Just wondering what the difference is (or not) between these? Or are they just language differences?
I decided to withdraw my diatribe on the subject. I think the link offered above is a better response to your question.
I purchased Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" yesterday, and in one of the commentaries it says that I can substitute starter instead of biga. Now, my question is, how much does hydration play into this and is it safe to assume I would use the same mass as the biga comes out to?
I use the starter option with the recipes in this book pretty much all the time now. The starter in this book is, I believe, 75% hydration and substitutes perfectly (nice of him to work it out that way). So, same weight works great. Actually, anything in the ballpark seems to work. I haven't gotten to everything in the book, but the core recipes seem pretty bomb-proof.
Just finished reading several chapters in Joe Ortiz book, The Village Baker. He offers a great explanation on Poolish, Biga and other fermentation methods in wonderful newibie language. See if your local library has a copy if Borders isn't close at hand. I just wrote a review of this book and you just made one of the points I was explaining why this is such a great book for today's new breaad bakers.