I have a question that I hope isn't too far off base for this thread, the question being. Why poolish or sponge at all, why not just do a long ferment with fully mixed dough then re-ball later? Aren't the two things actually doing something very similar?
The reason I ask is... for me it seems much easier just to get the mixing bowl out once , then to have to do it twice.
In the commercial bread making world, using preferments, and especially those that use commercial yeast, can shorten the dough preparation times and, therefore, the total preparation times. Typically, bakers have facilities where they store their preferments so that when the baker shows up at work in the morning, he or she only needs to do the final mix. In his book, The Taste of Bread
, Professor Raymond Calvel has a chart on page 46 that demonstrates how preferments shorten bread preparation times, including bake times. For example, the stated time to make a bread, including bake time, using the straight dough method is 6 hours. For a bread using a poolish, the total time is 4 hours and 45 minutes. If the preferment is a natural sourdough preferment, the total time is 8 hours and 45 minutes. Professor Calvel has several other examples in his book.
Home pizza makers who use preferments often do so in very creative ways to achieve more flavorful pizza crusts. They do this by adjusting preferment quantity, yeast quantity, prefermentation temperature, and time. This can be a good alternative to cold fermented doughs, including shortening the total preparation times.