The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Biga in ANY recipe

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Biga in ANY recipe

Can you use a well developed BIGA in ANY recipe/formula when the recipe does not fall for one?  If so, how much do you subtract  from the dough recipe to make room for the Biga?  

StevenSensei's picture

Yes! A BIGA can be used in pretty much any bread recipe. It's basically just doing a preferment of a portion of the dough. Just like using a sourdough starter, but in this case with yeast instead. Might fluctuate from recipe to recipe but I would try between 30-50% of total weight for the Biga. Higher side for whole wheat. You should also make the biga have the same target hydration as the final dough so when mixed with the remaining ingredients the following day that your hydration is not altered. 

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Steven, thanks so very much for your reply to my qustion about using Biga in ANY loaf.  Much help!  Jim

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin


If I start making the biga by using a given percent (say 25, 30, 35, or 40) of each of the ingredients in the total recipe, wouldn't that automatically produce the same level of hydration in the biga as in the finished mix of all ingredients of the dough?

Next:  I am considering letting the biga age unrefrigerated for 24-48 hours (as suggested in the "Biga Universal" recipe in the book, "The Italian Baker."   You see any concern in that?  Thanks again!  Jim


Colin2's picture

I just write out the final ingredients, e.g. for ciabatta: 500 g flour, 400 g water,10g salt,1g yeast.  Then I assign part of that to the pre-ferment.  These days I like stiff bigas, so I might do 400g flour, 200g water, and a pinch of yeast for that, and add the rest when I make up the dough. 

You can do pre-ferments at many different hydrations.  The typical range is 50-100 percent.  To be annoyingly pedantic, what you propose -- using the same % of all ingredients, is a "pâte fermentée."  More here:

The concern with unrefrigerated rest is over-fermenting.  Whatever you make should be in a container that lets you easily track the dough.  If you want the per-ferment sitting longer you can start with a tiny amount of yeast, but under home conditions it's hard to predict how long it will need.

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks much for replying to my note about using poolish in ANY recipe.  Much help. Jim

Ming's picture

Nowadays I do a 100% preferment (yes with all the flour of a dough) in a biga (not a dough yet) with around 50% hydration for my baguettes. I have done this with either instant yeast or with fruit water respectively. When I am ready to turn it into a dough, I just add the rest of the liquid and salt and off I go to make bread. 

Jim Burgin's picture
Jim Burgin

Thanks much for your reply. I apreciated it.


tttt1010's picture

Why not just use the same hydration for your biga as in your final dough? Wouldn't it be much easier to mix this way? I simply do a very long 10+h room temp ferment with 0.001% yeast. I think it accomplishes the same thing as doing a 100% biga but without as much of a hassle. This method also gives me a nice open crumb in my yeasted breads.

foodforthought's picture

I use both levain and poolish in most breads I make. I generally keep both at 100% hydration AND I almost always use ALL of both preferments, recipe be damned. So the math is pretty easy. Just subtract 1/2 the actual weight of each from both the required flour and water for the final dough.

If you’re using different hydrations for biga, levain and final dough you just need to know how much flour and liquid components to subtract from the final dough ingredients in order to maintain the desired dough hydration.