For several occasions to date, I’ve tried a method of baking bread which seems to be working very well now. Using a biga made within a couple of hours and autolysis of the flour in this same period, then incorporation them both into a dough, seems to work very well producing a beautiful oven rise.
500g King Arthur unbleached flour
320g (plus or minus) filtered water
10g sea salt
10g dry yeast
100g Italian Picorino Romano cheese
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp grounded black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
30g melted butter
Make the ‘biga’ taking part of the ingredients from above. Measure out 100g flour and 100g water and 1/4 tsp of the yeast. Mix these together and let it proof for about 1 to 2 hours till the quantity more than doubles it’s volume.
Bigas are traditionally dry and thick compared to a sourdough starter and is usually made fresh every day, using a small amount of baker’s yeast in a thick dough, which varies from 45% to 60% hydration, and is allowed to ferment from 12 to 16 hours to fully develop its flavour. However, I use 100% hydration and as soon as it shows vigorous activity by doubling it’s volume, I incorporate this into the flour.
Meantime, place the remaining 400g flour into a Kitchen Aid bowl and add in about 200g of the water, lightly mix these, and allow autolysis for the same period.
When the biga is ready, mix this with the rest of the flour in the KA bowl and knead for 10 minutes with the mixer at speed 1 to 2. Slowly add in the salt, butter, and the herbs. You may also require to add in more of the reserved water to get the dough to the right consistency. Finally add in the cheese.
Transfer the dough when it’s silky and smooth to a floured surface and fold it several times before shaping it into a ball. Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl and proof for an hour. Fold the dough again after this time, divide it into two equal portions and shape these into boules.
Proof further on a baking sheet for between 45 minutes to an hour. During this time heat up the oven to 235˚C. with a shallow metal tray inside the oven for adding boiling water later to create steam.
When ready, bake the two boules for 20 to 25 minutes till golden brown. Don’t forget to add a 2/3 cup of boiling water to the metal tray for creating steam. Cool the loaves on a rack before slicing.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
– Pablo Picasso –