3 tablespoons whole wheat or rye flour
3/4 cup all purpose or bread flour
1/4 teaspoon active yeast
1/2 cup water
All the biga
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, or herbs of choice
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon active yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 cup shredded sharp cheese, or Parmesan cheese
Fine sea salt, optional
Flavored butter of choice
* Whole wheat or rye adds flavor; may use all bread or all purpose flour. Mix together all ingredients, cover and set aside to ferment 5-10 hours (or refrigerate up to 3 days).
Bread Directions – using a mixer:
Warm milk in microwave 20-30 seconds on high, place in mixing bowl; add softened butter and egg, beat with a fork; stir in sugar, salt, Italian seasoning, and garlic. Add yeast, the biga and flour; using dough hook knead 5-8 minutes; half way through kneading cycle add cheese. If needed, sprinkle in a little flour to keep dough from sticking to sides of pan.
Place dough in a clean bowl sprayed with non-stick spray, cover and place in warm place to rise until double in bulk.
Punch bread dough down (knead to remove gases); shape into an oblong ball and place on baking sheet or parchment paper; sprinkle with sea salt and place in warm place to rise until double in bulk.
While bread is raising place large a baking sheet (with edges, or a broiler pan) on bottom rack of oven. If using a baking stone, place stone on middle rack; preheat oven to 400 degrees (allow stone to heat for at least 20 minutes at 400 degrees).
Sprinkle bread with flour; using a sharp knife make 2-3 slashes in top of bread; slide bread on parchment paper onto baking stone (or, if not using a stone, baking sheet with raised bread) on middle rack in oven. Pour 1-2 cups hot water into pan which was placed on bottom rack in oven and quickly close oven to trap steam. Bake approximately 25 or until browned.
Serve warm spread with herb butter.
Follow bread machine for loading ingredients. Set machine on dough or manual cycle and start. When dough has risen and dough cycle is complete, follow directions above.
Warm milk in microwave 20-30 seconds on high, place in mixing bowl; add softened butter and the egg, beat with a fork; stir in sugar, salt, Italian seasoning, and garlic; stir in yeast, all the biga, cheese and flour. Stir, as dough begins to become cohesive and leave the sides of the bowl remove dough and place on a floured surface and knead (lifting and folding motion) until smooth and elastic. Follow directions above.
Artisan bread is “crafted” in small batches, reminiscent of old world breads, and often uses pre-ferments to improve texture and flavor. The most common pre-ferment is sour dough. Unlike sourdough, biga (Italian) and poolish (French) use a small amount of yeast and create the desired texture and character without the stronger sourdough flavor. Both biga and poolish are a type of sponge (but don’t call it a sponge to artisan bread purists) created by mixing flour, water and a tiny amount yeast and allowed to ferment for several hours or overnight. Biga has a higher flour to water percentage (60/40) while poolish is approximately 45-50% flour to water by weight (more like a batter).
Baking stones are made of clay and kiln fired at high temperatures. Professional ovens, which are brick lined, produce more even heat distribution which result in a more evenly baked product. Baking stones replicate the brick oven at a much more affordable price for most cooks.