It's bread baking time again! I love baking bread and have been doing it for 35 years. This summer was too hot to put on the oven, so I baked the bread in the bread machine. Not bad, but not great, either. (I use the bread machine to knead the dough; it does a much better job that I ever can, plus it doesn't hurt my cranky wrist.) I missed handling the dough and shaping it and slashing it and all that other good doughy stuff. But now that it's chilly again, I love having the oven on, and I'm back to baking with a vengeance.
I just put up a biga, which is an Italian starter. I mix it in the machine for about 10 minutes, stop the machine and let it hang out there for 5-6 hours until it has done a lovely rise. Then it gets stored in the refrigerator and I use it as I want to. It lasts about 7-10 days, and each time I use it, it is more fermented than the last time. Mmmm, fermented dough. What a nice flavor it adds to the bread, and I don't have to futz around with sourdough. Then, when it's either died, or used up, I just make another batch. Since I bake bread 3-4 times/week, my kitchen is alive with lots of yeasty organisms, and all that, plus the biga, makes for a tasty loaf.
I've been baking all sorts of bread, from my caraway rye to crispy bagels to tejes kolacs (a Hungarian babka). The bagels are little guys, very very crispy with very little doughiness inside, not like store-bought bagels at all. They are beyond addictive, even better than potato chips, and I adore chips. Next time I make them, I'll show you pics. I think I should change their name to crispels, rather than bagels.
I ended up making a boule of rosemary bread. Tossed in about 1/4 cup of biga into my regular dough, added lots of rosemary, and now I'm consuming it nonstop.
Here's what I toss in for my regular bread: water, salt, flour (bread or all-purpose if I'm doing a sweet bread), yeast. That's it. Then I add whatever I'm in the mood for, in this case it was rosemary. Sometimes I substitute with other flours, as in caraway rye bread, where I use some rye and tons of caraway seeds.
And now that I have biga, it will get put into everything I bake. Just before the biga is all used up, I'll pull off about a walnut size piece and add that to the new biga.
Me - Yep, I did that all last year. This year I seem to be back into biga and other modes. Isn't making bread fun?