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Magic Bread

This bread is made from a poolish pre-ferment. I mix it up the night before and it’s more than ready to go the next morning. It’s even better if I leave it more than 24 hours.

This morning I mixed together about a pound of flour, six ounces of tomato puree, an ounce of water, a teaspoon of salt, and a splash of olive oil. I let this sit for a good 20 minutes to autolyse. Autolysing is one of the most awesome techniques I’ve learned in the last few weeks; along with folding, it’s significantly improved my bread.

After the autolyse, I added the poolish, a teaspoon of instant yeast, two sprigs of rosemary (I think people use too much rosemary in their breads these days, it’s overpowering, I like to have just that hint of rosemary at the back end of the bite), and a couple of twists of the black pepper mill, and mixed it all together until it became the mostly smooth batter you saw earlier. I plop all that in my big yellow bowl and leave it to ferment for 20 minutes.


After 20ish minutes, I scrape the dough out of the bowl onto my pastry mat which is well-floured, no, more than that, no, still more.


Then I generously toss a bunch of flour on top of the dough and gently flatten it with my hands, while flattening, I am also stretching it a bit.

Then it’s on to the folding. When the dough is still really hydrated like this, it can be difficult to get a good grip on it, and it’s really difficult to do one handed. Again, I’m stretching it while I’m folding.

This is the first fold. As you can see, it’s done in thirds, like a letter.

Then the second fold crosswise to the last.

Then I flip it over and do the same thing again.


At the end of the folding (sometimes it takes a bit more during that first hour if the dough is very loosey goosey), I can pick it up with one hand.


After another 20 minutes of fermenting, it’s time for more stretching and folding.


At this point, you can see that air pockets are beginning to form and the dough is increasing in strength and elasticity.


I repeat the stretch and fold process.

Now, I could divide and separate the dough at this point, but I like to set it out for a second rise.

So this is how big it is at the start of the second rise.


And… 45ish minutes later. Nice.


Divide and conquer. These are going to be boules.


Once they’re benched and shaped, I put them on baking sheets which are liberally dusted with semolina flour or corn meal. Today I decided to be a bit fancy and did an egg wash so that I cold emboss a rosemary sprig on the top of each loaf. It’s important to use only the top soft bit of the rosemary, it’s not nice to have a stick glued to the top of the loaf, plus it won’t bend to the shape and will burn up in the oven.


About 45 minutes to an hour later, just before I put it in the oven, it’s time to score the loaves.


And 20 minutes later… we have bread.

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