The Fresh Loaf

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Has anyone had this happen?

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Mebake's picture

Has anyone had this happen?

Hi, Fellow TFL'ers

I'am sure many of you have baked recipes from Peter Reinhart's Wholegrain breads. Yesterday, I mixed a soaker and a BIGA for a 100% Whole wheat sandwich bread. When i woke up 8 hours later, i found that the soaker has inflated the plastic wrap to a dome.. i.e. My BIGA was outside, and the soaker was in the fridge. The BIGA was overproofed, and smelled of alcohol... What to do? My baking instincs pushed me to deflate it, shape it to a ball again, and then, freeze it..?!

The Soaker is outside now, iam at work, and the BIGA is in the freezer?! should i worry? I have not been there before.. does anyone know how many hours i need to take the BIGA out of the freezer in order for its temp. to come back to room temp..?

I'd appreciate your help..

(Edit: The BIGA is yeasted .. not sourdough)

(Edit: Added Pics: I still don't get it.. why do my panned loaves always burst at the sides.? I have shaped tightly, grease the pan well, Proofed well, steamed well..)

Here the Crumb exposes the flaws caused by the overproofed BIGA: Crumbly Texture, yet soft.

The flavor was Good.. not the best... as the alcohol produced by the excessive yeast fermentation of BIGA left an off-taste to the loaf.

In conclusion, This loaf will prove itself useful to my digestive tract... though will not please my tongue, nor my eyes..


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That will get your frozen biga back to room temp faster.  Wonder if instead of freezing, you should have fed part of it for another fresher biga to grow while at work.  A little overproofed biga is not soooo bad, worse would be overproofed bread dough.   ...And I bet all the salt is in the soaker.  You could use the biga for flavoring and add enough yeast to do the rise job.  I haven't been there yet so do share EVERYTHING!  :)  ...and what you find out.  I'm hoping it works out....

Mebake's picture

Thank you Mini... Actually, i had no time to think.. i was late for work, and it seemed to be the fastest way to prevent the biga from causing any trouble.

I will post the results..



jcking's picture

Same thing happened to me, used it, all was well.


subfuscpersona's picture

I routinely make biga and freeze it in appropriate size packets for future bread baking. However, I would never keep an overproofed biga, because the taste resulting from over-fermentation will be imparted to your bread (which you seem to have discovered yourself).

I prefer to defrost my biga overnight in the 'frig (without unwrapping). This way the biga defrosts but the yeast in the biga is not activated.

If you defrost frozen biga at room temperature, the outside of the biga will defrost first and the yeast it contains will "wake up" while the interior of the biga is still frozen. This can lead to a slight over-fermentation of the biga while the interior of the biga defrosts.

If you must defrost frozen biga at room temperature, unwrap it and put it in a bowl (or on the counter) to maximize the exposure of the surface to the air. In about an hour, see if the biga is can be hacked into smaller pieces. If you do this, you expose the frozen interior and therefore hasten defrosting and minimize yeast activation.

Hope this helps - SF

=== PS === Don't own a microwave oven, so can't speak to whether MiniOven's suggestion would also work.

ehanner's picture

SF, what a great idea. I love the aroma of a well developed biga and what it does to breads of all kinds. I never have tried freezing it for later use. I'm guessing you stir it down and put it into plastic freezer bags in some reasonable weights. What's the longest you have found you can keep it frozen and still have it awake?


ananda's picture

Hi Khalid,

while you are too harsh on yourself and your lovely wholewheat bread, I venture to suggest how you can lessen the burst you complain about.

Your dough is insufficiently developed, or made using flour lacking high gluten content.   Hence the inelegant break as the loaf hits the oven.   Your analysis of the overproofed biga is significant, but not all-important.   Shaping issues really do not come into this, your loaf is well-shaped.   Sometimes, it just is not possible to have it always; be content with the benefits to your stomach tract!

Very best wishes


Mebake's picture

Thank you, SF! Your contributions and advices are highly appreciated! I will try thawing my BIGA in the fridge overnight... that should be interesting... and practical too. What would you do if your biga is erroneously left outside..?

Thanks, Andy! I have developed my gluten to pass a windowpane. My Whole Wheat is Waitrose Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour With protein of 13%. I wonder if More kneading was required.. i hand kneaded it till my arms got tired.. i believe that the overfermented Biga is the culprit here..


rayel's picture

Hi Khalid, I have not baked the Peter Reinhart loaf. But I have baked 100% Wh Wht. from an overnight sponge, and almost always get that rip you asked about. Yesterday I baked a straight dough Buttermilk bread that did the same sort of thing. I was especially dilligent not to let the dough go too long between rises, as suggested in Laurel's recipe, less it rips durring the proof. I have never experienced that durring the proof, only durring the bake. The underdeveloped dough issue that anand spoke of would apply for my loaves as I only mixed/ kneaded for 10 min, on speed 2., after a 25 min autolyse, Not called for in the recipe, then 3 stretch and folds (not called for in the recipe) durring 1st rise @ 20 min. intervals, then no stretch and folds for 2nd rise. My shaping has been better in previous trys.

I like your pictures, the loaf and crumb shot are outstanding. Ray

Mebake's picture

Thank you Ray..! Your loaves look outstanding, not mine! Beautiful crumb structure.. I suspect that the reason for dough tering at the sides i that the dough was underproofed.. add that to an already overproofed frozen Biga, and result would only make sense.


rayel's picture

I looked through many pictures of either this Buttermilk, or the yogurt bread (from a sponge) and found very few that didn't burst at the sides. The breads I bake are simpler processes, so the causation should be easier to find. The reason for the bursting still eludes me. A few of the loaves that didn't were scored, but very few of the other unscored were found that didn't burst. I am almost consistent, but once in awhile i'll produce one that doesn't. This latest bake surprised me in that the slice was very fragile compared to the others. Even when i sliced it thick I had to handle it gently so it wouldn't tear. When I removed the bread from the oven, though the temp read 210 degrees, there was no hollow ressonant sound, but more like a muffled thud. I removed the pans and put loaves back for another 10 min. The bake took slightly over an hour when usually at 325 they are done in 55 min. You might be right with the underproofed idea. I might have gotten a little anxious, and since my proofing space was dropping temperature, I might have put them in to bake too soon. I need steel nerves to wait till the dough is wobbly. This bread could have gone longer in the proof stage. I didn't press the dough skin with my finger this time, so am sure I was hurrying this last stage. Thanks again for your thoughts and kind words. Ray

gary.turner's picture

I always get those breaks in  my pan breads if I don't slash the top, or use a means of creating more expansion surface on top. In my oven, the breaks are always on the side nearest the oven's side wall (I always do two loaves at a time).

An alternative to slashing is to split the dough in two and make two 12-14" loaves for a 9" pan. Twist them together two or three times, pan and proof. This increases the surface area available for expansion so oven spring doesn't over-stress the skin.



subfuscpersona's picture

Of the three basic types of preferments, I think a biga is the most flexible. A biga is simply an unsalted dough (flour, water and a small amount of commercial yeast) that has one rise and is then used as an ingredient in a subsequent bread recipe. If you enjoy using a biga in your bread baking, it is easy to make a large quantity and freeze it for future use.

The first issue is deciding on a standard hydration for your biga. Biga recipes do vary considerably in the amount of water they use and a bread recipe using a biga assumes a specific hydration for the biga (as well as the final dough). However, if you're comfortable manipulating the baker's percentage you can adjust any bread recipe that gives ingredients by weight for the biga hydration you prefer. I have chosen a hydration of 67% for my biga.

The second issue is deciding on an appropriate weight for your packets of frozen biga. I personally find that packets weighing 8 oz OR 12 oz are the most flexible (where one packet is sufficient for a single loaf weighing 1 - 1 & 1/2 pounds).

I make about 4 pounds of biga at a time. The dough is mixed and kneaded in my Hobart-made 5-quart KitchenAid stand mixer. It is given a brief rising period of 1 - 2 hours at room temperature, is then given a strech-and-fold and allowed to rise, covered, overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning the biga is scaled, double-wrapped in plastic wrap, labeled and immediately frozen. Each packet is labeled with the date, weight and type of flour used. (I use my computer to print the labels for the biga.) Packaging the biga when the dough is cold makes for easier handling and ensures that the biga will not continue to rise before being put in the freezer. To prevent over-proofing the biga, I strongly recommend that the refrigerated biga be packaged and frozen within 24 hours of being placed in the refrigerator for the final rise.

In my experience, frozen biga will definitely perform well in the final bread recipe if used within 2 months of the packaging date. However, I have also used frozen biga that was stored for 3 months will no noticeable degradation of flavor and only a very slight degradation in the rising power it contributes to the final dough.

Letting the biga have it's rise in the refrigerator largely eliminates the problem of over-fermenting the dough, as long as the biga is frozen within (max) 24 hours. Similarly, when you plan to make bread with your frozen biga, defrost it (unwrapped) overnight in the refrigerator and use it within 24 hours.

Biga is a versatile addition to many kinds of bread. Having frozen biga on hand gives a lot of flexibility to your bread baking.

Still have questions? Do post back and I'll do my best to assist. - SF


Mebake's picture

hi Ray! It seems all 100% Wholewheat Breads are easily susceptible to tear, during final proofing, no matter how strong the shaping, or the flour is. There is just too much bran in it, making tearing inevitable.. That is why Txfarmer's loaf comes out smooth.. she uses multiple doughs beside each other, which combine, and expand with no tearing.. I'll have to try her method.

Thank you gary..Yes, that or splitting dough into ball portions which rise simultaneously in a pan, will make a seamless loaf.

Thank You SF! That is a very enlightning and smart method... Eric was very encouraged to try it out.. and so will i! thanks for tips..



ehanner's picture

Thank you SF. I like your procedure for freezing the biga. I usually make 2 loaves of 1.5 lbs so I would need about a pound for the batch. This is a good idea for me I think. I'll have to try it out with my schedule.