Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For Better Bread, Pre-Ferment Your Yeast

There's a name for this.   "Pre-ferment" is what I see it called.

There are other proportions for different purposes.  A Poolish is a French technique of 50 percent Flour.   A Biga is an Italian one with a drier mix.

Bread Machines aren't as popular as they once were, but you can still make an amazing loaf of bread using one.  I just don't cook the loaf in the machine since you don't really get that crust that crunches when you bite into it.  

The Bottom's Up baking method of a vertical bread machine means the bottom of the loaf is dry, the top would be gummy.

The trick is simple.  To the bucket of your bread machine, or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, add all your ingredients except the flour.

Yeast, 105F Lukewarm Water, sugar, salt, oil or other fat. 

Stir the mix up.  Allow it to brew at least 15 minutes if you have a very active yeast, or longer if you are using a sourdough starter and less or no yeast.

What happens is that the yeast begins to activate.   It forms a culture throughout the mixture and begins to digest the sugars.  At around 15 minutes, flour can be added.

The longer the dough is allowed to brew, the more complex the flavor.   The French "Poolish" technique can be used at this point by adding in 1/2 of your flour.   What this makes is a very wet brew that can be covered and allowed to rise for a longer period of time, as much as "overnight".  The result of that is a sour dough that is on the verge of becoming a sourdough mother.  

Add back in the rest of your flour and bake normally.

I've done this trick in the past and ended up with a complex bread that tastes much better than any pre-fab store bought commercial bread with a big name on the side, but it does take a bit of patience and planning.

If you really aren't interested in waiting that long, you can add in all your flour at the 15 minute mark.  In my house, which is normally "warm" in South Florida, the yeast is fully activated and healthy. 

The longer the rise time, the more complex the taste.  Not everyone likes a rich sourdough taste, but that isn't what we've been trained to eat over the last few decades.

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