All of the breads that we bake are made with pre-ferments. Pre-ferments add flavor to bread.
A pre-ferment is sometimes made from a previous batch of dough-- you save a piece of dough, you feed it with flour and water, you propogate the yeast, and then add it to a new dough. You might also make a small batch of dough about 12-16 hours ahead of time and let it age and develop flavor before mixing it into a new batch. These are not new ideas- many traditional bread bakers continue to employ these methods as do we. The essentials are outlined below:
Biga is an Italian style pre-ferment made without salt. This enables you to use less yeast in the final bread, as salt inhibits the growth of yeast. The final bread does contain salt, however.
Pate fermentee is a French style pre-ferment, similar to the biga, but made with salt. It can be made with either "old dough" or 12 hours or so beforehand with "new dough."
Poolish is a pre-ferment that is approximately half water and half flour, with no salt and very little yeast. This sponge can be developed and used more quickly than the others. Poolish is named for the Polish bakers who taught the French their techniques.
Soakers do not provide "rise", but they do provide savor. Grains, flours or other ingredients are soaked in water overnight, softening the grains and breaking them down, providing another source of flavor.
All of our recipes use one or more of these "starts."
Below you can see a shortened version of our two day process: from flour, to pre-ferment, incorporating the new dough with the old (otherwise known as mixing the final dough), the rising, the shaping, the baking and the packaging......