The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

biga vs pate fermentee

ericjs's picture

biga vs pate fermentee

Going with the usage of these terms in Reinhart, where they have about the same hydration, and a pate fermentee has salt but a biga doesn't (and perhaps a bit less yeast), how does using a biga vs a pate fermentee affect the outcome of a recipe? Will taking a recipe that calls for one and using the other (adjusting for the salt difference in the final dough) change the result in any noticeable way? Has anyone experimented with this?


dghdctr's picture

Hi Eric,

I'll postulate that there are differences between old dough (pate fermentee) and biga in flavor, acidity, strength characteristics, and enzymatic activity, but these differences can be subtle.  Side-by-side comparisons are the only way you'll ever know how they're different, and unless you repeat the experiment at least several times it may be difficult to generalize in any meaningful way about them.

So while you're asking a good question, there's only one effective way to answer it: -- bake two small batches of the same dough, with the pre-ferment being the only difference, and see what you think.

--Dan DiMuzio

Pjacobs's picture

Eric, I have used both and I have not been able to discern a difference in the taste probably because I'm using the same flour and one fermenting dough is going to taste pretty much like the other. I prefer a poolish actually. It, of course, is wetter and thus mixes in well. I have fermented these for up to two days. Tried three days once, but I've found that fermenting a poolish overnight or 18 to 24 hours on the counter gives me all  the taste I need. Most recently, though, I fermented a Pate' in the fridge over night and a poolish on the counter them combined them the next day. That, too,tasted pretty good.  Good luck and good baking.

Phil Jacobs

flournwater's picture

My interpretation of PR's explanation is that, because the salt retards fermentation, you can expect a higher level of flavor from the grain rather than influencing the formula with too much of the yeast flavor,  In BBA, he says "... a baker's maxim is to use only as much yeast as is necessary to get the job done.  (To) minimize the flavor of the yeast and maximize(s) the flavor of the grain."

However, I must admit that my palate is not sophisticated enough to detect any appreciable difference between a loaf made with biga as opposed to some other form of preferment when they're made with the same flour.  I suspect that's because, even though there's no salt in the biga, the salt added in the final formulation of the dough influences the over-all flavor to bring one result on par with the other. But as DMuzio points out, only a series of side-by-side double blind tests will give us the proof (no pun intended) as it pertains to our own creations.

rainwater's picture

I postulate that there is hardly any difference in a "pate fermente", and a "biga" for the home baker.  In a commercial setting, the baker is baking generous amounts every day.....a certain amount of "leftover dough" (pate fermente) is used for the next day.  This process could go on for years, and the pate fermente could develop for that particular bakery and local.  Biga is a good substitute for the home baker, and "pate fermente" recipes are included to give us an idea of using a "pate fermente" at home.