from Cook's Illustrated
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water, at room temperature
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature (I just measured and allowed to rest for a few minutes)
|Biga - right after I made it|
|Biga - after it raised|
Spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray. Fold partially risen dough over itself. You want to stick the spatula under one side of the dough and fold over the top of itself, turn the bowl 90 degrees, then do it again. You want to turn this a total of 8 times. Allow to sit for another half hour, covered with plastic wrap. Then repeat the folding process. Cover and allow to rise for another half hour. For me, the dough didn't raise as much during the first hour as it did during the last hour, I think that's because the folding process produces more gluten, allowing the dough to rise better.
Cut two 12 by six inches of parchment paper and dust with plenty of flour, set aside. Flour your counter top or work space you want to form the bread loaves on too, I used a silicone mat. Transfer the dough from the bowl as gently as possible, so as not to deflate very much. Flour the top of the dough, cut in half. The recipe calls to just cut it in half, but I wanted loaves that were roughly the same size as the ones we have at Cutler's, so I cut into quarters. Before working with the dough, you want to flour the cut side so it's not quite so sticky. Flour your hands well, then take a quarter, press it out thin and then fold it as you would a letter you would stick in an envelope. Place on the prepared parchment paper, flour again, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven and baking stone. You want your oven rack to be in the lower middle portion of the oven. Place a baking stone or a cookie sheet pan upside down into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
After the loaves have finished rising, slide the parchment they are resting on onto either an upside down cookie sheet or a pizza peel. Remove the stone or cookie sheet from the oven and use the cool one to transfer the dough and parchment to the hot one. Spray the top of the dough with water, and place in the oven. Bake, making sure to spray the top of the loaves two more times during the first five minutes of baking, for 22-27 minutes. They should be golden brown. Place loaves on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature, before slicing. For the bigger loaves that will take around an hour. My smaller loaves seemed to be cool enough after about a half hour.