I hate to say it, without knocking on wood that is, but my starter is chugging along quite nicely. This means it’s time to trudge forward with the remaining sourdough and wild yeast breads in the BBA Challenge. With my expectations quite lofty, I went after Bread #33; the Poilâne-Style Miche.
These lofty goals might mean nothing to you, just like they meant nothing to me before I bought the Bread Baker’s Apprentice back in 2007. See I’ve had this book for some time; well before the BBA Challenge was issued last year. Yet I never had the courage to try the extravagant breads. Maybe extravagant is the wrong word, but I can’t think of a better way to describe this simple, yet complicated concoction. The ingredients are simple; whole wheat flour, salt, water and barm (wild yeast). Except these four ingredients make one MASSIVE, country-style miche (large boule). How big…try 4 1/2 pounds big.
I should also say that this loaf is also a just a tad more intimidating because it just so happens to be the cover bread. With the history of of this bread traced to one of the most famous bread bakers to live (Lionel Poilâne), you know it’s going to be a challenge. Peter doesn’t help calm any fears either, as he goes on to talk about “long fermentation’s”, “finest ingredients”, and a flavour that “change in the mouth with each chew”. Phew..a lot to live up to on this baby.
With a bread making process that could easily stretch 3 days, the Poilâne-Style Miche isn’t for the average ADHD candidate. Step one is to let the barm do it’s thing on a smaller amount of flour (9 ounces). This will allow all the yeasty bits to get a head start in lifting the final product. And believe me, this final lift will be a doozy, because you throw another 32 ounces of flour into the mix.
So in between some kneading and rising, you can sleep, go to work, play with the kids, take out the garbage, and rest again before you are ready. With my first attempt looking like it was on the right path, I created my steam bath and slide the giant beast into the oven. It’s hard not to stress the size of this loaf over and over again; even with my pizza peel firmly gripped, I was caught off guard by the weight and almost dropped the entire thing.
Thankfully my thermopen saved me from disaster as I watched the recommend 65 minutes tick past. Instead of a 200 degree center, this loaf was sitting around 173. So into the oven, again almost dropping it, before playing things by ear and tacking on an additional 20 minutes. With such a heavy loaf, the recommended cooling period is at least 2 hours. I made this a bit easier on myself by leaving the house to run some errands.
Eventually, back at the homestead, I stretched out my right arm (in preparation for cutting) and mouth (in preparation for eating). The sliced bread looked lovely. Soft, and surprisingly airy for such a large loaf. I was elated not to see any dense, or compressed parts near the base. Phase one (baking) was a success! But what about the taste…
Amazing. The slight tang of wild yeast mixes so well with the nutty, earthiness of whole wheat. This bread…is money. Sliced thick or thin. Topped with tomatoes or peanut butter. This was for whatever reason, one of the first breads in a long time that spoke to me, “Chris, come eat a slice. I won’t be mad. I promise not to make your ass look big”..and the seduction went on into the night. In fact this ‘big bitch’ (as it become known), is so good that I’m currently in the process of round two…and believe you me, I’m gonna do my best to conquer.