To Biga-n (‘begin’), welcome to the world of preferments. If you are entirely unaware of what a preferment is, think back to that funny gas the dentist used last time you were at the dentist. Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) is that fancy chemical used in cars to give Brian O’Conner a smashing failure in Fast and Furious. Each preferment has its own flavor, both unique and incredibly useful. A preferment, like a biga, can turn your dough from a sewer turtle to a teenage mutant, crime fighting, ninja turtle (in a manner of speaking if your bread does turn into a giant crime-fighting turtle then you have not just followed this recipe to perfection but also added something else entirely that I would patent). So get ready to knock the socks off of your bread! (With all those confusing comparisons I can understand if you still have no idea what a preferment is. So to be clear, preferments are often called sourdough starters; they are not technically sourdough but that’s a conversation for an entirely different day… week… post(?).) Here in the world of the preferment, your future doughs can become as intriguing as BBC’s Sherlock, as deep as Jules Verne’s 20,000 leagues under the sea, or as flavorful as the last salsa you ate. (And by that I mean the variety and depth of the flavor… unless you plan on making a mango salsa loaf of bread. Huh, I wonder what that would be like. I may just try it… I’ll get back to you on that.)
Now if you’ve read my poolish post, you know just how much I enjoy a good poolish. I don’t want to contradict anything I’ve already said in that post when I say that I love the biga. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using the poolish and biga in different kinds of bread (not at the same time). Both have their advantages, but being that this is not the poolish page, I will not be foolish enough to redirect you to that page. With that behind us, we can move on to the wild realm of the biga.
To repeat myself, and provide emphasis in that last paragraph ;), I’ve been experimenting with the biga lately. I am beginning to notice the subtle differences between the biga and poolish. The biga has 50-60% hydration. This means that if you make a biga, you’ll notice how tough, stiff, and dry it is. When I first made it, the consistency reminded me of the little bit of dough that the stand mixer failed to pull from the size of the pan. That is to say, it is a tough/stiff dough. But once fermented (it will double in size) the biga’s flavor will blow you out of the ballpark.
Let’s stop me before I continue with these confusing and utterly ridiculous comparisons by jumping right into the recipe itself!
The Great Ferment: Biga
Ah, there now we can focus. The biga is crazy easy to make. You can have it made in about five minutes. If you want to use it though, you’ll have to wait 16-18 hours. You’ll know it is ready when it doubles in size. And with that itty bitty introduction, let us run to the kitchen to pull out the ingredients!
To make the biga, you will need 50 grams (7 tablespoons) of flour, 27.5 grams (roughly 2 tablespoons) of water, and 0.1 grams (2/7 of a teaspoon, but you can round to 1/3) of non-active dry yeast (I recommend Red Star).
Pour 50 grams of water into a small bowl. Add the yeast and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. Now pour 27.5 grams of flour the bowl and mix.
And there you have it! The excessively awesome biga. I recommend you try it! I know I will be experimenting with it!
Oh, before you skip down to that handsome recipe down there I want to offer a bit of advice. If you switch between the poolish and the biga, be careful of the water content! The biga has much less water than the poolish!
That may sound simple, but it tricked me up in a loaf of bread I made just yesterday.