Converting Straight Dough to Poolish/Biga


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In the era of no-knead taking over the show, I feel like something of a relic coming from the Reinhart/Beranbaum school of breadmaking. But...home is home. I fear a lot of the modern bread baking world isn't even familiar with traditional preferments!

If one is trying to take a straight dough recipe and add flavor and texture, there are two choices. Retard the bulk fermentation for an overnight or longer period, or, simplify the requirements by breaking out some flour into a poolish or biga. I'm most accustomed to working with biga, but in this case, I'd actually like to change out to a poolish. Why? It's simple and fast to make. No mixer needed, just slosh it in a bowl and stir with a spoon. That lets the "flavor" part be done as a fast 10 minute step a day or two early, throw it in the fridge, and be done.

But what I don't know is how to convert a recipe. All biga/poolish recipes I've used in the past were designed as such. I've never converted a straight dough into a preferment myself. What I'm trying to figure out is what percentage to take out of the final recipe into the poolish, and how long a time I can get away with a refrigerated poolish before it spoils. Ideally, I'd love to have the freedom to just mix it a day or two in advance and then make the final dough as an accelerated proof on baking day.
 
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I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot. I pulled the AP portion of the recipie, 240g, about 28% and prefermented as a poolish. Conventional wisdom says to use part of the WW for the preferment, but I wanted to keep this simple. I was afraid of over-leavening so I put only very tiny amounts of yeast in, and refrigerated the preferment. Unfortunately, I think with that mix of yeast and chill, it didn't really ferment nearly as much as I hoped. It wasn't ripe when I went to use it. I'm doing some tests now with only 100g flour and a similarly small mount of yeast as poolish to see how much yeast/temp/time gives me what I want. The one on the counter had only a few bubbles by morning, so my poolishes may want a full 18-24 hours at room temp with such little yeast. That's actually convenient if it works.

The final dough baked up ok, and tastes great, good texture, but I really want a much more fermented poolish next time.
 

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