The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

50% Whole wheat Bread (The Frozen Biga Test)

Mebake's picture

50% Whole wheat Bread (The Frozen Biga Test)

In reference to the comment of TFL member : subfuscpersona, here, where SF thankfully shared his idea of Freezing a yeasted BIGA for future use; i have finally done the proposed method, with little deviations of my own.

The recipe was adapted from Peter Reinhart's (Transitional Multigrain Hearth bread).


Soaker:       223g    Bran + coarse whole Wheat middlings

          (sifted remains of milled Wholewheat flour)

                   4g (1/2 tsp)    Salt

                   173g              water


Total:          400 grams


Biga:      227g               Bread flour                                      50 % wholewheat

                  1g (1/4tsp)      Instant Dry Yeast                    50% Prefermented Flour

                   142g                     water                                             Total Hydration: 70%

------------------------------------------                                        Bulk Fermentation: 45 min.

Total:        370 grams                                                             Final Fermentation: 30-45 min @ 25c


Final Dough:

                 400g                     All Soaker

                 370g                     All Biga

                 9g  (2 ¼ tsp)          Instant Dry Yeast    

                8g  (1 tsp)              Salt


Total:       787 grams

Deviations where in mixing the White Biga , fermenting it at room temperature for 4 Hours until it doubled, then immediately freezing it. biga was frozen for three days, and thawed slowly in the refrigerator for another 24 hrs prior to baking day. Amusing, how convenient these Yeasted Bigas are!

Yesterday, 2 hours before mixing, i removed the thawed Biga from the refrigerator to allow it to come to room temperature. Mixing proceeded, and i did not notice any adverse effects of the freezing on the structure of the Biga. Mind you, it was a White Biga, I'am sure the same would apply for a wholewheat biga, too.

The Final dough developed very quickly, and was bulkfermented, preshped, shaped, and fermented in a banneton. I wanted to try Franko's recent scoring style: here, Nice!

Thanks to Subfuscpersona, for his Ideas...! my Freezer shall be packed with Bigas from now on... :)



ananda's picture

It's a twin to Franko's loaf, Khalid!

Best wishes


Janetcook's picture


Very interesting experiment and I am so glad you shared your results here.  I use PR's 'epoxy' method all of the time and never thought of freezing the biga....Another trick I can use when planning ahead or running off schedule.

I agree with you that yeasties are very adaptable!  I like that because it leaves me lots of leeway for error :-)

I also like the looks of the loaf you baked.   I see you were inspired by Franko too.  Your scoring turned out better than the job I did this morning on one of my loaves....

Take Care,


Franko's picture

Hi Khalid,

When I read subfuscpersona's post about freezing biga it was the first I'd heard of such a thing, but then I remembered you can buy frozen bread dough in the supermarket, so why not. Still I wondered how it would fare in a domestic freezer over time. It sounds like you've answered the questions and concerns I had, with your test. Nicely done, and thanks for taking the time and initiative to do the test and share the results with us. Speaking of nicely done,.. your 50% whole wheat is a splendid looking example of a very healthy loaf. Beautiful crumb, nice high profile and an even and chewy looking crust. There's something else remarkable about your loaf as well, I just can't quite put my finger on it.....oh yes! the scoring. Seriously Khalid, your lovely, clean scoring has made a great loaf that much better. It's a pleasure to be able to return a little inspiration back to you, someone who's inspired me many times over the last year or so.

All the best my friend,


Syd's picture

Nice baking, Khalid.  I am wondering how long it will last frozen in the freezer before the yeast deteriorates to a level where it is no longer effective.  I agree with Franko: lovely scoring and shaping.


Mebake's picture

Thanks, Andy :)

Thanks Janet :) What is even better, you could freeze a sourdough Biga when it ripens and expect he flavor to be even better. You may want to add instant yeast in the end, but its worth the trial. I'll Try that, and post about it someday.

Thank you very much franko! I didn't know i had inspired you, you are a professional baker, and i ought to learn and be inspired by you :)

In baking, you'd want to be Bold enough to endure tests, and failures, and that is precisely why i admire many TFL members who mix in different ingredients, and end up with exquisite results. Afterall, Chef Hamelman, and othe Master Bakers have only Learned through trial and error.

By the way, Your loaf had jumped in the oven better than mine, and your brotform patterns are neater than mine :)

Mebake's picture

Thank you Syd. That remains to be known. According to Subfuscpersona, BIGA will last frozen for as much as three months, before it starts to alter the flavor and texture of the final bread.

subfuscpersona's picture

Thanks, Mebake, for trying this method and reporting back. I'm glad it worked for you. Your bread looks lovely.

re the Question - how long will frozen biga last? - the longest I've kept frozen biga is 3 months. It did *not* change flavor (or alter the flavor in the final bread). Three-month-old biga *may* very slightly degrade in rising power, but I haven't rigorously tested this. If the frozen biga is more than 2 months old, I do compensate by increasing the IDY in the final recipe very slightly - an extra pinch of IDY per loaf. A pinch of IDY weighs less than one gram, so I'm being cautious, not scientific.

Sometimes links fail, so, for everyone's convenience, I'm repeating my original post (that Mebake linked to) here.

========= my original post ====================

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.

==== end of original post ======================

PS: (off - topic) I have it on good authority that subfuscpersona is a Ms (not a Mr) :)

happy baking to all - SF

sam's picture

Very nice, and great experiment of the frozen biga.  

I wonder if you can freeze a liquid levain in a similar manner, I suspect so but I have never tried freezing anything.

Good work!


Mebake's picture

Thanks SF. I've edited out MR. :)

I have to try freezing a 50% ripened sourdough Biga. It should rise while thawing in the refrigerator, and i think that final fermentation will take hours more than usual. Well, you'd only find out when you experiment.

Thanks gvz :) I'd be hesitant to tamper with inherently temperamental liquid levains, as they may deteriorate while thawing. In principle, it should work, though, but you'd have to be around your fridge when it is ready, and that, my friend, isn't possible for a tight scheduled guy like me :)

lumos's picture

I used to freeze small chunks of pate-fermente to add to dough to add an extra dimention of flavour, but it was a very small amount (about 10-15% to main dough flour) , so I relied the actual fermentation upon yeast/sourdough I added to the main dough, thinking defrosted pate-fermente wouldn't do the job sufficiently.  But your experiment showed it can be done entirely by  defrosted preferment.  Very interesting.... Thank you for sharing this, Khalid. 

Did you find a significant difference in how the dough ferment with the defrosted biga compared to the one using not-frozen biga?  How was the taste of the resultant loaf like?

best wishes,


Mebake's picture

Thanks , Lumos!

As the recipe states above, i did add Instant yeast (2.25 tsp of it) to the final dough. I did, however, tried feeding my dough once with a prefermented dough (a baguette with poolish excess dough), added no yeast, and my wholewheat bread was very good.

Defrosted biga behaved normally as it would non-frozen. The flavor of the final bread remained unchanged. After all, it had only been in the freezer for 3 days , and the 4th thawing in the refrigerator. Dough, too, behaved normally.

lumos's picture

Sorry, Khalid, I missed the yeast in the recipe. (Too early in the morning.....:p)

And thanks for answering the questions.  I may deliberately make too much poolish baguette dough next time to freeze it, then.

When I used to freeze pate-fermente to add flavour, the book I based my method on said it could be kept up to one month without too much deterioration in the quality. I once used  2-months old frozen pate-fermente (Forgotten I had it...),  and though not sure if it had any effect to the dough I added it to, at least it didn't kill me.  :p

Look forward to your next inspiring experiment!


AnnaInMD's picture

comfort zone of not having to worry about my inadequacies of baking knowledge and techniques, HERE COMES ANOTHER ONE !

I love the idea of  a biga freezing technique. Actually, I think, I am halfway there. The other day I was creating another ahem masterpiece and the dough just had that feel of a brick. So I stuffed it into the fridge and just used part for a new creation which worked well.  So now I shall freeze the remainder and will use it as I need it. I always thought that freezing would kill the yeasties.  Thanks All !


Mebake's picture

Anna, the frozen Biga used in the recipe above is commercial yeast based, not sourdough. I tried freezing a sourdough Biga, and it lay dead after thawing. Commercial yeast are very resilient strands of yeast, but i'am adding yet more yeast to the final dough anyway, so even if the biga's yeats are dead you'd still get the raise.

One thing worth mentioning, though. you'd want to aim for slow lengthy fermentation for your BIga to envoke the most flavor, prior to freezing it.

Best wishes!

AnnaInMD's picture

frozen (brick) biga was baked into an Altamura Seminola Focaccia a la Daniel Leader with just fresh tomatoes and rosemary, along with the newest spice I fell in love with from MySpiceSage, it is Applewood-smoked Sea Salt. Absolutely fabulous. Long live the frozen Biga with yeast ;)



Mebake's picture

Beautiful looking focaccia, Anna! it calls for a biga then, eh? it must be very tasty, was it?

AnnaInMD's picture

500 g  Seminola

410 g tepid Water

and 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

After the normal 20-minute autolyse, 3 hr ferment with 2 vigorous stretch and fold intervals

I brushed a cookie sheet with olive oil and stretched the dough to fill the sheet.

I once again  brushed with olive oil and sprinkled 9 grams of that wonderful Applewood-smoked sea salt

Then I sliced and arranged 3 nicely-sized tomatoes and sprinkled the whole thing with fresh rosemary which I chopped up a bit.

Let it proof again uncovered for 45 minutes and baked on the middle shelf at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.

I had made a hamhock 15-bean soup that morning and the focaccia was a delicious addition. 

The left over bread was sprinkled with cheddar cheese the next evening and broiled a bit until the cheese melted. 

My next focaccia will be baked with mushrooms and sweet onions and a touch of fresh garlic :)