The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sponge or straight dough

rpt's picture

Sponge or straight dough

A common technique to achieve a good flavour in bread is to make an overnight sponge with half the flour, all the water and the yeast. But I always mix everything, knead and then put in the fridge overnight. Is there any advantage to the sponge method compared to my straight dough with long bulk ferment technique?

I was told that the reason for putting only half the flour in the sponge was because the baker didn't know exactly how much bread to make until the next day. The sponge still helped develop the flavour but it saved having to throw away a lot of dough if demand was lower than expected. Since I know exactly how much bread I need to make I might as well use the straight dough method. Any thoughts?


jcking's picture


If you don't notice a difference in taste or performance; use whatever is easier for you.


cranbo's picture

Sponge adds flavor and boosts dough strength. 

The advantage of a sponge is that it can do this in a very short time. Sure, you can leave it overnight, but with 1/2 the flour and all the yeast, a sponge ferments really fast. I use sponge for making rolls and other relatively "fast" breads; it ferments at room temp between 3-6 hours, and significantly improves flavor and changes texture of the finished product. This makes it possible to make a sponge and bake on the same day. 

I think in a nutshell you're right, it's all about timing, and how much time you have. If you have time for a long cold bulk ferment, you're probably approximating the same experience (incorporating an overall longer fermentation process, therefore more flavor). Adding a overnight  sponge to your existing process might produce additional, more subtle flavor layers as well, but it may not be worth the extra time. Can't hurt to try :)