Well, that was fast. It’s already mid-October. Our Colorado weather is living up to its reputation for being predictably unpredictable so just when I was readying myself for the slower, more introspective pace of fall, summer decided to show up again and my bicycle is calling. Still, there’s baking going on over here so it’s time for an update on this month’s loaf, a Poilâne-style miche. If you’re wondering why this bread, I explained in this previous post but basically a whole-grain loaf seems right for the season.
Spoiler version: This 1.6kg miche, a large boule (ball) which produces a round loaf, is mostly whole wheat with a bit of rye and bread flour. It is smaller than the classic Poilâne miche which weighs two kilos. The loaf takes two days from start to finish and involves a sourdough preferment. I followed a very well written and illustrated recipe I came across online at the site WeekendBakery.com. I don’t know the folks at WeekendBakery but I was happy with the outcome and did write them to say thank you.
When it comes to baking I’m certainly not afraid of the time or effort involved, actually that is big part of the fun I’m sure you’ll agree. But Peter Reinhart’s recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice just had to go and introduce the term “barm” which of course I wasn’t yet ready for and frankly it spooked me a bit. So, I found a less-technical but reasonably challenging path described in the spoiler version above.
Speaking of Reinhart, I should note that I fit the category of his wind-on-cheek baker. While I appreciate and respect the precise knowledge and practice of bread baking characteristic of the technical and mechanical baker that is not what really gets me excited. I like the story, craft and artistry of bread, the essence, more. The reason I hesitated at the term barm, is because I need to understand why bread bakers call it barm in the first place.
This is my version of Lionel Poilâne’s signature bread. He called it a miche. I still don’t know why it’s so big. The loaf fit into my five quart Calphalon dutch oven just barely. I had to switch out the standard flat lid with a domed lid to accommodate the expected oven spring. Since I don’t have a baking stone yet or a steam oven, cooking in my dutch oven is the best way I’ve learned to get a nice crust on my loaves.
Maybe one day I’ll get to try the real thing. For now, I’m just happy for the inspiration. I plan to try the Reinhart recipe the last week of October and then compare taste, texture and flavor.