The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Convert sourdough formula to biga?

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Convert sourdough formula to biga?

Hi friends,

I'm just finding my feet as a baker and not quite ready to wade into sourdough yet, but there are so many wonderful-looking whole wheat sourdough breads on TFL that I would love to make. I see many breads posted here that were converted from commercial yeast to sourdough. I was wondering if it is a crazy idea to convert a sourdough to a biga or some other kind of commercial-yeast pre-ferment. Is this nuts?  Is it reasonable?  Is there a straightforward way to figure out a substitution? And most importantly, if I am committing heresy by even floating the idea, please kindly forgive me. 

Your truly, Jess

bottleny's picture
bottleny

No straightforward conversion formula but some guidelines to follow.

I don't bake sourdough bread but did bread making using biga a lot before. Though I am making long cold fermentation, no-knead (S&F few times) bread more often now.

Basic ideas for indirect method (from sourdough bread or straight yeast bread):

  • Get the total weights of flour and water from the original recipe.
  • Decide the amount of biga you want
    • Decide the rest time of a biga
    • Which would affect the hydration of a biga and the temperature

To understand more about how these factors (rest time, hydration, temperature), you can check out this information "Direct & Indirect Methods-Bread Making" from The Artisan.

The best way to understand the conversion would be their ciabatta page, which lists recipes based on direct method and indirect metion (biga & poolish).

Then you can play around with biga and adapt the recipes to suit your needs (e.g. taste, baking schedule)

In my biga-baking days, I liked to keep the hydration of biga to be 50% (easier to calculate) and 0.5% or less for the yeast

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Thanks Bottleny, this was super helpful. 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Hi Jess,

I think it will be easier and ultimately more satisfying  for you to learn to bake with sourdough starter than to go through the trial and error acrobatics needed to do the conversion you’re inquiring about. Unless there’s some reason besides fear of the unknown, I heartily recommend trying sourdough. Its not hard or particularly time consuming. It’s actually very flexible in terms of timings, to work it in around a busy schedule. And you have a global population of mentors here on TFL. I’d recommend getting a copy of Hammelman or Forkish to get you started. 

And in case it’s an issue, sourdough breads needn’t be sour. 

Tom

pmccool's picture
pmccool

just start with a formula calling for a yeasted pre-ferment, such as a biga or poolish or sponge.  You'll find plenty of examples here on TFL if you use the Search tool.  Or you can google “bread with biga” or “bread with poolish” to find even more.  

Paul

 

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Hi guys, thanks so much for the pointers and suggestions!

I have started, baked with, and killed, sourdough a few times. Getting an active sourdough wasn't hard but my bread wasn't very good. I'm sure I will cultivate another sourdough someday, but this time around I want to to learn how to develop and work with bread dough first. I'm getting there though. This site is so incredibly helpful. 

Warmly, Jessica

 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

I strongly recommend Hammelman. 

Heck, I’ll lend you my copy!

Tom

SeasideJess's picture
SeasideJess

Thanks, Tom! It certainly sounds like a useful resource.

David R's picture
David R

If your aim is to make good bread, then you can't be committing any heresy. 🙂

You probably overestimate how much "wading" is involved for sourdough - it's probably less work than the conversion project you're taking on right now - but if you feel more in control by doing things a certain way, then why not. As long as you end up with better bread somehow, it's good.