The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Advice Desired From Baker's That Regularly Use Biga Pre-Ferments

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Advice Desired From Baker's That Regularly Use Biga Pre-Ferments

It has been at least 2-3 years since I last made and used a biga pre-ferment in a loaf of bread..


On Saturday, 03-14-09, I made a double batch of biga pre-ferment more or less following the recipe in the BBA..It finished proofing at 80F room temperature, and went into the refrigerator to retard at 12 noon on Saturday..For reasons that do not really matter to this query, I failed to either use the biga, or to freeze it, until today, Wednesday, 03-18-09..When I peeled back the triple layer of plastic wrap covering the S.S. bowl an hour ago, the biga had a firm smooth texture on top, with a nice, even, open, holely structure from the fermentation on the underside..There is a distinct, but moderate, alcoholic smell to the biga..The plastic wrap never became other than very slightly domed during this 4-day retard..


My question to regular biga users is this, "Do you think this biga will be OK to use in bread making"??..I know that book, after book on artisan baking says that bigas will last for up to three days in the refrigerator..Does any member have personal experience that contradicts this printed wisdom??..As I type this at 12.30 PM EST here in Maryland, the biga is sitting, covered with plastic wrap, and chopped into small pieces, on the oiled, wooden butcher block top of my kitchen cart to bring it back to room temperature..Hopefully, the biga will show some signs of life as it warms up, and I will be able to incorporate it into a batch of white sandwich bread..


The recipe for the double batch of biga that I made on Saturday follows:


Bruce's Biga--(double batch)


2 oz. (56.75g) organic whole rye flour - Lindley Mills


2 oz. (56.75g) organic whole spelt flour - Lindley Mills


20 oz. (567.5g) bread flour - Gold Medal


14.25 oz. (404.35g) water, 100F


0.11 oz. (3.12g) (1 teaspoon) instant yeast - SAF Gold


Total weight for this double batch of biga was 38.36 oz..After 96 hours of refrigeration the biga weighed in at 37.10 oz., for a moisture loss of 1.26 oz..


Thanks for any advice, and personal experience re. bigas that you might care to share on this thread..


Bruce

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Bruce,


I have made lots of bread using a biga, though I've never let it retard as long as yours has. Using a biga develops enzymes, and more so for one that sits this long. Over-development of protease might make the gluten structure weak, but you'll only know by trying it. Also, the yeast may be played out by now, and you may want to increase the yeast in the dough to compensate. I'm wondering about whether it would be good to increase the flour to biga ratio? Pluses and minuses to that, so it's your call. Since you've already done the deed, it's probably moot.


The resulting flavor will probably be stronger, perhap with more sour notes, but maybe it will be earthy and robust?


A lot depends on how much your fridge slowed down microbial generation. In this case I'd guess colder would be better.


Let us know how it comes out!


David

baltochef's picture
baltochef

David


My refrigerator's temperature is such that the biga's internal temperature was at 43F when I removed it from its 96 hour retard..


I went ahead and made pain de mie white sandwich bread out of it..The bread is currently, at 3:35 PM EST, undergoing its final rise in the 8.5" Pullman pans that I intend to bake this bread in..


If this bread turns out to be acceptable, I will post a more complete thread several days hence detailing my trials and tribulations, as well as the recipes and my thoughts, on the entire process..


Bruce

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

I made a double batch of white dough ferment (very similar to your recipe) last weekend for a couple of different kinds of loaves and left the rest in my refrigerator until last night for a total of five days.  My fridge thermometer says 43f as well.  Anyhow I made the dough into one of the best tasting non-sourdough pizza crusts that I have ever made.  It puffed up just as nicely as crusts that I have made from newer dough and had a much better (yeasty) flavor.


Note: My dough had the "holey" texture that you described in yours and makes me wish that I had remembered to keep track of the dough weight change over the five days.  I would like to know how much it had shrunk.


Summer

arzajac's picture
arzajac

It will work fine.  You may even prefer it over a younger preferment.


 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Go ahead and use it.  Might want to add a bit more flour to the dough mixture and adjust ferment times accordingly. 


I also think you're going to like the results.


+Wild-Yeast

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Thanks for the informative replies, particularly to summerbaker..I was very interested to know that a 5-day retard at 43F is possible..My educated guess on biga retardation, derived from my use of the aboved mentioned 2X biga in a Pain de Mie bread on Wednesday, 03-18-09, (see link below), along with summerbaker's experience; is that I will be able to retard a biga for at least 6-7 days without any adverse affects in yeast viability..I base this educated guess on the fact that my 2X biga contained whole rye and whole spelt flours that comprised 16.67% of the total available flours for the instant yeast cells to feed on once they were activated..It is accepted fact that these flours are less capable of producing strong gluten strands, than a straight wheat flour is..Nevertheless, with no additional use of yeast other than what was used to originally create the 2X biga, I was able to build, proof, and sucessfully bake, a batch of Pain de Mie sandwich bread..The yeast in the 4-day old biga were more than up to the task of proofing this enriched sandwich bread with its additions of milk, sugar, and margarine..Which ingredients are known to slow down yeast production, and gluten development..


 


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/11187/laziness-forgetfulness-fortuitous-luck-educated-guessing-improved-pain-de-mie-recipe


 


I will be experimenting further to determine the maximum number of hours /days that I can retard a biga pre-ferment so as to release the natural sugars from the carbohydrates in the flours, and to develop a maximum flavor profile in the finished bread..


Bruce

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Bruce, I read your post on the making of your Pain de Mie and found it very inspirational.  I realized just how much I have been shying away from using my old fermented dough for "special" loaves that I want to turn out really well, assuming that the ferment had somehow lost some strength or magic or something.  I've been reluctant even though I've never actually had anything go wrong when I've used it for more "experimental" breads.  Silly. 


I made some more ferment last night for use in bagels today and I'll have a lot left over.  Thanks to your efforts I'll be able see it positively as a resource rather than a stress as something that I have to use up quickly or relegate to pizza dough!


By the way, also thanks to some advice that you gave NYamateur, I have been using my digital thermometer (I have one made by Taylor that I had been using for everything BUT baking!) all week, which has also eliminated a lot of stress and crust tapping.  My last 54% white wheat sourdough loaves came out a teensy bit tough at 112 degrees.  However, now that I know that it took 27 minutes for them to get to that temp, I can check them a bit earlier next time.


Summer