Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poolish Starter ... Bread, A Slipper So To Speak ... Ciabatta

What is a poolish starter? Basically it's the same ingredients used to make bread, but it's left to sit for awhile to ferment, giving it great flavor. It's practically impossible to have the same flavor with using one. The following recipe makes two large slippers.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups water @ room temperature
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

all of the poolish
3 cups of flour
1 3/4 ts salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
6 - 8 tbs water milk or buttermilk can also be used

In a medium bowl, combine all the poolish ingredients and mix well to be sure the flour is fully hydrated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 3-4 hours to ferment, or until the sponge becomes bubbly and foamy, doubles in size.
Immediately refrigerate.
A Poolish will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Remove the poolish from the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to making the bread.
Either by hand or using a mixer whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.
Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of the water.
Mix until ingredients begin to form a sticky ball. (You may have to keep scraping down the dough, it's pretty sticky.)
Now the dough should be very soft, wet and sticky, and stick to the bottom of the bowl.
Sprinkle enough flour onto the kneading surface to make a bed.
Using a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and begin using the stretch-and-fold method.
Lightly spray the top of the dough with water, dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Let dough rest 30 minutes, then repeat the stretch-and-fold process again. Mist with spray oil, dust with flour and re--cover.
Allow dough to ferment on the counter for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. It will rise noticeably.
Carefully remove the plastic from the dough and shape the dough, putting them onto backing sheets that have been dusted with cornmeal or semolina. If you will transfer using a peel, dust it.
Again mist the dough with water and dust with more flour.
Cover clean kitchen towel. Rise for another 45 to 60 minutes.
While the loaves are rising preheat your oven and baking stone if you should have one to 500.
Place the loaves into the oven---either directly onto the baking stone or else bake the loaves directly on the sheet pan.
Use the steam baking method for the first minute of baking, then reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees and set timer for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven and the way it bakes).
Check half-way through the baking for uneven browning---if so, rotate the loaves 180 degrees and finish baking.
The bread should register 205 degrees in the center and should be golden in color---the flour streaks will also give it a dusty look.
Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool at least 45 minutes before serving.


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