The term “poolish” is used for pre-ferments added to bread dough using either natural or commercial yeast. Adding an aged rising agent adds flavor and improves the texture of any bread. There are countless methods and recipes aimed at working pre-fermented starter into all types of bread. Stiff vs wet, whole-wheat vs white flour, natural leaven vs commercial — no matter what ingredients are available or the tastes the bakers, the art of bread making provides endless options for finding the right preferment for every recipe.
Finding the method that suits one’s tastes and busy schedule is a very delicate balancing act. Below are very simple directions to adding a little extra tang to your loaf, while limiting the amount of extra time spent measuring, waiting, proofing, and waiting. They are based off a recipe in an earlier post of mine and is a great example of how using basic, but well-honed recipes to experiment in the kitchen can literally, and easily, add a little extra zest to your day.
2 Large bowls
Whisk, slotted spoon, or other stirring utensil
Measuring cups and spoons
Sharp paring knife
3 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour
2 cups warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 pinch salt
6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose white flour
4 cups warm water
1 ½ tbsp yeast (4 ½ teaspoons)
1 ½ tbsp salt
On the day before baking, mix the poolish ingredients together in a large bowl, and allow it to rise for 4 hours before placing it in the refrigerator overnight. On the day of baking, combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. (Fun fact: For optimal rise in your yeast, be sure to put the yeast and salt on different sides of the bowl and gently combine them. Dumping salt directly on the yeast can “injure” the yeast and hinder its effectiveness ever so slightly.) Take the poolish from the refrigerator and cut the starter into small pieces before placing it all in the bowl with the dry ingredients, as illustrated below.
Mix all of the poolish pieces in with the dry ingredients. Add water while stirring continually.
Cover the bowl with a non-airtight cover (I usually use a dishcloth or towel), and let the mixture sit for 1 ½ - 2 hours.
Optional step: After the first rise, push the dough down to about half the size it is now and cover.
When the dough has risen (again), remove a handful / grapefruit-sized portion of dough. Place it on a non-stick surface in the shape you want the loaf to be.
Lightly cover for 45-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Before placing the dough in the oven, take the paring knife and cut diagonal slices down the length of the dough. Place dough on preheated baking stone, then place the stone in the oven for 25 minutes. Allow approximately 10 minutes cooling time once the bread has left the oven. (Remember, the baking process is not complete until the bread is properly cooled.) Enjoy.