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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Focaccia using biga

Pepper and onion focaccia

Onion focaccia

I made this, intending for two meals. That was my plan. Imagine to my surprise when the three of us actually managed to wolf down almost 300g of flour in one sitting. It was a good omen for my first attempt, and I already have plans for more focaccia, seeing the popularity of this Italian bread.

Somewhere along the line, I did not stipple the dough enough and the focaccia wasn't as dimpled as I would like it to be. OK, actually, it totally lost all the  dimples and  I sort of gave up the stippling.  Apart from this minor oversight, everything about it was great - from the thin crust to its  moist center. Eaten with a hearty bowl of rendang, it makes staying in on a weekend a very sensible decision.

2 big focaccias

Floating focaccia ?
Biga :
56g water
90g bread flour
Pinch instant yeast

Final dough :
220g water
116g biga
21g olive oil
2g malt syrup
284g bread flour
1g instant yeast
5g salt

Garnish :
Shredded onions, peppers, sea flakes

Preparing the biga :
The night before , mix flour and yeast separately then add water ( biga ingredients )  and knead for 5 minutes. Dough will be stiff and slightly dry. Put in an oiled bowl, covered, to double in size. Chill for 2 hours then remove from chiller. Leave it to ferment overnight for 12 hours.

Making the final dough, 12 hours later  :
In a medium bowl, combine flour and yeast. Set aside.

Under the final dough ingredients, combine water,biga,oil and syrup. Break up the biga by hand to small bits.

Add flour-yeast mix to biga liquid. Knead for 3 minutes by hand, add salt and knead for another 2 minutes. The dough will appear shaggy.

Transfer dough to oiled bowl , covered, and leave to ferment for 60 minutes.

On a floured worktop, transfer risen dough and fold into thirds. Cover, in situ, for 10 minutes.

Using a bread scrapper, divide dough into halves. Fold each half into thirds. Oil dough by hand and keep dough seam side down.

Rest 10 minutes again, covered.

Oil 2 baking trays and transfer the 2 pieces of dough to each tray. Use a scrapper to transfer the dough for ease of handling.

Using oiled fingers, stipple the dough, spreading it to make a rectangle.

Leave to ferment, 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 250 C.

Meanwhile, julienne onions and peppers.

Just before baking, mist spray dough. Stipple it one more time, with oiled fingers. This helps prevent the focaccia from puffing too much.

Spread garnish evenly.

Reduce temperature to 230C.

Bake focaccia at 230C for 20 minutes. Do not overbake.

Serve with spicy beef stew and garden salad, to make your masterpiece complete.


  1. Hi there, I've been reading about wild yeasts and bigas and stuff and they all sound difficult and overwhelming but I notice you are doing quite a fair bit of them. TEACH ME!

    1. For the fast read of the detailed process , try here :

      Let me know how else I can get you started :)

  2. Hi Luan, in a nutshell, breads using wild yeast as a leavening agent involves a lengthy process where you create a sour starter for leavening by just using wheat flour and water. This is a process since biblical times where the wet flour is left to ferment caused by spores captured in the air / wheat. To cut the long story short, the eventual result is a wet yeast-like base, not unlike your instant yeast granules.

    You may like to know that because people make starters for leavening their breads all over the world, the species of yeast-like spores captured may differ. You may have heard of the famous San Francisco sour dough that tastes different from one made in Europe, partly due to the yeast captured in the fermentation process. Breads / sourdough made with sour starters contains lactic acid, due to the slow fermentation process, and allows a longer sourdough shelve life.

    Biga, pate and poolish are 'cheat' starters for those who do not like the taste of lactic acid in their sourdough. These are 'cheat' starters/leaveners , mostly prepared overnight with just a couple of grains of instant yeast. Their texture are visibly different ( think of the open texture of baguette in Paris ) from breads made from straight dough ( more floury, uniform texture ) or sourdough ( holey, chewy, less floury ).

    The difference between the various 'cheat' starters lies in their flour to water ratio, yielding different texture and moisture content.

    The natural progression of most bakers is from instant yeasted breads to breads with preferments ( biga,pate,poolish ) to sourdough ( sour starter with wild yeast ).

    One of the best place for further reading would be the top rated and 'Artisan Breads' by Eric W. Kastel.

    Welcome to the world of bread making!