Monday, August 25, 2008

Biga - The no excuse way to 'start' the week

Well, as my official 'I'm back' posting I thought I would start things back off with a starter. :) Pun intended.

The Biga is an Italian technique for creating a pre-ferment. One of the reasons you would want to use a pre-ferment or 'biga', is to give the bread you are baking a deeper flavor and add a little more complexity to the end loaf.

I use this method as a way to make it seem like I've spent all day in the kitchen baking bread. You can make this up to three days ahead of when you want to use it. Just mix as directed and put in the refrigerator in a covered bowl. You can also freeze the biga for up to three months. If you decide to do either of the above, just remove the biga and let it come to room temperature before using - usually about an hour.

I like to make this biga on a Saturday or Sunday when I'm just laying about and preserve it for use on Monday or Tuesday. This gives me fresh bread during the week when I have very little time to bake.

Stay tuned for different ways to use the biga to create amazing breads that make it taste like you've been baking all day!

(from The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

Makes about 18 ounces


2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 to 8 ounces) water, at room temperature


1. Stir together the flour and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment). Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (It is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. The internal temperature should be 77 to 81 degrees F.

3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

Authors note:

Biga will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.

To help demonstrate the simplicity of this recipe I requested the assistance of the beautiful Ms. A. Of course if you decide to ask the kids to help (and I suggest you do!) always provide good supervision. What you don't see is me a foot behind her ready to "pull the plug" in that something goes wrong.

Mix the ingredients

The dough should come together in a ball but will still be very "wet"

Let it rest. This dough takes about 4 hours to fully rise.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface.

You can put this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for 3 months. Don't be afraid if this dough rises a little - that's where the flavor comes from!

- Do you bake on the weekdays?

- What are some of the items you create?

- What are some of the time saving techniques that you use when you are under a time crunch?


BumbleVee said...

it's great for little Ms A to be helping at such a tender age.... she won't be like me....afraid of yeast til very recently...

okay...I've never tried this of course.... but will you say... nice to begin from pretty much half way through the project on some days...

sorry, don't have any shortcuts for you....I just use recipes that are easier if I am lazy... (can hardly be short of time, seeing as I don't work) .... like muffins, biscuits, scones or loaves instead of baking yeast breads....

Tablebread said...

bumblevee - I try to make sure my girls will always know the smell of fresh bread when they get older. Perhaps one day it will be that 'thing' that reminds them of Dad :)

Also, don't short change yourself. I've made some scones and loaves that could challenge any lengthy bread rising time!

Greg said...

Ooh, bigas. I like bigas. The flavor resulting from the long ferment is great. Mine is made from my home-cultured sourdough but there's nothing wrong with yeast either. Thanks for this post. Hopefully there will be more bigas out there bubbling away.

Tablebread said...

Greg - thanks for stopping in and saying hi! and yes I hope this does show how easy it is to add that extra oomph to your bread. (I am jealous of your sourdough though!)

Big Boys Oven said...

wow you had a real good assistant there! Nice to be back!