For round two, I used a recipe from "Bread Alone." Unlike the La Brea bread book, this one does not rely on sourdough starter so I didn't have to do the whole feeding three times a day for three days gig. This author also is very precise in measurements and temperature -- and in the type of flour you use. There is an entire chapter on flour; the protein content needed and sources. I mail ordered some high gluten, high protein flour and mixed it with wheat flour. Three parts high gluten to one part wheat flour.
The night before I wanted to bake the bread, I made my poolish. I mixed water, a pinch of yeast and flour together and stirred until it all grabbed together and was smooth. Then I covered it and put it in the refrigerator for a long fermentation. You can also leave it on the counter for a few hours, but the book said that if I put in the refrigerator and slowed the process down for 12-15 hours, I would end up with a better tasting loaf. Sounded good to me. The next morning I took it out, put it on the counter and let it come to room temperature (about three hours). In that three hours, it rose up and bubbled happily.
I added more water, flour, yeast and some salt. I warmed the water up more than last time -- in an attempt to get my dough to the elusive perfect dough temperature of 78F. The instructions gave a wide variation in the amount of flour to use -- it is a "feel" thing, depending on humidity and weather and age/type of flour. I used the least amount I could manage as a wetter, stickier dough yields a lighter airier loaf in my experience. I set the timer and kneaded for the prescribed 17 minutes (so much better than 45). Then I put it in my proofing container (which is clear so I can see how much it rises) for about three hours. It doubled and bubbled. When it was ready to be deflated, formed and put in their baskets, I noticed that the dough didn't hold its shape well since it was so soft. It rose nicely in the baskets but when I turned it out to bake, they deflated quite a bit. Rats. Then my razor snagged on the tops and deflated them even more instead of just cutting a clean line. I slid them into the oven onto the baking stone, squirted in the water, and waited for the result.
Nice color, nice crust but not as high as I would like. Overall, I'm calling it a success but next time I will make the dough a tad bit stiffer.
For dinner we had BBQ steaks, salad with a garlicky vinaigrette, and bread. Glorious bread.
Brett said this is the best tasting bread I've made. I would have to agree.