Biga is an Italian pre-fermentation used for bread and pizza dough. This particular recipe is made at 66% hydration ( water content) and is fairly easy to play with.
This gives a fairly dense bread with some good flavour, perfect for a nice sandwich.
- 170g all-purpose flour
- 95g water room temperature
- pinch instant dry yeast
- 400g bread flour
- 3.5g instant dry yeast
- 12.5g salt
- biga ( all you made above )
- 290g water room temperature
- In a container, combine with your hand the biga ingredients( water, bread and yeast), until there are no dry clumps; it will be very dry at this stage. Cover and let it ferment for 18-24 hours. Note you can also cold ferment this for 48 hours, just put it in the fridge.
- In a stand mixer bowl, put most of the water ( keep about 50ml) and the bread. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes and cover for 20 minutes.
- This step is optional but I like to mix my biga with the remaining water, which makes things easier for the next step. In the stand mixer bowl, put the biga, salt & remaining water if you did not mix it with the biga. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix for another 4 minutes.
- Lightly coat a mixing bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough into it, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Wet your hand as the dough is very sticky at this stage. You want to do 4-6 stretches and fold; until you have flipped over each side. Stretch and fold are done by grabbing each “side” at a time, you pull the dough up and bring it over the remaining dough.
- Example: take the right side of the dough and stretch it in the air ( DON’T break the dough) then fold it in the center. Repeat for each side. See this video
- Let your dough rest for 30 minutes. At this point, redo a series of stretches and folds. At this stage, the dough is looking much better already ( see pic right side) Cover and let it rest 45 minutes.
- Its now time to shape the dough. Dust the dough with flour to help with the release. Using a plastic dough scraper, go around the dough. This will put some flour on the side of the dough and help to get it out. On a floured surface dump the dough and preshape into a light boule using the dough cutter doing a gentle circular motion ( you basically want to bring it into somewhat the shape of a ball), you should only swirl it on the countertop in order to achieve this, usually, 2 full 360 turns will do the job. Let rest 5-10 minutes. Don’t play too much with the dough.
- Put a light coating of flour on top and using a dough cutter or scraper, unstick the boule from the surface and flip it over. Shape your dough into a batard and place it into a banneton dusted with either rice flour or all-purpose flour.
- To make batard, once flipped. Gently fold the top to the middle, then do the same for the left side, right side. Then fold the bottom completely to the top. Make sure the seam is pinched. Note that the surface you will be looking at with the seam is the bottom. See this video to see it in action.
- Transfer in banneton, lightly flour, and let it rest for an hour. After 30 minutes, preheat a cast-iron combo cooker in your oven from cold to 500℉ for 30 mins. Remove from oven, sprinkle some flour on the bottom ( what you are looking at in the banneton) then gently reverse the banneton over the pot.
- You need to score the top (check this video to learn how to score bread). Lightly flour the top of the dough then you need to score it about 1/4 inch deep.
- Reduce oven temperature to 480F, put the lid on and bake for 12 mins
- Remove the top from the combo cooker and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the loaf is a deep brown.
- Remove and cool on a wire rack for an hour.