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Chapter 9 Preferments.


After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

* Define a preferment.

* List the benefits of using a preferment.

* Understand the difference between a straight dough and a dough that uses a sponge or starter.

* Recall the differences between the various types of sponges and sourdoughs.

* Work with preferments and prepare the recipes at the end of this chapter.



artisan breads






natural starters





sourdough cultures


straight doughs

In the previous chapter, you learned how yeast is used to create breads from straight yeast doughs. This chapter deals with very flavorful yeast breads that are made with preferments. The word preferment means "to ferment before." Doughs made with preferments are prepared in stages. The yeast and some of the flour and water are mixed together first and allowed to ferment anywhere from 30 minutes to several days at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator. This mixture is then used as a foundation with which to build a dough. Using a preferment gives the fermentation process a head start, contributing great flavor and/or leavening to the finished bread.

There are several different types of preferments. Some are thick and stiff like a dough, whereas others are thin like a batter. Some are prepared using commercial yeast, whereas others are prepared using wild yeast.

All yeast doughs that use some form of a preferment add a great deal of flavor to a bread. Just like a good wine gets better over time, so does a bread with a long, slow fermentation. As you learned in the previous chapter, there are straight yeast doughs and doughs made using preferments. Chapter 8 deals exclusively with straight doughs and this chapter deals exclusively with preferments. At times, references will be made to straight doughs for comparison.

This chapter explores the different types of preferments and their applications in yeast doughs.

Straight Doughs

To review, straight doughs are very simple yeast doughs in which most of the ingredients are mixed together at the beginning of bread making. Straight doughs are used to make breads such as white, whole wheat, and challah, among others. They are given a relatively quick fermentation and proofing and then are off to the oven. This quick process does not add a great deal of flavor to the finished bread.


Preferments, on the other hand, are yeast mixtures that are fermented before the actual dough is made. The yeast and some of the flour and water are mixed together first and allowed to ferment anywhere from 30 minutes to several days. Preferments are used for two reasons: (1) to increase flavor in breads and (2) to provide leavening.


Preferments are associated with artisan breads, which are prepared by bakers who manipulate the dough with their hands with great care and skill using traditional methods. Traditional methods can be traced back to the Old World European style of bread baking wherein breads were baked by hand in wood-fired ovens using little machinery such as mixers and proof boxes. Although modern commercial bakeries do use mixers and some other equipment to prepare enough bread to meet demand, for the most part, commercial operations that prepare artisan breads tend to remain small-scale so the baker can feel and craft each loaf.

Artisan breads tend to share similar characteristics:

* They tend to include only natural ingredients with few preservatives.

* They tend to be prepared using a preferment that contributes great flavor.

* They tend to be manipulated and crafted by hand at some stage during their preparation.

Artisan bakers choose to follow the Old World bakers of years ago. Proof boxes are not used; instead, the dough is fermented at room temperature for a longer period of time than that of a straight dough. These longer fermentation periods enhance the flavor of the finished bread considerably. Because some commercial yeast may not survive a long, cool fermentation period, some artisan bakers prefer to use natural or wild yeasts instead to prepare preferments such as sourdough starters.

Two Categories of Preferments

Preferments can be broken down into two categories: sponges and sourdoughs. (See Table 9-1, Various Types of Preferments.) Before discussing the various types of preferments, it should be noted that there are times when the terminology used by some chefs to refer to the different types of preferments is not used consistently and may be confusing. For example, some bakers use the terms sponges and sourdoughs interchangeably. Technically both sponges and sourdoughs are preferments. However, there are differences between them. One difference is that sponges tend to be made from commercial yeast while sourdoughs are made with wild yeast.

Preferments are used for two reasons:

1. To increase flavor in breads

2. As a leavening agent


Sponges generally are a mixture of flour, water, and yeast that is mixed together and allowed to ferment anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. The sponge is then mixed with other ingredients to form a dough and allowed to ferment one more time. (Note: The sponge is completely used up in the recipe.) The dough is then formed and proofed before being baked. Sponges tend to be a quicker way to add flavor and a mild sour taste to a bread. Sponges are also used when a rich, sweet dough containing a large quantity of sugar is made. High quantities of sugar and fat can slow down fermentation, so forming a sponge before the sugar and fat are added gives the yeast a head start. Sponges can also decrease overall fermentation time.

Although there are many variations of sponges, there are two major types: those that are thin and batter-like and those that are thick and dough-like. They vary mainly in the amount of water that is added. Thinner sponges tend to ferment more quickly, whereas thicker sponges ferment more slowly, giving the baker more time before it needs to be used. Examples of thinner sponges include poolish and levain-levure. Examples of thicker types of sponges include biga, pate fermentee, and altus brat.


Poolish, the French word for "Polish," was so named because Polish bakers are thought to have originated this type of sponge technique. It is often simply referred to as a sponge. A poolish is typically prepared with equal parts of flour and water by weight.

The amount of commercial yeast used can vary. The longer the poolish is expected to ferment, the less yeast should be used. When a poolish is fermented fully, it should have risen and then fallen back onto itself so that it has a wrinkled appearance on the top. A poolish is fermented at room temperature from 3 to 15 hours. It can also be refrigerated overnight and brought to room temperature before using it.


Buttermilk, Dried Plum, and Hazelnut Bread (This chapter, page 177)

Overnight Poolish Bread (This chapter, page 180)


A levain-levure is a French term for a preferment using commercial yeast that means "leaven of the yeast." It is typically a stiff sponge, but can be thinner like a poolish. A levain-levure should not be confused with a levain, a sourdough starter using wild yeast.


A biga is an Italian preferment so thick that it resembles a bread dough. A typical biga contains approximately 50 to 60 percent water as compared to the weight of the flour and up to one half of a percent of instant yeast. Because of its stiff consistency, it can be prepared several hours in advance and left at cool room temperature for up to 3 days. A stiff sponge like a biga is the preferment of choice when preparing yeast breads with a high water content, because the tight gluten network that forms within the biga provides great structure to the dough. A biga tends to contain more yeast to make up for its thick texture, which can slow down fermentation.


Pate fermentee is a French term that simply means "old dough." It is simply a piece of dough that has been saved from a previous batch of bread dough. This piece of dough is added into a new batch of dough toward the end of mixing. The old dough is a quick way to add the flavor of a preferment to a new batch of bread because it has already gone through the fermentation process.

Some bakers prepare a separate dough just to be used as a pate fermentee so the fermentation time can be monitored carefully. Because a pate fermentee contains all the ingredients of a bread dough, including salt, which can inhibit fermentation, additional yeast may be added to make up for this.

Care must be taken not to overferment a pate fermentee because the extra yeast can produce an overly acidic dough as a result of excess by-products of fermentation. Therefore, these doughs tend to be fermented at cool room temperature (approximately 65[degrees]F; 19[degrees]C).


Altus brat is a German expression meaning "old bread." It is similar to a pate fermentee except, instead of a piece of old dough being added to a batch of new dough, old bread is soaked in water, squeezed dry, and allowed to ferment. This fermented old bread is then added to a new batch of dough.


Sourdoughs or sourdough starters are similar to sponges but tend to need more of a time commitment, requiring several days before they are ready to use. Besides the yeast sponge, a sourdough also contains bacteria. Two species of bacteria that exist in a sourdough are Lactobacillus and Acetobacillus. As sugar within the flour undergoes fermentation by yeast, the bacteria in the starter also undergo a slightly different kind of fermentation and give off lactic and acetic acids. It is these acids that give sourdough breads a pleasant sour flavor. Sourdoughs, like sponges, can use commercially available yeast or they can take advantage of wild yeast that exist naturally in the air, or on the skins of fruits or vegetables without using any commercial yeast at all. For example, grapes with wild yeast on their skins can be added to a flour and water mixture to begin a sourdough starter.

Sometimes fruits or vegetables are used merely as an attractant on which airborne wild yeast can feed. For example, a vegetable, such as potato, can be boiled in water. The starches and natural sugars are released from the potato into the water. This potato water is then used to prepare the sourdough starter. These starters are left at cool room temperature to attract wild yeast that can survive at the same cool temperatures.

A sourdough starter can be created in many ways. Typically, a sourdough starter starts with equal parts of flour and water by weight. The amount of water may vary depending upon the thickness desired. The type of flour used can also vary. Some bakers prefer to start with an organic whole grain rye or whole wheat flour that contains a great deal of natural yeast and bacteria already in it. As the starter becomes strong and active over time, white flour can be added gradually while decreasing the amount of rye or whole wheat flour. Eventually, this would turn the culture into what is referred to as an all white starter. However, an all white starter can be made successfully without starting with amount of rye or whole wheat flours using just unbleached white bread flour. An example of this is seen in the potato starter recipe in this chapter.

Sourdoughs have been kept for centuries and were used exclusively before commercial yeast became available. Sourdoughs that use natural or wild yeast are called natural starters or sourdough cultures (sourdough starters). There are as many flavors of sourdough breads as there are species of yeast and bacteria. A sourdough bread made in San Francisco will taste different than a sourdough bread made in New York. This is because there are so many different varieties of yeast. Certain species of yeast may thrive in certain locations of the world but may die in others. Each area has its own wild yeast native to that area. Sourdoughs are like bird feeders. Give them the right food, and they will come. Strains of wild yeast eat sugars in the flour. A starter attracts natural yeast from a particular area. Those yeast tend to survive because they are already used to the environment. A kitchen where there is a great deal of yeast bread baking will already be plentiful with natural yeast endemic to the area.

A sourdough starter in its beginning stages is referred to as a chef or seed culture. After the chef is fed over a period of time, it becomes strong enough to bake bread. It is then referred to as a sourdough culture or a sourdough starter. Some other names for sourdough starters include barm, desem, and mother. The sourdough breads from France are known as pain au levain. They are prepared using a sourdough starter known as levain. Bakers in France develop their own special formula to make their pain au levain unique in flavor.

Sourdough starters can be thin like a batter or thick like a dough. Thinner, more fluid starters tend to impart more of a sour taste to a bread than a thicker one does. Thinner starters also ferment at a faster rate.

A healthy sourdough starter can be used successfully as the sole leavening agent for bread. However, sometimes a small amount of commercial yeast is added to the starter or the bread dough to ensure a well-risen loaf. This is known as spiking.


Basil and Rosemary Pesto Sourdough Bread (This chapter, page 188)

Garlic-Infused Olive, Onion, and Sweet Pepper Focaccia (This chapter, page 184)

Yeast and Bacteria Living Together

During the beginning stages of developing a natural starter, an interesting phenomenon begins to occur. As a natural starter grows, yeast and bacteria begin to live harmoniously in a symbiotic relationship within the starter. Natural or wild yeast that are grown in sourdough starters thrive in an acidic environment unlike commercially grown yeast, which may not survive.

In sponges made using commercially grown yeast, sugars broken down within the flour are completely consumed by the yeast, leaving no available food for any bacteria to grow. So breads made with these sponges will not be very sour.

In starters made using natural or wild yeast, not all the available sugars are eaten by the yeast. Because the wild yeast are not able to digest certain types of sugar that only commercial yeast can, the natural bacteria present feed eagerly on these leftover sugars. The result is a starter in which bacteria begin to grow and live happily side-by-side with the yeast.

Through the process of fermentation, the yeast give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. The bacteria give off lactic and acetic acids. Other organic compounds are also produced. All of these organic compounds add to the flavor of the finished bread.

Sourdough starters need to be fed regularly to maintain the crucial balance between yeast and bacteria. The feedings usually consist of flour and water.

(Note: Bread made with natural starters only get better over time. Breads made with a new starter, as good as it may be, will never taste as wonderful as bread made with an older, more mature one.)

As previously mentioned, one difference between sponges and starters is that sponges are completely used up in a recipe, whereas only a portion of the starter is actually used at any one time. This leaves plenty of starter that can be fed and maintained almost indefinitely. After all the trouble a baker goes to, to grow and nurture a starter, especially one with wild yeast, discarding it is not an option.

Stirring a healthy starter sounds like bubble paper being popped. It is full of life and, upon close inspection, gas bubbles can be seen forming and popping constantly. It can be very rewarding to create a sourdough starter and then bake incredible bread from it. All this effort yields a great sense of accomplishment for the baker and satisfaction for the customer.

Reliability and Hardiness of Starters

Starters using commercial yeast tend to be much more reliable at leavening yeast breads than natural sourdough starters. If natural or wild yeast are not plentiful when made, the starter becomes overrun with bacteria and may never become healthy and strong. A natural balance must exist between yeast and bacteria that is necessary to maintain the starter's health.

This is the main reason so many bakers add at least a pinch of commercial yeast to their natural starters as a "jump starter." As the wild yeast take hold and multiply, eventually they overrun the commercial yeast and become healthy and strong. Otherwise, unless wild yeast exist in the kitchen, success of a natural sourdough cannot be guaranteed.

Well-maintained sourdough starters are very hardy. A healthy starter can last for weeks and even months in the refrigerator without being fed. However, this is not recommended because the balance of yeast and bacteria may be altered.

Yeast lie dormant between 34[degrees] and 40[degrees]F (1[degrees] and 4[degrees]C) without being harmed under adverse conditions like a lack of food or water or too cool a temperature. In this cooler temperature range, fermentation still occurs but at a much slower rate.

The starter can be successfully "reawakened" or reactivated by allowing it to warm up to room temperature and then beginning feedings to get the yeast back to a healthy, active state. A healthy starter that has been properly maintained can be kept for many years.

Preferments, especially sourdough starters, tend to fend off bad bacterial growth through the natural acids they produce. This acidity inhibits the development of molds and staling, giving breads made with these starters a longer shelf life and an antibacterial quality.

Healthy sourdough starters are so hardy that if an otherwise healthy older starter became contaminated in some way, it is likely that it could be brought back to good health through proper feedings with no deleterious effects.

Developing Flavor in Sourdough Breads

Chapter 8 describes how enzymes and fermentation help develop flavor in yeast breads.

Developing flavor in sourdough breads made using wild yeast starters introduces another organism into the mix--bacteria. Bacteria, like yeast, also eat sugars that are released through enzymatic activity. Bacteria also give off their own by-products, including lactic and acetic acids. The temperature at which fermentation occurs determines how much of each acid will form. The particular combination of acidic by-products that forms in a starter imparts a pleasant sour taste to the sourdough bread baked with them.

Acetic acid, which is the more sour of the two acids, forms at lower temperatures of between 40[degrees] and 55[degrees]F (4[degrees] and 13[degrees]C). The milder lactic acid is formed at warmer temperatures of between 55[degrees] and 90[degrees]F (13[degrees] and 32[degrees]C).

The strain of wild yeast and the specific types of bacteria present will also determine how sour the starter and ultimately the bread baked with it will be.

Sourdough starters using wild instead of commercial yeast can be fermented for longer periods of time at cooler temperatures without being overproofed because yeast activity is slowed by the acidic environment. These long fermentation times at cooler temperatures produce a greater depth of flavor because the by-products of fermentation have more time to be produced.

Retarding the Dough

Many preferments can be fermented in the refrigerator overnight for a longer, cooler fermentation to bring out more flavors. This is known as retarding. Yeast activity slows down at refrigerated temperatures, but continues nonetheless.

Another reason bakers retard the dough is for purposes of scheduling. Because preparing breads using preferments can be so time-consuming, the long fermentation time slows down bread baking. The unattended time necessary for a preferment to ferment breaks up the work involved and what might have been too laborious in 1 day becomes more manageable over a period of a few days.

Retarding yeast doughs can be successfully accomplished with some straight doughs as well as those using preferments.

Differences between Sponges and Sourdoughs

Sponges--Tend to be short-lived. They ferment anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours and are then completely used up in a recipe. Sponges can leaven while imparting complex flavors to breads.

Sourdoughs--The fermentation process for a sourdough tends to take more time to mature, at least 24 hours and up to several days. Sourdough starters can be maintained for years. They need to be fed regularly. Only a portion is used in a recipe, while the rest is saved. It can be refrigerated or frozen. Sourdough starters can leaven bread and give them a complex flavor with a pleasant sour taste.

Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a thin sponge using commercial yeast.

* Less yeast is used to compensate for a long fermentation time.

* The poolish is retarded overnight in the refrigerator to slow down
  fermentation and increase flavor.

* Allowing the poolish to retard in the refrigerator overnight also
  helps scheduling become more manageable over 2 days.

* A variety of flours are provided as food for the yeast to encourage

* Semolina, the flour of choice for pastas, comes from durum wheat. It
  is so hard that, during the milling process, as semolina is cracked
  open, the starches in it are damaged. These starches break down
  easily and become excellent food for the yeast.

* The sponge is used up completely in the recipe.

                        MEASUREMENTS              INGREDIENTS

                U.S.        METRIC    BAKER'S %

4 fluid     1/2 cup         120 mL     109%       water at 78[degrees]F
ounces                                            (26[degrees]C)

            1/2 teaspoon    2 1/2 mL     2.3%     honey

            1/4 teaspoon    1 1/4 g      1.1%     instant active dry

3/4 ounce   1/8 cup          20 g       18%       semolina flour

1/2 ounce   1/8 cup          15 g       14%       whole wheat flour

2 1/2       1/2 cup          75 g       68%       bread flour
                                       212%       Total Overnight
                                                  Poolish Sponge

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, blend
   the water, honey, yeast, and flours on low speed (Figure 9-1).

2. Stop the machine, scrape down the bowl using a rubber spatula, and
   mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.

3. Turn the machine on medium speed and mix for 1 minute to develop the

4. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the
   refrigerator overnight for 12 to 15 hours (Figure 9-2). The next
   morning, remove the poolish from the refrigerator and allow it to
   warm up to room temperature for 1 hour before using it in
   a recipe (Figure 9-3). (See the Overnight Poolish Bread recipe that
   uses this sponge.)


If the bread has to be made
within 1 day, the poolish
can be made and covered
with plastic wrap and
allowed to sit at room
temperature for 2 hours
before using it in a recipe.
The poolish should look
puffy and be used just as it
is beginning to fall. It will
look dimpled and slightly
pulled inward.





Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a natural sourdough starter.

* The potato water supplies the wild yeast with more sugars and
  starches with which to feed on.

* A natural starter takes several days to mature and a portion of it
  can be saved and maintained for future baking.

                         MEASUREMENTS              INGREDIENTS

                U.S.         METRIC    BAKER'S %

16 fluid        2 cups       475 mL        191%    potato water

8 3/4 ounces    1 3/4 cups   250 g         100%    unbleached white
                                                   bread flour

                1 teaspoon     6 g        2.4%     granulated sugar

                                           293%    Total Potato Sour-
                                                   dough Starter

Potato Water

                         MEASUREMENTS              INGREDIENTS

                U.S.         METRIC

1 each                       1 each                large potato,
                                                   peeled and cut into
                                                   (2 1/2-cm) chunks

28 fluid        3 1/2 cups   830 mL                bottled water

 1. Place the potato chunks and water into a medium saucepan over
    medium-high heat. Cook for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until
    the potato chunks can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from
    the heat.

 2. Allow the potato and water mixture to cool until almost room
    temperature, about 78[degrees]F (25[degrees]C). Measure out 2 cups
    (500 mL) of the potato water, discarding the rest, and reserving
    the potato for another use.

The Starter

 3. In a very clean 2-gallon (7 1/2-liter) plastic container, mix the
    potato water, flour, and sugar, using a wooden spoon (Figure 9-4).

 4. Cover the container with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band
    (Figure 9-5). Let it sit at cool room temperature (between 70 and
    75[degrees]F; 21 and 24[degrees]C) for about 24 hours.






 5. Stir the starter once every day, allowing it to sit for 3 days
    while making observations about how it looks and smells
    (Figure 9-6).

 6. On the fourth day, the starter will start to separate and smell
    quite sour (Figure 9-7). The sour smell is from the bacteria
    beginning to outnumber the yeast. Feed the starter 9 ounces (1 3/4
    cups; 255 g) unbleached white bread flour and 16 fluid ounces (2
    cups; 480 mL) water at 78[degrees]F (25[degrees]C) (Figure 9-8).
    This feeding will provide a stimulus for the yeast to multiply.

 7. Allow the starter to sit at cool room temperature for 4 more days
    (Figure 9-9). Do not stir. Continue to make observations.

 8. On the ninth day, begin a regular maintenance schedule of three
    feedings per day, approximately every 4 to 6 hours. After the third
    feeding, the starter is covered and left overnight. Continue this
    schedule for 2 more days.

    Note: Only 1 pound plus 2 ounces (2 cups; 510 g) of the starter is
    used at the beginning of every day (Figure 9-10). This is done to
    keep the amount of starter to a manageable amount. The remaining
    starter should be discarded and the container washed out thoroughly
    every morning before the first feeding. It is important to
    use clean containers and utensils when preparing a sourdough
    starter to prevent harmful bacteria and mold from developing.



    First Feeding: This is best done in the morning.

    Ingredients: 1 pound 2 ounces (2 cups; 510 g) starter, 8 fluid
    ounces (1 cup; 240 mL) water at 78[degrees]F (26[degrees]C) and 6
    ounces (1 1/4 cups; 170 g) unbleached, white bread flour.

    While the starter is weighed on the scale in another clean
    container, thoroughly clean out the 2-gallon (7 1/2-liter) plastic
    container the starter was in originally. Place the starter back
    into the container and add the flour and water. Sir the mixture
    with a wooden spoon and cover with plastic wrap secured with a
    large rubber band. Leave the starter at room temperature.

 9. Second Feeding: 4 to 6 hours later. The second feeding will be
    double what the first one was. Add 2 cups (480 mL) water at
    78[degrees]F (26[degrees]C) and 12 ounces (21/3 cups; 340 g) bread
    flour. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon and cover with plastic wrap
    secured with a rubber band. Leave the starter at room temperature.

10. Third Feeding: 4 to 6 hours later. Add 32 fluid ounces (4 cups;
    960 mL) water at 78[degrees]F (26[degrees]C) and 1 pound plus 8
    ounces (43/4 cups; 680 g) bread flour. Stir the mixture with a
    wooden spoon and cover with plastic wrap secured with a large
    rubber band. Allow the starter to sit at room temperature
    overnight for approximately 12 to 15 hours.

11. The Next Day: Stir the starter down and discard all but 1 pound 2
    ounces (2 cups; 510 g). Repeat the feedings using the same
    schedule as described.

12. Do this for 1 more day, for a total of 3 days of regular feedings
    to get the starter ready for baking. The starter should smell
    yeasty and be bubbly (Figure 9-11).



* Day 1--Starter is made.

* Day 2--After stirring, starter turns a light brown with some bubbles
  and some activity. Starter smells very mild, a little yeasty.

* Day 3--Mixture separates a bit and smells acidic. It is very active.
  After being stirred down, starter separates into a yellowish liquid
  and foam. Natural bacteria multiplies and vies for living conditions
  with the yeast. (Note: It is in this "battle" so to speak between
  yeasts and bacteria that makes the starter seem like something has
  gone horribly wrong. Do not give up. This is a normal phase and
  passes within a few days.)

* Day 4--Mixture deflates and separates completely into a yellowish
  liquid on top and more solid, batter-like material on the bottom.
  It smells very sour and acidic. The sourness is from the bacteria
  that are beginning to overrun the yeast. A feeding of flour and
  water helps encourage the yeast to multiply.

* Days 5-8--The starter is left alone for 4 days at room temperature.
  A yellowish liquid remains on the top and culture separates. Bubbles
  begin to appear.

* Days 9-11--Regular feedings are given. The starter is fed three times
  a day, every 4 to 6 hours. The starter is extremely active after each
  feeding, producing lots of bubbles with a yeasty smell and thick
  batter-like consistency.

* Day 12--The starter is ready for baking. (Note: The starter should be
  used between 12 and 15 hours after its last feeding.)

Maintaining the Starter

To maintain the starter without growing any more of it, match the volume of starter with the same volume of flour and water. A little extra flour is usually given to make sure that the yeast has enough food, if a feeding is ever delayed. For every 1 pound 2 ounces (2 cups; 510 g) of starter, feed it 8 fluid ounces (1 cup; 240 mL) water at 78[degrees] F (25[degrees] C) and 6 ounces (11/4 cups; 185 g) white bread flour three times a day.

The starter can also be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to several weeks without any feedings. Whenever storing the starter in the refrigerator, it is important to label it with the amount of the starter and the date when it was placed in the refrigerator. To bring the starter back to a healthier state for baking, bring the starter to room temperature for approximately 2 hours and begin 2 to 3 days of feedings (3 per day) before using it again to bake bread.

Makes two round loaves,
each weighing
approximately 1 pound
14 ounces (850 g)

Additional Ideas That Use the Recipes in This Chapter

Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a yeast bread using a sponge.

* The sponge helps lighten a dough containing whole grains, producing
  a less dense full-flavored bread.

* Buttermilk is added for moistness and gives the bread a pleasant,
  sour taste.

* Wheat bran, raw wheat germ, and whole wheat flour are added for a
  nutty flavor and texture.

* The high moisture content of the dough softens the dried plums.

* The sponge is completely used up in the recipe.


                         MEASUREMENTS                 INGREDIENTS

U.S.                           METRIC     BAKER'S %

6 fluid        3/4 cup         180 mL          20%    water at 78
ounces                                                [degrees]F

               1/2 teaspoon    1 1/2 g       0.2%     instant active
                                                      dry yeast

  1/4 ounces   1/8 cup            5 g        0.5%     wheat bran

  1/2 ounce    1/8 cup           15 g        1.6%     raw wheat germ

2 1/2 ounces   1/2 cup           70 g        8%       bread flour

2 1/2 ounces   1/2 cup           70 g        8%       whole wheat flour

                                            38%       Total Step A,

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, mix
   the water, the yeast, wheat bran, wheat germ, and flours on low
   speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 to 3 minutes to
   develop the gluten. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
   Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature
   for approximately 2 hours or until the mixture doubles in volume
   and looks puffed up. If the room temperature is below 70[degrees]F
   (21[degrees]C), place the mixture in a proof box.


                         MEASUREMENTS                 INGREDIENTS

U.S.                          METRIC      BAKER'S %

12 fluid        1 1/2 cups     360 mL       40%       warm water at 110
ounces                                                [degrees]F

1/2 teaspoon                  2 1/2 g        0.3%     instant active
                                                      dry yeast

12 fluid        1 1/2 cups     360 mL       40%       buttermilk

1 ounce         2 table-         30 g        3.3%     light brown sugar

3 1/2 ounces    3/4 cup         100 g       11%       whole wheat flour

1 ounce         1/2 cup          30 g        3%       wheat bran

2 ounces        1/2 cup          55 g        6%       raw wheat germ

3/4 ounce       1 table-         20 g        2.2%     salt

1 pound+        4 cups          565 g       62%       bread flour, plus
4 ounces                                              more if needed

4 1/2 ounces    1 cup           130 g       14%       pitted dried
                                                      plums, cut into
                                                      1/4-inch (6-mm)

4 ounces        1 cup           115 g       13%       chopped hazel-
                                                      nuts, toasted

                                           195.1%     Total Step B,

                                            233.4     Total Buttermilk,
                                                      Dried Plum,
                                                      Bread percentage

 1. Place the bowl with the poolish onto the base of the electric
    mixer. Add the water and yeast. Using the paddle attachment,
    blend the mixture on low speed.

 2. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, and
    wheat germ. Blend using the paddle attachment.

 3. Add the salt and enough of the bread flour to make a thick, sticky
    mass of dough.

 4. Change from the paddle to the dough hook and mix well. Add more
    bread flour, if necessary. The dough should be slightly wet and

 5. Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work
    surface. Knead it lightly using the bowl scraper to lift it over
    onto itself for 2 to 3 minutes.

 6. Knead in the dried plums and hazelnuts until well distributed
    (Figure 9-12).

 7. Place the dough into a large bowl that has been sprayed with
    nonstick cooking spray. Flip the dough over so the greased side
    is up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for
    approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until it has doubled in
    volume. This can be done at room temperature or in a proof box.

 8. Preheat a deck oven or an oven with a pizza stone or baking tiles
    to 450[degrees]F (230[degrees]C).

 9. Punch the dough down by pulling the outer edges into the middle.
    Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a
    round free-form loaf. Place the loaves on a wooden board sprinkled
    generously with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a clean kitchen
    towel or greased plastic wrap and allow them to proof at room
    temperature for approximately 1 hour or until they have doubled in

10. Using a razor blade, make decorative slashes on the surface of each
    loaf and slide them into the oven (Figure 9-13). Bake for 3 to 4
    minutes, spritzing the loaves every minute or so with a water
    bottle. Continue baking, without opening the oven, for another 20



11. Reduce the oven temperature to 400[degrees]F (205[degrees]C) and
    rotate the loaves. Continue baking for another 15 minutes or
    until the loaves are a dark golden brown. The crust should feel
    hard and the bread should sound hollow when thumped with a
    finger. Cool on a rack.



Makes two round loaves,
each weighing
approximately 1 pound
13 3/4 ounces (845 g)

Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a yeast bread using a sponge.

* A sponge is prepared and allowed to ferment overnight in the
  refrigerator and is completely used up in the recipe.

* A combination of flours is used for flavor and texture.

* A long, slow fermentation for the poolish starter helps increase
  flavor while decreasing the dough's overall fermentation time.


1. Make one recipe of Overnight Poolish sponge that has been brought
   back to room temperature.


                       MEASUREMENTS                INGREDIENTS

             U.S.             METRIC    BAKER'S %

1 pound         5 1/2 cups   780 g          85%    unbleached bread
11 1/2 ounces                                      flour

3 ounces          1/2 cup     85 g           9%    semolina flour

2 ounces          1/2 cup     55 g           6%   raw wheat germ

20 fluid        2 1/2 cups   600 mL         65%    water at
ounces                                             78[degrees]F

                1 1/2        4 1/2 g         1%    instant active dry
                teaspoon                           yeast

1 tablespoon                  18 g           2%    kosher salt

                                                   extra bread flour
                                                   for dusting

8 ounces                     234 g          25%    Overnight Poolish
                                                   Sponge starter
                                                   (from Step A)

                                           193%    Total Overnight
                                                   Poolish Bread

 1. In a bowl, whisk to blend the two flours and the wheat germ. Set

 2. Add the water and the yeast to the starter already in the electric
    mixing bowl and blend using the paddle attachment until it breaks
    up and becomes loose.

 3. Add two thirds of the flour mixture and blend on low speed (Figure




 4. Change to the dough hook and continue adding the remaining flour
    until a slightly sticky and elastic dough forms (Figure 9-15).
    Continue mixing on medium speed for 30 to 60 seconds.

 5. Turn the machine off, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel,
    and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

 6. Add the salt and blend until it is well incorporated, about 60
    seconds (Figure 9-16).

 7. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a work surface,
    using little or no flour, until smooth and elastic (Figure 9-17).

 8. Place the dough into a large mixing bowl that has been sprayed
    with nonstick cooking spray. Flip the dough over once so the
    greased side is up. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to
    rise at room temperature (approximately 75[degrees] to
    80[degrees]F; 24[degrees] to 27[degrees]C) or until doubled in
    size, about 2 hours.

 9. Punch down the dough and divide the dough in half using a dough
    cutter. Cover each half and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.


10. Shape each half into a smooth ball (also known as a boule) (Figure
    9-18) and place the dough into two heavily floured round baskets
    or bannetons (9 to 10 inches in diameter; 22.5 to 25 cm) (Figure
    9-19). Flour the tops lightly, cover with a clean kitchen towel,
    and allow them to proof for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bannetons are
    baskets made of willow in which the dough is allowed to proof.
    After unmolding, the pattern of the basket is imprinted on the
    dough, forming an attractive loaf. If a banneton is not available,
    a greased stainless steel or glass bowl can be used. Be sure
    that the bowl is twice the size of the dough to accommodate its

11. While the boules are proofing, preheat a bread oven or a
    conventional oven with baking tiles or a pizza stone on the bottom
    to 450[degrees]F (230[degrees]C).

12. Gently flip one basket of dough over onto a floured peel. Using a
    razor, make shallow cuts in the dough (Figure 9-20). Slide the
    dough into the oven. Repeat with the remaining basket of dough.

13. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, opening the oven briefly and
    spritzing the bread with a spray bottle filled with water once or
    twice every minute for the first 5 minutes of baking.

14. Using a peel, rotate the loaves 180 degrees and continue baking
    the breads for 10 to 15 minutes more or until they are golden
    brown and sound hollow when tapped with a finger. The internal
    temperature of each bread should read between 195[degrees]
    and 200[degrees]F (91 and 94[degrees]C). Cool on racks.






Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a yeast bread using a natural preferment.

* The starter should be used in the recipe within 12 to 15 hours
  after its last feeding.

* A small amount of commercial yeast is added to the dough for a
  lighter texture.

* The moisture level in the dough is high to create an open hole


1. Make Potato Sourdough Starter. Be sure to use it within 12 to 15
   hours after its last feeding.


                    MEASUREMENTS          INGREDIENTS

                  U.S.        METRIC

8 each                        8 each      large garlic cloves, skins
                                          left on, smashed with the
                                          flat of a knife

8 fluid ounces    1 cup       240 mL      extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C). In a small
   heatproof container, place the smashed garlic and oil.

2. Bake for 1 hour. Remove the garlic and oil from the oven and
   allow the mixture to cool for 30 minutes.

3. Pour the mixture through a sieve and discard the garlic pieces.
   Use this oil in the recipe.


                      MEASUREMENTS                INGREDIENTS

               U.S.                   METRIC

1/2 fluid ounce     1 tablespoon     15 mL        olive oil

2 each                                2 each      large yellow onions,
                                                  peeled, halved, and
                                                  thinly sliced

                    1/2 teaspoon      2 1/2g      granulated sugar

                    2 teaspoons      10 mL        balsamic vinegar

2 each                                2 each      large sweet bell
                                                  peppers (whole)

4 3/4 ounces        1 cup            135 g        Kalamata olives,
                                                  and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 fluid         3 tablespoons     45 mL       garlic-infused olive
ounces                                            oil (Step B)

1. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the
   sliced onions, sugar, and vinegar. Mix together until well combined.




2. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The
   onions should be brown and caramelized. Remove them from the heat
   and allow to cool (Figure 9-21).

3. Roast whole bell peppers over an open flame or under a broiler,
   rotating them until the skins are completely blackened. Place them
   in a heatproof bowl covered with plastic wrap. The steam from the
   hot peppers will loosen their skins (Figure 9-22). Remove the skins,
   the stems, and the seeds; coarsely chop the peppers. Set aside.

4. Combine the onions, bell peppers, olives, and garlic-infused olive
   oil in a mixing bowl (Figure 9-23). Cover the mixture and chill
   until ready to use.

Makes two half sheet pans


                         MEASUREMENTS                   INGREDIENTS

                U.S.            METRIC      BAKER'S %

24 fluid        3 cups           710 mL         69%     water at
ounces                                                  78[degrees]F

1 pound         2 cups            510 g         50%     potato
2 ounces                                                sourdough

                1/2 teaspoon     2 1/2g          0.2%   instant active
                                                        dry yeast

1 1/2ounces     3 tablespoons     45 mL          4.4%   garlic-infused
                                                        olive oil

2 ounces        1/2 cup            55 g          5%     raw wheat germ

14 1/4ounces    3 cups            405 g         40%     all-purpose

1 pound         4 cups            565 g         55%     bread flour,
4 ounces                                                unbleached,
                                                        plus more for

                1 tablespoon       18 g          1.8%   kosher salt

                                                        olive oil for

                                                        freshly ground
                                                        coarse black

                                                        kosher salt for

                                             225.4%     Total Step D

 1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the water, starter, yeast,
    garlic-infused olive oil, wheat germ, and the flours.

 2. Using the dough hook, mix the ingredients on medium speed for 3
    to 4 minutes until a wet, sticky dough forms.

 3. Stop the machine, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and
    allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

 4. On medium speed, add the salt and mix well for 6 more minutes to
    develop the gluten.

 5. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and allow
    the dough to ferment for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature
    between 70[degrees] and 80[degrees]F (21[degrees] and
    27[degrees]C) or until doubled in volume. The dough will be very
    sticky but do not add more flour at this point.

 6. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough
    cutter, cut the dough in half. Each half should weigh approximately
    2 pounds and 6 ounces (1.1 kg). Brush two half sheet pans with
    olive oil and place one half of the dough in each pan. Pat the
    dough gently and evenly into the pans (Figure 9-24). Try not to pop
    any bubbles that formed during fermentation. Do not be concerned if
    the dough does not go into the edges of the pan. As the dough
    proofs, it will spread.

 7. Gently cover the dough with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick
    cooking spray. Allow the dough to proof for 1 hour or until the
    dough looks puffy.

 8. Preheat the oven to 500[degrees]F (260[degrees]C). Gently peel off
    the plastic wrap from the dough. Brush the top of each focaccia
    with olive oil. Divide the olives, onions, and peppers
    evenly over each of the two focaccia. Sprinkle each with fresh
    cracked pepper and kosher salt (Figure 9-25A and B).

 9. Place the focaccia in the oven and immediately lower the
    temperature to 450[degrees]F (230[degrees]C). Bake for 15 minutes.

10. Rotate the focaccia and continue baking for another 15 minutes or
    until they are brown and crusty.






Makes two approximately
1 pound 12 1/2-ounce
(810-g) rounds

Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a full-flavored bread using a natural sourdough
  starter that allows for a longer, slower fermentation time.

* No commercial yeast is added. The bread relies solely on the
 natural starter for leavening.

* A pesto of basil, rosemary, and oil melts into the dough,
  infusing the bread with great flavor.

* A small amount of flax seed meal provides texture.


                      MEASUREMENTS             INGREDIENTS

               U.S.                 METRIC

1 each                               1 each    large garlic clove

2 ounces           2 cups           50 g       packed fresh basil

                   2 tablespoons    12 g       fresh rosemary, finely

1/2 ounce          2 tablespoons    10 g       shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 ounce          2 tablespoons    20 g       pine nuts

1/3 fluid ounce    2 teaspoons      10 mL      lemon juice

                                               2 pinches kosher salt

2 fluid ounces     4 tablespoons    60 mL      extra virgin olive oil

1. Through the opening at the top of a food processor with the motor
   running, add the garlic and pulse the machine until it is finely

2. Open the top and add the basil, rosemary, Parmesan, pine nuts,
   lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until finely chopped.

3. Through the opening at the top, slowly pour in the oil while the
   machine is running (Figure 9-26).



                       MEASUREMENTS                INGREDIENTS

               U.S.           METRIC    BAKER'S %

18 fluid       2 1/4 cups     540 mL      64%      cool water at 70
ounces                                             to 75[degrees]F
                                                   (21 to

12 ounces      1 1/3 cups     345 g       41%      potato starter

1 1/2 ounces     1/2 cup       45 g        5%      flax seed meal

1 pound +      6 cups         850 g      100%      white bread flour
14 ounces

1/2 ounce      3 teaspoons     18 g         2.1%   kosher salt

4 3/4 ounces    1/2 cup       135 g        16%     Pesto from Step A

                                          228.1%   Total Basil and
                                                   Rosemary Pesto
                                                   Bread percentage

 1. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, place
    the water, starter, flax seed meal, and half the flour. Blend
    together on low speed for 30 seconds to thoroughly combine.

 2. Change to the dough hook attachment and add the remaining flour,
    reserving 2 ounces (1/2 cup; 60 g). Continue to knead until a soft,
    slightly sticky dough forms. Add some of the reserved flour only if
    the dough is sticky but you may not need all of it.

 3. Stop the mixer and flip the dough over to make sure it is being
    mixed completely. Mix again on low speed until the dough is well

 4. Stop the machine and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel for
    15 minutes to allow the dough to rest.

 5. On low speed, add the salt and blend for 2 or 3 minutes until the
    salt is completely incorporated.

 6. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a work surface until
    it is smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Resist the urge to add
    more flour. If the dough sticks to the work surface, use a dough
    scraper to scrape it up or a few drops of oil onto the work surface
    to reduce friction.

 7. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been sprayed with a
    nonstick cooking spray. Flip the dough over so the greased side
    is up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at
    room temperature (about 70[degrees] to 78[degrees]F; 21[degrees] to
    25[degrees]C) for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until it is doubled in
    volume and a finger mark pushed into the dough does not spring all
    the way back.

 8. Punch the dough down by pulling the edges up and over into the
    center. Place the dough onto a work surface and knead it for 1

 9. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, each weighing approximately
    1 pound 14 ounces (855 g) and cover each piece with a clean kitchen
    towel or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for 10 to 15

10. Shape each piece of dough into a small ball. Slightly flatten by
    docking each ball with your fingers to make several small
    indentations (Figure 9-27A). Spread one half of the pesto mixture
    over the indentations of each piece of dough (Figure 9-27B).
    Working with each piece of dough separately, gather the edges of
    the dough like a drawstring purse to enclose the pesto (Figure
    9-27C). Flip it over so that the smooth side is up and shape it
    into a smooth ball (Figure 9-27D).

11. Place each ball seam side facing up into two well-floured
    bannetons. Cover the bannetons with a clean kitchen towel and allow
    the dough to rise for about 1 hour or until they appear puffed.

12. Sprinkle some flour on the top of each round and wrap well in
    plastic wrap. Place the bannetons with the dough into the
    refrigerator for 12 to 22 hours to develop flavors (Figure 9-28).

13. Remove the bannetons from the refrigerator and remove the plastic
    wrap. Place a clean kitchen towel on top of each banneton and
    allow them to warm up to room temperature for approximately 2

14. Preheat an oven with baking tiles or a pizza stone to 500[degrees]F

15. Invert the bannetons onto a well-floured baker's peel. Make
    decorative cuts with a razor blade.






16. Slide each round into the oven. Immediately turn the oven down
    to 450[degrees]F (230[degrees]C). Spritz the rounds with a water
    bottle. Bake for 5 minutes, spritzing once every minute for 5

17. Bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven. Turn the rounds to
    rotate them and continue baking for another 10 to 12 minutes or
    until they are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped with a
    fist. A thermometer placed in the center of the dough should read
    approximately 210[degrees]F (99[degrees]C). Cool on racks.

Variation: White Sourdough Bread

Follow the directions except omit the pesto filling. Bake as directed.



1. What is meant by the term preferment?

2. Name the two reasons preferments are used.

3. What are the two categories of preferments?

4. List some of the differences between a sponge and a sourdough starter?

5. Describe how long fermentation periods and cooler temperatures benefit sourdough breads.

6. Name the two strains of bacteria in a natural sourdough starter.

7. Why are natural sourdough starters thought to have antibacterial qualities?

8. Which preferment is completely used up in a recipe--a sponge or a sourdough?

9. Identify a stiff preferment that originates from Italy.

10. In what type of preferment would two organisms live side-by-side?


Professional Profile


Joseph George

Executive Chef

Midland Country Club

Midland, MI

1. Question: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in baking and pastry?

Answer: When I was 19 I was exposed to my first professional kitchen and I knew that I wanted to be in this field.

2. Question: Was there a person or event that influenced you to go into this line of work?

Answer: James Krutcher was the first chef I worked under and he helped me go in this direction.

3. Question: What did you find most challenging when you first began working in baking and pastry?

Answer: I came from a culinary background, so crossing over to baking and pastry forced me to be a lot more exact and scientific.

4. Question: Where and when was your first practical experience in a professional baking setting?

Answer: I was doing a stint at a restaurant, Tapawingo, and the baking and pastry staff walked out. The chef told me to get in there and do it.

5. Question: How did this experience affect your later professional development?

Answer: I didn't know much about baking and pastry before that experience. As I developed my skills though, I gained confidence. That confidence allowed me to explore new areas and continually learn.

6. Question: Who were your mentors when you were starting out?

Answer: Steve Stallard has been a major influence on much of my career.

7. Question: What would you list as the greatest reward of your professional life?

Answer: By continually gaining knowledge I can pass more on to those who come after me. In that way, I can do for others what my mentors did for me.

8. Question: What traits do you consider essential for anyone entering the field?

Answer: Anyone going into baking and pastry must have patience and dedication.

9. Question: If there was one message you would impart to all students in this field what would that be?

Answer: Anyone making a career in this area needs to understand how much of a self-sacrifice it is.
Table 9-1 Various Types of Preferments

SPONGES                                 SOURDOUGH STARTERS

Use commercial yeast                    Use wild or natural yeast
Completely used up in a recipe          Can be maintained for long
                                          periods of time
Poolish                 Thin            Chef
Levain-levure           Thin or thick   Levain
Biga                    Thick           Mother
Pate fermentee          Thick           Barm
Altus brat              Thick           Desem
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Article Details
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Author:Sokol, Gail
Publication:About Professional Baking
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Chapter 8 Working with yeast in straight doughs.
Next Article:Chapter 10 Laminated doughs.

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