Have been trying to perfect my rustic country bread loaves, inspired to study more the methods with a long-rise from what I’ve learned to call “biga”. Several times in my life I’ve tried getting a starter going, fed for a few days, even weeks, and always eventually a bitter displeasing off-smelling thing happens, and I don’t trust my expensive organic flour with, when what I only really want is a fresh, delicate and sweet aroma. Those loaves from my sour-starter were never good, and yet I wanted to persist. In all my years of baking I had never tried the biga — an old European name for what is more modernly called a pre-ferment — where one begins the starter the night before using a scant two pinches of yeast, letting slowly rise all during the night, and the next day early one begins to throw the flour (exciting, I love how I can sleep on the idea of the task coming the next day!) So last night right before cooking dinner, I quickly mixed the few small ingredients with the handle of a spoon, covered with a dish, tucked it away and this morning I did the rest; the stretching and proofing, and the baking.
Whichever angle you look at . . .
its all there, perfectly shaped . . .
with a very crackly crust that is not tough, but delicate, and a lovely fluffy and light interior texture that smells fresh and so sweet.
I’m one of those bread lovers who when presented with a lovely loaf of well-browned rustic loaf with crags and crevasses of crust, I like to just tear off a piece, and experience the texture from how the bread gives way.
I based this loaf combining my own bread baking experience with a recipe from a used book I acquired post-wildfire era, called “The Italian Baker” 1985 (there is a revised edition 2011) which I obsessively started reading last weekend, but also I found an excellent no-knead dutch-oven you-tube tutorial about baking with biga from this baker which was colossally helpful and very easy to follow.
Baking yeast breads with a pre-ferment biga is going to change my way of baking forever, especially as in recent months I’ve been longing for ritual, and ritual in bread baking is something I feel I’ve been on the path towards for decades, but only now have arrived at my straight and narrow, and this will be hopefully only the first of many more bready posts I predict, for in this loaf I have found real success.
About twenty hours after making the biga, I’m enjoying my absolute all-time favorite snack — toast with gobs of salted butter, and for a rare treat I just happened to have some strawberry jam I made the other day!