Bread baking - poolish or not?

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Joined Apr 2, 2007
I normally don't use a poolish when baking bread but did make a Christmas stollen that way - which turned out beautifully.  My question is - can this technique be used with any recipe?  My bread recipe says to dissolve the yeast in water, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Could I make a poolish instead?  Thanks for your help.
 
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You can use a poolish successfully with many bread recipes.  It adds tang and complexity as opposed to using nothing but fresh yeast.  Some breads seem to taste better without it though.

Usually a poolish (or biga, for that matter) are used in conjunction with fresh yeast and not as the only leavener.  So, it's not one or the other.

Hope this helps,

BDL
 
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 I'm not much of a baker but recently read Reinharts book, Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Main theme of the book is about the importance of the fermentation of the grain, using either poolish, biga, pate ferment or letting the dough stand in the fridge overnight, four methods of pre ferment.

So yes you can use poolish on any bread, you might prefer one of the other methods of pre ferment for a particular bread.  The books recipe for poolish baguette is 7 oz poolish, 8 oz whole wheat flour, 9 oz bread flour.  The recipe for french bread calls for 16 oz pate ferment, 5 oz a.p. flour and 5 oz bread flour.   Poolish ciabatta is 22.75 oz poolish and 13.5 oz bread flour.  

I just picked the book up at the library because I wanted the bagel recipe, now its on the buy list.  Even the bagels get a pre ferment, they are refrigerated overnight. 
 
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Glad you discovered BBA, Redzuk. It should be on every newish bread baker's bookshelf.

I believe you're slightly misreading it, however. All bread making is about fermentation of the grain. Reinhart's message is about retarded fermentation; the idea being to use as little yeast as possible, and let it do it's thing slowly.

Take a look at his Pane Siciliano for the ultimate example of this. Making it (and you should, as it's an incredible bread) is a three day affair. Compare that with more typical bread recipes that have you use a bunch of yeast and proof for an hour under very warm conditions.

Another good example would be to compare a standard soft pretzel recipe with Eric Kastel's version, which uses a preferment and an overnight-in-the-fridge step. You'll find a very distinct flavor difference between the two.

I'm reminded of the old craftsman's sign: "You can have it fast or you can have it good, but you can't have it fast and good." While this overstates the case with bread, it's more true than not. And that's Reinhart's underlying theme.
 
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