The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Poolish Question

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

A Poolish Question

I have always considered a poolish a flavor enhancer. Unlike a levain which may contain around 10 - 20% starter, my poolishes contain 0.009% yeast.

When popping the lid on the poolish container after about 12 hours at 76 F there is always a great aroma that certainly augments the flavor of the bread. By comparison we all appreciate the aroma of our levains - sometimes sweet and sometimes sour. Poolishes are really neither to my sense of smell.

A few months ago Lechem made a comment about growing the yeast content of the poolish, as though the poolish would be used as a leavening agent instead of a flavor enhancer. I searched the web and did find a posting of someone using a poolish as a leavener but the instance was rare.

Last week Mini made a comment about letting a poolish over-ripen, again (I believe) in the context of depleting the leavening action of the poolish.

I'd like some input on how and why others use a poolish. Are folks really prefermenting a poolish with the intent of using the poolish as a leavener, similarly to how we preferment our levains as leaveners? If so I would expect that one would be using much more yeast than the 0.009% I am using.

 

Colin2's picture
Colin2

I sometimes use poolish as the only leavener in a dough.  The bulk rise takes longer, and you get a more tangy flavor.

Yeast makes more of itself, given time.  Like you I start my poolishes with very minimal yeast.  But by the time it has bubbled up and doubled in volume (which may be 12 hours) it has a pretty good yeast population.  

Many years ago, I baked for a year on a single envelope of Fleischman's -- I'd start each week's batch with a few grains and go from there.  My impression is that recipes that add yeast with the poolish in the final dough are doing so partly to regulate flavor and partly for control over the timing of the bulk rise.

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

If you have a long-fermented poolish, the yeast will multiply, so the quantity you start with isn't a good indicator of its leavening ability. But that's not its purpose. The primary reason for using a poolish is to enhance flavor. A secondary effect is that it increases the extensibility of the the dough.

 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

for flavour and as a bread improver. However one can also use it to leaven the final loaf but it takes longer hence the added yeast when making the dough. The yeast has to have multiplied significantly as it has fermented the poolish. If the poolish is a large percentage of the final dough then the extra yeast is less necessary. If it's a smaller percentage then you might wish to add extra yeast to save time.

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

Good stuff folks, and thank you.

Jeezum Colin2, one package of Fleishcman's for a whole year - pretty amazing. But then, most of us are doing a similar thing by propagating a starter :-)  

I have a baguette formula where the poolish represents 40% of the final dough. Prefermenting 40% of your dough for 12 hours may expand the yeast population but it also must wreak havoc on the gluten structure. In the case of baguettes I don't think this is a problem since extensibility is the goal.

What bread formulas are folks using where the poolish is the sole leavener? I'd like to experiment if someone would be willing to either share a formula or point me to one on the web.

Colin2's picture
Colin2

"it also must wreak havoc on the gluten structure"

That's not my experience.  It's the kneading or folding (depending on what you're doing) of the final dough that develops the gluten structure.  I let a poolish rise until it has roughly doubled, then put it in the fridge until use.

"What bread formulas are folks using where the poolish is the sole leavener?"

If you are letting your poolish double in volume, then just use any recipe you're using now and omit the additional yeast in the final dough.  Be prepared for a longer bulk fermentation.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

makes the bread stale at a slower rate and strengthens the gluten strands.  I do have a hard time being able to tell the difference between a poolish bread and a straight dough one when it comes to taste though - same with pizza.  The other reason to use a poolish besides,  supposedly increasing flavor and making the dough more extensible is that a package of yeast will last you a whole year - very thrifty ! 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

When I baked weekly, I would make a p0olish from equal volume (now I weigh) flour and water and add a generous tablespoon of my starter. Mix, sit overnight at 68F and bake with it the next am. Actually, my favorite whole wheat I mixed the poolish at breakfast time, mixed the dough at supper time, cold retarded overnight and baked the next morning. Best bread ever. My poolish rose bread beautifully and flavor was great. Timing the poolish was different when the temp was warmer of cooler in my kitchen but I had the luxury of adjusting my availability. Now I don't so I am exploring other ways of developing my dough.

Using a poolish was easy and delicious. My bread rose over a few hours time if it was warm enough. If I was crunched for time, I used commercial yeast to rush it. It didn't taste as good but it got done.

jimbtv's picture
jimbtv

>  I would make a polish from equal volume (now I weigh) flour and water and add a generous tablespoon of my starter. 

Claz, my understanding is that a poolish is equal parts of flour and water, supplemented by a smidgen of yeast. Is your starter strictly yeast-based or is it a sourdough starter? I know that different names are intermixed here but I am just trying to be clear.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Last year I made the W.B. version of Pain Rustique.  They also use SD starter rather than commercial yeast in their poolish.

The aces at Weekend Bakery describe as follows:

"The recipe is very loosely based on Hamelman’s Pain Rustique but can actually be seen as a hybrid, sometimes also called ‘levain-levure’. It has sourdough in the preferment and yeast in the final dough."

"For this recipe we are going to make a starter named a poolish. A poolish is a type of wet sponge usually made with an equal weight of water and flour and an extremely small amount of yeast or sourdough culture and NO salt. Making a poolish helps bring more taste and strength to your bread while using less yeast."

Their formula calls for only FW & SD starter in the poolish and only IDY in the Final Dough.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Equal parts flour and water

This is interpreted many ways. Initially I interpreted it to mean 1 CUP flour and 1 CUP water (volume measurements). I believe that the correct way is 1:1 by weight. IOW, 100 g flour to 100 g water (by weight). It is a totally different consistency.

So now I use equal parts by weight of flour and water and use about 25-50g active sourdough starter.

If my production time is short(dentist apt, household emergency), I might add commercial yeast to the final dough (not the Poolish) to shorten the rise time. Poolish helps rise but the commercial yeast makes it rise quicker. Life happens sometimes.

Here is an excellent link I recently received here on TFL. Enjoy!

https://stellaculinary.com/content/three-mother-preferments-and-how-use-them

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

is a preferment made with yeast. Done for flavour and as a bread improver.

But as well know there can be a lot of crossover when it comes to terminology.