The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

biga naturale

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Today's bake was Daniel Leader's Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread, from his Local Breads book.  This bread combines a biga naturale for flavor with yeast for shorter, more predictable fermentation times.


The formula is straight-forward: the biga, water, equal parts whole wheat and bread flours, salt and yeast.  Final hydration works out to about 77%.  Based on Leader's description of the dough, I was expecting something almost in the ciabatta realm.  It turned out to be less gloppy than a ciabatta dough, perhaps because of the extra absorbency of the whole wheat flour.  Still, it was definitely better handled by the mixer than by hand.  I'm a little leery of his mixing directions, though.  First, he recommends an 10-minute run at speed 8 on a Kitchen Aid, followed by an 8-10 minute run at speed 10.  I didn't run it quite that long, or quite that fast, since I was seeing good gluten development.  Plus, the dough was clearing the sides of the bowl, even though it was very sticky.  The directions indicated that it probably cause the mixer to walk.  Hah!  I had to hold it down, what with the ball of dough slapping and releasing from the sides of the bowl.


After the mixing/kneading stage, the dough is dumped into an oiled container for 1-1.5 hours until it doubles.  It is then treated to a series of stretch and folds in the container (I used a plastic bowl scraper for this exercise), then allowed to double again.  Having finished bulk fermentation, the dough is scraped out onto a floured counter, divided in two, and (very gently) shaped into rough, rectangular loaves that are placed on bran-strewn pieces of parchment paper for their final rise.  The risen loaves go onto stone in a preheated oven, with steam.  The initial temperature is 450 F, which is dropped to 400 F for the second part of the bake.  Oven-spring was good.  The crust color is a deep brown, but not the near-black color promised in the formula.


The finished bread looks like this:


Whole Wheat Genzano Country Bread


The crust is thin and crackly, although I expect it will soften because of the internal moisture.  The flavor is very good; closer to that of a yeasted bread than to a sourdough but with some complexity that isn't usually present in a straight dough.  There doesn't seem to be the bitterness that sometimes shows up in whole wheat breads.  The crumb is moderately open, though nothing like the big holes of a ciabatta.  That's not bad, since this will be used primarily for sandwiches.  The breads are relatively light in weight for their size, another indicator of an open crumb.  I'll have to get a crumb shot, later.


I will definitely make this again, although I may experiment with leaving out the yeast.  That should swing the flavor profile in a whole 'nother direction.  Before getting to that, though, I have my eye on a couple of different rye recipes from Local Breads.


Paul

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Sourdough Italian Bread

Sourdough Italian Bread

Sourdough Italian Bread crumb

Sourdough Italian Bread crumb

This bread is based on the Italian Bread formula in Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice." The only change I made was to substitute a biga naturale (sourdough starter) for the biga made with instant yeast in Reinhart's formula. I still added the instant yeast to the final dough.

I also employed the "stretch and knead in the bowl" technique during bulk fermentation, even though I used a KitchenAid mixer for mixing beforehand.

Intermediate starter (Biga naturale)

3 oz. Active starter

9 oz. Water

12 oz. KAF Bread flour

Final Dough

18 oz. Biga naturale (Note: save the remaining 6 oz. for another bread.)

11.25 oz. KAF Bread flour

o.41 oz. (1-2/3 tsp) Salt

0.5 oz. (1 T) Sugar

0.11 oz (1 tsp) Instant yeast

0.17 oz. (1 tsp) Diastatic barley malt powder

0.5 oz (1 T) olive oil

7 oz (¾ cup) Water at 80F

Sesame seeds for coating.

Semolina to dust the parchment paper.

Mix and ferment the biga.

Mix the biga naturale the evening before baking. Dissolve the starter in the water in a medium sized bowl, then add the flour and mix thoroughly to hydrate the flour and distribute the starter. Cover the bowl tightly and allow to ferment for 3-6 hours, until it doubles in volume. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the biga from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up for an hour or so.

Mix the dough

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and malt powder in a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer. Add the biga in pieces, olive oil and ¾ cups of tepid water and mix thoroughly. Adjust the dough consistency by adding small amounts of water or flour as necessary. The dough should be very slack at this point.

I mixed the dough with the dough hook in the KA mixer for 10 minutes then transferred it to an 8 cup/2 liter glass pitcher that had been lightly oiled.

Fermentation

I stretched and folded the dough in the pitcher with a rubber spatula then covered it tightly. I repeated the stretch and fold again 20 and 40 minutes later. I then left the dough to ferment until it was double the original volume. This took about 60 minutes. (Approximately 2 hours total bulk fermentation.)

Divide and form

Divide into 2 pieces and pre-form as logs. Allow the dough to rest 5 minutes or more, then form into bâtards. If desired, spray or brush the loaves with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Prepare a couche – either a floured piece of baker's linen or parchment paper sprinkled with semolina.

Pre-heat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the middle shelf. Make preparations for steaming the oven.

Place the loaves in the couche, cover with plastic or a towel and allow to proof until 1-1/2 times their original size.

Baking

Score the loaves and transfer them to the baking stone. Bake with steam, using your favorite method. After loading the loaves and steaming, turn the over down to 450F and bake until done (about 20 minutes). If you want a thicker crust, use a lower temperature and bake for longer.

Cooling

Allow to cool before slicing, if you can.

Enjoy!

David

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I baked this very large, rustic Italian loaf (pagnotta) a couple weeks ago from Daniel Leader’s wonderful new book, Local Breads, page 197.  He states that it is to bake until almost black or charred for the most authentic loaf.  I didn’t go quite that far but you can see it developed a lot of color which I always prefer in my loaves.

 

 

I generally don’t bake the large boules since there are only two of us rather I prefer to divide a larger recipe and make more loaves so I can share them.  At any rate, I wanted to try the large boule and it was quite an impressive loaf.  (It reminded me of a fully expanded Jiffy Pop for those of you that can relate to that visual.) 

 

 

It is renowned in Italy for its great keeping quality, staying fresh up to 7 days.  Unfortunately, ours was not entirely eaten, I hate to admit, but it did allow me to see just how long it stays moist and fresh as is its reputation.  Nearly 10 days after baking it I was shocked to see that the bread still appeared very moist and had no signs of mold having been kept at room temperature in a KAF bread bag.

 

The recipe uses a biga naturale which Leader calls “Italian sourdough” and also uses a very small amount of commercial yeast.  I’m not sure why the instant yeast is there but that is the recipe.  I do not add commercial yeast to my sourdoughs but I wanted to bake it the first time following the recipe.  I would really like to try it again without the addition of the instant yeast to see what happens.

 

The flour in the recipe, except for the sourdough, is all high gluten for which I used Sir Lancelot high gluten flour.  The bran sprinkled on the top makes a really beautiful loaf although it is very messy to cut but very well worth it.  I would like to incorporate that in other loaves for the beautiful texture it creates. 

 

 

The crumb had a beautiful color and texture.

 

 

The Genzano Country Bread was a lot of fun to bake, wonderful tasting and seems an easy recipe for a great boule.  I hope you give it a try.

 

More photos can be seen here:

http://zolablue.smugmug.com/gallery/3585722#203734681

  
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