The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Room temperature bigas with Reinhart's WGB technique?

Smo's picture

Room temperature bigas with Reinhart's WGB technique?

So, I like to bake bread in the morning before I go to school.  But it's a real pain to wake up a couple hours early to get the biga out of the fridge.  However, I'm not sure why it needs to go in the fridge; lots of other bread recipes involve leaving bread out for far longer periods of time at room temperature.  Particularly low-yeast artisan ones.


So does anybody have suggestions on doing this with the WGB recipes?  Should I maybe put some salt in the biga to retard the fermentation?  Or just use less yeast?

rainbowbrown's picture

Regrettably, I don't know how to answer your question, but I have a suggestion.  I'm often in the same predicament and what I do is set two alarms.  I usually wake up at around 5:30 and what I'll do is set another alarm for 4:30, get up and bleary eye-edly stumble to the kitchen take the thing out of the fridge and go back to sleep.  An hour later when my real alarm goes off I wake up for real and when I go into the kitchen the bowl is miraculously sitting on the counter waiting for me and I don't even remember how it got there.  Now this may not work for everyone, but it might.

charbono's picture

Reinhart’s method uses a relatively large amount of yeast for an overnight biga.  The biga itself is relatively large, being nearly 50% of the dough.  The method works because the refrigeration protects the dough from enzymes until acidity builds up, and fermentation will stay under control.  After 8 hours in the fridge, the biga is ready.  It can be kept longer, and doesn’t need to be watched.


Considering the large size of the biga, I think it would be hard to find a combination of sufficient salt and low yeast to work at room temp without undue risk.  If you go that route, perhaps you should reduce the size of the preferment.  Adding acidity, in a form like buttermilk powder, should help.  Also helping to control both the yeast and enzymatic activity would be a lower hydration.  At room temp, the biga would have to be watched.    


Reinhart’s method is actually a simple solution, for those with the right schedule.

Smo's picture

Hmm.  Yeah, I think you're right.  I had forgotten about the refrigeration slowing enzyme action.  Oh well.


I've tried the two-alarm thing (actually that's what I do now), but it's a pain.  It's hard enough getting a good night's sleep as a college student.  ;) 

KipperCat's picture

I've made the NYT NK bread with 100% WW flour. The first rise takes less time than with white flour, but it still works. If I remember right, the WW was usually ready in about 70 to 80% of the time of the white flour version. The original recipe was for 18 hours in a 79F room.

How about if you used ice water and about 1/16 tsp. yeast for the biga? It's been a few months since I read any information on enzymes, so I may well be missing something!