I have had several people ask me about this, so here goes. It has been a bit of an experiment. I used the same basic method as I use for ciabatta, but have adjusted the water down considerably (to 70% hydration).
This recipe introduces the concept of a starter – or biga. The The elapsed time is very long (20+ hours) because of the development of the biga.
The biga rests for 9-17 hours, most of the time in the refrigerator.
1 Cup (approx.)
1 1/2 Cups
1 1/2 t
3 ¼ cups
1 ½ tsp
Note the overall hydration percentage is hard to gauge because the biga itself has both flour and water in different proportions to the dough. The biga recipe makes just enough for the overall bread recipe.
Pour the water into a small mixing bowl and add the yeast. Leave to sit for a minute and then stir in the flour until a dough just forms. Scrape the dough out and knead for a couple of minutes to work the flour in. It will not be fully kneaded, nor perfectly smooth. Spray the bowl lightly with PAM and replace the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour. Place into the refrigerator and leave for 8-16 hours until ready to use.
Mix the dough
Remove the biga from the refrigerator and uncover it. Scrape it into a large bowl (ideally the mixing bowl from your stand mixer) and pour the water over it. Break it up into clumps with a spatula. Add the yeast and leave for 1 minute. Add the flour and stir with the spatula until incorporated. Sprinkle the salt onto the surface and proceed to the next step.
With the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed (6-8) for 13-15 minutes. Periodically stop the mixer and scrape down the dough.
Transfer the dough to an oiled box or bowl. Leave to ferment until tripled in volume (typically 3-4 hours).