The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Scott Grocer's picture

Preferment: Would milk be OK?

February 18, 2011 - 12:03am -- Scott Grocer

I've got a sandwich loaf recipe here that calls for a preferment that uses all of the water and a final dough that includes powdered milk, which I never have on hand.

The preferment is supposed to be very slack, batter like and fermented for up to 24 hours at room temp before use.

I know that the higher the hydration the faster a sponge develops, but would there be any obvious problem (enzyme action, black magic, bad juju?) using whole milk in the sponge instead of water and omitting the final dough's dry milk?


PanDulce's picture

How to adapt a recipe for using a sponge

July 25, 2010 - 12:07pm -- PanDulce


I've been reading a lot of posts here and learning about bread baking. I'm new to this and I learn with every post. :) Love this site!!

I'd like to adapt a recipe my grandmother used to make. I'd like to use a sponge to increase fermentation time and develop flavor. It's a brioche-like bread and it uses A LOT of yeast! (Sorry it's in cups, it's the original recipe).


30 g instant yeast

1/4 cup of water

6 cups flour

5 eggs

1 can of condensed milk (the one that has sugar)

pith's picture

BBA Bagel Recipe - Sponge problems

June 19, 2010 - 10:45pm -- pith

I've just recently purchased the BBA book by Reinhart and I was wanting to make some bagels. I've tried making the sponge three times and seem unable to get the right texture. Reinhart describes it being like pancake batter and my sponge looks more like a thick lumpy mass. It doesn't foam up or double in size within two hours. Does anyone know why the constancy of the sponge appears to be substantially thicker then pancake batter?



emily_mb's picture

Is leftover a starter or a sponge?

June 17, 2010 - 6:35am -- emily_mb

I am a newbie trying to follow Eckhardt and Butts' recipe for pain au levain.  In step 1 you create a sourdough starter.  In step 2 the starter is used to create a sponge.  In step 3 the sponge is used to create a dough.  The recipe suggests that you set aside a cup of the dough for future breads.  However, I am not clear whether, for the new bread, this leftover cup is the starter for the sponge (step 1) or the sponge for the dough (step 2).  Also, do you use it all or do you use the amount that is indicated for the starter (or for the sponge).

RachelJ's picture


February 24, 2010 - 12:04am -- RachelJ

Hello again! Its me with another question. :) I'm always asking questions and never answering anyones, though I really do appreciate the answers I got. Thanks to all who commented.

What I would like to know is what exactly does sponging do? And I read in a bread recipe that sponging makes whole wheat bread lighter, and a little more airy. I've never sponged anything. I'd love to make sourdough bread, but alas I've no sourdough starter so it will have to wait. :) I will sometime though.

BvN's picture

My re-innoculated, stuck sponge, made a wonderful batch. I've been working on this recipe for 3 years. This is where I wanted to go. As soon as I can confirm repeatability, I will post my "recipe" - actually it is written as a "best practice".

BvN's picture

Had a stuck sponge this time. Fell back to good 'ol "dry active" to re-inoculate and the sponge took off like gang-busters. Will taste the results tommorow while I keg my new Red.

The bread really rose this time. I even noticed "oven spring" which I understand, results from what in brewing is the protease rest (122 F). I expect some conversion (beta glucanase - 104 F) is also involved.

Found some words in the Wikipedia that refer to what I am attempting - barm {from which the English get the word barmy - which may explain the why of my efforts :-} and emptin's (emptings) - an old American cooking term that showed up in print in 1790's (Simmons). The description of emptin's exactly describes what I have been doing.

According to the Wikipedia,  "active dry" was invented for WWII and "instant" was invented in the 1970's.

As to the current state of my recipe - the sponge provides all the yeast and water for the bread. 1 Tbs malt extract powder to each 3/4 cup of water (simulates wort) and 2 parts bread flour to 3 parts water (provides the right consistancy for the sponge). The fake wort is raised to 85 F and shaken in a gallon milk jug to remove chlorine and add oxygen). The yeast is pitched and allowed to rest for an hour or two. Flour is added and allowed to rest overnight.

Re-inoculation method for a stuck sponge is: 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon malt extract powder, raised to 105 to 115 F, one packet of "active dry", rest for 15 minutes, pitch it into the stuck sponge and stand back :-)

Assuming the new bread has the flavor I am looking for and given the cost of "active dry" versus the effort to maintain a pure yeast culture, I may drop the yeast culture effort and only use the emptin's on the days I rack (primary and secondary fermenters) - which is at least a couple of times a month.


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