Playing Around with Dough

I’ve been having a huge bread jones these days. After lurking on for several hours looking at all the recipes, tutorials, and message boards, I decided on making a plain white French bread. This French loaf uses only the simplest of ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt; yet, made properly, has a flavor that you would not expect from such a miserly array of ingredients.

I didn’t have to do all that much to get a recipe together that I liked. I took my inspiration from the blog’s creator, Floyd. Floyd’s daily bread is a very wet dough that produced a real nice loaf with a very good open crust. I wasn’t happy with the huge mess it made so I modified his daily bread recipe somewhat. I made some adjustments in the flour and water measurements he used, converted it to a more friendly and scalable format, IE grams/weight, and tested it out. The overall result was just what I wanted: open crumb, good flavor, and a great crust.

In modifying this recipe, I also got to learn a new way to prepare the dough. This dough is not kneaded in the usual sense. After the poolish has risen, all the ingredients are mixed together into a rather ragged dough and left to sit. This process is called autolyzation. While sitting, the gluten forms in the dough on its own without any outside assistance. After the prescribed amount of time, the dough is turned onto a flour surface and folded, much like puff pastry, and let to rest. The process is then repeated two more times and then the dough is shaped, proofed, and baked.

This new method of making bread helps create the open crumb structure that is much desired in an artisan bread. It’s also a good technique to keep in your bag of tricks if you want to make some bread and don’t have a mixer or the desire to knead for 10-15 minutes.

French Inspired White Bread
Recipe adapted from Floyd’s Daily Bread,

110 g flour
230 g water
1/8 teaspoon yeast

520 g flour
300 g water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoon salt
All of the poolish

To Make the Poolish:

Combine all the ingredients together and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Leave overnight (8-16 hours) in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

Making the Bread:

Combine all ingredients together is a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are mostly incorporated. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside 30-60 minutes (autolyse). The mixture will not look like a dough at this point, don’t worry, it will soon.

Flour your work surface generously and gently remove the dough from the bowl. Flour your hands and the top of the dough and gently stretch out to a rectangle. This will be a little messy, but work quickly and gingerly and you won’t get too messy. Fold the dough into thirds by folding the left side of the dough into the middle and the right side over the left. Fold into thirds from the top to the bottom in the same fashion.

Place in a bowl and cover with a towel and set aside 30-60 minutes.

Repeat the process two more times, flouring and folding the dough each time. Place the dough back in the bowl each time and let rest for 30-60 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and preshape the dough. Allow the dough to rest for 5-10 minutes and then complete the final shaping. Allow the dough to rise until 1.5 times bigger. Slash bread and bake in 425F oven for 30-50 minutes.

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