FOCACCISM PHENOMENOLOGY: ORIENTING BETWEEN POOLISH, BIGA AND PROOF
FOCACCISM PHENOMENOLOGY: ORIENTING BETWEEN POOLISH, BIGA AND PROOF
Photo Source: Antonino Rampulla
Like a few millionaires of Italians, I am "taking advantage" of this period of forced but inevitable quarantine to test some dough recipes and cooking procedures with a view to improving my versions of some Sicilian leavened products .
A premise is a must: everything that is traditional suffers the limit of being more or less codified and any attempt to introduce an ingredient or to dare an exogenous procedure is mostly attacked and rejected by radical traditionalists. Could this happen for fear of discovering that we can obtain a better version, in our specific case, of focaccia which questions the grandmother's ancient and sacred culinary knowledge? To avoid misunderstandings, this does not mean that grandmothers cook badly, on the contrary ... But that often a little courage is needed, of acceptance that some reassuring culinary certainties can wobble ... Are you willing to take risks? Very well…
biga con proof.jpg
If you search online for the Messina focaccia recipe, for example, you will mostly find direct doughs with abundant abuse of lard which would give more "crunchiness" than extra virgin olive oil olive. As a good "scientist" I have tested this theory more than once in the field. First of all, what is lard? Basically, lard and pork fat, concentrated (for the rest there is Wikipedia ...) When did I use it? When some recipes included it (for example fried gnocco or Messina hard pidoni) and when for some reason (there are many ...) my dough did not rise well or I was in a hurry to use it. In other words, your dough has come to suck. Solution? Lard. More than giving "crunchiness", lard also gives softness to a shoe sole .
biga sezione.jpg
Clearly mine is just one opinion among many. I ask if I am not very diplomatic. However this is my experience in this regard. How to make a good focaccia dough without tons of lard? With a lot of patience. If you are not patient, put a "Soft Pizza Margherita Findus" (I'm not inventing it: it's called that!) In the oven and in a quarter of an hour you will have filled your belly (but I have doubts about the relatively short times of digestion).
There are two types of dough: direct and indirect. In short, direct doughs consist of directly combining almost all the ingredients at once. Indirect doughs consist of letting only a certain percentage of ingredients rise for 16 hours, then adding the remaining ingredients: in this case we talk about poolish (100% hydration) and biga (50% hydration). I avoid going into too much detail that I will take care to deepen on another occasion. Ah! Maybe I have to specify it: hydration is the amount of water compared to flour.
biga sezione.jpg
I then compared three different types of procedure , for the same amount of time spent, with the same ingredients, to determine whether it was really worth choosing one type over another: direct, with biga , with poolish . All the doughs have in common 300 grams of 00 flour and 200 grams of wholemeal Russello and Tumminia (both Sicilian semolina): this for now passes the convent. I suppose it is medium-low strength flours (an indicator of strength, i.e. tenacity, extensibility and absorption capacity of liquids, it can be the amount of protein per 100 grams, however it is an empirical laboratory test for which is either indicated on the packaging or you can ... just just deduce)
All the doughs have 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil, 20 grams of sugar, 15 of salt, 67% of total hydration and 100 grams of mother yeast. For the nerdiest: I didn't have pure autolysis (water and flour) directly, but I just added salt and 50% oil after 16 hours.
After 24 hours and a couple of regenerations / folds (out of a 67% I don't know how to technically consider them) without altering their composition (therefore always in the bowl and without the aid of additional flour) I obtained a stick of about 200 grams from each type of dough, proceeding to what is technically defined proof , that is to give the final shape that the focaccia will have a couple of hours from cooking, a sort of "second leavening" so that the glutinic mesh is "Relax" in the final form. From the direct I took a second loaf that I would have "ironed" (strictly by hand since the rolling pin must be used only for shortcrust pastry ...) at the moment, to also test the validity of the proof . Poolish and biga accounted for 30% of the final dough. It goes without saying that all the pre-baked buns were of the same thickness (just under one centimeter). I cooked everything on refractory stone , with a home oven, as they say in jargon, "ball" (on paper 250 degrees Celsius), in "pizza" mode (static in the lower heating element, grill in the upper one, ventilated in the rear one), strictly for three and a half minutes (so as not to distort the comparison).
These are the empirical results:

- proof is not only form but also substance, giving the focaccia a better taste, more fragrance and better cooking

- the direct dough without proof was less cooked, with a cornice just mentioned, at the bite more similar to the softness of a Neapolitan pizza but overall, albeit sufficient, the worst test among the four

- the direct dough with proof was more uniform in terms of shape, baking and overall better than the same dough without proof

- indirect doughs are both superior to direct dough, for uniformity and "effectiveness" of cooking, flavor and fragrance

- the mix with poolish was found to be more delicate, with a more intriguing, regular and beautiful honeycomb, however tending to be less suitable for the biga for bread-making

- the dough with the biga is the one that initially convinced the most for the expectation compared to the idea of ??focaccia that we had in mind, more "panoso" than the poolish, therefore to be chosen in consideration of this particularity >
N.B. It is clear that this comparison has no absolute value but is related to the (scarce) ingredients, the type of oven, the rising temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius) and all the environmental factors that you want to take into consideration.

I thank Marta, Corrado, Filippo, Sefora, Giampiero and Lorena for their precious technical-scientific advice.
Text Source: Antonino Rampulla
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