Today I decided to go back to basics. As in any craft you have to learn the basics and then build on those skills in order to master more difficult tasks. The wonderful book, "The Bread Bakers' Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart has been sitting unused on my shelf for 2 years. Today I finally opened it and decided to work my way through the recipes. Don't get me wrong, I know how to make bread. But I've never really thought about the hows and whys of breadmaking - I just followed a recipe and it would work or not.
So I am in the process of making a loaf of white bread using a pre-ferment or pâte fermentée. The idea is that the addition of a pre-fermented dough improves a breads flavour characteristics and enhances the overall maturity and taste. The pre-ferment I have started has been sitting on my counter for several hours and then will be in the fridge for 2 days in order to allow the yeast to mature and ferment the dough which will add a nice tanginess to the final loaf. The recipe is really just a basic white bread dough that is allowed to mature. If you make bread on a regular basis this is the same idea as using "old dough" or saving a piece of dough from today's dough to go in tomorrow's batch. This is the recipe I used from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice":
1 1/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/8 cups unbleached bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water at room temperature
Stir together dry ingredients and yeast. Add water and stir until everything comes together in a coarse ball. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, use the dough hook to knead, or knead by hand until the dough forms a smooth ball - about 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit a room temperature until it more than doubles in size. Punch down the dough to degas and then recover the bowl and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
This dough will be used as "old dough" in a french bread recipe I am planning on for later this week. I'll keep you posted!