REC: Better bread with Biga

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Sous Chef
Aug 31, 2004
I have become wedded to making bread using a "biga" which is essentially a starter using a pre-fermented bread dough made with flour, water and a small amount of yeast and then allowed to rise from anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. The "biga" is then used as part of the dough in the final recipe. It adds both flavor and keeping qualities.

A "biga" may be made in quantity and frozen for subsequent bread making. I make it in quantity, chill it overnight in the 'frig and then divide the dough into 6oz portions (a convenient amount for me) and store it, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer. The day before I intend to make bread with the biga, I take a pkg and put it in the 'frig to defrost.

My recipe for "biga" comes from The Italian Baker by Carol Field. The "bakers pecentage" for this is
> flour (I use AP flour) - 100%
> water 74%
> yeast .25%

for those who would like more complete instructions, please go to which gives her biga recipe complete with my comments in the margins.
Goodweed of the North said:
This sounds a lot like "Freindship Bread", so called because you take the starter and share it with a freind.
This is not a starter in the classic sense that it must be maintained by periodic feedings.

I routinely kill any plant that appears in my home simply by benign neglect. True starters demand as much care as plants. Therefore, I am not a resource for maintaining a starter, Amish or otherwise.

The link in my original post simply gives a recipe for a pre-fermented bread dough that may be made in quantity, frozen in suitable portions and then used as one ingredient in a subsequent bread recipe. My experience is that a pre-fermented dough can be successfully frozen. Home bread makers who are used to using pre-fermented dough as part of a final bread recipe may find this (minor) point useful.

Once the craziness of the holidays has ebbed, I plan to post some bread recipes that use this starter as an ingredient.
Basic White Bread (or Rolls) with Biga

bigaRollsGlazed.jpg buttermilkWhiteLoafBread-08.jpg

For my recipe for white bread with biga (makes *either* 2 loaves or about 20 rolls) click here. The file is in Adobe Reader format and you're welcome to view, print and/or download it. Instructions are given for the biga and the final bread. Ingredients are given by weight (ounces and grams) and by volume and the bakers percentage is also given. The link includes detailed instructions and photos.

This recipe calls for 12 oz biga. I normally make a 3-pound batch of biga and freeze it in 12 oz packets. If you have frozen biga on hand, it makes it much simpler to make this bread (frozen biga will keep for about 6 months).

for about 3 pounds Biga
bread flour: 30.0 oz / 848.0 gm / ~ 6 cups + 4 tsp
water: 20.0 oz / 566 gm / ~ 2-1/2 cups
yeast : .1 oz / 3 gm / ~ 1 tsp Instant or ~ 1-1/4 tsp Active Dry
It sounds intriguing. I am going to try this. Your pictures make it look wonderful. Our Dean of student development is a bread baker and I believe I have heard him mention the Biga style. He has an outdoor/backyard brick oven specifically built for baking his bread. Some of his famous bread was served in our faculty-staff dining room last week and I could have made a meal of the bread but it really complemented the Tuscan Style chicken that was served.
If it works for you (Biga) fine. I use grandulated yeast and have the same
results. It is a matter of choice. Your choice.

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