Lazy man's poolish/biga
I have a batch of whole wheat toasting bread going, which I am using to test how long it takes to do a pre-fermentation such as a poolish or biga. Last night, it took about 60 seconds -- I timed it. :-)
Most bread books say that you should let a pre-fermatation run for 3-4 hours, then refrigerate. My theory is that you start the poolish when you are doing the dishes, just before going to bed, and let it sit all night. You can either finish it in the morning, or put it in the refrigerator then to be finished later.
It's dead simple. Put 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups of water, plus 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in a mixer for a couple of minutes. Use the mixing beater, not the dough hook. Throw in the ingredients and mix for less than one minute until you get something that looks like pancake batter. That's it. Mix it, cover it, and just let it sit overnight. Nothing to clean.
This morning, I got up to see a bubbling batter, which I have finished into bread. It is so easy to do, and makes much better bread. For the pre-ferment, you don't have to take the measurements very seriously. Good for late night accuracy.
Give it a try. Lazy and good. Not bad.
Your sponge idea sounds really good and certainly easy. I'll give it a try. The late night, error free part is appealing. Here's another one I've been using for quite a while. Got it from baking911.com in the Perfect Wheat Starter & Bread Recipe:
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup water
1 Tbs packed brown sugar
2 pkgs. active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup wheat flour (hard, stone ground, if possible)
Combine the milk and water in an 8 cup batter bowl. Heat in microwave to 100 F. Stir in sugar until dissolved, then sprinkle yeast over the top. When the yeast softens, stir it into the mixture. Stir in 1 cup wheat flour until completely combined. Cover and let sit 1-2 hours. It will rise, then begin to collapse. When it collapses, it's ready to go. In practice, I find the process takes about an hour, but this will depend on how fresh the yeast is. Makes enough sponge for two 8x4 loaves. This one really works, and, more often than not, I use buttermilk or buttermilk powder.
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