The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My first attempts at making a biga

Martnal's picture

My first attempts at making a biga

I'm in England.  I am making biga using 150g flour, 75g water and a good pinch of instant breadmaker yeast.  All the YouTube video I watch show the biga being bubbly and frothy after 12-24 hours.  Mine (two separate attempts, using fresh flour and yeast) is like a ball of dough, but smells divine.  It is unusually hot here in England this week.  If I pull at the dough it is aerated, but very firm.

Why is mine not frothy?  Is it to do with a difference between English and American flour?  I will be going ahead and using it tomorrow.


mutantspace's picture

ive only made a few bigas but do like it - nightmare to breakdown when mixing into your final mix but the low hydration allows you to develop it for longer. Generally bigas would be fermented in a lower temperature than a levain or poolish I think traditionally they were put into cellars to do their work. I dont see why you think it should be frothy. To be frothy you need liquid and your hydration is at 50%. So it should smell divine and be aerated. The hardest job is to cut it into small walnuyt pieces and slowly mix in water in order to get it to mix properly. 

On the otherhand a poolish will be very frothy as its a 100% hydration. 

subfuscpersona's picture

Agree - a biga is a firm dough - definitely not liquid (like a poolish). Many of the biga formulae I've seen typically use a hydration of 50%-60% (ratio of water to flour) so yours is in the lower range.

If you find you like using a biga in your baking, it is easy to make a large amount and freeze it (packaged in the amount, by weight, that you would use for a baking a particular loaf). I do it all the time and it does save time and works very well. If you'd like more info on this approach, see my post to TFL Freezing Biga for Future Use .

Happy baking! Let us know how your bread turned out.

albacore's picture

Martin, it sounds like your YouTuber is confusing biga with poolish. As others have said, a biga is always low hydration - in the range 45-50%, and so will not froth.

Also a biga is always made with a yeast rate of 1% fresh, or 0.33-0.4% IDY - not a pinch.

Temperature is also something to consider as a biga should be fermented at a temperature of about 18C or 20C tops.

In the UK I would also recommend a very strong white flour, such as Waitrose Canadian bread flour to make your biga.

Or just make a poolish! It will be a lot easier unless you have the right equipment.


gavinc's picture

Hamelman's ciabatta with stiff biga uses a biga that is 60% hydration.  I made it a few times and the biga is stiff but not solid, so I work it in the final dough with a mixer. 20% of the overall flour is pre-fermented, and the overall recipe is 73% hydration.

Cheers, Gavin