Thursday, January 24

Shepherd Hill Starter and Bread

There is nothing like the smell of home made bread rising in the bread pans that are sitting on the radiators or resting on the mantel above the hot woodstove, covered with a red striped tea towel. This recipe begins the night before. It is worth the night before quick assembly of the biga, which I am convinced is the secret to fantastically textured bread.
My recipe is adapted from one in the book Home Baking by Jeffery Alfrod and Naomi Duguid.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1/4 tsp. yeast, 1 cup warm water, and 2 cups of organic unbleached white flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for baking day. This is your biga. If you cannot use it within 24 hours, then refrigerate the biga.The next day, it will have this fabulous amazingly stretchy texture that makes you want to just mix and play with it.
Tearing or cutting the biga into small pieces will allow it to blend evenly into your dough.

Add to the biga 1/2 tsp yeast, 2 cups of warm water, and 1 tablespoon of salt.
Mix in 4-5 cups flour (I have used unbleached white, white wheat, or a combination of both) to make a tacky but not sticky dough. Use a bit of dough enhancer if you are simply using whole wheat flour. It greatly helps the rising. Knead thoroughly and set aside in a greased bowl to double in size. It takes an hour or so for a good rise in a warm place. Plenty of time to straighten the cupboards, wash the counters and read a book to a little one.
Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into two loaves. Be certain that your bread pans are well greased. Let the dough rise in the pans until doubled. Preheat your oven to 475 and, right before placing the loaf pans into the oven, turn it down to 400.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let the bread rest in the pans for ten minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Bread made with a biga starter has a wonderful chewy texture, slices fantastically (not all crumbly) and stores well. Sliced and buttered and then cooked in a cast iron pan with smoked swiss and cheddar, it makes an amazing grilled sandwich.

13 comments:

PLO said...

The sandwich sounds heavenly, there is nothing better than a grilled cheese made with fresh bread!

New Mom said...

Thanks for the tip on using the biga. I've never heard of it it but I think I'll give it a try :}

Mrs. Brigham said...

Yummy!

Susie said...

Dough Enhancer!!!! No wonder I have so much trouble getting my bread to rise as lofty as I dream! I'm going to try your recipe ASAP.

Hannah said...

I think the secret to a great grilled cheese is using more than one variety of cheese, Plo. Definitely try it!
Susie, the stuff I use is ... well, I was going to tell you the exact name but when I ran to the fridge to look I found that we're all out. So sorry. It is sold in a box by the flour and yeast.
Blessings,
Hannah

On My Mind said...

Oh, YUMMMMMM! I might be making bread really soon now :)

mama k said...

I am going to have to try this! My whole wheat always comes out crumbly. Oh and I bought gluten to help with that issue but I somehow managed to misplace it. Methinks my hubby stuck it somewhere.

anya* said...

this sounds great.i had a disasterous encounter with a sourdough starter last week and have been leary to try baking bread again- but this sounds a little less complicated, and looks yummy! thanks for the recipe.

Hannah said...

Anya, I've never had great results with sourdough starter either. I'm too busy to remember when to add what and which day to use what. The biga is very easy with the same kinds of results as sourdough.
Susie, yes, vital wheat gluten int he dough enhancer I use when baking with wheat. Wheat doesn't have the amount of gluten needed for a good rise. I'm all out. Must get more!

mama k said...

PS Linked to your post here:
http://mamaknj.blogspot.com/2008/01/adventures-in-breadmaking.html

Maria said...

I tried your recipe this weekend and it is wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

Hannah said...

Glad you enjoyed in Maria!

~~Rhonda said...

I made the biga bread this week. It is delicious and so easy to make. We'll be having this often.
http://christmasnotebook.com/2011/02/16/biga-bread/
~~Rhonda :)