The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lean vs. "All-in" pre-ferments?

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Caltrain's picture
Caltrain

Lean vs. "All-in" pre-ferments?

Lately, for enriched breads I've been somewhat lazy by mixing in everything (sweeteners, oils, etc.) into my pre-ferments, reserving only some yeast and flour for the final mix. I've found this simplifies the process, and, more importantly, seems to improve the taste. If I had to sell it, I'd explain that the ingredients had time to incorporate overnight - there's more of an uniform taste with more subtle notes as opposed to something that tastes explicitly flavored.


Based on most (all?) recipes I come across, however, it seems like standard practice dictates that the pre-ferment is made from grain, water, yeast or starter, and salt. Sometimes milk is added, but otherwise the "extras" are added during the final mix. Does anyone know why this is? Is there some advantage to keeping the pre-ferment lean? Or is that just a scheduling preference?

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Because it is possible for the enriching ingredients to coat the flour and make it more difficult to hydrate, I often wait to add those at the end of the formulation process.  But if it's working for you I see no reason why you'd need to do anything differently.

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I believe that the reason is to prevent premature enzyme activity in the preferment, which explains why Debra Wink's Pineapple solution uses an unsweetened Pineapple juice. simple Sugars like sweetners hasten bacterial activity, which secrete enzymes to digest flour. This leads to flour quality degradation, which is why preferments sometimes contain salt, to keep bacterial activity in check.


 

Jaydot's picture
Jaydot

I've tried all sorts of schedules for adding the salt and/or enrichments to the dough and my conclusion is that I can't really taste the difference, while it makes the whole process a lot easier to simply toss everything in even before autolyse.


In the Tartine book, Robertson doesn't add enrichments until after the first half hour of bulk fermentation, or after the first stretch&fold. I tried that too. It made it more difficult to distribute the ingredients evenly through the dough and again: I couldn't taste the difference.


I don't use preferment as such, but I build a levain the day before, and now I combine all ingredients when I start mixing the dough (followed by autolyse, a few hours of warmish bulk fermentation with stretch&folds and overnight cool proof).
I recently made a heavily seeded sourdough loaf with malt and sugar this way, and it came out beautifully (and the taste was excellent, my tasters tell me).


From Brood
proth5's picture
proth5

I have seen formulas (such as gibassier) that have milk and eggs in an overnight "room temperature" pre ferment.


So I think it's up to the individual to innovate - no particular rules here.

Caltrain's picture
Caltrain

Thanks guys, you all raised some good points; I guess the bottom line is, "if it works, it works." Can't complain about that. :)

fishers's picture
fishers

Jaydot,


Your seeded bread looks wonderful!  I see from other entries you've been perfecting your multi-seeded recipe.  Would you be willing to share?


Thanks - Sharon

Jaydot's picture
Jaydot

Thanks!
Yes, of course, here you go. Let me know if anything is not clear.

fishers's picture
fishers

Thank you Jaydot ...