It has been a busy time at our house the last week and a half. School and sporting activities are finishing off for the summer. We've been darting here and there around town for the last ten days. There have been school programs, last dance classes and several karate belt tests.
In the midst of all this I was trying to finesse a special request cake recipe for the kids. I thought I had it just right and the power goes out. Five hours of twilight and a cake in a rapidly cooling oven. High temperatures and the need for air conditioning had over whelmed the utilities. I hoped the residual heat in the oven would keep the cake baking, but instead it deflated and turned into a flabby Frisbee.
I decided to drown my cake baking sorrows in another kitchen experiment. I pulled out my copy of Peter Reinhart'sCrust and Crumband flipped to the pages on making pre-ferments. I'd tried my hand at making bread with a poolish and this time I would try to making bread with an Italian style biga pre-ferment.
An Italian style biga is usually firm pre-ferment for making bread. Like making sourdough, the biga is a sponge of flours, yeast and water. The difference is that the biga is made with cool water and the texture is firmer than other styles, like thepoolish. They also take longer to rise, due to the thicker dough. According Reinhart, a biga will stay active for up to 3 days if kept refrigerated, will freeze for up to 6 months.
I didn't use a binding agent like xanthan gum or chia seed gel for this rustic bread. It's the combination of flours that keeps the bread together. If you alter the flours used in this recipe, make sure to add a binder when you make it. You would use 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or 1 teaspoon chia seed gel. Add both to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix into the flours.
This is a lovely bread, full of holes and delightfully flavorful. I sliced thin strips of bread and toasted them. Then I made a bean relish of navy beans, carrots, radishes, dill, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. It was delicious and made a wonderful appetizer to our meal. My husband and I thoroughly nibbled on these while we waited for dinner to cook. Our children preferred eating hunks of the bread all alone.
Making the Biga Pre-Ferment (Firm)
½ cup millet flour ½ cup gluten free oat flour ½ cup arrowroot starch ¼ cup sweet potato flour 1 package active dry yeast 2/3 to ¾ cup cool water (65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) 1 Tb agave syrup1.In a small bowl, measure out a small amount of the water and then pour in the yeast.Allow it to soften for about 5 minutes before using.2. In a large bowl, dump in the flours and stir together.Slowly add the softened yeast and agave syrup to the bowl.Then begin to stir, slowly add enough of the rest of the water until the dough is smooth and slightly firm.The dough shouldn’t be loose and runny.3.Cover the dough and set aside for it to rise at room temperature for 3 to 5 hours.4.Use right away or store the biga in the refrigerator to retard it overnight.
1 1/3 cup biga ½ cup millet flour ½ cup oat flour ½ cup arrowroot starch ¾ cup sweet potato flour 2 tsp sea salt 1 package active dry yeast ¼ cup almond milk, room temperature 1 Tb agave syrup 1 ½ Tb olive oil ½ cup cool water (65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) Olive oil Hot water for steaming bowl1.If the biga has been in the refrigerator, set out for an hour before using.Then measure out the biga into a large bowl.2.Dump the various flours, salt, and yeast in the bowl.Stir until the yeast is thoroughly mixed throughout.3.In a large measuring cup, pour in the agave syrup, olive oil and water.Gently stir together and pour into the bowl of dry ingredients.Use the spoon to work the dough together taking care to work the biga into the dough.4.Cover the dough and set aside to rise for 2 to 4 hours or until the dough is 1 ½ times its original size.5.Set out 3 pieces of parchment paper and then divide the dough in to 3 equal pieces. Place the individual portions dough into the center of each piece of parchment paper.Shape into a rectangular shape and brush olive oil over the top of the bread. Do not press or squeeze, so that the air remains in the dough. Cover the loaves and allow to rise for 2 hours or until it rises 1 ½ times its original size.6.Place a pizza stone or bread baking stone on a rack placed into the center of the oven. Place a heat proof bowl on a rack below the baking stone for steaming.When the bread is just about finished rising, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.7.Place a loaf on parchment paper on the baking stone.Pour about 2 cups of hot water into the heat proof bowl.Then spritz water over the loaf and the sides of the oven.8.Bake for 2 minutes.Spritz the oven with water again.Bake for another 5 minutes and then reduce the oven’s heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.Bake for 20 minutes until the loaf is a golden brown or sounds hollow when thumped.9.Cool for 1 hour before cutting and eating.
* I didn't use a binding agent like xanthan gum or chia seed gel for this rustic bread. It's the combination of flours that keeps the bread together. If you alter the flours used in this recipe, make sure to add a binder when you make it. You would use 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or 1 teaspoon chia seed gel. Add both to the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix into the flours.