however, after trying the pre-ferment method, i'm sold! this is better, works faster and tastes better. only snag is the work is now spread out over 2 days. if you don't mind this (hey, good bread comes to those who are patient), then try this. i assure you you won't be disappointed.
[btw, it's called the pre-ferment method as a small quantity of dough is left to "ferment" overnight, then mixed with the rest of the ingredients. this method was in use when commercial yeast first came about as commercial yeast was expensive back then and this method utilizes less yeast. also, said to have some "sourdough" qualities. what i know is, it works fast! like yeast on steroids! and taste better. so i'm sold!
sponge, biga, poolish are all different variations of the same technique. the method shown below is about 100% hydration (meaning equal weight of flour and water), so it's more like a biga.]
the day before
- 1 cup of flour
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1/4 tsp of instant yeast (after using instant yeast, i find dry yeast a hassle)
the next morning, it should look wet, with holes and smell mildly acidic. what happened is that the dough has grown until its max, then collapsed down. if the dough looks like the same as yesterday, you can be assure the yeast is dead!
notice that no salt is used above. so we encourage the yeast to grow and grow until it collapses. hence you get a mild acidic smell.
- 3 cups of flour
- about 1 and 1/4 cup water (mixed with 1 tsp of honey). add more if dough feels dry
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- optional: 1 cup of "extras"
the amount of water needs to be estimated. the best feel is this : the resultant dough feels sticky but doesn't stick much to your hands. some add more flour if too wet, add more water if too dry. if not sure, let it be a bit wet.
the optional 1 cup of extras could be anything of your fancy. it could be
- 1 cup raisin, 1 tsp rosemary for our favourite rosemary raisin
- 1 cup of grains like amaranth, quiona, buckwheat, millet, flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed for another favourite of ours, the multigrain bread.
even the flour mixture, you could vary. it's a good idea to use a "stronger" flour for the pre-ferment. i usually use rye or wholemeal. the other 3 cups of flour could be anything of your fancy!
so after you have mixed up everything, hand knead vigorously for about 30 minutes. machine knead is too much trouble for me. i hate the washing!
then put aside and let it grow.
within an hour, you should see some substantial growth!
once doubled in size (just slightly more than an hour needed)... gently "press down" the excess air and stretch the dough somewhat, so that the yeast will work for you again. be gentle here.
shape it to whatever shape you want to, then let it sit for another 45 minutes, then bake it!
i usually bake at 180c for about 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown.