Poolish (pre-ferment)

Poolish is the French word for a pre-ferment, or starter. A starter usually contains flour, water and a leavening agent (usually yeast or sourdough culture), and is added to a a dough instead of using yeast directly.

Using a starter can lead to a totally different texture in the bread you're making. I started researching Poolish while looking at how to create Parisian Baguettes, and a poolish is a key part of this recipe as you want the inside of the bread to be soft, chewy and airy.

The main thing you need for a pre-ferment is time. Time allows the yeast to work longer on the starch and proteins in the dough.



  1. Mix all the ingredients together
  2. Store in a sealed container (or bowl with cling film covering it) for the designated rest period
  3. Use as close to the end of fermentation as possible


Due to the not-so-consistent weather in the UK I've dedicated my loft as my "proofing room" for the poolish. It's consistently warmer up there and I find the dried yeast reactivates well up there.

The article I used as a reference outlines the ratios of dried yeast to use against equal parts flour and water (both measured in weight).

Fermentation time Ratio
8 hours in advance 0.23% – 0.33%
12 hours in advance 0.1% – 0.2%
16 hours in advance 0.03% – 0.08%


There's a great article on Weekend Bakery that discusses Poolish (French) and Biga (Italian) pre-ferments, including more detail on the ratios to be using when making them. Wikipedia has some great information on pre-ferment too.

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