In his introduction to this recipe, Peter Reinhart writes, “…the poolish baguette made at the original Ganachaud Boulangerie was the second best baguette I ever had (the first being the pain a l’ancienne of Philippe Gossellin”).” I feel the same is true of these baguette recipes in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
What I appreciate most about the Poolish Baguette recipe is how easy it is to handle and score the dough. In fact, it’s a really beautiful, silky dough. It was so much fun to knead, I had trouble putting it down. And when it came time to shape and score it, the resilient dough stood up well to handling and still resulted in a respectable baguette crumb. In comparison, the l’Ancienne dough is one you simply can’t handle; it’s far too wet and fragile, and the kneading, as such, is best left to the mixer. As a result of the dough texture, the Poolish Baguette recipe makes a baguette that looks (in my hands, at any rate) more like a classic baguette than the l’Ancienne version.
But the difference in flavor between the two seems, to me, dramatic. Both use different methods to achieve depth of flavor. In l’Ancienne, the entire dough is given a long, slow, cold fermentation, overnight in the refrigerator. In the poolish baguettes, the poolish made the night before is used to provide the slowly developed fermented flavor to the rest of the dough that’s mixed the following day. In addition, the poolish baguette recipe incorporates sifted whole-wheat flour, which provides some heartiness of flavor without the coarseness of the bran.
See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.
We made the poolish baguettes during Thanksgiving weekend, and treated ourselves to some homemade butter. We didn’t wait for the baguettes to cool for too long before we sliced into it. The crust was crisp, the interior crumb was springy and full of holes, and the butter melted sweetly into the holes. We had no complaints at all. But given a choice between l’Ancienne and the poolish baguettes, l’Ancienne still gets my vote.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, a big bag of flour, and plunge in!