Poolish or biga: meet the starters that add character to your bake
Poolish, also called liquid biga or yeast, is a leavening method used in indirect baking. It is a pre-ferment that makes baked goods soft, fragrant and aromatic, especially bread and pizza.
Poolish is made by mixing water, flour and yeast together, in varying proportions. The percentage of yeast varies according to the number of hours of leavening.
The baking is indirect because the dough is created in two stages: the poolish is prepared first, and then the other ingredients are added to this 'yeast.'
In general, the more yeast you put in the poolish, the longer the waiting times for the poolish to be ready to be used in your recipes.
The amount of poolish to be used in the dough can vary, but usually, the amount of poolish is equal to 1/3 calculated by the weight of the total flour.
Poolish or biga - which one should you use?
Poolish and biga are very similar but not quite the same, so it's worth pointing out the differences depending on what you want to bake.
What is biga?
Biga is a more solid preferment that has a longer fermentation time (from 16 to 24-48 hours).
It needs strong and high-quality flours, it's a rough dough and needs careful temperature control. The process of preparing the preferment is more complex, but it gives the product an excellent honeycomb, with large and regular honeycombs.
Biga is usually used for large loaves and leavened products, soft focaccias and pizzas in a Roman-style pan (but there are no fixed rules). It will take time, the right tools and patience, but the result will pay off.
What is poolish?
Poolish, is instead a pre-dough and is prepared with medium strength flours. The preparation can be quick or slower (from 2 to 12-16 hours), but in any case, it is less long and difficult than
With poolish, the alveoli will be smaller and you will get a more crisp effect on the outside. You can use poolish for bread with a crunchy crust and tray baked or thin-crust pizzas.
How to make a poolish starter
Poolish if the perfect pre ferment for characterful French baguettes and Italian focaccia. It's different from a sourdough starter but very similar to biga, just a lot more liquid thanks to its 100 percent hydration.
To make poolish take 550 grams of flour, sprinkle over 5 grams of active yeast and then pour in 550ml of water at about 80 degrees celsius.
Give it a good mix and make sure the yeast is completely incorporated.
Cover with a lid and leave it to sit at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours when you'll see active signs of life with plenty of bubbles.
Watch how it's done in the expert hands of baker Billy Parisi:
How to make poolish bread
Now you have your poolish ready trying turning it into Parisi's incredible French boule, perfect for toast, sandwiches and simply on its own!
Mix 550g whole-wheat bread flour with 150g of bread flour, sprinkle 25g of sea salt and 4 grams of active yeast.
Pour sufficient water (at 105° to 107°) into the poolish mix to help loosen it up and then pour over the dry flour mix. Mix with hand until well combined, cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Fold the dough every 20 mins for an hour (so 3 times). Cover and rest for 2 hours, 3 hours max when it should have about tripled in size.
Next, fold and form the dough into a ball on a floured surface and place on a floured baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to proof for about an hour.
Preheat a baking stone or a cookie sheet in the oven to 500°
Transfer the bread to the hot stone or sheet and cover with a large metal bowl. If you don't have one put a pan in the bottom rack and throw in a few ice cubes to set a steam effect.
Bake the bread at 500° for 30 minutes if covered and then uncover and cook for another 30 minutes until golden brown then allow to cool before slicing.
How to make pizza with poolish
To make fluffy pizza with poolish we recommend the Italian Pizza Academy's recipe. You'll need a medium-strength flour (index W 240), water and fresh brewer's yeast.
The water must have the same weight as the flour (1: 1 ratio), while the yeast will be the variable factor in the preparation and will vary according to the leavening times.
The greater the amount of yeast in the poolish, the longer the waiting times.
In general, Pizza Italiana Academy reports these proportions:
if the leavening time is 2 hours: 100g of flour + 100ml of water + 2g of brewer's yeast
if the leavening time is 3 hours: 100g of flour + 100ml of water + 1.5g of brewer's yeast
if the leavening time is 8 hours: 100g of flour + 100ml of water + 0.5g of brewer's yeast
if the leavening time is from 12 to 24 hours: 100g of flour + 100ml of water + 0.1g of beer yeast.
Arturo Mazzeo, President of the Pizza Italiana Academy, underlines that the dough is ready once a slight depression forms at the center of the work. The aroma should also not be too pungent.
How to make sheet pan pizza with poolish
If, on the other hand, you want to try making pizza in a tray with poolish, we recommend this quick and easy recipe from Oggi si cucina.
To prepare the poolish pizza in the pan you will need;
150 g of flour w 350 or manitoba
150 ml of water at room temperature
2 g of brewer's yeast, to which add 300 g of flour w 350 or manitoba for the dough
Here you will find the complete procedure for making sheet pan pizza with poolish.
You can stuff your pizza with tomato and mozzarella, or add special meats and cheeses according to your imagination.