There are many variations for making a biga loaf. This one is similar to a traditional Italian filone breadstick. The outer crust is crunchy while the inner dough is soft, chewy, and full of holes.
There are many methods for making sourdough starters. Some might not contain traditional yeast, and some may contain potato water and yeast. Each variation is relative to world customs. Google any number of online sites and you’ll find someone who has found a sourdough that specifically works for them.
Basic Biga Sourdough Starter
There are numerous examples of how to make a fermented sourdough starter. This one’s as easy as it gets, because once it rests for a number of hours, it can be transformed effortlessly into a lovely, crusty, holey sourdough bread.
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) traditional active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) lukewarm water
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
To make biga, in large bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine yeast, water, and flour. Gently beat at lowest speed for 2 minutes, scraping down sides with spatula until a sticky, shaggy dough forms.
Lightly oil medium-sized bowl; transfer biga to greased bowl and seal tightly with greased plastic wrap. Top with damp kitchen cloth and set aside at room temperature to bubble and rise for 10 hours or overnight, up to 24 hours. The longer the biga rests, the more sour it becomes.
Then use biga to make a crusty sourdough loaf.
1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water, about 110 F (45 C)
1 tsp (5 mL) traditional, active dry yeast
1 recipe Basic Biga Sourdough Starter (see Tip box)
1/4 + 3/4 cup (60 + 180 mL) ice water
2 3/4 cups (650 mL) unbleached all-purpose or 100% whole wheat bread flour, plus extra
2 tsp (10 mL) kosher salt
1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing bowl
To make bread, in small bowl, combine warm water with yeast. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until yeast is foamy.
Place Basic Biga Sourdough Starter along with 1/4 cup (60 mL) ice-cold water in large bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with paddle. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Add yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 cup (180 mL) ice water and gently beat until blended.
Replace paddle with dough hook, and add flour and salt. Beat on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 to 12 minutes. Dough will be very sticky, but should be almost see-through when a small piece is stretched between your fingers. Gently beat in herbs, if using. Dough will be quite loose. Generously coat large bowl with oil; transfer dough to greased bowl and seal tightly with greased plastic wrap. Set aside to rise at room temperature until tripled in volume, about 3 hours.
Sprinkle work surface with 2 Tbsp (30 mL) flour. Scrape loose dough onto floured surface and gently pat into 12 in (30 cm) log, folding in long sides and pinching ends. Dough is quite sticky and very soft. Sprinkle loaf with additional flour and cover loosely with kitchen cloth. Leave to rise for about 30 to 45 more minutes.
While dough is resting for a second rising, preheat oven to 425 F (220 C), and place large pizza stone or heavy-duty baking sheet, vertically inverted, in centre of oven.
When bread has risen, lightly sprinkle another large baking sheet with flour. Using silicone scraper, gently roll loaf onto floured baking sheet. With floured hands, carefully stretch and shape loaf to about 16 in (38 cm) long. Then tip baking sheet with loaf diagonally onto pizza stone or inverted baking sheet in oven.
Bake loaf in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden and it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to rack to cool before slicing and serving. Best served same day it’s made.