The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why build preferments?

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dvuong's picture

Why build preferments?

I was just wondering that the purpose of building preferments are?  I see some formulas here that will have two builds before the final dough is made.  If I have enough of an active starter, is it really necessary to make two preferments? Can I just make one preferment and mix it into the final dough?

yozzause's picture

Hi Dvuong

Of course you can and that is the whole point of trying and experimenting with different formlas and methods. Good bread making is often achieved with suttle changes, some bought about by design others by circumstance. i think the whole point here is to try the different methods or techniques and you will soon know if there are any advantages or not in your comparison. The fact that a particular method has been put forward is usually a good starting point to replicate what has obviously caught your interest in the first place, after that try things your way and see if there is in fact a discernable difference, and then you can share with the rest of us.

regards yozza

amolitor's picture

You can, but you'll get something different!

At least one of the purposes of preferments is to manage the production of fermentation by-products. For one recipe I have, for instance, you build about half a cup of firm dough with enough starter in it to make it become ripe (see below) in about 8 hours. From that, you produce a second firm dough, about 3 times as big, and let that riped for about 4 hours. Then you make a final dough.

What you've got, then, is a smaller amount of "12 hours of fermentation" by-product, and a larger amount of "4 hours of fermentation" by-product. In this case, the first levain is all whole wheat, and the second is made with WW and white flour.

So, in the end, you've got a certain mixture of by-products (mostly acids) and a mixture of thoroughly digested flour with less thoroughly digested flour. This goes in to your final dough, which will itself digest a bit, and produce more acids.

So, hopefully, you can see at this point that if you use a single levain, or just start out with a couple cups of starter, or if you do 6 preferments in a row, you're going to get differing results?

Did that help?

levain: this word seems to be used for lots of things, *I* use it to mean 'a firm starter, which is in-process to making bread rather than just sitting around eating its head off'

ripe: a starter or levain is "ripe' when the yeast population peaks, which is a little while after it's risen completely, when it has started to fall back a little.


jackie9999's picture

Thanks for the explanation amoitor...I hadn't realized the timing was so crucial.

I've been getting lazy lately and my bread doesn't seem as good as it used to..this post has served to remind me to pay more attention!