I love making bread from a poolish – or sponge – before I go to bed, then make a couple of loaves the next day. With this recipe, I’m using 25% fine-ground white whole wheat flour. You can use red whole wheat as well, but just make sure it’s fine-ground or extra-fine ground.
I will be upfront: It’s going to take a bit of patience, especially after mixing the final dough because there’s very little yeast used in total (I kind of wanted to simulate sourdough dough development). But your patience will be rewarded with a slightly sour bread with a wonderful, light, chewy texture. I did my folds in between meetings today! And the bulk ferment took about 5 hours. So yeah… it takes patience. Without further ado, let’s get to the recipe!
|Whole Wheat Flour||25%|
|Fine- / Extra-Fine-Ground Whole Wheat Flour||250g|
Make the Poolish
The evening before you bake, in a large bowl, mix up the ingredients for the poolish until everything’s incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure it vents to release the gases. Let it sit and do its magic for 12-16 hours. If your kitchen is really warm like mine, 12 hours is the max! But please do not rely on time! What you’re looking for is the poolish being bubbly and slightly domed on top. It should pass the float test (see picture below).
Tip: Alternatively, you can pop the poolish into your fridge and let it develop for 18 to 24 hours. I’ve found that this actually mellows the sourness a bit, but introduces some interesting nutty and earthy notes. NOTE that if you decide to do this, let your poolish “wake up” for an hour at room temp before doing the final mix.
The Next Day ~ Mix and Bulk Ferment
Measure the temperature of your flour. We’re after around 75-80-degrees of final dough temperature. Use the following table to determine the temp of your water:
|Flour Temp||Water Temp|
Add the rest of the water, salt, and yeast to the bowl with the poolish and mix thoroughly with a dough whisk or fork until the poolish is fully dissolved. Once combined, add the bread flour in batches.
Form the dough into a rough ball and let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, fold the dough, then turn it over to rest on the folds. From there, fold the dough every 30 minutes for the next 2 hours or until you feel the dough is strong and extensible (hint: do the windowpane test to see if it is developed enough). Other than the windowpane test, I know the dough has developed enough strength if I can take 1/4 of the dough ball and stretch it up about a foot without it tearing. But bear in mind that as you are using whole wheat flour, you need to be gentle when handling the dough!
Finally, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 2 hours or until it has expanded about 25% to 30% in volume with a nicely domed top. You may not see bubbles on top, but that’s okay. Give your container a gentle shake. The dough should be jiggly, which means there are air bubbles in the dough, which is what you want! If you don’t see much growth, and the dough’s not very billowy, just give it more time.*
Tip: Turn on your oven to 475 before dividing and shaping. If you’re cooking on a stone, make sure it’s placed on the middle rack and you also place a metal baking pan (I use a sheet pan) on the bottom rack. You’ll be pouring a cup of hot water into the pan to create steam.
If you’re using a Dutch oven, place it in the oven now so it’s hot when you’re ready to bake. A steam source isn’t necessary for the Dutch oven since the baking bread will provide enough steam in the enclosed chamber.
*Notice that I didn’t say wait until doubled. The whole doubling in size that you often see is a little misleading. Most recipes, even some of my early recipes, give that as a telltale. But to be honest, if you let your dough fully double or even triple in size, chances are that you’ll end up on, or close to the very end of the fermentation cycle where the yeast and microbes have no fuel left for the final fermentation. This is why I mentioned inspecting the dough to see if it’s jiggly (which means there are air bubbles in it). I’ve learned to rarely let the dough go over 50% expansion in volume unless I will be shortening the final proof.
Typically, you’ll see a double in size telltale with quick bread, or bread that is baked within a few hours. Those typically have a fairly short final fermentation. But with this particular bread, we’re only using a very small amount of yeast, so dough development is much more akin to sourdough as the rising process is much slower.
Divide and Shape
This is a fairly high-hydration dough at 75%. It’s not impossible to work, but it can be a bit challenging, especially if you haven’t worked with dough at this hydration rate. Anyway, pour your dough out from the bowl and divide it into two equal pieces. With this recipe, they should weigh ~880 grams each. Preshape into rounds.
I learned how to pre-shape and shape high-hydration dough with the following video:
I use a different batard shaping method that can be viewed here.
Once you’re done shaping, place the dough in an appropriate proofing container (banneton, wicker basket, etc.). Proof the dough for an hour or two. But check it after a half-hour with the finger dent test. On especially warm days, my dough proofs quickly.
Tip: For smaller batards, I got some french fry baskets to use as bannetons that work great. I also did an 18-hour proof in my mini-fridge, set to about 40-degrees to do a slow proof. Frankly, if you have room in your fridge (or a second fridge to use as a dough retarder like I do), I’d recommend doing a slow, chilled, final ferment. Cold dough is much easier to slash and also, even more importantly, cold dough releases steam into the bread for a longer time, promoting better oven spring.
Alternatively, you can shape these into logs, and instead of placing the dough into bannetons, place them into loaf pans. This recipe makes excellent sandwich bread!
Once proofed, place the dough on a peel or appropriate device to slide onto your stone that has been liberally sprinkled with cornmeal or flour if you don’t have cornmeal. Don’t be shy about it! Your dough has got to slide off the peel easily. 🙂 But before you place the dough into the oven, score it with a super-sharp knife or a lame. Slide the dough onto your stone. Immediately pour the cup of hot water into the baking pan below. Careful of the steam that will rise!
If you’re using a Dutch oven, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place it on a heat-safe surface. Remove the cover, then place your dough directly into the pot. Cover and place back into the oven.
Bake at 460 for 40 minutes or until the crust achieves the classic tri-color of a deep burnished brown, golden in the cut groove, and blackened at the tips of the ear. Remove the baking pan from the oven after 20 minutes. If you’re using a Dutch oven, remove the lid after 20 minutes and bake open for the last 10 minutes.
That’s it! Enjoy!