I tell you, some days I am simply in awe of the power of the internet as a communications tool. Yesterday I put up a question from an American food researcher on an obscure baking topic — the origin of poolish bread preferments — and today I have a response from a preferment scholar living in Norway. Before the advent of the internet, how long would it have taken these two people to find one another? Years. Decades maybe. Anyway, here’s the response to Jim’s question, supplied by reader Hans from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
Here are two reliable sources that both claim poolish [preferment] to be of Polish origin:
J. Hamelman: “Bread”, Chap. 4 available here:
P. 95: “As the name suggests, poolish is of Polish origin. Originally used in pastry production, it eventually found a place in bread making, and today is used by bakers around the world.”
P. 102: “In the 1840’s, a Herr Zang brought the poolish style of bread making to Paris from Austria.”
So it seems poolish made its way from Poland, via Austria to France. This is also claimed in an article by baking consultant Didier Rossada:
“Poolish was one of the first preferments elaborated with commercial yeast. Polish bakers, where the name originated, are credited with inventing this preferment in Poland at the end of the 19th century. The process then was adapted in Austria and later in France.”
Now, Hamelman suggested that Herr Zang brought poolish to France in the 1840s, while Rossada writes poolish was invented in Poland at the end of the 19th century… the plot thickens.
What can I say but thanks, Hans! Both for the answer and the reality check.