The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pros/Cons for prefermenting a whole recipe

claytonbellmor's picture

Pros/Cons for prefermenting a whole recipe

Assuming I'm not baking for a business or production line, would it be better to preferment not just a small percentage of a recipe, but the entire batch for say 24 hours? [edit -->] Many recipes call for creating a sponge, but I'm not understanding the benefit of making a sponge vs. mixing the entire recipe and letting it sit as long as the sponge.


Are there any problems that arise when fermenting an entire batch for such an extended period of time - problems that may not occur when letting only a small batch ferment for so long?


My favorite rustic white bread loaf recipe, on one hand, calls to let the dough sit for 24 hours - so I started getting curious as to why so many bakers preferment small batches instead of the entire recipe.



KelleyAnn11's picture

I'm a total newbie, but my hunch is that letting the entire dough ferment for that long would create too much sour flavor in the final bread. Also, if you did this at room temp you may be risking some serious over-rising. Like I said though, I'm new to this so someone more experienced will probably have a better answer.

claytonbellmor's picture

You might be right, but what I've noticed from letting entire, 3 cup batches of dough, rise for 24 hours is that it creates lots of glutton, though not as airy as I'd like (which could be fixed by increasing the yeast); nothing off about the flavor though and it does bake up nicely.

sourdough's picture

Sourdough in Alaska

 I live in Alaska and we eat nothing but variations of sourdough bread.  All my breads are mixed by hand and fermented for 18 - 24 hours.  The result is a more full flavored bread.  Of course, our temperatures are in the mid 50's and maybe down in the 40's at night.  I would think that you would have to refrigerate your dough overnight in warmer climates.

Don't be afraid to experiment.  If the result isn't what you want, it is still edible or you can use it as a doorstop.

claytonbellmor's picture

I'll probably try out the same recipe using the two different methods of fermenting the dough; one made with a sponge and later mixed with the rest of the ingredients, and the other mixed completely and left to rise for as long as the sponge.

I'll be sure to take lots of pictures. 

KosherBaker's picture

Clayton. The experiment is a great idea. I live in Los Angeles and just like you was curious what would happen if I let my dough proof for 24 hours after having proofed the preferement for the required amount of time. And in my case the yeast ran out of food and the dough did not rise in the final proofing.

Of course, when we talk about long proofing times they are meaningless unless we mention the temperature the proofing took place at. I did my proofing on the kitchencounter at room temperature. Which here in LA is between 70 and 80F with the margin of about +5.



Henry's picture




I might suggest flavour and aroma as a couple of the main reasons bakers’ preferment

a portion of their dough.

Making a bread with a poolish starter will give you different characteristics than if

your dough was bulk fermented.

Many people that are really into baguettes favour a poolish process. Greater dough extensibility and so it’s easier to shape; poolish will compliment the grain flavour as opposed to masking it as in, for example the sourdough process.

The various preferments all offer different bread characteristics.

Sourdough, pate ferment, biga, poolish, sponge.

Fermenting dough overnight is fine too and makes really good bread.

It can be bulk or it can be shaped, then cold ferment overnight.

Different tastes, different characteristics.

Take your favourite rustic white loaf recipe as you’re suggesting and play with it.

 If I’m not mistaken, there is a book called Artisan baking across America

where they give a recipe for baguette that includes both poolish and biga.

Jeffery Yankellow won a gold medal at the World baking Cup in Paris, 2005 Coupe de Monde for his bread. His baguette included the following preferments:

Liquid Levain, Sponge, Poolish and… he also used autolyse

There’s an article written by Mr Rocket Scientist himself, Didier Rosada

that will explain all this in far greater detail.

Hope this is of help

Happy baking


claytonbellmor's picture

thanks for the info everyone


(back to watching the olympics)