The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Abel's 90% Biga - as baguettes of course

alfanso's picture

Abel's 90% Biga - as baguettes of course

After Abel posted his 90% Biga @45% hydration (70% overall) a few heads were turned and some fast commitments made to reproduce this bread.  Mine too.  Some questions were left unanswered, i.e. the optional levain hydration, baking temp and time.  So some jeri-rigging was needed. 

Biga hand mixed, not "crumbly" as advised.


Final dough ingredients incorporated.

Completion of French Folds, awaiting bulk rise.

As my place is about 78dF-80dF year round, the kitchen was too hot to allow the biga to exist for the projected 14-16 hours.  It needs something in the vicinity of 62dF-65dF, according to Abel.  I emptied out a few bottles from my small wine cooler left it there for the duration  My notes:

  • Used Gold Medal Bread Flour which is likely not as strong as what Abel recommends.
  • wine cooler temp lowered the temp to 60dF
  • biga retarded for 22 hours, doming slightly but nothing more was noted.
  • 100% hydration liquid levain while adjusting the remaining flour and water downward to compensate.
  • Used a stoneground dark rye for the final 10% flour.
  • Chop biga into small pieces, add to water/new flour /salt in mixer w/paddle on slow, wait to incorporate, add next small piece...
  • 300 French Folds: 150, 5 min. rest, 150 more.
  • 1 letter fold at 30 minutes of the 60 minute* bulk rise.  
  • 15 minute rest after the pre-shape.
  • dough was very easy to shape and gave little resistance, more extensible than elastic for sure.
  • Dough required very little flour on couche, and came off cleanly from couche to hand peel.
  • 60 minute* bench top proof.
  • Oven to 480dF for 1 hour.
  • Sylvia's Steaming Towel 15 minutes before bake.
  • 2 cups boiling water on Lava Rocks just after loading dough.
  • Oven reset to 460dF for bake.
  • 10 minutes under steam, then steam released and dough rotated.
  • 10 minutes continued bake with another 3 minutes venting - oven off.

*Consideration that the levain generally takes longer than IDY to work its magic, with my kitchen being warmer than most,  I abided by Abel's timing to compensate for the warmer/faster acting environment.

Lessons applied and/or learned:

  • Don't mix the biga by hand.  Too difficult and the dough is not "crumbly" as Abel puts it.  I did and it was not easy.
  • Do mix the remaining flour, water and salt in a mechanical mixer with the paddle attachment.  It will incorporate much better than by hand.  After that, however you wish to complete the mixing phase is your decision.
  • Do "autolyse" the final dough ingredients (remaining flour, water and salt) to get a better hydration for the final dough.  It should be slurry, but will incorporate better.  I didn't.

350g x 3 baguettes/long batards


isand66's picture

Looking good as usual.  Doesn't seem to matter what dough you mix for your baguettes...they all look so consistent.  My new years resolution is going to be to start making more baggies....every time I make them I end up screwing the transfer to the oven up and you can usually hear me cursing all the way in Florida :).

How was the taste and the crumb on this one?

alfanso's picture

although no picture so far.  If you've been following the thread started by Abel where he introduces this, both Abe (lechem) and I felt that there should have been more payback in flavor for the amount of time the biga was retarded.  Pleasant enough and maybe it is a learned thing to coax more flavor out of it then we did.  But the experience was worth it and I'll likely do it again.  

So...the transfer is as easy as pie.  Once you get a few under your belt.  If you are using a couche, make sure that the level of flour on the couche is correct so that they don't have to be torn or overly coaxed off.  I still occasionally make that mistake, but not too often.  The transfer from couche is using a hand (or transfer) peel, and then landing it on the oven peel.  I don't like using something like cornmeal but a flat parchment sheet cut to size is the key to success.  That will slide right off the oven peel and into the oven easy as can be.  In the event that you haven't seen this before, I made a short video that shows this process, including scoring.

Good luck, it is an endeavor that is worthwhile once the skills kick in.


isand66's picture

Thanks.   I will review your video again right before attempting.  I do follow your same procedure and just need to practice.

Yu wouldn't think the flavor would be more pronounced with the formula you followed. I'm sure a little more tinkering will get you there soon enough.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

How did I miss this? Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope I can produce something like your loaves.

grind's picture

I'ma have to try this again.  I didn't really like my first results.  I went against my better instincts and didn't proof the loaves enough before placing them in the oven.

dabrownman's picture

Levain treatments.  I think retarding the levain for 48 hour would bring out more tang in the bread.  Still this one had ti be a little more sour than usual.

Just gorgeous!