Author Topic: Terminology  (Read 1531 times)

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Offline joed

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« on: February 02, 2010, 11:08:32 AM »
I've been reading a lot about natural starters and preferments and have a couple questions if someone would be so kind:
1. when referring to "natural" starters, yeast cultures, or sourdough cultures, does that all mean the same thing? My understanding is that all of those mean a combination of yeast and lactobacili, whether caught in the "wild" or purchased from sourdo.com.
2. a preferment (or starter) is either a poolish, biga, sponge, or levain. A Levain appears by definition to include a "sourdough culture" (by sourdough culture I mean a combination of yeast and lactobacili) but the other types can include either a "sourdough culture" or commercial yeast?
3. And finally - if all of these things are true, then why would one attempt a preferment with commercial yeast? I am under the impression that the point of the preferment is to allow
the lactobacili to produce flavor.
Just trying to get the terminology right! This site has been so helfpul.I have been reading up on these things for days and my mind is about to explode! Thanks for the help.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Terminology
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2010, 01:48:56 PM »

When I was researching this subject for the purpose of defining many of the terms you mentioned for the forum's Pizza Glossary at http://www.pizzamaking.com/pizza_glossary.html, which you may want to examine, I was confronted by so much confusion and misuse of the terms, with a lot of overlap and blurry lines, that it made my head spin. To this day, I am not sure that I got the definitions right in the Pizza Glossary.

I started with the notion that preferments were commercially leavened compositions, including poolish, sponge, biga, and old dough (with pate fermentee and chef forms). Once made, these preferments should speed up the dough making process and contribute significantly to the flavor profile of the finished crust. Then I learned that it was possible to have naturally leavened preferments, including poolish, biga and old dough ("pre-fermented" dough). These preferments apparently serve the same purpose but may not act as fast or be as easy to manage as their commercially leavened counterparts, especially in a home setting. Some people also draw a distinction between a natural starter used principally for leavening purposes as opposed to using a larger amount to achieve other objectives, such as increased acid production and dough strengthening. For example, member pizzanapoletana (Marco) uses what he calls a "Crisceto" (naturally leavened) in an amount that is from 1-5% of the formula water. Beyond that, he believes and says that you are into bread territory. 

Over the past year or two, I have tried to treat preferments mostly by their hydration levels, ingredient quantities, amounts used, and fermentation method. My "bible" for this purpose is articles by Didier Rosada, formerly an instructor at the San Francisco Baking Institute and a highly regarded classically trained French baker, at http://web.archive.org/web/20040814193817/cafemeetingplace.com/archives/food3_apr2004.htm and at http://web.archive.org/web/20050829015510/www.cafemeetingplace.com/archives/food4_dec2004.htm. I have also been influenced by Professor Raymond Calvel, a renowned expert in French baking and the father of the autolyse method. Since Rosada mentioned Calvel in one of his articles, he no doubt was influenced by the teachings of Professor Calvel.


Offline joed

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Re: Terminology
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 11:59:11 PM »

thank you so much. the links you included are excellent, and I will be re-reading them again and again, I'm sure. I think there is a bit more clarity now. I have had great success make the modified Lehman NY style dough that you adjusted for the home oven. next is a venture into the preferment arena by modifying this dough into a sponge using Lehman's procedure. I was also considering an attempt at JerryMac's recipe.

I see now that a preferment with commercial yeast vs natural yeast is where the big difference lies, the former a somewhat simple math calc, the latter being a small % (1-5) of the formula water, although calculating the natural starter still blows my mind. thanks man!

joe d