Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Biga, The Better

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.


  1. OOh, Amy....we should get together. I bought Ted a fabulous bread making cookbook for christmas..Artisan Baking. He has become an expert at Ciabatta with Biga starter as well as Poolish. We have starters going all of the time. We did focciaca..YUMM and olive bread (took..FOREVER)..and have also been experimenting with different kinds of flour etc. He recently got a new cookbook which is also fantatic..I'll have to send you a photo..yes, its so pretty we take photos. I'd love to talk to you abotu what kinds you guys make. I'd love to get a good sandwich bread going

  2. That looks and sounds soooo good! :D

  3. So nice to meet you Amy! I got here from GardenMama. Your jewelry is gorgeous!


  4. Making bread by hand is on my list of things to do. I love driving by the bakery and seeing the bakers make bread through the big window. Something about it seems so therapeutic!

  5. I have tried to make my own bread, but it never turns out very good, this looks delicious. I may just have to give this a try.
    It's nice to meet you, I'm one of your valentine swap partners from Gardenmama's swap. Have a great weekend :) Steph

  6. WOW it looks soo yummie!! My love one is really good at making bread but not me hehe
    I should ask him to give this a try!

    Been so busy lately with preparing for chinese new year and valentine's but sure am glad i found time to stop by your lovely blog. Have a lovely merry happy weekend and a sweet valentine's! Love to you!

  7. your first line made me laugh. that looks delicious. i have baked bread (on and off) for a long time and i have yet to find a sandwich bread recipe i like. care to share yours, please!?!
    have a LOVEly weekend!

  8. Wow, that looks great. I really admire you. Baking bread just seems so out of my reach.