Craig Ponsford is a preeminent baker in the SF area and a big proponent of yeast preferments for non-sour dough breads. I really respect guys like Craig and ACME bread's Sullivan because they work with more variations in a week than I can work with in a life time. Craig employs different temps, aging, and flours (rye, wheat, all purpose, etc.) to produce such a myriad of tastes.
Craig was forced into commercial yeast-based preferments when he helped the US win the specialty breads category in France in 1996 (Ciabatta, baguettes, etc.). His goal initially was to strengthen the French flours to meet his needs. Since then, he believes a poolish is almost the purest if you wish to bring out the closest taste to the real wheat. That’s an important distinguishing element, since these guys use natural starters for their sourdough.
Because the Ciabatas are so special, I decided to follow Craig and Sullivan's yeast preferment recommendation for a similar rough crust, amazing inside crumb, and natural taste of the Ciabatta.
Commercial yeast is aggressive. SO the amount of yeast they use is negligible in their preferments (between 1/16 tsp and 1/364 tsp). The goal is not to change the taste in the flours. But to bring them out. The yeast impacts rise and texture, while the change in temperatures result in acidity from bacterial fermentation.
These guys get way up there in % hydration, since they take about 18 minutes to produce their results at lower temperatures (about 425F). So I opted for a final result under 70%, which will be used with a higher temp in my oven.
I went with a cross between Craig’s Biga (which is stiffer, includes some whole wheat and sits in cold temperatures), and Sullivan’s poolish (which is more watery and left at room temp for a milder flavor). Their unbleached flours stay within the 11.5% protein levels. I went with a 12.7% KA bread flour, and later mixed it with a small amount of Giusto’s all purpose.
ACME shoots for a higher ASH rating and ensures that minimal oxygen is injected during his mixing period with rest periods to give an amazing cream coloring. Resting actually breaks down the tight gluten structures at this point, and reduces long kneading times which can introduce oxygen and oxidize the flour’s unsaturated fats and bleach its pigments. When these are oxidized, you lose the vitamin E content and alter their flavor.
I mixed 10 oz each of water and KA Bread Flour by hand with 1/32 tsp active yeast. After a couple of hours, it went into the refrigerator to keep the yeast activity down, and improve the chances for some minimal acedic acid.
In the AM, I left it out for 2 hours and then mixed it with about 50% more flour and a water hydration that would bring it to 67% hydration. I started with about ½ the flour and gave it a 20 minute rest period before adding the yeast and just under 3% salt with the rest of the flour. Turning the first hour, I turned over the dough a few times on a floured board, which minimizes any stickiness. I put a couple of doughs in a tin in the refrigerator, and left out a 13 oz dough.
Amazing color, and check out this amazing extensibility with a lower protein flour.https://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/extensibility.JPG https://home.comcast.net/~keck-foundation1/poolish-mix.JPG
Well, it’s sitting out at room temp now, and tonight I’ll give the left out dough a shot. I’ve worked with similar procedures before and have no question of their results. So if it doesn’t come out right, I only have myself to blame. Commercial yeast is not what develops the taste. But it can compete with the sugars extracted from the starches, and this can adversely impact the minimal bacterial fermentation process; when over developed, the structure also weakens. So the important thing is to not over-ferment, and enjoy the natural taste of the wheat.