Breaking the Biga Barrier

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In celebration of the 3rd Annual International Bake Bread Weekend, I wanted to try something different. Well, different to me. Breadwise, I’ve been trying to incorporate more and more whole wheat in my recipes. This hasn’t always been easy, because I tend not to like all whole wheat breads. But I know they can be healthier than bread made with more processed flours. Plus, I want to be able to use my home-ground flour.

Determined to find something for this weekend, I went looking in my growing library of bread books. When I looked through Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor, I found something I wanted to try: his recipe for whole wheat and sprouted grain bread.
This recipe also gave me a chance to make a biga, something I’ve not done before.

Biga is an Italian name for prefermented dough. In Reinhart’s recipes in these books, most bigas are made with flour, water, and a small amount of commercial yeast. It’s mixed together, covered, and fermented overnight (and up to a few days) in the refrigerator.
Here’s my biga on its way to the fridge nap.

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As the recipe names, this bread also calls for sprouted grains. You can use whatever grain you want; I went with wheat. The technique is similar to the one I use to make the sprouted wheat I mill into flour. (The post dealing with that is here.) The main difference is the length of time they are sprouted. To make the flour, I let the sprouts get about 1/8 inch. For the grains used in this recipe, the sprouts should barely break the cover. It’s kind of hard to see here, but these are some of the wheat grains sprouted for this bread.
HPIM1191https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/HPIM1191.jpg?w=640 640w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />
I started them to sprout after making the biga. They were ready the next day.

The next day you pull together the final dough, which includes the biga and sprouted grains. Although it can be kneaded in a mixer, I went with the hand method. I’ve really gotten into touching the dough. As sappy as it sounds, it makes me feel one with the dough.

I decided to form this dough into a loaf and bake in a loaf pan. Here we have dough ready for final proofing and baking.

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I have to say this bread perfumed my house like many others have not. The floodgates of my saliva glands were opened, and there may have been drool.

And here’s the final bread.

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And the obligatory crumb shot.

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This is a dense, hearty bread. And it may have changed my outlook on 100% whole wheat bread. It tastes as good as it smells and I think looks. And I can tell you from experience that it makes great toast!

I hope you bake bread this weekend. And mark your calendars now. The 4th Annual International Bake Bread Weekend is February 14-15, 2015.

Perhaps most important, don’t be afraid to try something new. Do not be afraid of the biga.

© Copyright 2014 Ida Walker, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Enabling Cook
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1 Comment for this entry

  • Pirate Jeni

    Peter Reinhart’s books are some of my favorites in bread baking. I use biga or poolish pretty regularly (when I do actually bake bread)

    Now, I’m thinking, when I’m brewing beer from grains, I have a heck of a lot of spent grain left over. I wonder if I could use it instead of the sprouted grains.. I mean, technically, they are sprouted before they are dried and milled.. but then I mash them to get a lot of the sugars out. Hmmmmm.
    Pirate Jeni´s last blog post ..Cold Sheep

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