I’ve made these several times before and they’re a bit hit, particularly good for parties, but this time I tried a little variation and definitely got a different result.
Jim’s recipe is very similar to his slow-ferment, no-knead bread, but a bit more hydrated. Adding the toppings is an optional addition. In summer when we have fresh tomatoes from the garden I use cherry tomatoes, but still in winter I used the red peppers instead. The garlic stecca has some our home-grown garlic leftover from last season’s crop that is still good.
The variation I did to the standard recipe was to start with a two-day old room temperature ferment of a poolish. I used my sourdough culture, which is 1:1 (by volume) of water and flour so it’s nearly a batter, so in making the poolish I added enough flour to reach a soft and very wet dough. There was a lot of yeast activity (lots of bubbles) after 24 hours but this declined a bit by the second day. I had about 350g of poolish, so adjusting the recipe’s 400g of flour down to 250g and the recipe’s water of 350g down to 150 so I got about the same dough consistency I’ve gotten before. The final dough went through an overnight ferment and was the usual sticky and wet dough that is a bit hard to work. Jim’s recipe does call for a couple of iterations of lift-and-fold (tricky with such a sticky dough) and then an additional two hour rise on the board. Instead of the usual four stecca I made just three so these are a bit bigger than usual.
Despite the extra couple of days of ferment of the poolish there still was not much sourdough flavor, or, in general the bread taste was about the same as the standard recipe. The main difference was a bit drier and definitely crunchier final product with a bit denser crumb than normal so actually I think the standard recipe produces a bit better result. The garlic stecca was the best followed by the olive (I forgot to not salt it so that one was definitely a bit too salty, but everyone liked it). Red peppers are nowhere as good as using tomatoes since the baked produce was a bit too dry.
Oh well, experiments are still interesting even if they don’t result in an improvement.