentation. Additionally, I realized that with an additional fermentation step, I could add the salt and oil immediately prior to the secondary or bulk fermentation, and not need to do much kneading the next morning before division and panning for the final proof: there would be nothing that needed to be mixed into the dough at that point in the process.
I had originally hoped the long fermentation would take 8-hours at 72F (winter room temperatures here), but it had tripled in bulk at 4.5 hours due to the 0.15% Instant Dry Yeast added to it at that point-in-time. I’ll have to reduce that amount the next time for a longer fermentation, as the schedule allows an 8-hour primary ferment without needing a third day. For reasons of simplicity of process, I opted to subject all the autolysed flour to this long fermentation at 55% water (only flour, water, vinegar, and yeast added to the dough at this point).
First, a warm autolyse of only flour and water that resulted in 100F degree dough, which was placed in the refrigerator for 1.5 hours, at which point it cooled to about 83F degrees. Then the vinegar was added and kneaded, then a small amount of yeast for the long primary fermentation was added, and this mix was returned to the refrigerator for another 1/2 hour or so, until the dough cooled to 70F, when it was removed to room temperature. This rose for the next 4 hours at room temperature (72F) for a total of 4.5 hours. Because the dough had tripled in volume, I thought that was enough, but my guess is it would still be considered immature. At this point, more yeast was added, a short knead of a minute or so followed by a 10 minute rest, then salt was added and kneaded, then oil was added and separately kneaded with 1/3 of the dough using the prior-mentioned food-processor blade technique, then reincorporated and all of it stand-mixer kneaded for another minute on the slowest speed. The dough was 79F when it entered the refrigerator for the overnight bulk or second fermentation.
This dough process seems to result in the nicest and softest crumb yet, and the crust is a somewhat darker golden color. The crust was slightly tough following baking, but as toast it’s wonderfully crisp: