- 1/3 cup water (tepid, 70 to 78 degrees F)
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- Biga about 1 cup
- 1 1/3 cups water (tepid, 70 to 78 degrees)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup California Olive Ranch EVOO
- ¼ cup fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
- 2 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
Prepare 9-17 hours before you want to bake. Pour the water into a small mixing bowl. With a rubber spatula, stir in the yeast and flour just until a dough forms. It will be stiff like pie dough.
Dust the counter with flour and scrape out the dough. Knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes just to work in all the flour and get it fairly but not perfectly smooth. (This is a very a very small amount of dough, about the size of a plum.)
Lightly oil the mixing bowl. Round the biga and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F) for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours. The biga will double in volume (to about the size of an orange), becoming glossy and porous, and will smell mildly acidic.
Mix the dough. Remove the biga from the refrigerator and uncover it. It will be soft, airy and a bit sticky. Scrape it into a large bowl. Pour the water over the biga and stir it with a rubber spatula to soften it and break it into clumps. Stir in the flour, yeast, olive oil, rosemary, and salt until a dough forms.
Knead the dough. By hand: Lightly four the counter and scrape the dough out onto it. Knead the dough with steady strokes until is silky, smooth, and elastic, 13 to 15 minutes. Check that the dough is well developed by pulling off a golf ball-sized piece and stretching it into an opaque windowpane. If the dough tears, knead for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and test again.
By machine: With the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed (4 on a KitchenAid mixer) until it is silky, smooth and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. Check that the dough is well developed by doing a windowpane test, as described above. If it tears, knead for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and test again.
Ferment the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, clear 2-quart container with a lid. With masking tape, mark the container at the level the dough will reach when it has doubled in volume. Cover and leave it to rise at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F) until it doubles in volume, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. When you press your finger into the dough the fingerprint should spring back slowly.
Divide and shape the loaves. Cover a baker’s peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it with flour. Lightly dust the counter with flour. Uncover the dough and turn it out onto the counter. With a bench scraper or chef’s knife, cut the dough into two equal pieces (19.7 ounces). Shape each piece into a log about 12 inches long (see shaping directions below). Place the logs smooth side up on the parchment paper, at least 3 inches apart, and cover them with plastic wrap.
Proof the loaves. Let the logs rise at room temperature (70 to 75 degrees F) until they spread and look puffy and light, nearly doubling in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Press your fingertip into the dough and your fingerprint will spring back slowly.
Prepare the oven. About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the loaves. Slide the logs, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Bake until the logs are dark caramel in color, 30 to 40 minutes. (If you find the loaves aren't brown enough, turn up the heat to 475 degrees F and continue baking until loaves are desired color.)
Cool and store the loaves. Slide the peel or the rimless baking sheet under the parchment paper to remove the loaves from the oven. Slide them, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack. Cool the loaves briefly, then peel off the parchment paper. Let them cool completely on the rack, about 1 hour, before slicing. The olive oil in the dough will help to keep them moist. Store uneaten bread in a re-sealable plastic bag at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
How to shape a log or baguette
Pat the dough into a rough rectangle measuring about 3 by 5 inches. With the longer side facing you, fold the top of the dough down about one third of the way toward the center with the heel of your hand. Fold the bottom of the dough about one third of the way toward the center and seal firmly.
Fold this skinny rectangle in half, bringing the top edge down to meet the bottom edge. Working from right to left, cup your hand over the log or dough and press the heel of your hand down firmly to seal the seam. To stretch the log, place your hands together, palms down, over the middle of the log. Using light, even pressure, roll the log back and forth as you spread your hands apart.
Recipe courtesy of Daniel Leader with Lauren Chattman, Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers (W. W. Norton & Co., 2007)
Recipe reprinted with permission from the author/publisher.