The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Carly-marie's picture


Late Saturday night I created a pre-ferment and was planning on baking the bread but got busy and was unable to. I do not have the time for the next few days to be able to make bread with longer rasing times as I have classes all this week and I will not get home with enough time to make my dough and let it rise and such.

So I was wondering if anyone knew of a way to use the pre-ferement I've already made (I used "The Rustic Bread" recipe) and using a recipe that will take less time?

Thanks so much for the help. I am new to using pre-ferments and it would be a shame for it to go to waste. If you have some advice it would be greatly appreciated!

richkaimd's picture

A preferment is a form of sourdough, only in its earliest stages.  Using the search function on this site, find out about preserving sour dough starters by dehydration.  It works, and is quite easy. 

BettyR's picture

in the refrigerator for at least a week maybe two. Just make sure it's well covered so it doesn't dry out.

proth5's picture

You don't give the specifics of your pre ferment so it is hard to be specific with advice.

A pre ferment is defined as taking a portion of the flour from the full formula and fermenting it at potentially lower yeast concentrations, potentially lower temperatures and longer times than the full formula.  This takes advantage of a long, slow fermentation to add flavor, but also allows the enzymes in the flour to act over a longer period of time.  This can be used to change the dough characteristics (traditionally a "poolish" is used to add extensibility to the dough - see below.)

Sourdough and commercially yeasted pre ferments are distinctly different.  A pre ferment that uses "wild" yeast (that is using yeast which exists in high acid environments with various beneficial bacteria) has many names (such as "levain", "sourdough", "starter" ) but is distinguished by the presence of the wild yeast - which comes from a mature sourdough culture - that is one that has developed in the absence of commercial yeast for 3 weeks or so.

Commercially yeasted pre ferments also exist in various forms.  Some are mixtures of equal weights of flour and water and a popularly called a "poolish."  Some are 50-60% water to the amount of flour and are often called "sponges" or "bigas".  Some times a small amount of salt is added to the pre ferments I just mentioned, but if salt is added as the same percentage as one would in the final dough it is popularly called a "pate fermentee" or "old dough." (This can also be accomplished by not baking a small amount of dough from yesterday's batch of dough and putting in today's mix - but most home bakers do not bake that often and prefer to mix the thing on its own.)

So, I will respectfully disagree with the poster who calls a pre ferment an early stage of sourdough, because in many cases it is not.

So what pre ferment did you use?

If it was a poolish mixed on Saturday night and was at room temperature until now, you will find that protease action will have degraded to gluten in the flour to the extent that you would be better off throwing it away.

Perhaps "old dough" would have some life left as protease acts more slowly in a less moist environment (and yeast depletes food more slowly), but it is more like "ancient dough" by now.

There are not many bakers that I know (and respect) that would simply refrigerate any of the pre ferments that I have mentioned for a couple weeks and then immediately bake with it.  A mature sourdough culture will tolerate being refrigerated for weeks, but must be refreshed prior to baking.  Even a pate fermentee would be hard pressed to stay in good shape for a week (because food would become exhausted and protease action would degrade the gluten), let alone two.

If you bake with a degraded pre ferment you risk getting substandard results.  Maybe you find this acceptable in order not to "waste" a small amount of ingredients.  Then give it a try - bake with it as you would a fully mature pre ferment.  In my own opinion, I would rather waste the small amount of flour/water/etc than put myself in a position of producing a large amount of substandard bread.  Chacun a son gout.

On this board we are all passionate, but mostly amateur bakers.  You would be hard pressed to know who I am and what my background really is, but I assure you I have worked and studied with bakers whose names would be recognized if I were one to drop names (but I'm not and I won't).  I'm careful in my recommendations because there is so much variability in this baking hobby. But as much variability as there is, there are actually a few things that one can point to and say this is right and that is wrong.  I don't like to be disagreeable, but when the only responses to a post are trending towards wrong - I can't help myself.  Your best bet to really learn about using pre ferments is to find books by well respected bakers (many are mentioned on these pages) or learn directly from qualified bakers.  That way you will build a foundation from which you can explore.

Long answer and probably not exactly what you wanted, but I hope it helps.

Happy Baking!

Carly-marie's picture

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. It is greatly appreciated. I got too busy with school and was unable to make bread. And I agree I would rather waste a little then risk having poor bread. Luckly I have reading break this week so I have lots of time to make bread. Thanks again for the help!  Have a lovely day!