I have used this bread recipe for years now. It comes from the cookbook Home Baking. This bread is made only with flour and water and a bit of yeast, and the remarkable flavor comes from biga, which is simply another word for starter. Biga needs to rise for at least 12 hours. The resulting bread is delicious, with a soft center and a crusty exterior. Free of preservatives, this bread stays fresh for up to 4 days, and can be frozen to increase its useful life. Excellent for sandwiches, and there is not as much time on hand involved as you would think, especially when you can use the stand mixer, but you need to allow time for rising.
Ingredients for Biga
¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 cup of lukewarm water
2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
You need to make the biga at least 12 hours before you wish to make the bread. Whisk yeast and 1 cup of warm water and let stand for a few minutes, until the yeast dissolves. Add flour and knead until smooth. You can use a stand mixer attached with a hook attachment to knead the dough, or you can knead by hand on a well-floured surface. Place biga in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours. After that time, the biga can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring the biga to room temperature before using and cut into 4 equally sized pieces.
Ingredients for the bread
½ teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 cups of lukewarm water
4 to 5 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt
Directions for Making Bread by Hand
In a large bowl, place 2 cups of water and yeast and let stand to dissolve for about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of flour and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt, and stir well, always in one direction. Add the four pieces of the biga and mix, add 2 more cups of flour and fold and turn the dough to incorporate the flour. Remove the dough to a well-floured surface and knead for 8 minutes until smooth and springy dough forms.
Directions for Making Bread with a Stand Mixer
Place water and yeast in the stand-mixer bowl and whisk to blend. Add 3 cups of flour, salt and the four pieces of biga. Using a hook attachment, knead dough for 2 minutes on low speed. Add 1 more cup of flour and knead for 1 more minute on low speed and next increase speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. Remove dough and place on a floured surface and knead briefly.
Place dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest until it doubles in size, for 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface, and cut in half. Butter two 5 inch by 9 inch bread pans. Gently flatten one piece and form an oval, then roll it up and pinch the ends together. Place into prepared pan. Repeat with second piece of dough.
Cover bread pans with plastic and let it rise until it doubles in size, for about another 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove plastic wrap, and place breads in the oven. Lower the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake breads for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and then remove breads from the pans, and place directly on the oven rack for an additional 5 minutes. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for about 2 hours before cutting.
Isn’t it just beautiful?
This recipe will make 2 large loafs of bread, each about 1 ½ pounds.
Active time about 30 minutes
Rising time 3 to 3 ½ hours
Baking time 50 minutes
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Smell of Rosemary, name and blog content, including photographs and writing, are protected since first use, November 2012. All content on this site is protected and may not be reproduced without permission. You may link to my content, but please do not steal it.