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.
Click to rate this post!
  [Total: 3 Average: 5]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *