I made a loaf of Italian bread using the pre ferement biga, and learned the value of planning ahead. If you want to read about how it went and what I though, just click that read more do-dad!
Last week, I decided to attempt making the pre-ferment biga. Biga is the Italian version of the French Pâte Fermentée. Making the biga after work was no problem. Biga consists of water, Flour, and yeast; there is no salt. You mix the ingreditents, let it rise for a couple of hours, and then place it in the fridge. The cold slows down the fermentation action, but does not stop it. The slow ferment adds a different flavor to the dough. I think of it as a fuller, smoother flavor, as the dough has had more time to soften the gluten. You can leave the biga in the fridge for up to three days, but overnight is really all it needs. I let my sit for a couple of nights, as the day after I made it was not conducive to making loaves and baking.
I finally got around to making the loaves after dinner on Thursday. I took the dough out just prior so it had time to shake off the coldness. I cut it up in to smaller pieced to aid in the mixing, and began following the Italian bread recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Are of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. Everything was coming together nicely. I finished the primary mixing and set the bread aside to Rise. I knew I had a couple of hours to kill so I headed to the computer to check my mail and the time.
I had three new messages.
It was 8:00pm.
I had two choices at this point: Call it a night and attempt the bread tomorrow, or push through and get the loaves done.
Both had their disadvantages. If stayed up to finish the loaves, the next day would be a bit on the rough side, lightly speaking. Putting the dough in the fridge could subject it to undesirable flavors, and too long of a rise time.
I decided to push through and finish the loaves. I really enjoy the baking process, and It was one night, I could recover over the weekend or just take it down a step or two at work.
I finished up the loaves finally around midnight. I sampled them the next morning and knew I made the right choice. The bread was full bodied, and tasked delicious. There was a slight hint of something that I can't quite describe. It had a characteristic of...quality, completeness. Pre-ferments add such a complexity to loaves.
So remember, a pre-ferment doesn't speed up the baking time, it just helps to add more delicious flavor.
This is where "the More you Know" would come scrolling across the screen. But since I didn't acquire the rights, just image it did.