April 10, 2020
So the Basic Bread was good but it wasn't great.
It was missing a key ingredient that would improve the flavor a lot:
There are many ways to add time. If you're a home baker then you aren't on a schedule and you probably have enough room in your refrigerator so one technique is to slow the rise by putting your dough in the refrigerator instead of in a warm place. You can and should experiment with refrigerating the dough after you've kneaded it - instead of leaving it out and doing the folds. You can also refrigerate the dough after shaping it into a loaf. Cover it and refrigerate it. Either way you'll notice a difference in the flavor.
Another technique is to pre-ferment some of the flour.
We'll use the same exact formula as for the basic bread but we'll pre-ferment 1/3 of the flour.
The night before you're going to bake (or about 16 hours ahead of time), mix 1/3 of the flour with equal weight of water.
In our case, take 140 g of flour and 140 g of water. That's about 1 1/4 cup of flour and a little less than 2/3 cup of water. I doesn't need to be exact. Add a pinch of yeast and mix together. It should be about the same consistency as our sourdough starter. Lightly cover it and put it in a warm place. I keep mine next to my sourdough starter for company.
A preferment that is equal weight water and flour is called a poolish. One that feels more like a dough and is closer to 68% water is called a biga (remember that would mean you use about 2/3 as much water by weight as you do flour).
The next morning or when you're ready to make your dough, mix together the rest of the flour and water with the salt, yeast, and the poolish.
In other words you mix 280 g of flour (2 1/4 cups), with 160 g of water (between 2/3 and 3/4 of a cup), with 8 g salt (1 1/2 teaspoon), 2 g instant yeast ( 1/2 teaspoon), and the poolish that you made last night. The poolish should be bubbling a bit and smell nice.
From here on follow the same steps as for Basic Bread.
You can rest the dough in the refrigerator but you don't need to - you've already added flavor from the preferment.
This dough should look and feel the same as Basic Bread and bake up the same - but the smell and taste should be more complex. When you slice it, it should smell more like bread. Basic bread didn't smell like much at all.
When you taste it - it's so much better. You'll definitely want another slice.
Next time, we'll take this one step further. You're going to need your sourdough starter to be healthy and ready.