The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter, levain, poolish or biga - what's the difference?

Yogibaker's picture

Starter, levain, poolish or biga - what's the difference?

Hi everyone,

Just wondering what the difference is (or not) between these?  Or are they just language differences?

Thank you!

mrfrost's picture
JessicaT's picture

I purchased Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" yesterday, and in one of the commentaries it says that I can substitute starter instead of biga. Now, my question is, how much does hydration play into this and is it safe to assume I would use the same mass as the biga comes out to?

wassisname's picture

I use the starter option with the recipes in this book pretty much all the time now.  The starter in this book is, I believe, 75% hydration and substitutes perfectly (nice of him to work it out that way).  So, same weight works great.  Actually, anything in the ballpark seems to work.  I haven't gotten to everything in the book, but the core recipes seem pretty bomb-proof.

BerniePiel's picture

Just finished reading several chapters in  Joe Ortiz book, The Village Baker.  He offers a  great explanation on Poolish, Biga and other fermentation methods in wonderful newibie language.  See if your local library has a copy if Borders isn't close at hand.  I just wrote a review of this book and you just made one of the points I was explaining why this is such a great book for today's new breaad bakers.

Bernie Piel