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Pre-ferment for Breads

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 December 2011 at 00:07
Often, pre-ferments are advised for making breads, in order to develop a "ripe" aroma and flavour.
This recipe for pre-ferment is adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart:
1 1/8 cup (5 oz) unbleached a/p flour
1 1/8 cup (5 oz) unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon (.19 oz) salt
1/2 teaspoon (.55 oz) instant yeast
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (6 to 7 oz) water; at room temperature
You can use this on the same day you make it, if you ferment it at room temperature for 2 hours instead of refrigerating it. The overnight treatment however, seems to bring out even more flavor. If you only have bread flour or only a/p flour, you may use them for this pre-ferment, but the blend seems to bring about the best results.
Stir together the flours, salt, and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add 3/4 cup of the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment). Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (It is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.Knead for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. The internal temperature should be 77°F to 81°F.
Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it swells to about 1 ½ times its original size.
Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight plastic container for up to 3 months.
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