Creating a poolish pizza dough won’t take you much longer than making regular pizza dough but you will definitely taste the difference.
Here, you’ll find an easy to follow recipe, an ingredient list, and some information and history about poolish pizzas. (Don’t worry, we’ve put the information after the recipe to save you scrolling through!)
The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it work around your schedule. The poolish needs to rest overnight and the dough needs to prove for a few hours. With a bit of planning, you could have everything ready for dinner after work.
Recipe - Easy Neapolitan Poolish Pizza
For the Dough:
- 330g all-purpose flour
- 70g water
- 17g salt
For the Poolish:
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 300g water
- 0.6g dried yeast
Poolish Pizza Dough Timeline
You’re going to need 2 days to make this dough because the poolish needs to do its thing for a while and the dough needs to prove.
Here is a rough outline of the two days and what you should be doing.
Day 1: Make the poolish and leave it overnight on the countertop.
Morning Day 2: Make the dough. You can do this really quickly before work. Once the dough is made, leave it to ferment for the day. Don’t separate it into balls at this point.
Afternoon / Evening Day 2: Separate your dough into balls, then make, bake and enjoy your delicious pizza!
For the poolish:
- Weigh out 300g of all-purpose flour and place in a large mixing bowl
- Measure 0.6g of dried yeast and add to the flour
- Mix the flour and yeast together
- Measure 300g of lukewarm water and add it to the flour and yeast mixture
- Mix well until you have one homogenous glob
- Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and leave you poolish to ferment overnight
N.B: The poolish will need to be left at room temperature which is about 70°F. If your room is colder, you’ll want to add a bit more yeast to the poolish. If it’s warmer you can reduce the amount of yeast.
As it stands, the yeast is 0.2% of the flour content. For colder rooms up it to 0.3% (.9g) and for warmer rooms reduce to 0.1%. (.3g)
N.B: If you don’t want to leave your poolish overnight, you’ll want to add more yeast. The general rule is the shorter the proving time the more yeast you need.
For the Pizza Dough:
- Check on your poolish. It should have doubled in size overnight. The top of your poolish should look very bubbly
- In a clean bowl, add 70g of water to 330g of all-purpose flour
- Add in the poolish and mix it all together with a spoon or spatula. It will be very sticky
- When the mixture begins to come together, add in the 17g of salt
- When most of the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead with your hands
- Knead until the dough is elastic but not sticky. You may need to add a little more flour if your dough is quite wet
- When your dough is ready, place it back in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. You can leave this for the day as you go to work or get on with things
- In the evening, divide and shape your dough into 4 balls
- Stretch, shape, top, and cook your pizzas!
There you have it! Making a poolish pizza dough is as easy as mixing some flour, water, and yeast together.
Sure, the proving time can be a bit of a hassle especially if you don’t plan ahead. However, once you’ve tasted a poolish pizza, you’ll be more than eager to make time for proving!
A Closer Look at Poolish Pizza Dough
What is a poolish?
A poolish is a type of pre-ferment. You might not recognize that term but you may be familiar with a starter. As in sourdough starter.
A poolish and a sourdough starter are similar in that they ferment before cooking, hence pre-ferment. They are both made with flour and water though a poolish includes store-bought yeast.
The major difference between a sourdough starter and a poolish is the proving time. To clarify, proving is when you leave the dough to rise.
A sourdough starter needs to prove for at least a week. That’s because it has to first culture yeast from the environment. A poolish already contains yeast so it only needs to prove for about 8-12 hours.
When we look at the composition of a poolish, you can see that it’s very simple. Just flour, water, and yeast.
One thing to note is that a poolish always has 100% hydration. That simply means that we use the same amount of water as we do flour.
This 100% hydration separates a poolish from other pre-ferments like a biga which is used to make ciabatta. Biga is a drier pre-ferment. It creates a light airy dough. The kind of dough you’d see in ciabatta.
Pre-ferments are fairly common in the bread world. In fact, a poolish is traditionally used to make baguettes. As you’ll discover, a poolish can also be used to make wonderful pizza dough.
The key thing to remember when using a poolish, or any pre-ferment, is that you do not need to add additional yeast to your dough. The poolish contains all the yeast needed for the recipe.
Sometimes, a poolish and other perf-ferments are called the indirect method. This is because you indirectly add yeast to the dough by putting it into the poolish rather than the dough itself.
Sourdough vs Poolish
We’ve already discovered that sourdoughs and poolishes are very similar. It’s important to note, however, that they are not the same.
The difference comes down to the yeast content.
A poolish uses commercial yeast. Commercial yeast is a yeast that you can buy from the store.
Sourdough does not contain commercial yeast. Instead, it relies on the naturally occurring yeast found in flour and the environment. This is called wild yeast.
The wild yeast thrives in a sourdough starter because it feeds on the glucose and maltose produced when water and flour are introduced.
As the wild yeast thrives and establishes a culture, the dough begins to rise. This culture will remain active so long as it is regularly refreshed with flour and water. Thus, in theory, you could keep a starter going for a lifetime or more. There are starters out there that are over 100 years old!
Sourdough is great for crusty artisan loaves, bagels, focaccia and so much more! As the name suggests it has a fairly sour taste which is delicious in many circumstances.
It is not the preferred option for pizza bases and definitely not for a Neopolitan pizza. The sour flavor can become too overpowering for the toppings.
A poolish generally produces a slightly sweet dough which is a better accompaniment to the flavors of a Neapolitan pizza.
History of poolish
The history and origins of the poolish begin with sourdough starters.
Sourdough starters were the traditional method of leavening bread for pretty much most of human history. The oldest extant example of sourdough bread was found in Switzerland. It dated back to the 3700s BCE making it over 5000 years old!
However, it’s thought that sourdough probably originated thousands of years earlier than that Swiss bread!
Sourdough starters remained the primary method of leavening bread until the middle ages. At this point, they discovered that the foam and scum that formed during beer brewing helps doughs rise.
For a few hundred years, this beer barm was used to leaven bread and significantly speed up the baking process. After all, bankers no longer had to wait for starters to culture.
In the 19th century, yeast was cultivated specifically for baking purposes. This purpose-grown yeast has become the most common leavening agent, surpassing sourdough.
But where does poolish fit in?
Well, the story goes that Polish nobleman Baron Zang was trying to recreate a sourdough starter using yeast. Austrian bakers learned the method and spread it first to Vienna and then to Paris when they traveled.
The word poolish is said to be some bastardized form of Polish used by the French.
As it turned out, the French adored the ‘polish method’ and adopted it widely for many of their bread. It became especially popular in baguette making because it offered a less sour flavor than sourdough.
Nowadays, many artisan bakeries use a poolish for their bread. It is also a popular technique in artisan pizza making. The poolish helps create a better, lighter texture to the dough without being overly sour like sourdough.
The practice has become so popular that many pizzerias in Naples have adopted the practice. If that isn’t a glowing recommendation then I don’t know what is!
Why use a poolish?
The main reason to use a poolish in your pizza dough is to improve the flavor and texture.
Because a poolish uses 100% hydration, there is a lot of glucose and maltose created. This becomes a huge buffet for the yeast.
The yeast becomes highly active and gets to work creating rich, complex, but subtle flavors. Try making one. The second you take the plastic wrap off the bowl after proving, you’ll know what I mean.
You’re hit with a veritable smorgasbord of yeasty, sweet flavors with a subtle hint of sourness too. It’s honestly, one of the best smells.
The active yeast not only produces wonderful flavors. It also creates lots of air bubbles as it ferments. The air bubbles are so prominent that a poolish is often referred to as a sponge.
When added to a dough, these air bubbles help to create a wonderfully light dough that is easier to digest. You won’t get that overstuffed stodgy feeling you get with many pizzas.
A poolish can also help your dough become more flexible. This means it will be less prone to tearing or ripping during the stretching and shaping process.
Finally, doughs made with a poolish tend to keep better than those made without. It could be because the dough doesn’t need to prove as long as with a poolish.
If you want to achieve the same texture as a poolish pizza dough without using a poolish, you’d have to prove your dough for up to 72 hours. By that time, the flour tends to have lost its strength. The pizza will become stodgy and thick.
Poolish doughs don’t need to rise for so long so they retain their strength for longer.
How to tell if your poolish is ready
We touched on this briefly earlier but let’s have a closer look.
Like any other dough that undergoes a prove, you’ll know it’s ready when it has roughly doubled in size.
However, with a poolish, you also need to check for bubbles. The bubbles show that the yeast has been active and busy. This is because yeast produces carbon dioxide as it eats its way through the glucose and maltose.
A poolish that is ready to use should be covered in lots of little air bubbles. These air bubbles are the remnants of that carbon dioxide gas.
Generally, people tend to make their poolish in a mixing bowl. However, if you’re a beginner, try making it in a glass instead.
By making a poolish in a glass you’ll be able to check for bubbles all over the poolish instead of just the top.
You can also place a rubber band around the glass level with the poolish. When you come back to the glass after the prove, you can easily see whether the poolish has doubled.
One thing to be aware of is that poolish does have a peak. This is the maximum height the poolish can reach.
Ideally, you want to use the poolish just before it reaches its peak. If you miss the peak it’s not an issue. Just try to keep an eye and a timer on the poolish to see how long it takes to reach its peak.
You’ll know if a poolish has passed its peak because the edges of the poolish will begin to fall back down. You’ll probably notice a bit of a watermark above the edges. This indicates that they are starting to fall down.
Adapting this recipe
You can adapt this recipe to make more or less dough as you need. You might also need to adapt the recipe if you want to change the proving time or if the room temperature is above or below average.
Adapting the recipe is simple as long as you understand the baker’s percentage. It sounds wonderfully mystical and secretive but in reality, it’s just a way of expressing the measurements of a recipe.
When using baker’s percentages, every ingredient is written as a percentage of the flour content.
For example, the poolish recipe called for 300g of flour, 300g of water, and .6g of yeast. So if we were using a baker’s percentage, then the ingredients might look like this:
- 100% flour
- 100% water
- 0.2% yeast
This is helpful because it means that we can always work out how much water and yeast we need as long as we have a flour figure.
It also means we can work out how to change the yeast content based on room temperature or proving time.
We mentioned earlier that in colder rooms you need to increase the amount of yeast to 0.3%.
The sum would go like this:
The percentage we want x the amount of flour/ 100 = the amount of yeast needed.
In this case it would be:
0.3 X 300/ 100 = 0.9g.
Making a poolish couldn’t be simpler. It’s 3 ingredients thrown in a bowl and mixed together.
The thing that puts people off is the long proving times. However, proving is a passive activity. You don’t need to be there! You can go on a jolly for the day and come back to perfect pizza dough right in time for dinner.
Honestly, I suggest you give this poolish pizza dough a go. You will not regret it!