Also known as Pâte fermentée, liquid pre-ferment or liquid sponge
What is Poolish?
Poolish is a highly fluid yeast-cultured dough. It’s a type of pre-ferment traditionally used in the production of French bakery products.
A Poolish resembles a sponge for the sponge and dough system. The difference is Poolish is fermented much longer and uses a much higher hydration than a plastic sponge—which is why it’s considered the liquid version of a sponge.1 Typical hydration levels are 100%, with equal weights of flour and water.
This breadmaking method was first developed in Poland during the 1840s by a nobleman named Baron Zang. Poolish was later spread by Viennese bakers into Austria who upon emigrating to France around 1840 initiated the production of Vienna breads and other luxury bakery products in Paris using the Poolish technique. With this technique bakers switched from using associations of yeast and sourdough (sur levain in French) to yeast alone for carrying out fermentation at the bakeshop.2,3
How does a Poolish work?
A Poolish combines equal parts flour and water (by weight) with some yeast (the amount varies according to the expected length of fermentation time, using less for longer, slower fermentations).
The fermentation is then carried out at room temperature for periods of time long enough to bubble up and increase its volume. At its peak, the volume starts to fall back slightly (recede) with the appearance of a wrinkled surface. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 15 hours, depending on the inoculation level.4,2
|Compressed yeast inoculation (baker’s %)5||Fermentation time (hours)*|
* Considering a dough temperature of 26–29°C (79–84°F) and 100% hydration.
The rate of fermentation is governed by the following factors:
- Mixture acidity
- Available food supply
- Water content
- Water (100%)
- Fresh or compressed yeast (0.1–1.5%)
|Water||30.0 (100% hydration)|
|Bread flour||70.0 (to complete 100%)|
|Water||37.0 (53% hydration)|
*The Poolish can be used at up to 60% of the total weight of final developed dough.
- Scaling/metering of ingredients
- Mixing to incorporate ingredients at low speed (1–2 minutes at 26°C or 79°F)
- Transfer to the fermentation room or trough
A Poolish is used as a sponge in the production of French bread, baguettes and batards. The advantages and disadvantages are:
If a poolish is used on a daily basis, then the bakery needs space for fermentation as well as containers or troughs (in sufficient number and size, and proper hygienic design) for the preparation of the pre-ferments.7
A Poolish should not be allowed to ferment for excessive periods of time to avoid gluten breakdown as well as increasing acidity and alcohol content to unacceptable levels.
- Moore, T.R. “Breads” Encyclopedia of Food Grains, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Elsevier Ltd., 2016, pp. 8–12.
- Pagani, M.A. “Technology of Baked Goods” Handbook of Sourdough Biotechnology, first printing, Springer Science+Business Media New York, 2013 p. 60.
- Wirtz, R.L. “Grain, Baking, and Sourdough Bread: A Brief Historical Panorama” Handbook of Dough Fermentations, first printing, Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2003, pp. 27–28.
- The Culinary Institute of America. “Advanced Yeast Breads and Rolls” Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2016, pp. 147–184.
- Gisslen, W. “Lean Yeast Doughs: Sponges, Pre-ferments, and Sourdoughs” Professional Baking, 7th edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2017, pp. 155–179.
- Figoni P. “Gluten” How Baking Works, 3rd edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2011, pp. 147–149.
- O’Donnell, K. “Equipment” Bakery Production Handbook, first printing, Xlibris Publishing, 2016, pp. 253–255.
Hello, I try this poolish Style (sponge) pre-ferments, it was so wonderful, the dough finish products were great. But I don’t know the quantity to use for 25kg flour, someone helps me out? I will appreciate it. Thanks.
Hi Deborah, we are addressing questions in our forum, so others can participate and contribute. Please post your questions here: https://bakerpedia.com/forums/ Thank you!
okey Joanna Evoniuk, Thanks
Put 30% of your total flour what ever it is for your Poolish. Add the same for the water. Add honey or/ to affect the bubble machine depending on time and temperature your dough will be in. for hours. The amount above as a percentage is fine. After the ferment add the 70% of flour with the salt, and adjust the 30% of liquid to achieve the hydration you need. This is for 57% but I find 64 is ideal. The wetter it is the bigger the rise and bubbles.
I have tried this recipe and it is absolutely amazing!!! Thank you for sharing. I’m excited to experiment and try different techniques
Wow this is a lot of helpful information, thanks. I’m going to give poolish a go so wish me luck!
Does the poolish have to use 30% of the total flour or can it be less? Is it possible to autolyze the rest of the flour and water, add the salt and additional yeast to the poolish, and then combine this with the autolyzed mixture?
Hi Toby, good question! If you post in BAKERpedia’s Baking Industry Professionals Facebook Group, our team and community can offer advice.