Feed the soul . . . bake some bread. Since it’s National Sourdough Bread Day, let’s bake some Sourdough French Bread! We’ll start with a Preferment, poolish. It is a bit of a short cut to sourdough french bread. It’s perfect for a home baker! Every bit as delicious without the challenges of developing and maintaining a true sourdough starter.

“Pre-ferments are the secret to great tasting bread!” – Thomas Keller of The French Laundry

The night before, make the poolish.Pre-ferment - poolishJust before baking, brush the loaf with water.Sourdough Bread- 1st riseMake diagonal slashes across the top with a sharp knife.Sourdough Bread - diagonal slicesBake in preheated 400ºF. oven for 35 – 45 minutes.

Slice and serve! Sourdough Bread

So here’s the scoop on pre-ferments are simply a yeast preparation that has been actively growing for a few hours or more before blending into a dough. Simple!!

Two preferment types:

  • A poolish is mixture of flour, water, and yeast.
  • A levain is made by combining equal parts of flour and water; set aside for 24 hours. Next, it must be fed because the natural yeast and bacteria in the mixture are living organisms that need food to multiply. If the levain isn’t fed it will die.

As much as I love baking and the thought of producing Sourdough French Bread that rivals San Francisco bakeries, I am happy to take a simple, short cut and achieve a beautiful loaf of bread!

Feed the soul: bake some bread!


This type of pre-ferment is known as a poolish because it contains flour, water, and instant yeast. It is easy to make. Simply mix the yeast, warm water and flour together; cover; let stand in a warm place overnight. The following day, it's ready to mix into the dough.


  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cups warm water(approximately 110ºF.)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix together and beat the ingredients until smooth. Cover with a clean dishtowel; let stand in a warm, draft-free place overnight.

  2. Measure out the amount needed for the recipe and use as directed.

Sourdough French Bread

When added to the dough, the poolish's complex fermented flavors enrich the french bread's flavor.


  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water(about 110ºF.)
  • 1 cup poolish
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddles attachment, add the yeast, water, sourdough starter; blend together.

  2. In a bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Add to the sourdough starter mixture; blend for about 3 minutes.

  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a large bowl, turn dough into the bowl and coat all sides with the oil; cover with a clean dish towel; set aside in a warm, draft-free place for

    1 1/2 - 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

  4. In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour with the baking soda.

  5. Return the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook; gradually add the flour/baking soda mixture until the dough cannot absorb any more flour; knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 - 7 minutes.

  6. Separate the dough into two pieces. On a lightly floured silicone baking mat, roll out one piece of dough into a rectangle; starting at one long end, roll up into a cylinder, place on a silicone baking mat sprinkled lightly with cornmeal. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Cover and place in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until nearly doubled in volume.

  7. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. when the loaves have about 30 minutes left to rise. Just before baking, brush the loaves with water. Make diagonal slits in the loaves.

  8. Place a shallow pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven. Bake for 45 or 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.