The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

A Big(a) Controversy

albacore's picture

A Big(a) Controversy

A few years ago, I made Abel's excellent 90% biga loaf recipe, and it turned out really well. There's some pictures of my bake in that long thread.

I've made the same or similar biga based loaves since and they've never been as good - in terms of crust, ears, loft and crumb. What I've come to realise is that in my original loaf I made the biga the wrong way After that I read some more about bigas and started making the biga the right way

I define the wrong way as mixing the biga to a single cohesive lump (but without gluten development) and storing it as such. This can be done, even at 45% hydration, at least in a spiral mixer.

I  define the right way as mixing for a shorter time, just to get those barely hydrated shreds, often with some dry flour left.

After mixing I stored the biga for 24 hours at 11-12C prior to use, so somewhat colder than a normal biga, which would be 16-18C.

In conclusion I think that mixing the biga "incorrectly" actually gives me better results than the proper method and I will continue to make it this way. Here's a picture of todays loaf:



GrainBrain's picture

Am intrigued by your results; your photo looks excellent. Good authors and teachers such as Hamelman have written that gluten development is NOT the goal in creating a biga. He also gives guidelines for matching yeast to time for biga development. I saw that the referenced recipe called for 3 grams of yeast. Renowned bakers such as Claus Meyer never use more than 2 g for a kilogram of flour.
Is it possible your biga succeeded at a colder temperature because of the dosage of yeast? Have you experimented with lesser amounts of yeast? Could a reduction in dosage yield the same results at 16-18C?
Hard not to commend your results, but there is usually more than one good method. Please let us know if you find the right dosage of yeast to deliver the same results at 16-18C and enjoy all your efforts.

albacore's picture

My understanding of the biga is that, classically, it is always made with 1% fresh fresh yeast, so 0.33% or 0.4% idy, depending on your preferred fresh to instant conversion factor. See Giorilli's article here (in Italian). Michael Wilson, our own Italian baking expert, concurs:

I agree about not developing the gluten - I made sure that I didn't mix long enough to do that. My point is that I believe I am making better biga loaves by mixing to that single cohesive mass, rather than the supposedly correct "shreds".

The temperature may well be a factor and of course others may get different results to me. And 12C is an "in between" temperature, not always easy to maintain in the summer. 



DanAyo's picture

Lance, reading your post made me think how beneficial this forum is. You went off the reservation and went against the tide. Maybe you stumbled upon something that was not known before. 

When such a large number of avid bakers, each working independently in their homes all around the world, innovation is inevitable. 

God Bless the rebels and those that dare to think outside the box.

BTW - 
That is one gorgeous bread you’ve got there...

Even though dark loaves are in vogue, I can’t imagine a more beautiful color than that one. You’ve captured my ideal.

albacore's picture

Thank you Danny. I was looking at biga preparation on Youtube and it is interesting to watch a recent video from Giorilli. His biga isn't completely a cohesive mass, but it's certainly closer to one than the "shreds".



Martin from KAF's picture
Martin from KAF

I had always done the cohesive mass--years of working with Jeffrey led me to define a good Biga as a stiff preferment (mid 50s for hydration). But then I worked with Ezio Marinato and watched him make his "vera Biga" which resembled something like cheese curds with even some loose flour.

Great bread can be made both ways and I have no doubt that in Italy there is great variance on this item. The one thing that I will say is that the curd-like Biga had an aroma which was decisively different than what I have come to know over many years and thousands of sniffs of Jeffrey's biga formulation. 

Celebrating the differences,