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Old 09-03-2005, 03:11 AM   #1
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Keeping a perpetual sponge, biga, poulish, preferment

In both the baguette and ciabatta recipies I'm working on, the longest step is the first one: creating the preferment and ageing it for 6 to 24 hours. Today I'm experimenting with loaves made from prefermentation steps where I doubled the recipe. When creating the actual loaf, I weighed out the quantity of preferment that the recipe called for and added it to the dough. Then I mixed the preferment with another batch of water and flour (but no yeast), waited for it to show signs of life, then stored it in the fridge.

I hoped this would help me get down to 2-3 hours of lead time for a loaf of ciabatta. The baguette recipe still calls for a 12-16 hour proofing session in the fridge, but at least that's 12 hours of lead time instead of 24...

At any rate I was wondering whether anyone did this for anything besides sourdough starters. I'm guessing that my loaves will take on a sour character over time? Or is this just a bad ideal all around?

For clarity, I'm using the Cooks Illustrated "Dinner Baguette" and "Whole-Wheat Rustic Italian Loaf" recipes.

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Old 09-03-2005, 08:16 AM   #2
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I too am experimenting with a sourdough starter. I made mine from comercial yeast, flour, a hint of sugar, and water. I let it sit in the fridge for a week and it became sour and wonderful. I used it to make a loaf of multi-grain bread, and two white bread loaves. I let them proof overnight in the fridge, punched them down, placed in the bread pans, and put in the oven-preheated to 120 degrees F. for the second rise. When they had doubled in bulk, I removed them from the oven and fired it up to 375. I put the bread in and baked for 40 minutes. This gave me some of the best bread I'd made.

I figure this metod worked so well as the yeast had time to multiply into the loaf and give off the Co2 slowly enough to allow the gluten to "relax". Also, the yeast is eating the sugar, decreasing the sweetness of the bread, and replacing it with some acids produced as a by-product, giving the bread its characteristic sour flavor. And because the dough is relaxed, you get a softer inside.

With the batch I've got rising now, I'm going to use the "water in a pan in the oven while baking" technique. I've not used it before and so am looking forward to the results. And where did I here about this technique? Why right here on DC, of course.

As to what else sour dough is good for; I once had pancakes made from sourdough starter. Thats all they were made from. They were truly disgusting to myself, my family, and the cooks family. She, of course thought they were incredible. They were truly sour.

But on the plus side, when that starter was used as the leavening agent for waffle batter, it made some of the best Belgian Waffles I have eaten. I would thing that a dough using bigga would be great for fry-bread or scones, or wrapped around hot dogs or sausage for pigs-in-a blanket. It would be good for some pizza crusts, depending of course on the toppings. I would think that tomato based pizza sauce would accentuate the sour flavor too much. But a pizza with mostly veggies, lean meats such as paper-thin slices of beef, ham, or chicken, maybe even pork, and grated hard cheeses such as Asiago, or Romano, maybe a little Fontina, or Muenster grated over the top, with just a bit of a sweeter tomato sauce would be interesting.

Just some ideas.

Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 09-03-2005, 09:36 AM   #3
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Freezing Preferments

I routinely freeze dough-like preferments like pate fermentee and biga. (I have not tried this with a more liquid-like preferment like poolish, but that's mostly b/c I don't have the freezer space).

I may double or even triple my favorite preferment recipe so that I have a good supply in the freezer.

Tips for Freezing Preferment

A digital kitchen scale ($25-35 USD) is recommended.

Make your preferment recipe, increasing the quantity if desired. If you let it rise at room temperature, then stir or punch it down and chill it in the refrigerator until it is completely cold (it will continue to rise some in the 'frig during this chilling stage). When cold, weigh out portions in a convenient amount (I generally make 8oz portions). Double-wrap each portion in plastic wrap and label each package with the amount, date, and preferment type.

If you don't chill the preferment before packaging it for freezing, it may continue to rise a bit in the freezer, since it takes time for cold to penetrate the interior of the preferment. This depends on the size and shape of your packages and well as the temp of the freezer. I like to shape each package as a flatish rectangle so that it will freeze quickly.

As you know, you can hold a preferment in the 'frig for up to 3 days before using it in your bread recipe. However, when making a batch of preferment explicitly for freezing, I prefer not to hold it for any more time than necessary in the frig. This is because the preferment does continue to ferment very slowly in the 'frig. If you're manipluating the rising time of the preferment itself to get a more pronounced flavor you can do this when you defrost your preferment packages.

Tips for Defrosting Preferment

I prefer to defrost the preferment in the 'frig rather than at room temperature. If you defrost at room temp, the yeast activity may resume on the outside of the package while the inside is still thawing. This depends, of course, on the weight and shape of the frozen package, as well as the ambient temp of your kitchen.

I usually put as many packages of frozen preferment that I will need in my final recipe in the 'frig to defrost the night before I plan to make bread. You can, of course, leave these packages in the 'frig longer (up to about 3 days), especially if you're looking for a more pronounced yeast flavor in the preferment.

If the preferment was a relatively firm dough, just let it thaw still wrapped. If it is a wetter preferment such as the one posted in http://discusscooking.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14495 then you should check the beginning of that thread for defrosting tips.

If you do defrost at room temp, I find it takes about 1-1/2 hours for an 8oz package to defrost.

I do not think it is necessary to bring the defrosted preferment to room temp before adding it to the final dough. Adding chilled preferment will, of course, slightly slow down the final rise(s) but not to any appreciable amount.

Storage Length for Frozen Preferment

The longest I have held frozen preferment is about 3 months. I do not experience any degradation of the rising power of the preferment. My guesstimate of a max storage time would be 6 months.
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Old 09-03-2005, 02:54 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
I too am experimenting with a sourdough starter.
Interesting. You're doing this specifically for sourdough? I'm really just focusing on not having to plan ahead on my preferment needs...
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Old 09-09-2005, 03:06 PM   #5
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Just re-read the "Thermal Death Point" chapter in Michael Ruhlman's fantastic book about his experiences at the Culinary Institute of America, The Making of a Chef. It's interesting to note that the baking instructor refreshed his starter with equal parts a.p. and rye flour. I paged through Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, though I didn't buy it, and couldn't find a mention of including rye in a pre-ferment. I was wondering what Silverton had to say about it in Breads from the La Brea Bakery, but my local Borders didn't have a copy. Anyone have any insight into this mention of rye in a starter?
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Old 09-10-2005, 08:35 AM   #6
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RE using rye in preferments or sourdough starters

check out this link www.baking911.com/bread_starters101howto.htm

alternatively, to search the www.baking911.com site for *any* mention of rye AND starter, go to google and enter this search string
+rye+starter site:www.baking911.com
Another link that may have some articles of interest:
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Old 09-10-2005, 01:45 PM   #7
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Weill, I did look in Reinhart's book again, and he does mention a rye starter for rye based sourdough. Also, I've read that rye results in a particularly sour flavor, which might be why it's used for sourdough.
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