Recipe by Chef Kate
In traditional bread bakeries in rural Italy, bread for a new day is started with a bit of unsalted starter taken from yesterday's bread making. The starter is known as "biga", pronounced bee-ga. No new dry, cake or wild yeast is added, just a cup or so of yesterday's biga. Of course, since the concentration of yeast cells is lower than in a packet or more of purchased yeast, the bread takes longer to rise. It simply takes longer for the yeast cells to multiply to the point that enough CO2 is released to raise the bread. But the slow rise contributes to the very well developed, distinctive flavor of these country loaves. Plus you can go away to work or whatever for the day and come back to bake it later on. You can cut the recipe in half easily. Recipe by Geri Guidetti of the Ark Institute.
- 1⁄2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1⁄4 cup warm water
- 1 1⁄2 cups water, at room temperature
- 3 3⁄4 cups unbleached flour
Directions See How It's Made
- Sprinkle yeast onto the 1/4 cup warm water and let stand approximately 10 minutes until creamy.
- Add rest of water, stir.
- Add flour, one cup at a time and stir.
- Mix with wooden spoon for approximately.
- 4 minutes.
- Oil a bowl three times as large as the mixture's volume and scrape dough into that bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 8-24 hours in a cool room or until triple in volume.
- The longer it sits, the more character it develops.
- If you let it go too long, it will take on sour overtones similar to sourdough starter as a result of the acidic by-products of yeast metabolism.
- If the room is cool enough--60-65 deg.
- F, 24 hours will yield a nice, mellow-flavored biga.
- You only need your first biga to get started.
- Then it is simply a matter of making bread at least once a week or so if you have refrigeration to keep the biga alive.
- If you don't have refrigeration, you would want to make bread every day and save a portion of the new dough you make each day as a starter for tomorrow's bread.
- Just take that portion BEFORE you add salt to the new bread dough.
- In this case, you would keep tomorrow's starter at room temperature.
- Use as you would a sourdough starter.
- For a rough guide, use approximately one cup of biga for a bread recipe calling for 7-8 cups of flour.