The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Poolish Pride - rustic means "middle age methods"

BvN's picture

Poolish Pride - rustic means "middle age methods"

I've been rumaging arount this site a bit, read reviews of The Village Baker etc. I too, am trying to go back in time - pre Fleishmann's (1860's). Before instant and dry active yeast. I work with my own yeast cultures, but trust me, if something goes wrong, out comes the active dry. It is a wonderful failback.

I make live, cask conditioned, export bitter ales (extra, special, and best). IPA is an export based on either session or ordinary bitter. I grind my own grain, step mash, and dry hop. In this, some of my methods go back to the 18th century (before Louis Pasteure discovered the role of yeast). The same biases show up in my bread making - which is why I try to get all of my baking yeast from poolish. It also means that I fool around with recipies so as to jetison the dependence on modern (the last 150 years) yeast sources.

The really odd thing is, that I avoid a lot of the difficulties I read about on this site. The sponge setting step has a very elastic time scale (6 to 60 hours) - at least the way I go about it. However, once the dough process starts, the assembly line timing takes over until it comes out of the oven. This is very similar to when the strike contacts the grist in the making of beer. The 6 hour process ending with "pitching the yeast" is "in charge" of my life.

A note in passing. I just finished baking a couple of loaves of Italian from yeast culture poolish last night. One loaf has already evaporated (before noon today). I have a very small oven - 1/2 sized convection with stone - 2 loaves max. It would be nice to have a double stack, baker's depth, but then there would be no room for us to live here.

I very much appreciate the efforts made by the members of this forum, both failures and the successes. I really enjoyed "High Altitude Bricks". So many wonderful breads, so little time :-) I hope to try them all.

If anyone has questions about yeast, ask me. If I don't know, I know people who do - and I enjoy the research. Consider me your local zymurgist. Meanwhile, I'll keep plagerizing (the sincerest form of flatery) your recipies and methods.


davidg618's picture


Wow, a page from my own autobio. I've been brewing beer for seventeen years, baking bread for about sixty, and recently--the last six years--I've been making wine. Meads--argueably the oldest fermented beverage known by man--are my speciality, although I make the popular wines as well. If you haven't included wine among your fermention hobbies I highly recommend you do.

I'm an all-grain brewer like yourself, but I rely exclusively on Wyeast or White Labs. English ales are my favorite too, but I ocassionally do a Pilsner, just to know I still can work at lower temps.

I've very recently (last six months) began moving my bread making interests to more intense levels. Got three different Sourdough starters resting in the refrigerator at the moment. They haven't had long rests yet.

Hope you keep posting, with details, you're historical reproductions.

Best regards,

David G.


JLatimer's picture

I've got a yeast question(s).

I too am interested in all things fermentable and all things old-fashioned (pre-Fleishmann's). I was reading on some homebrew-oriented sites that you shouldn't save your yeast from batch to batch for more than about 5-6 batches (generations); otherwise, they say, the yeast will mutate too much and you'll end up with an inconsistent product.

It seems to me then that the implication is that you'll have to buy more yeast every five or six generations. (1) But how are the yeast company guys getting their yeast from mutating?

(2) What did brewers do before you could buy yeast online or at a homebrew shop in order to achieve consistent products? (2b) what do commercial brewers do now to ensure the consistency of their yeast?

(3) Is there a way to culture a brew yeast strain separately (rather than saving after each batch) in order to keep them consistent?

(4) What do you in your 150-year-delay parallel universe?

(5) What can I do?