The Sauce: Biga – An overnight fermented starter made with flour, water and yeast that is used to make Italian bread.
‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’
Biga is an overnight fermented starter used to make Italian bread. It increases the flavor profile and complexity of the dough. It’s a boost beyond the leavening of baker’s yeast but not distinct and zesty like sourdough. The bread tastes slightly nutty but not tangy.
It only takes a minute to mix biga the evening before. While you dream away the night; flour, water and yeast bubble, expand and grow on your kitchen counter developing into a delicious bread making agent. After 8 to 12 hours, mix, knead and bake Italian bread just like most any homemade yeast dough but the crusty, golden loaves have more complex flavor and that distinct Italian style. This one is braided and generously sprinkled with sesame seeds.
I love to bake it in my half round double bread pan so the rising and baking creates a nice rounded loaf of crusty bread. It’s especially good dipped in Italian Bread Dipping Oil with garlic, herbs and syrupy aged balsamic vinegar with extra virgin olive oil.
You may also enjoy Antipasto, Florentine Lasagna Rolls, Amatriciana, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Italian Spaghetti Ragu, Andrew’s Pizza, Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce, Genovese Pesto, Garlic Vinaigrette, Caprese Salad, Chicken Alfredo Campanelle and Zuppa Toscana.
Recipe: Braided Italian Bread
Prep Time: 25 Minutes | Inactive Time: 11-15 Hours | Cook Time: 30 Minutes | Yield: 2 Loaves | Level: Moderate
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp water
- 1/4 cup untoasted sesame seeds
Special Equipment – baking sheet or double half circle loaf pan
1 Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/8 tsp yeast in a small bowl. Stir in flour until well mixed. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight or up to 12 hours.
1 Combine the starter, 2/3 cup water, 2 tsp yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 2 cups flour and stir until dough comes together. Dump on a work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Work in 2-3 more tablespoons of flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Kneaded dough will become fairly smooth and elastic.
3 Meanwhile oil a half circle double loaf pan and dust with cornmeal shaking off excess.
4 Divide dough into six even pieces. Roll 1 piece into 18” long rope while holding above the work space and letting the rolling
6 Combine egg white and water in a small bowl. Lightly brush over the surface of the loaves. Sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 75 minutes.
8 Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes, shorter for softer crust, longer for crunchier crust. Cool on a wire rack or turn off the oven and allow to cool in the oven with the door ajar.
If you don’t have a half round bread pan, divided the dough into 3 equal pieces and braid one larger loaf. Place on an oiled baking sheet and rise for 75 minutes. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Serve Braided Italian Bread with Italian Bread Dipping Oil. Also serve with Antipasto, Florentine Lasagna Rolls, Amatriciana, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Italian Spaghetti Ragu, Andrew’s Pizza, Bramwell Spaghetti Sauce, Genovese Pesto, Garlic Vinaigrette, Caprese Salad, Chicken Alfredo Campanelle and Zuppa Toscana.
- Exchange 2 teaspoons of instant yeast for 2 tablespoons of active yeast but add it to 2/3 cup warm water and allow to bloom for 5 minutes before combining with flour and salt.
Inspiration – Helen Horton
Cook with Sauces
Braided Italian Bread
Written by Helen Horton
Photographs and Styling by Helen Horton
Updated: September 5, 2013