Preferment, Pâte Fermentée

Preferments, also known as Pâte Fermentée, Poolish, Biga or Sponge, depending on the bread baking culture and country of origin, are preparations of bread dough ingredients left to ferment for a period of time and are then added to the actual bread dough mix in order to achieve a variety of desirable characteristics in the final loaf of bread.

These include:

  • Acidity
  • Flavour
  • Quality
  • Production time

Acidity in a preferment helps with developing and strengthening gluten structure.

Flavour is greatly enhanced by acids and esters developed in the preferment resulting in enhanced wheaty and yeasty aromas and a slight tang in the mouth.

Quality of the bread is further enhanced by the higher levels of acidity which in turn helps the bread stay fresh longer.

Production time can also be reduced with a preferment essentially reducing the time required for bulk fermentation.

Preferments can be made from scratch or by retaining a portion of bread dough just prior to final shaping and baking.

By repeatedly keeping a portion of bread dough for future use you will end up with a preferment that contains several generations of prior preferments and gradually gains even more powerful characteristics.

So, without further ado, here is my recipe to get you started with your initial preferment.


Zen Chef
Recipe to create a preferment from scratch
Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Baked Goods


  • 500 g Bread Flour
  • 3 g Yeast Traditional Dry Yeast
  • 5 g Salt
  • 325 ml Water Warm, 43℃, 110℉


  • To the warm water add the sugar and stir to dissolve
  • Add the yeast and stir
  • Let rest for 10 minutes until yeasty foam develops floating on top
  • Add flour to a large enough bowl
  • Add salt to flour and mix thoroughly
  • Add yeast and sugar water to flour and stir with a wooden spoon to obtain a shaggy dough
  • Set aside and let it ferment for several hours
  • If not using immediately after initial fermentation, place into a re-sealable container and refrigerate


For an initial preferment, let it ferment for at least 6 hours or overnight.
The recipe above makes a large batch of preferment suitable for making several loafs of bread.
Adjust quantities to suit your needs (e.g. about a quarter for a single loaf of bread).
Once you have made a dough using this preferment, simply keep a portion of the dough for future use as preferment (about 120g for making a single loaf of bread) and store it in the fridge. It will keep pretty much indefinitely.
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Swiss Cheese Pie

First off, please note that this is a Swiss “Cheese Pie”, not a “Swiss Cheese” Pie even though it actually uses Emmentaler (aka Swiss Cheese). Ok, now that I’ve thoroughly confused you….

While we call this a cheese pie as cheese is the lead actor, it wouldn’t be the same without the strong supporting cast of bacon and onion. So really, it should be called a “Cheese, Bacon and Onion Pie”.

The recipe below is more or less the traditional version but lends itself to variation, substitutions and experimentation.

For example, use red onions instead of yellow ones or even leeks instead of onions. And try any other melting cheeses such as e.g. Fontina or Jarlsberg etc.

Swiss Cheese Pie

A Swiss "Cheese Pie" but actually more appropriately a "Bacon, Cheese and Onion Pie".
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Swiss
Servings 6


  • Spring Form 24-28 cm


  • 1 roll Puff Pastry
  • 1 Onion large, finely chopped
  • 100 g Bacon thick cut, chopped into small pieces
  • 100 g Emmental grated, coarse
  • 100 g Sprienz or Parmesan grated, fine
  • 200 ml Cream 35%
  • 2 Eggs
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Olive oil extra virgin


  • Defrost pastry dough overnight if frozen
  • Preheat oven to 220°C
  • Roll out pastry dough to fit into spring form plus extra to form the rim of the pie
  • Use a fork to pierce the bottom every few centimeters
  • Refrigerate until ready to fill
  • In a medium frying pan, fry bacon on medium heat until fat starts to render.
  • Add chopped onion to bacon and sautée until softened
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature
  • In a medium bowl combine Emmental and Sprienz (or Parmesan)
  • In another medium bowl add cream, eggs, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of pepper
  • Whisk until evenly combined
  • Remove Spring form from fridge
  • Evenly distribute the bacon and onion mixture over the pie bottom
  • Evenly distribute the cheese mix over the bacon and onions
    Swiss Cheese Pie Build
  • Pour the cream and egg mixture evenly over the pie
  • Bake the pie in the lower part of the oven for about 45 minutes
  • Check the pie periodically and if the cheese starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminium foil.
  • Remove from oven when done and let cool to set for a few minutes
    Swiss Cheese Pie Spring Form Baked
  • Unmold
  • Slice and serve


You can easily substitute the Emmental with Gruyere for a tangier taste or even Appenzeller for some real attitude.
Sprienz can only be found in some better cheese boutiques and usually only in larger urban centres so Parmesan is normally the go-to substitute.
Do not bake this pie in convection mode. It will burn the cheese before the dough is baked through.
This pie is usually served with a simple green salad and a glass of white wine (think Riesling, Gewürtztraminer or Grüner Veltliner but any other white with some decent acidity will do)
Keyword bacon, cheese, cheese pie, onion, pie, swiss
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Homemade pasta that beats anything you can buy in a store.


Spätzli are a traditional Swiss (and German – Spätzle) home-made pasta that is easy to make, looks creative and tastes great fresh or fried.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Austrian, German, Swiss
Servings 6
Calories 215 kcal


  • 250 g Wheat Flour
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp sour cream
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp butter to fry – if going to


  • In a large bowl, add sifted flour and salt
  • In a medium sized bowl combine all other ingredients and wisk together
  • Add this mixture to the flour and wisk vigourously until you obtain a smooth dough and starts to produce large bubbles
  • Let rest to swell for 30 minutes
  • In a large pot, bring 2 litres of water to a boil
  • Scoop a good ladle of dough onto a wooden cutting board
  • Take a chef knife and dip it in the boiling water, then slice a small portion of dough and slide it into the boiling water making sure you dip the knife into the water at the same time again; this helps to prevent the dough from sticking to the knife. The amount and the shape of the dough “dropping” is up to you and you can vary both for additional fun. The traditional shape and size is about a 1/4 tsp of dough and has a slightly elongated shape
  • Repeat the above step in rapid succession until your first batch of dough is used up
  • When the Spätzli are done, they float to the top. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, scoop out the Spätzli that are done, toss them in a colander and give them a quick rinse with cold water.
  • Continue until all the dough has been cooked
  • To serve, reheat as necessary or fry in butter to a nice golden brown
Keyword pasta
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Flavours of Italy – Calgary

I’m attending the “Flavours of Italy” trade tasting in Calgary today.
My tasting theme will be “The Underdogs of Italy” since the event promises to showcase a number of wines made from the lesser known native or indigenous (autoctone) varietals.
It promises to be fun and since Calgary got hit with cold weather and snow, what better place to be 🙂
The event is held at the Hotel Arts and as coincidence would have it, this is where I’m staying.
Look for some tasting notes in my next post.

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The Flavours of Italy – Calgary

I’m attending the “Flavours of Italy” trade tasting in Calgary today.
My tasting theme will be “The Underdogs of Italy” since the event promises to showcase a number of wines made from the lesser known native or indigenous (autoctone) varietals.
It promises to be fun and since Calgary got hit with cold weather and snow, what better place to be 🙂
The event is held at the Hotel Arts and as coincidence would have it, this is where I’m staying.
Look for some tasting notes in my next post.

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Wine – The only question that matters

In an interview with the French publication “Le Figaro”, legendary 84 year old French chef Paul Bocuse (owner of luxury restaurant l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon) made a couple of interesting comments that I wholeheartedly agree with.

When asked

“Are there things which irritate you when in a restaurant?”

Bocuse answers

“Yes. When I order a chicken, I do not need to hear about the grandfather of the chicken from the Maître D’. The same goes for the sommeliers. The only worthwhile question is: “Is it good?”, or “Did you enjoyed drinking it?”. The rest, poof. I like identifiable plates. If it needs a lengthy explanation, it does not interest me.”

At the end of the day, you liked the wine or you didn’t. It’s really just that simple.

How do you feel about it?

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Wine Club Update and schedule

January 23, 2010 marks the beginning of a new year of monthly wine tastings for the Zen Gourmand’s Wine Club. The season promises to be exciting with a lineup of themes to appeal to every palate, budget and interest.

The coming season also brings a few changes to this informal wine club.

  • Regular monthly tastings, allowing you to plan and schedule well ahead of time.
  • Membership. It saves you money, brings privileges and you help support a local charity.
  • More variety. Not just wine tastings any more but also fortifieds and spirits once in a while as well as evenings of food pairings.
  • Special seminars letting you gain indepth knowledge into the world of wine.


  • Saturday, January 23: Cozy Winter Wine Tasting REGISTER HERE
  • Saturday, February 20: TBD
  • Saturday, March 20: TBD


  • $98/annum, a $200 value
  • $5 of every membership goes towards the support of Durham Region’s St. Vincent’s Kitchen. Oshawa.
  • Tastings and events at cost
  • Includes a $25 Gift Certificate at Julie Moore Spa, Whitby.
  • Includes a monthly Club News Letter
  • Includes a monthly personalized food and wine paring consultation.
  • Additional special privileges as they become available.

Non Members:

  • $15 + Cost of tasting/event


  • South Whitby. Specific venue depends on the event and the number of people attending. Announced two weeks prior to event





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Zen Gourmand Approved!

I’m launching a new feature called “Zen Gourmand Approved”.

This is where I review food related products, condiments, beverages, kitchen utensils and gadgets, cook books, services etc. etc.

If my review of the item or service in question results in getting me exited and exclaim a unequivocal “WOW!!!”, the item or service will receive the “Zen Gourmand Approved” stamp of approval.

What does that mean to you?
If you know me, you also know that I’m ruthless when it comes to things of taste, quality, usability, style and function. Getting labeled “Not another piece of crap from [company|country|supplier|store|]…!!!” is a lot more likely than receiving a “Zen Gourmand Approved”.

So there.
Keep watching.
And if you’ve got something that you think might get “Zen Gourmand Approved”, send it over and I’ll check it out.

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No more German Table Wine!

On Thursday, July 2nd the German Federal parliament (aka the “Bundestag”) decided to abolish the term “table wine” (Tafel Wein).

In line with recent changes in European wine laws, it enforces the EU rules at a national level. The upper house (the Bundesrat) is expected to approve in what is considered a mere formality during the July 10th session.

The term “table wine” will disappear as at August 1st, 2009 in accordance with the ruling.

Subsequent descriptions will be: “without specific origin” (“ohne engere Herkunftsangabe”), “with protected statement of origin” (“mit geschützten Ursprungsbezeichnungen” or “g.U.” for short) and “with protected geographic statements” (“mit geschützten geografischen Angaben” or “g.g.A.”) on the label. Varietal and vintage labeling will be allowed in future even whithout stating any origin, something that was not the case for table wines.

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Food, Drink and Gourmet related Domains for sale..

Below is an updated list of premium food, drink or gourmet related domains from my inventory.

All these domains are currently listed for sale on SEDO. SEDO will act as the facilitator and broker. These are all premium domains and the prices are extremely reasonable. The prices are negotiable but in the event that expected minimum prices are not reached by direct negotiation, the domains will be put up for auction.

Below are approximately 15 domains listed in alphabetical order.

Two links are provided for each domain. The first link is to the domains landing/parking page, the second link leads to the domain’s listing on SEDO.

Landing Page Sedo Link ***SOLD*** ***SOLD*** (see below) ***SOLD***

How do we know our domains are premium domains?

Here is why:

  • I sold last year for $US 5000.00
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