The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Gumbo's picture

Biga Help and Questions

February 22, 2013 - 10:37am -- Gumbo

Brand new to bread making and anything to do with flour in general. Just started culinary school at the local state college and am now hooked on making bread. I find this forum to be an excelent source of information and could spend all day exploring.

I'm on a quest to make a French Bread with a high acetic acid content - I like the flavor and aroma. After going through this forum I discovered that a Biga or low hydration preferment would favor the production of acetic acid - no sure if thats correct but would appreciate it if someone can tell me if I'm on the right track.

Salilah's picture

Help - spare biga! What to do - pref sweet?

November 30, 2012 - 10:56am -- Salilah

Help - any ideas please?

My other half has got interested in bread (I tend to do most of the bread, sourdough mainly) - but he hasn't quite yet "got it" about recipes etc.  We have around 550g of biga gradually growing - and his recipe only needs 200g (he hasn't spotted this, and I don't want to make any more "suggestions"!!)...

rpt's picture

Sponge versus Straight Dough

October 8, 2012 - 5:01am -- rpt

I've often wondered what difference using a sponge has compared to making a straight dough with long fermentation. There have been various discussions here but I've never seen a definitive answer. So I decided to try my own experiment by baking two loaves with identical recipes.

The first loaf was mixed and kneaded on Thursday night at 10pm with all the ingredients. It was then left in the fridge until 3.30pm Friday, shaped and placed in the tin at 7pm and finally baked at 8.30pm.

mwilson's picture

I made an enormous ciabatta weighing nearly 1 kilo. I used an 18hr-fermented biga starter and a combination of medium and weak flours. This thing was massive!

400g '00' flour from Shipton Mill
160g cold water
1.3g Instant yeast

Final dough:
Fermented biga
320g cold water
200g plain flour (9.4% protein)
24g Extra virgin olive oil
12g Non-diastatic malt powder
12g Salt
2g diastatic malt powder 

olive oil for S&f.

To make the biga, first weigh all the ingredients. Put flour and yeast in the mixing bowl and turn on the mixer adding water gradually to form breadcrumbs and let run until you get a dry dough. Roll out the dough and fold up. Cover and leave overnight at cool room temperature for 18hrs.

Next day weigh all ingredients and cut the biga into pieces. Mix biga and 150g of water until combined. Then add flour, malts, salt and mix adding the rest of the water in stages. Once the dough begins to clean the mixing bowl add the olive oil and finish the mix to achieve a satin-smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Place dough in a well oiled flat and wide container. Cover and rest. Stretch and fold the dough at 20 minute intervals until the dough almost doubles in size. Rest for 20 minutes before shaping business letter style. Roll shaped dough in flour, give it a final dust of flour and leave to proof until doubled in size. Stone-bake with steam.

I had to shape and proof the dough very carefully being so huge already and not having a very big oven, stone or proofing tray/peel.

Baked ciabatta dimensions: 15"x9"x4.5".

Crumb - open and very, very light.


Probably one of the best ciabatta's I ever made. Subtle and moreish in flavour. Perfectly chewy and shreadable in texture.

javajavabug's picture

Biga to Dough Ratio

April 17, 2012 - 7:20am -- javajavabug

I was wondering, is there was a perfect biga to dough ratio?

I made an Italian bread, not ciabatta, and I felt like there might have been too much biga in it. In the recipe I used, the biga weighed 17 ounces, a little over half of the weight of the entire bread. The bread was overly chewy and a bit tough. I don't think I over kneaded it either. 

Is there a rule of thumb I should follow when making a bread with a biga?

Thanks so much! 

mwilson's picture

Flavoured Ciabatta made using traditional methods. Suitable for sandwiches.

Traditional Biga - left to ferment for approx 15hrs at cool room temp.
300g '00' Flour, medium strength
150g cold water
1.1g Instant yeast

Final Dough - kept warm at 28c.
420g Biga
70g '00' Flour, medium strength
4g Malt Powder
7g salt
140g water
28g good quality extra-virgin olive oil.
sun-dried tomatoes to taste

Mix biga by hand using downward pressure to a smooth, dry dough. Leave at room temp overnight for about 15hrs.
Next day, cut the big into pieces add malt powder, flour and an equal amount of water. Mix until smooth. Continue mixing adding the remaining water in stages.  Add salt with the last of the water. Finally add the oil and mix to full gluten development before folding in the  tomatoes.

Place dough in a well oiled flat and wide container. Leave to rise at warm temp (~28C). Stretch and fold at 30 min intervals until the dough is strong enough to sit high. Wait until almost double in size (~3hrs) before dividing in two.

Leave pieces to rest for 20 mins before shaping like a business letter. Dust with more flour and proof until double with cracks in the flour (~2hrs)


Total dough volume is approx 4 times that of the mixed dough.


Oven spring was great as with any well made ciabatta, rising vertically, swelling like a balloon. 


Extremely soft and porous crumb.


GregS's picture

Retard Levain Only?

November 3, 2011 - 11:18am -- GregS

Is it possible to cold retard a biga or poolish for a day or two? I assume that if I did so, I could take the leavain out with a little more flexible timing and finish the loaves on a day of my choice (within the retardation time frame). Would the finished loaves be distinctly better or worse if I retarded only the levain?

I know I could retard the shaped loaves, but I'd rather finish the process all at once. Any experiences or opinions?

Thanks, folks.



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