Sponge versus Straight Dough
I've often wondered what difference using a sponge has compared to making a straight dough with long fermentation. There have been various discussions here but I've never seen a definitive answer. So I decided to try my own experiment by baking two loaves with identical recipes.
The first loaf was mixed and kneaded on Thursday night at 10pm with all the ingredients. It was then left in the fridge until 3.30pm Friday, shaped and placed in the tin at 7pm and finally baked at 8.30pm.
The second loaf was made with a sponge containing half the flour, all the water and all the yeast. The sponge was made at 7am Friday. The dough was made and kneaded on Friday evening and placed in the tin at 7pm and baked at the same time as the other loaf.
One obvious difference was that the bread made with the sponge had risen a bit more - this is probably as the straight dough was still cooler than room temperature when placed in the tin even though it had had a couple of hours out of the fridge.
But what about the flavour? At first I thought the sponge loaf tasted slightly better but my wife thought the opposite. But the final conclusion was that there was no difference. The texture seems the same too.
So my conclusion is that they are both great ways to make a loaf and which to choose depends on which fits your schedule best.
Next time I might try a less wet sponge (a biga instead of a poolish) and see if this makes a difference to taste or texture.