My secret weapon guarantees consistent success.
Sourdough bread is hard to make, or so I thought after I made several failed loaves. I began my starter at the beginning of the pandemic so that I would have bread to feed my family. For some reason, I couldn’t recreate the loaves I saw all the professionals make in the YouTube videos.
I read cookbook after cookbook, blog posts and watched countless videos trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Then I stumbled across one video that talked about poolie. I discovered that, although my yeast was highly active, a poolie was even more active.
That extra bit of activity is what ensures a perfect loaf – every single time.
What is a poolish mixture?
A poolish mixture, or poolie, is a batch of super fed sourdough starter. You feed your starter as usual, but then you remove a small amount and feed that part more. This gives a few yeasty beasties a lot of food to eat. They feed voraciously and give off carbon dioxide, which provides lift in your bread.
It’s kind of like feeding any pet. If you have four dogs and you put all their food in one bowl, one dog may eat most of it, leaving less for the others. The one dog may get fat, while the less fortunate dogs get thinner. None of them get exactly what they need.
If you give each dog their own bowl, with the right amount of food, they all thrive. The same is true with the yeast in a sourdough starter. A regular feeding gives them enough to keep going, but maybe not enough to thrive. In a poolish mixture, the smaller amount of starter explodes with health and vitality. And your bread will rise perfectly every time.
How do I make a poolish mixture?
Begin by giving your starter a regular feeding. That means you discard half and save it to make something else, like crackers. Feed the remaining starter 75 grams of distilled water and 75 grams of all-purpose flour. Mix well and allow it to sit on your counter until it has doubled in volume, about two hours.
Once you see that your starter has doubled begin to make the poolie by removing 25 grams and putting it in a 1-cup measuring cup or glass bowl. Stir in 100 grams of distilled water. Then mix in 100 grams of all-purpose flour. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 6 to 8 hours. By this time, it should double in size.
At first, it may seem like nothing is happening. However, if after an hour you look closely, you should begin to see a bubble or two on the top of the mixture. This shows you that the yeast is starting to feed. Once the mixture sits for eight hours, it will doubled in volume and have hundreds of bubbles on top.
This is when you know you are ready to mix your bread recipe.
But there’s so much left over!
This poolish mixture makes about 1 cup of highly active starter. My sourdough bread recipe uses only ¼ cup which gives about ¾ cup of highly active starter left over. I could make up to 4 loaves of bread, if I wanted.
I often make two loaves, so I can give one away with the remaining poolie. But if I don’t do that, I have many ways to use up the remaining ¾ cup. Because it is active starter, I can’t make crackers or cookies, but I can make both kolaches and cinnamon rolls.
I also use all the remaining mixture to make my adaptation of my grandma’s honey-oatmeal bread. If you want something quicker, make pancakes or biscuits with the remaining poolie. You’ll need to add 2 Tbsp. (30 g.) milk or buttermilk, and 3 Tbsp. (27 g.) flour since you don’t have a full cup of starter remaining.
Join the sourdough movement
Don’t give up on your efforts using sourdough. Like millions of others during this pandemic, I too have gotten addicted to this sustainable lifestyle. It’s fun, and easy, once your starter is well established. You will always find willing guinea pigs for your culinary adventures. I know I did.
You’ll wow your friends and family with your ability, too. Who knows! They may join you in this journey. Afterall, sourdough is a great way to build community.
Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.