I am from Boston, but I don't mean "biggah," I'm talking about biga, a bread starter. Cousin to the sourdough starter, the biga is the key ingredient used in Italian-style country breads like ciabatta and pagnotta. It adds flavor and gives a crisp crust and moist chewy inside that, until now, I had only enjoyed in store-bought loaves.
It's a bit of a process, this biga business, but I found a recipe for a two-week biga in The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook, that makes a large batch that you can pull from for...two weeks.
A dough made with a biga is somewhat sticky, soft, and invitingly smooth. This batch made a delicious round loaf we devoured with pasta and broccoli. Pictured below are the rolls we ate with soup. Really though? It was more like the soup that accompanied the rolls. So good.
We have been baking our own bread for years now—sandwich breads, baguettes, rolls and sweet breads, but I have never been able to match that certain something found in country breads from the bakery. Bread with a crisp, knobby crust, airy inside, and deep flavor seemed out of my reach. Not so, anymore, now that I have tapped into the Italian in me. And just as the author of the recipe I followed predicted, I will never be without it. Best part is I still have another eight days to use the biga in my fridge.
I found a good history of the biga and instructions to make one here.