The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

biga or poolish for short pre-ferment?

david earls's picture
david earls

biga or poolish for short pre-ferment?

I can't believe I didn't start a pre-ferment last night - but I didn't and Sunday has to be a fresh loaf day.

I'm doing focaccia, which i usually make with an overnight poolish. But today i only have time for an hour or two for the preferment, and i'm trying it with a biga. This really just means flipping the hydration percentage in the two stages, and it will turn out to be what it turns out to be. But I am curious.

When you have a shortened period for preferment, is one or the other (biga or poolish) more favorable? I will, as they say on talk radio "Take my answer off the air."

golgi70's picture

You simply make what we just call a sponge.  Similar to a poolish (probably derived from) yet with a higher quantity of yeast and often times at a higher hydration (over 100%).  This gives your dough a jumpstart and improves flavor from a straight dough slightly though it certainly doesn't add the depth that you get from a slower preferment.  

But I've made great bread using the straight dough with commercial yeast (how dare I speak this way).  Something I like to do is just add a small quantity of my starter to a straight dough to add some depth of flavor without the need for a build or relying on it to raise the bread.  

Good Luck


BreadBro's picture

Are you putting toppings on your foccaccia? Are you adding a lot of olive oil or herbs and spices? Flavored and highly enriched breads, I've found, benefit less from preferments because most of the flavor is coming from the enrichments and not from the sugar in the wheat alone.

Otherwise I would just do the sponge method by making a roughly 100% hydration sponge with a portion of the ingredients.

david earls's picture
david earls

Pretty straight-up focaccia, made with a biga that proofed for about two hours before dough-making. Baked it in my stoneware chestnut roaster and got exactly ZERO oven spring. Topping was just plain sea salt.

Ate the whole thing dipped in olive oil, with ratatouille and a nice salad. Not the worst meal of my summer.

I was surprised at how well the dough did through two stretch-and-folds, and then how it just lay there in the roaster during the bake. Next time I have  short preferment I will try a poolish.

Agree 100% on how toppings and fillings control the flavor. Thx all -