Italian biga is a starter sponge for making so many different tyoes of Italian bread. The biga is not a replacement for yeast in recipes but it does allow you to use less yeast since the starter sponge already contains some.
The biga is made up of yeast, water and flour and is similar to other starter sponges from different countries with the water to flour ratio being just a little different. If you are wondering what the purpose is for a starter like this, it is essentially aged dough that develops slowly (the yeast, water and flour together) so it imparts a beautiful flavor to your dough recipes.
When working with starter sponges like this, it is important to know what the recipe you are using it in calls for in terms of how long to age your biga. Some recipes for bread that use biga call for 24 hour biga (aged for 24 hours) while others might call for 8 or 12 hour biga (aged for 8 or 12 hours). This is very important to take notice of and follow since the wrong aged biga in a recipe could ultimately devour the new dough you are adding it to.
The recipe I love to use this starter sponge in is ciabatta bread. I use a recipe from Carol Field who is an amazing baker that simplifies everything about baking for all levels of bakers. The ciabatta recipe is no exception. I did add some of my own additional tips and tricks to the recipe that I find helpful.
This is very easy to make and you can also use this biga recipe as your recipe for great tasting pizza dough! The best pizza doughs are merely aged dough made with flour, water and yeast.
I hope you give this a try!
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons water preferably bottled spring water, at room temperature
- 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for the bowl
- Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- Stir the remaining water into the creamy yeast mixture, and then stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time. If mixing by hand, stir with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes. If mixing with a stand mixer, beat with the paddle at the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing with a food processor, mix just until a sticky dough forms.
- Transfer the biga to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature for 6 to 24 hours, until the starter is triple its original volume but is still wet and sticky.
Refrigerating the biga: use within 5 days. Freezing the biga: let it rest at room temperature for about 3 hours until it is bubbly and active again.) When needed, scoop out the desired amount of biga for your recipe, weigh it and proceed.