The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Functional effect of biga vs poolish

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Functional effect of biga vs poolish

I want to understand if there is a difference in a loaf when using a biga or when using a preferment.

First-MY definition of each.

Biga-a relatively DRY (45-55% hydration) mix of flour, water and tiny amount of ANY kind of yeast.

Poolish-a relatively WET (60-100%) mix of flour,water and tiny amount of any kind of yeast.

I will be experimenting but I wanted to hear from the collective of anybody's experience. I realize the timing may be a big difference due to the hydration of the preferments-a wetter preferment (unless retarded with cold or salt)will ripen faster than the drier preferment (biga).

If I made the same recipe for each loaf (with the difference of using a biga in one and a polish in the other), how would the dough feel, difference in crumb, difference in rising, difference in flavor, any difference in shelf life.

Or would there be any difference?? Would they be very similar?

I have often used a polish but only recently made Abe's 90% Biga loaf. I loved the aroma of the biga and the ease of making. I am continuing to experiment with biga-this morning I will be working on a variation of Peter Reinharts 100% whole grain bread found on Genius Kitchen.

 

A shout out to Abe of Abelbreadgallery re:biga

 

andythebaker's picture
andythebaker

by Jeffrey Hamelman in a class i took at King Arthur.

the simplified explanation was this: biga is for when you want breads to go up, and poolish is for when you want breads to go sideways (just like what bigas and poolish do on their own).  so, a strength vs extensibility issue.

there's more to it than that, of course, in regards to protease, acidity, yeast vs LAB activity, etc.  but the above is what I end up considering first.

the exercise we did in the King Arthur class was to make both the ciabatta recipes from his Bread book, one with poolish and one with biga.  the one with the biga, he was able to make one ginormous ciabatta.  it was huge!  then he looked around at everyone in the class (who were all attending from out of state and staying in hotels) and asked if anyone was going to a big party.  he was hilarious.

happy baking!

~a

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I’ve always used a poolish. What is it about a Biga that makes breads rise higher? How does a Biga work to strengthen the gluten network more than a Poolish?

I’d imagine the hydration’s for both breads would be identical with more or less water added to the final dough.

Dan

inquiring minds want to know

andythebaker's picture
andythebaker

my understanding is this:

bigas build more acidity, which help strengthen the gluten network.

poolishes favor protease, those little enzymes responsible for breaking down gluten (which you want to some degree).

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

when a biga is ready to use than a poolish.  Poolishes are easier to over ferment before using them.  The fermenting times can be too general and they do vary with type of flour.  The higher hydration also doesn't help predict when it is ready or past its prime.  Most poolishes tend to be used over fermented.  The time given in brackets for poolish fermentation is all too often abused, thinking the larger numbers are practical when they are more like extreme guidelines.  If you find your poolish making for a flatter loaf, shorten the poolish fermentation or slow it down somehow.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Some of the negative aspects of an over fermented poolish can be undone by beating it with air. Little tip for you..

andythebaker's picture
andythebaker

about panettones while typing about bigas.  a quick question, if i may?  do you measure the pH of your livieto madre before you use it?  and do you ever wash it if it gets too acidic?  guess that was 2 quick questions LOL.

had a ton of failures this year regarding panettone, and my mind is already gearing up for the next holiday season it appears.

 

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Thanks. I'm happy to answer your questions. I will reply to you in a PM so not to take this thread off topic.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

i was thinking about the times I might use an over-fermented poolish as a tool, to my advantage to reduce gluten or "lighten" a high gluten flour.    (Rarely the case.)

 Beating by hand or mixer preferred?  :)

mwilson's picture
mwilson

What ever your preference the idea is to regain some strength by oxidising the gluten. Addition of a small amount of Ascorbic Acid (AA) my help too.

Firatcim's picture
Firatcim

dear mini oven (sorry, don’t know your name),

you have helped me in the past and I admire your vast knowledge on baking. I am working with a recipe involving polish and trying to determine if I overproofed mine. Forkish says it is easy to tell that poolish will be considerably deflated. Well, mine was to be left out at room temp for 18 hours but I quickly realized that it had reached its peak after only about 6 or 8. Live in SF so the weather is temperate as well as my kitchen, nothing above 65 F. I put it in the fridge overnight. Now bringing it to room temp it is bubbling back up again though a bit deflated than when it was at its peak. Is it already overdone? The top of cup is where it had reached but it didn’t overflow or touch the cling wrap. Hope you can help me out with this. Thank you for your time. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)   So sorry that I didn't see this post until now.  The poolish looks good from here, hope you used it. Or if it was stringy, beat the stuff back into shape with lots of air before using.  Must be out now the oven by now?

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Tiny amount? No. A biga is always 1% yeast (fresh). Dosage of yeast for a poolish is much smaller and varies depending upon how long you want it to last.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Thank you for the link to these great articles! I read them after I posted my crumb shot and additional questions. These articles address exactly what I am trying to wrap my head around. A learning curve I am ready to climb. There is a lot of information in these 2 articles and it will take a few reads/re-reads and practice to learn. Having a functional oven is also a plus!

I have had multiple life changes the last 3 yrs and it has really affected my baking (not just bread). New ovens, new climates, new ingredients-all have had a tremendous effect. I hope I can finally settle in and get my mojo back.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

The article linked above is very informative.

A quote from that article

”More liquid preferments like poolish, because of their liquid consistency, favor enzyme activity. Amylase, but also protease, will be more active during the pre-fermentation. As a result, higher extensibility in the final dough is obtained, reducing the mixing time of the final dough and preserving it from potential over oxidation. A better extensibility is also noticeable at the shaping stage. Higher volume and more open inside are also achieved in the final product” 

Since the Biga is drier, both the Amylase and Protease activity is decreased causing less break down of the flour. Thus a stronger more elastic dough.

Thank You,

Dan

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Biga =big and poolish = pool will be my mnemonic to remember.

The recipe I tried today had 2 components -a biga and a soaker. This biga was a LOT wetter than Abe's 90% biga loaf and I think that made a big difference in its behavior. It certainly didn't smell anything like the drier biga made with bread flour. This was a 100% WW loaf. About half the flour was freshly ground hard red spring wheat.The other half was home-milled 6 months ago and kept in the freezer. After the biga and soaker fermented (about 12 hours), they were mixed and it produced a lovely soft, but very extensible, dough. I was having trouble regulating the kitchen temp (cool-65F) so fermentation after that took a bit longer and I think the dough quality suffered. I did get 2 delicious loaves but they overproved very quickly. I think I got them into the oven just in time to prevent a brick. Pictures will be added tomorrow.

Here is the link of the recipe I used. I did increase the hydration to 80% as this was 100% WW and all except 85g of the flour was going to get a good soak. My freshly ground flour (trying out a new vintage mill I just got) was a little coarse,even after multiple passes and sifting so I really wanted it to soak.

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/100-whole-grain-bread-with-biga-soaker-458576

Next time I will try shifting the water to the soaker and using a drier biga.  Temp regulation was all over as I tried to find a good (warmer) location. That will also be addressed ahead of time next go around.

Bread rat.'s picture
Bread rat.

I've been making the same recipe as every day bread for some weeks now. A couple of weekends ago I decided to make two batches. One with a poolish and the other with a biga. Both aged for 12+ hours. There was no difference in the rise or crumb. A noticeable difference in the flavor. The biga was more mellow and didn't have the tangy flavor you can get from a  poolish. 

I liked them both. The poolish is easier. The biga needed a good soaking in the remaining liquids to help break it up. 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Bread rat, sorry, I didn't follow.  Have you been making the Reinhart Whole Grain epoxy bread, and recently tried the big an the poolish at the same time?  

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Thank you, Bread Rat! I was hoping for that mellow flavor. This loaf texture is a little moist-definitely well soaked- but the flavor is more bland than I am used to. When I use poolish (made using natural leaven rather than IDY) definitely adds more flavor to my other loaves and I will also be using my starter for my biga next time.

The first time with this recipe I wanted to see how it went as written but there were several variables I didn't have much control over. The new-to-me grainmil produced coarse, granular flour; the house temp was much cooler than usual as we are working on our heating system, the oven controller was in the process of being replaced with a PID controller (it HAD to be that day). I'm amazed they turned out edible! I hope the next time is more focused.

The biga needed a good soaking in the remaining liquids to help break it up. 

Was your biga a bit dry and shaggy? I added 32g more water each to my biga and soaker at the start to increase the overall hydration to 80%. Even before adding, I thought the biga was fairly wet  and now I think I should have added ALL the extra water to the soaker. Another thing to do next time.  

Did you follow the directions closely for this recipe or change anything? Did you refrigerate the biga? I did not and that (with the freshly ground flour) might be why the dough behaved as it did. But it was at 53F for 12 of the 14 hours it fermented overnight. Maybe that was not cold enough.

Thanks,everyone, for thoughts and observations. 

Crumb shot as promised. Sideways-of course. It is more moist than I wanted in a sandwich bread but I'll see how it develops over the next day or so.

Bread rat.'s picture
Bread rat.

It was my first attempt at a biga. I really think I made it to dry. 

As far as the original bread recipe there was no change in hydration percent with either the biga or poolish. I used the available flour and water within the recipe. The only change i've made to this recipe is the amount of sugar. I don't like a sweet bread for meals and sandwiches. And because this particular recipe calls for milk I wont use it's complete liquid level in the poolish. Perhaps newbie concerns about leaving milk sit out overnight. 

Both the poolish and biga were left out and covered. Both started with the same 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast. My kitchen usually runs between 68F and 72F. 

I have made some really nasty tasting bread too. If your poolish is left out long enough to smell like rubbing alcohol you may want to set it free. :) Still learning. 

Sorry Berryvabeach, I don't know the Reinhart Whole Grain epoxy bread recipe. The one I've enjoyed for about eight weeks now is "Sister Virginia's Daily Loaf" page 61 of Bernard Clayton's 'New complete book of Breads. Revised and Expanded."  

Abelbreadgallery's picture
Abelbreadgallery

I wrote a post with my biga bread, some weeks ago. There's a lot of misunderstanding with biga. In many of the books biga is not well explained. Nothing to do with the biga I have found in Italy in many bakeries I had been.

I wrote some technical aspects about it:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/54556/90-biga-loaf-italian-method

Bread rat.'s picture
Bread rat.

Your 90% biga is a total of what was fermented to give the bread it's flavor. So to do this properly I would take the recipe I'm using and use as much of it as possible to create the biga. Because this recipe has both water and milk I'd use just the water. It all works out to,

10 oz water at 45% hydration would take 70% of the available flour. 

Giving me a biga starter of 70%. The bigger the biga the more prominent the flavor. 

So there are actually two differences between a poolish and a biga. A poolish uses equal portions of flour and water for 100% hydration. A biga uses only as much liquid as needed to hydrate to 40 to 45% of the total amount of flour. A much larger in volume starter. These two starters are different in both hydration and size. 

I'm digging this. I got to go play in the kitchen. 

Your right. All the books i have only mention biga as a starter. Nothing about it's proper size.