Italian Biga Bread
Someone rightly said, ”Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Me and a very close friend of mine, Shipra, who is an amazing cook and a blogger (see her incredible and lip smacking recipes at https://mygourmetsaga.wordpress.com/) have done quite a lot of things together. From chattering, to serious discussions, from shopping to travelling, etc. Ah, not to forget recipe discussions and cooking. Whenever we are skeptical of trying something new, we do it together, easy isn’t? What else are friends for?
We made our first bread together (braided bread stuffed with cheese and lots of veggies; oh, that was so much fun) and now we decided to try our hands at a biga-based bread. At first, we thought of baking it at the same time, but the fear of failure brought us together and we made it together, yet again. Tell you a secret, this blog is also a joint effort, shhh! 😉
As one can guess, we again got 24 hours to chit chat and gossip while the dough was raising and the bread was baking. So, here is the success story with pride and glory, our first Biga bread – fermented for 15 hours and raised 3 times. The wholes and the crispy crumb tell their own story. 🙂
This recipe is taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart.
This italian biga bread uses biga. Biga is a type of pre-fermentation used in Italian baking. Many popular Italian breads, including ciabatta, are made using a biga. Using a biga adds complexity to the bread’s flavor and is often used in breads that need a light, open texture with holes. Apart from adding to flavor and texture, a biga also helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable. Shelf life of biga (in refrigerator) goes up to 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months. You can use it as soon as it ferments, but we gave it an overnight retard to bring out more flavor.
- 2 1/2 cups APF
- 1/2 + pinch of tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp to 1 cup water, at room temperature
- Mix sugar in ¾ cup of luke warm water and add active dry yeast to it. Set it aside for 15 minute for proving.
- Stir together the flour and frothy yeast mix in a bowl.
- Add remaining 2 tbsp of water and mix until everything comes together.
- Make sure that dough is not too stiff, adjust the water or flour accordingly.
- Mix it well and keep it covered with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.
- Finally, place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
This recipe calls for two loaves, we decided to make one boule & a batard (a flat log shape form).
- 3 1/2 cups biga
- 2 1/2 cups APF
- 1 2/3 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 11/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp lukewarm water
- Cornmeal for dusting
- Remove the biga from the refrigerator 1 or 2 hours before preparing the dough.
- Cover with a plastic wrap and let it sit for 2 hours .
- Prove the yeast in ¾ cup of luke warm water with 1 tbsp sugar for 15 minutes.
- Stir together the flour, salt, yeast mix in a bowl.
- Add the biga, olive oil, and remaining water.
- Stir it well so that everything comes together until it forms into a ball.
- Sprinkle flour on counter-top or your work area; put the dough on it and start kneading.
- You should knead the dough for about 10 minutes or till it becomes soft and pliable. Adjust the water or flour if needed, make sure that dough should be little sticky and soft.
- Do not add too much of flour to avoid the stickiness, instead keep kneading and it will become soft and pliable after some time. It is better to have the dough too soft than too stiff.
- Apply some oil in a big bowl and transfer the dough in to it; apply some oil on the dough as well, rolling it to coat it with the oil.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment it for 2 hours, or until the dough becomes double in size.
- After 2 hours, sprinkle little amount of flour on the counter top and transfer the dough on it.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces; keeping one a little big thank the other.
- Shape the smaller portion of the dough by rolling it on the sprinkled flour and make a shape of boule without punching and kneading.
- Shape the bigger one into a batard (a flat log shape form), gently pat the dough into a rough rectangle without punching and kneading.
- Line a baking sheet in baking tray and dust with cornmeal.
- Place the loaves on the pan and proof again at room temperature for about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 250°C, with some water in the lower rack.
- Pinch the surface of loaves with your hands to give it a little uneven top. Do it gently.
- Bake the loaves at 230°C for 20 to 25 minutes, rotate them in between for even baking.
- Take them out when they turn golden brown in color.
- Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.
Enjoy & Happy Baking!
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