I like bread…
Well understatement I love bread and I have a secret love affair with my 24 hr Biga starter which will pretty much come up with the goods, all the time! It’s always satisfying to know how wholesome home made bread can be. Sure, without the additives and extra sugar, salt, fat etc it’s not going to last a week like commercial loaves, but seriously, (if it’s that good, do you really think it’ll last a whole week without being devoured!)
Allowing the Bread starter to rise for the 24 hours means the bread can form it’s structure properly. Really, it’s like a little party for all that doughy goodness…
Omit the sugar in lieu for a scented honey base. With the tiniest pinch of salt and a mix of part semolina & plain flour to give an amazing crust (see my earlier post of Sicilian Semolina rolls with burnt orange.)
All that finishes the loaves is a final swish of olive oil to aid the dough and seriously, I’ve had friends who tried this bread simply with fresh tomatoes and anchovies and they didn’t even miss the butter…
This process of creating a bread with a Biga starter is derived from Italian bread techniques. My methods have been tweaked and it takes approx 16-24 hrs to create a firm bread, with chewy dense holes and a (not quite) sourdough texture.
I’ve revisited this recipe twice (this week) and made 4 successful loaves from it, of course if you have any concerns or questions don’t hesitate to ask.
Time: approx 24 hrs, best to start the night before…
Yield: 2 x Loaves
2.5 cups of plain flour (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 cup Semolina,
1 tbsp dried yeast,
3 heaped tbsp of honey (extra required if you prefer a strong honey scent)
Pinch of salt,
1-1.5 cups of warm water (gradually add as required)
Small Glug of Olive oil for the dough and the outside of that bowl.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine honey, warm water and add in a well. The batter will be incredibly runny, don’t worry as this allows the yeast particles to move more freely (to create a little party in the dough.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the bottom shelf of the fridge overnight or 8 hrs at least.
After the overnight rest period, it should have risen slowly but steadily. Divide the Biga mixture into another bowl. You should now have two equal portions. Begin to stir the mixture down with some Semolina (or plain flour if you prefer) to each batch, bit by bit, the dough will slowly become smooth.
Also add a quick glug of olive oil to the bowl to (stop) the dough from clinging to the sides of the bowls.
Next step, add a bit more honey in a swirl to refeed the flour/yeast cells. If you find the mixture a bit flat, stir in a sprinkle of dried yeast, few drops of warm water and then the honey. The dough should feel light, fluffy but still be sticky.
Ok, back into the fridge with the bowls, again on the lower shelf. This next rise might take 6-8 hours or so.
Time to preheat the oven to 200C (approx 392F.) Oil two pans or baking trays, (I prefer a heavy base pan because I find it gives a much better crust.) Also, sprinkle them with semolina (or more flour.)
Begin to shape your loaves, I’ve chosen a classic round and a (ciabatta style) slipper loaf shape. I always score the top with a very wet and sharp knife, with a cross section or in lines running horizontal along the loaf.
Rest the loaves anywhere from (30 mins to an hour,) once you’re happy with the final rise and the volume, dust with semolina or flour (or both) and reduce the oven to 180C (356F).
Bake for 25-35 mins and check within the last 20 mins, swapping the shelves if required.
A tried and true method after baking, is to turn off the oven & leave the door ajar with the loaves (drying on a rack.) This will force the last bit of steam out of the loaves and gives an amazing density to the crust. You can stick a wooden spoon in between the handle & door to keep it open too (maybe for a couple of hours or overnight depending on how hungry you’re getting!!!) Enjoy!