Sing to me my bread & crackle sweetly in my ear

Every now and then you run across a gem. You know you’re onto something because it just resonates inside of you. It’s not something you can really explain, but you just know it when it happens. Well, it happened to me this past weekend.


I didn’t go to the Asheville Bread Festival and I was really bummed, but I had been pushing myself too hard recently, and I just had to rest. Instead of fighting it like I normally do, I took a break from everything and spent time catching up with myself. It rained most of the weekend so it was a good time to just hibernate.

While I was sitting there trying to relax (which if anyone knows me, is a feat in and of itself), I picked up a bread book that I had gotten recently. The book is called Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish.

Note:  I did not receive a free copy of the book in exchange for a review. I bought the book myself, and I love it.

Mr. Forkish’s method is inspired by the processes of Jim Lahey (My Bread) and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bread). I think that’s one of the reasons I like this book so much.All of his formulas are based on 1000 grams of flour which makes it so easy to follow and adapt. In fact, he provides tips on how to adapt his recipes. Nothing is left to chance.

I was so inspired by the book that of course I had to bake some bread. I chose a bread that utilized an overnight poolish so it didn’t require much hands-on time the first day. I finished it Sunday afternoon and it totally lifted my spirits.

I fell in love with this bread the minute I took it out of the oven. I placed it on the wire rack to cool and as I was taking photos, it started to sing. It was a delightful melody. It crackled ever so lightly like a lover whispering in my ear.  I don’t know if I was just so spacey from exhaustion or what, but all I could think at the time was “I’m in love.”



White Bread with Poolish

Adapted from: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

Makes: One Loaf

White bread flour250 g1 7/8 cups +1 tbsp.
Water250 g 80 degrees F.1 1/8 cups
Instant dried yeast0.4 gscant 1/8 tsp.

Final Dough:

IngredientFinal Dough Mix Quantity
White bread flour250 g1 7/8 cups + 1 tbsp.
Water125 g 105 degrees F.1/2 cup
Fine sea salt10 g~1 3/4 tsp.
Instant dried yeast1.6 g1/2 tsp.
Poolish500 gall of the above

Baker’s Formula:

IngredientQuantity in PoolishTotal Recipe QuantityBaker’s Percentage
Bread flour250 g500 g100%
Water250 g375 g75%
Sea salt010 g2.0 %
Yeast0.4 g2 g0.40 %



1) Make the Poolish

The night before you plan to bake the bread, whisk the flour and yeast together in a large bowl and add the 80 degrees F. water. Mix by hand or with a wooden spoon until it is thoroughly blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees F.) for 12 to 14 hours.  When the poolish is ready, it should be bubbly and almost tripled in volume.



2)  Mix the Final Dough

The next day, after the poolish is fully mature, whisk together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a large bowl.  Pour the water (105 degrees F.) around the edges of the poolish to loosen it from the bowl. Then using a wooden spoon, pour the water/poolish mixture into the flour mixture.



For the next part, you’ll need to get your hands wet. Using wet hands, mix the dough by folding it to thoroughly incorporate all of the ingredients (refer to my post on making Tartine Country Bread) The dough should be around 74 – 75 degrees F.



3) Bulk Fermentation

Let the dough rest for 2 to 3 hours after mixing.  During this time, do two or three folds during the first hour after mixing the dough. I forgot to use 105 degrees F. water when I mixed the dough so I extended the bulk fermentation another hour to compensate for the overall temperature of the dough being lower.  I did several folds and turns during the first hour, then I let the dough rest for the remainder of the proof.



4) Shaping the loaf

Mr. Forkish has a slightly different process because he bakes his loaf in a Dutch oven and he shaped his loaves into a fendue shape. I shaped my loaf differently and baked it in my combo baker so this is the process I used.  If you choose to use a different baker, you might need to adjust the shaping/scoring part so you don’t burn yourself when inverting the dough into the pot.

I only made one loaf so I didn’t need to divide the dough. I removed the dough to a lightly floured surface.



Then I shaped it into a medium-tight ball and placed it seam-side up in a floured banneton basket.



5) Proof the loaf

I lightly floured the top of the loaf and covered it with a kitchen towel.  Then I let the loaf proof in the basket for an hour.  Use the finger-dent test to know when the dough is fully-proofed and ready to bake. This just means you press your index finger lightly into the dough and if the indention remains, the dough is ready.



6) Prepare the oven for Hearth baking

While the loaf is proofing, at least 45 minutes before it’s time to bake, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. with the combo baker or Dutch oven or other bread baker on the bottom rack.  There’s no need to place a steam pan underneath because the covered pot will provide it’s on steam.


7) Scoring the loaf

For this part, be very careful that you don’t burn yourself because you’ll be working with a very hot pan. Keep your fingers, forearms and anything else away from the hot pot. I large heat-resistant oven mitt works great for this.

Carefully remove the preheated combo baker (using gloves) and invert the proofed loaf onto the bottom of the baker.  My loaf didn’t plop exactly centered in the pan so I shook the pot a little bit to even it out but it was still a bit uneven.



Then I carefully scored the loaf using a lame.  Even though the rings of flour were a bit off in the pan, I thought the scoring turned out pretty well.



8)  Bake the loaf

Cover the combo baker with the lid and place it on the bottom rack to bake. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, then uncover the baker and bake the loaf for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. This is what the loaf looked like when I removed the lid.



The finished loaf should be at least medium dark brown all around the loaf. This has always been the hard part for me because I don’t like to burn my bread, but I was a good girl and left the loaf in for the suggested amount of time. However, if your oven is hot like mine, you might want to check the loaf sooner.


9) Cool the Loaf

Carefully remove the combo baker from the oven and gently tilt it to remove the loaf. I just reached in using my oven mitt and lifted it out. Place the loaf on a wire rack and let the loaf rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.



After I let the loaf cool, I just couldn’t bring myself to slice it just yet. I wanted to look at it a bit longer. It’s very photogenic don’t you think?  I placed the cooled loaf in a paper grocery bag and let it sit overnight.



10) Slice and Enjoy!

The next day, I sliced the loaf and sampled it.  I was not disappointed.  It tastes great with butter or dipped in oil and particularly good toasted with sharp cheddar cheese. It also makes a great sandwich bread.  I’ve been enjoying it all week.



And so, my love affair with bread begins anew with this White Bread with Poolish.

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as I did.


This bread has been YeastSpotted in the weekly bread roundup hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.


Happy Baking!




Owner/Blogger at Bread Experience
Hello, I’m Cathy, the face behind the Bread Experience. I'm a project manager by profession. My job can be very stressful at times and I've found that baking bread is a wonderful stress reliever.

I especially enjoy baking bread on the weekends and allowing the dough to slow ferment to bring out the flavor and nutritional properties of the bread.

Over the years, I've become enamored with grains.So you'll find me experimenting using different types of heritage and ancients grains.Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't, but it's all part of the experience.I invite you to join me on this bread-baking journey.


  1. says

    That looks wonderful Cathy. I love it when my bread sings. The first time that happened to me I freaked a little, and then it hit me… oh… .yeaaaahhh.

  2. says


    Congratulations – a great loaf/recipe/explanation/pics – but please, what is a ‘combo baker’? What does it look like etc. I’m in the UK and haven’t a clue what this might be or whether, in fact, I own one! Before asking, I did check on Google but was none the wiser. Thanks in advance!

  3. says



  4. says

    Hi Tony, this particular post is about the bread/method from Ken Forkish’s book. Not everyone is comfortable using a sourdough starter; however, feel free to utilize sourdough instead of the yeast if that is your preference. And next time you want to comment, please don’t use all caps as that is considered yelling and there is no need to yell about good bread. Thank you!

  5. says

    Hi from a Hong Kong housewife who loves bread,
    I just bought Ken Forkish’s bread book and did my first try on poolish white bread. I have been baking bread for about 1 year. I tried to follow his instruction and the only thing I could not control is the weather temperature here is 90F~95F and quite humid. The 12-14 hr poolish develeopment turned out well as I put the tub in the air-conditioned room whole night. However the problem happened when I tried to make the dough the next morning in the kitchen where temperature was about 95F. I did everything said in the book but the dough just could not be formed. It was like a flat batter all the time. I tried to do the Fold, but I could not. Once I fold, it immediately spread out like a batter, so I could not turn it over. I kept on and still just a mass of sticky batter. At the end, I tried to add more flour or put it into the machine mixer, it did not work. I don’t know where it went wrong except the hot and humit weather. But would these factors make such big impact on the dough? I used Gold Medal unbleached all purpose flour. I just just bought several kilos of such flour and determined to work it through. Reading your blog, I hope you can give me some advice. Many thanks.

  6. says

    Hello, I think your problem is the heat. What temperature was your poolish resting at all night? It really needs to be about 75 – 80 degrees. If you’re not able to do that, I think letting it rest on the counter for a couple of hours at room temperature and then placing it in the refrigerator overnight might be a better option for you. You could let it warm up to room temperature for a little while the next day.

    Also, when you’re baking in the heat like that, you’ll probably need to reduce the proofing time. I’ve heard that for every 2 degrees above 80 degrees, you should reduce the fermentation time by 15 minutes.

    It’s hot and humid where I am as well, and I’ve had to reduce the proofing time.

    You might also want to use colder water so the dough temperature is not so hot.

    Hope this helps. You’ll probably just have to play around with it a bit to get it to work, but don’t get discouraged. This bread is worth it.

  7. says

    This looks beautiful, Cathy.

    I just recently began experimenting with baking bread, and I don’t have a dutch oven or combo baker yet. Do you think this recipe would be possible without?

    Thank you

    • says

      Thanks Selena! You can make this bread without a Dutch oven, but it won’t have the same characteristics. The Dutch oven/combo bakers simulate a brick oven to provide the necessary steam/heat to create the crackly crust and help the bread expand. If you have a baking stone, you could bake it freeform on the baking stone with a steam pan underneath, but it will still be different because the heat is not always even when using a baking stone.

  8. says

    I did everything said in the book but the dough just could not be formed. It was like a flat batter all the time.


    i tried Forkish’s recipe last week and had the exact same results. the dough was way too wet (i think). it would not rise, was way too sticky, would not form a loaf. and when it baked it, hoping something magical would happen in the oven, the loaves came out short and the crust was rock-hard. total failure.

    i set my poolish out in a 71-deg house all night. i’m in NC, but it hasn’t been above 80 here in weeks. so the heat was definitely not an issue with me.

    (i actually found this page Googling to see if anyone else had the same problem)

    • says

      Hello Chris,

      Things to consider: Did you let the poolish rest overnight for 12-14 hours? How long did you let the dough bulk ferment? Did the folds help to strengthen the dough? You might need to extend the bulk fermentation (first rise) to make sure the dough is developed sufficiently. I extended the time by an additional hour, but you could extend it longer, if necessary.

      You could even try putting the dough in the refrigerator overnight to help develop the gluten. I do that quite often with these types of breads. I didn’t do that with this one, but if you need to, you can.

    • says

      overnight, yes. 14 hours, probably. folding didn’t seem to do much. i added more flour later, to try to sop up some of the water, but that probably just made things worse.

      i’m starting to think it was the flour i used. Forkish said ‘all purpose’ flour. and that’s what the label on the flour said.
      i had good luck with Forkish’s first few recipes, using King Arthur bread flour. but since he says to use AP, i tried that. but i used White Lily AP flour, since we had it in the house. but that has a very low protein content: it’s nearly cake flour. next time i try it, i’ll use something with a bit higher protein level.

    • says

      You’re right! The type of flour used will definitely effect the gluten development. White Lily is good for biscuits; not so much for artisan breads. I recommend going back to using the KAF bread flour or try a different AP flour with more protein content. Glad you figured out the problem. I do hope you’ll try this bread again. It’s definitely worth it.! Happy Baking!

  9. David Cass says

    I’ve been baking Ken Forkish’s White Bread with Poolish, and consider it the best bread I’ve ever had. I’ve baked several of them, but lately I’ve been having trouble with the proofed dough sticking to the proofing basket (I use the same ones he does in the book). The effect is the dough streches out and must be pulled away from the basket, reducing the gas content markedly, I’d guess. I recently cleaned the baxkets, but I prepped them once they dried by painting them with a corn starch/water thin coating, then applied flour all over the baskets until each was pretty well covered. I always apply fresh flour before each use. Is the problem simply too little flour in the basket, or should I apply a liberal coating to the dough once it’s divided? Is it something else, perhaps?

    • Cathy says

      Hi David, Although I love the rings, it’s frustrating when the dough sticks to the basket. I’ve found that after using the baskets for awhile, I need to use liners with my baskets especially with this type of wet dough. An alternative would be to use a lot of extra flour and then brush it off before baking the loaves. That might be a bit tricky with the preheated pot, but if you could do it quickly before you score the loaves, that is, if you are scoring them. Are you using rice flour? That works really well.

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