Baguettes with poolish

The best bit...

Poolish: a yeasted batter that hangs around for about 12 hours. Then gets added to a bread dough and turned into bread. Why? You use less yeast overall and in theory get more flavour in your bread.

Here are some baguettes made with a poolish today. Yes, I know we had baguettes already this week, but these are different. And, more importantly I was trying out Nils’ technique of keeping the slashes very wet during the first part of the bake.

They definitely opened up a bit more than they usually do, but the first lot were a bit flat because I kept opening and closing the oven door. The second lot I just sprayed twice all over once they had gone in the oven, rather than painting the slashes individually.

I guess, what this just reminds me, is that it is really really hard to be scientific about baking at home. In fact, I would say it is impossible!   And I will stand by that :)

I had a thought today, would anyone want to read a blog called Fungus Breath? That’s what bread is really…

Well, all that extra water did something!

To make a bread like this:

Make a poolish with 150 grams of water, 150 grams of bread flour, and a pinch (1/8 tsp)  of active instant yeast. Mix it up and leave it for 12 hours. Then add the poolish to 150 grams of water, 300 grams of flour, 10 grams of salt and a 1/2 tsp of active instant yeast. Mix and knead well. It’s a loose soft dough which benefits from being folded a couple of times. This will make three thin baguettes, or two bigger ones. Leave to bulk prove for anything up to three hours, depending on time and how active your dough looks, it might have doubled much sooner than that. Then shape into whatever shape you like, leave for another hour or so, heat your oven up to 240 C. If you are making baguettes like these, they take about 18 minutes on a baking stone.  If you want to experiment with Nils’s technique you can read about it on his blog.  He has got some amazing results, see here. But then, he is an amazing baker!

24 thoughts on “Baguettes with poolish

  1. theinversecook

    Thanks. That crumb looks rather excellent and slashes have split quite a bit. I’m baking baguettes again today too. Hope they tasted ok. Best, Nils

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Well I had a go at it, and it was fun! Thanks for letting me play :)

      I have some new T55 flour to try as well, I tried it once before when I started baking and it was a disaster, so time to revisit it… but not this weekend….. just out of interest what sort of size do you make your baguettes, as you can see (photos on Flickr link). I liked these ones with the poolish better than the straight dough flavour wise but I think it might be to do with the salt, a little more salt in these than I have been using might be a good idea – it’s a fine line though :)

  2. GillthePainter

    Zee french bread.
    I think that’s the best bread I’ve made. When it comes together it’s wonderful.
    Interesting about those forced split slashes.
    Next time I’ll have to take the time to wet the gaps too.

    It’s the little things that make all the difference in this bread business, isn’t it.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You’re right there, Gill!

      – had a look for green pea flour just now. Is it split pea (as in mushy peas) or is it mung bean flour you’re thinking of? Not an easy one I think to find….

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  4. heidiannie

    I love mushrooms (fungus) and blue cheese (mold) and bread- but I don’t think I’d be looking for a blog entitled Fungus ANYTHING! It just doesn’t sound appealing.
    BUT- your bread looks really yummy.
    I often save a chunk of dough from my french bread and let it ferment in the fridge for a day or so and then add to a fresh batch- it adds so much flavor and texture. And it gives the yeast mix an added oomph- we just call it a starter.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’m not going to change the name… I was just having a moment…

      Your ‘chunk of dough’ is the paté fermentée in the bread book, isn’t it? or I’ve seen it called simply ‘ old dough’ – very traditional and a very, very good way to add complexity to the bread – but I know you ‘ve been baking bread a whole lot longer than me and I bet you know most of the tricks of the trade. Have you ever used an old bread soaker in a new loaf, now that gives amazing flavour to a bread…..? I wrote a post early on with one recipe doing just that. It’s quite common in Germany, though I haven’t come across it here. Even using something like soaked rye crackers/crispbread will do the trick…

  5. heidiannie

    No- I haven’t tried it but it sounds like something I’d have a go at. I bake much more often in the fall and winter- and much heavier and complex breads then. Summer is just too hot and lazy for me to get into a full baking schedule.
    Sourdough and its ever clamoring demand to be used is about as complicated as I get- add a couple of cornbreads and Indian puddings and some whole wheat and the occasional French baguette and yeasty Italian rolls and that is all I do in hot weather.
    I have been baking bread for a long time- but I don’t do it very scientifically. Sometimes when I read yours and other baker’s blogs, I feel entirely out of my league. It is interesting and I have picked up some great techniques and ideas.
    It is kind of funny- most people who bake bread at home in my area use bread machines and think they are artisans because their breads are home baked.
    I have never used a bread machine (nor do I want to) and they consider me an anachronism. I’m not sure where I belong in the bread baking arena.
    However- I really enjoy seeing and trying your breads, and recipes.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I don’t think there is anything particularly scientific about my bread making either Heidiannie, I have tried the last couple of weeks to be ‘scientific’ with these french breads, and to my eyes, not managed (no big deal) and realised that it is a bit futile to try at home! Science proceeds by doing replicable experiments, with controlled variables as far as I understand that branch of human endeavour. For example, I start by mixing up two batches of ‘the same dough’ and differences creep in from the start. I can’t weigh to the accuracy of single grams, I certainly can’t measure out an 1/8th or a 16/th of a tsp of yeast… the temperatures go up and down, the oven temperature, the times vary, the mixing. I think the science part is a lost cause as far as I’m concerned…. I suspected it probably was, but the last couple of bakes have confirmed it for me.

      This blog was started because I wanted company baking. It was prompted by the way the Mellow Bakers group is set up, which encourages you to blog what you are doing. It’s a nice group of gentle souls and it’s been great the first three months, anyone can join in at any time, bake a little, chat a little, drop in and drop out again and I think we are learning a lot from each other. Celia encouraged me to start up too! So I think, and I really mean this, you are totally in the league! Anyone can be, what’s the big deal after all? It’s just bread and your shaping skills and creativity are far beyond anything I can do. People start baking every day and are astonished and amazed at what they can achieve, one of the many reasons it’s such fun. I don’t have a bread machine but they are very popular here too.

      PS What’s indian pudding?

  6. heidiannie

    Indian pudding is a very wet and slightly sweet white corn pudding. The cornmeal is a white meal with reddish tint- you can see it here -in the middle of the post. It makes a nice breakfast or dessert with extra cream- part of the Southern heritage of American cookery.

  7. Di

    The crumb shot looks gorgeous–wonderful texture and holes. Most French bread isn’t my favorite, but I should really try one of the poolish versions, since I tend to like bread made from wetter doughs.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      DI, if you are happy with wet doughs then use your sourdough, baguettes are just bread in a different shape at the end of the day, lots of crust to crumb. I think the one that gives most flavour is the one made with old dough (paté fermentée) if you are using yeast and next time I make them I’m going to add a little wholegrain flour of some kind, rye, wheat, just something to give more depth of flavour. The poolish is a comparatively recent invention according to Mr Hamelman.

  8. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna, I just wanted to say how much I love your blog. All the bread details that you go in to- I really enjoy. Even though I might not be making it myself, I love reading how you made it… and Fungus Breath- I don’t know its kinda catchy.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thanks so much Brydie! Glad you like the blog, it’s been fun doing it so far.

      Did you ever see Raymond Briggs’s book Fungus the Bogeyman? I have a copy somewhere in my pop up book collection. Maybe that’s what prompted that thought, and the one about why they never show Quorn being made….

      1. cityhippyfarmgirl

        Now I had to look up Quorn- lordy…fascinating! Made from soil mould- thats amazing. Apparently its only been available in Australia in June this year. Truly amazing.
        I haven’t seen that book before, but I think Monkey Boy would love it. We have another one called The Terrible Wild Grey Hairy Thing- a forgotten sausage that grows bigger bigger with mould and harasses the town folk- gorgeous pictures… (I am a bit of a kids picture book fan).

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Don’t put yourself down :) The whole of the bread book industry is riddled with terms that are used interchangeably, confusingly, and ‘incorrectly’. If you don’t leave comments and ask questions how does one ever get smarter anyway? I am currently trying to fathom the mysteries of the VirginMedia changeover to different email systems. I keep asking questions and not getting an answer that answers me, two weeks later…

      Sneak onto any of the bread forums and read what people write, try the Fresh Loaf, or or Mellow Bakers, all full of people puzzling over other people’s baking words and how to translate and interpret them. I just repeat and recast the stuff that sounds most plausible to me.

      You know how English is full of words that either duplicate each other or are used in different contexts, on account of our history of being invaded endlessly, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, so we get Latin, German roots, French roots, a bit of Greek here, a little Inuit there, and then when not invasion, immigration, my forebears amongst them, travelling, taking their foods and their customs with them – a constant flux of language and terminology and now the net. It makes my head spin sometimes.

      Sorry that was a bit of a rant. I was really just saying it’s hardly surprising we get so confused…

  9. steve

    Once again, J leads the way! Great going with the water – now I have to try that. Here I thought I was done with those darn baguettes!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Oh no, definitely not leading, this was all Nils’s experiments, I am just a Nils acolyte….

      I think the main thing is to dip the blade in water between each slash, so the slash insides are wet and that keeps them a bit moister for those key moments in the oven so the inside bit has more flexibility to expand…. I don’t see how to keep the temperature up in the oven overall if you keep opening the door. But it’s all a bit of a fiddle. I haven’t made the old dough ones again yet. I’ve been making scones! So easy and speedy – maybe I’ll change the name of the blog to Forget Sourdough, make Scones :)

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