The secret behind many great breads is something called a preferment, a portion of the dough that ferments separately from (and for more time than) the rest of the ingredients. A preferment increases the strength of your dough (improving its final crumb structure) and contributes to aroma and flavor. In baker Bryan Ford’s cookbook New World Sourdough, the preferment is a sourdough starter; in this recipe, however, his preferment is the lower-maintenance poolish—a mixture of flour, water, and active dry yeast that grows overnight. Mix the poolish with more flour, water, and yeast, as well as a touch of olive oil, sugar, and salt and you get a resilient, flavorful dough that can be used in a nearly infinite number of ways. This is an instance where you really do need a kitchen scale—Ford encourages all bakers, especially beginners, to use one. The master dough can also be scaled up or down as desired.
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