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I am making a bread recipe(White Flour with Poolish), according to Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. In the recipe, he indicates that the poolish should "triple in volume." When I tried making it the poolish increased in volume but not three-fold,; it is bubbly. Is there something wrong? What could possibly be causing this? I am using white wheat flour that has a 10% protein content, should I go for one higher?

The poolish recipe I am using is: 250g white flour, 250g water(27C), and 0.2g instant yeast. It has a 12 hour fermentation period.

  • At what temperature? Temperature is a significant variable in bread proofing. – moscafj Nov 30 '19 at 12:07
  • @moscafj Room temperature is 23-24C. – user29568 Nov 30 '19 at 12:19
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A few things that could be going on:

  1. 0.2 grams of instant yeast is a pretty small amount. Even a little variation in measurement could make a difference in how fast it rises. Also, whether this small amount was well-distributed throughout the flour at the outset could affect the timing of the rise.
  2. Is the yeast fresh/good? Older yeast can be sluggish.
  3. How are you measuring whether it "tripled" in volume? Many people put dough in bowls that get wider toward the top, so it can be difficult to measure exactly when something "triples" in volume. Unless you're using a straight-sided beaker or something, or have measurement marks on your bowl, it's possible that something "tripled" in volume while not rising to three times the height.
  4. Have you monitored the poolish? Did it simply stop rising at some point, or was it still rising at 12 hours? With high-rising preferments, it is also possible that a poolish might rise higher and then fall after some point, collapsing under its own weight. If you weren't monitoring this, you might see evidence like streaks higher on the side of the bowl if this happened.
  5. If it simply stopped rising at some point, the question of protein content in the flour may be useful to think about. If the flour doesn't have enough protein, it won't hold up a very high structure in a wet preferment. Eventually the bubbles will get large enough that they will simply rise to the top and burst, rather than staying within the dough structure. It's also important to note that higher protein flours can sometimes absorb water better, so if the recipe was designed for "bread flour" or flour with a higher protein content, the moisture level in your poolish could be high enough that it is producing large bursting bubbles rather than holding the air in the dough.

In any case, if the preferment at least doubled in size and/or is very bubbly, I doubt there's anything truly "wrong" and you should go ahead and bake the bread, which will likely turn out fine.

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  • I did bake it in the end, it was pretty good though I expected a more complicated flavor profile. I think it must be the flour, might change that next time around. Thanks for your pointers, they were very helpful! – user29568 Nov 30 '19 at 18:02
  • I am curious if bread flour absorbs water better, and I am using the same weight measurements doesn't that mean that the bread flour poolish would be less "wet" since the flour absorbed it all, instead of it just remaining there unabsorbed. I imagine that bubbles pass more easily through something that is less viscous so if it were absorbed more efficiently due to the bread flour it is harder for the bubbles to burst. No? – user29568 Dec 4 '19 at 15:55
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    @user29568 - If you have further questions, I'd encourage you to ask them separately, rather than in comments (so they can be found by future people with similar questions). But yes, generally bread flour does tend to absorb more water, and the combination of higher gluten and increased viscosity would generally make a poolish rise higher without as many bubbles bursting. – Athanasius Dec 4 '19 at 16:16
  • I just got confused when you said "moisture level," because if the flour absorbs the water, moisture level doesn't change but rather the viscosity- the former depending on how much water was added. Thanks again though, I will do some more testing :) I find handling sticky dough a bit challenging, so I want to work on that. – user29568 Dec 4 '19 at 16:52
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    Sorry for the confusion - I was trying to use a less technical term with "moisture level," but what I really meant was hydration, which is the term generally used by bakers to refer to the ratio of water to flour by weight (in the case of your poolish, it would be 100%). When working with bread flour, recipes often can use a higher hydration than with all-purpose flour. If you use a hydration intended for bread flour but with a lower protein flour, it can result in a stickier dough and in the case of a poolish, perhaps more bubbling out. At least that's what I intended to say. – Athanasius Dec 4 '19 at 17:05

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