Italian pugliese

A country loaf from a region, Puglia in the south of Italy. This recipe came to me from Melissa Kearl. There are lots of steps, but each is very simple. Biga is Italian for poolish.

This is simple, country bread. In comparison with my boule de campagne, this bread has less fermented flavor (because no beer, vinegar or hours fermenting the poolish), but it’s delicious nevertheless and excellent for sandwiches.


A one-pound loaf.

The biga

¼ cup water, lukewarm
¼ tsp yeast
¾ tsp flour

Combine water with yeast and let stand until dissolved (about 5 minutes).

Mix in flour and gather into a ball. Place in oiled, glass bowl and wrap air-tight. Let stand at room temperature until tripled (about 3 hours).

The dough

¼ cup water, lukewarm
1 tsp yeast
1 cup ice water
2 tsp Kosher salt
2¾ cups flour

1. Combine water with yeast, let stand as above.

2. Place biga in large (mixer) bowl with ¼ cups ice water. Using paddle, mix on low speed until fairly smooth.

3. Add yeast mixture (from first step), salt and ¾ cups ice water and mix until blended.

4. Change to dough hook, then, add flour and beat on medium until smooth (maybe 12 minutes).

5. Wrap dough air-tight in an oiled bowl and let stand for 3 hours or until tripled.

Shown here is my raising vessle. The rubber band is put as a marker against which I can compare the height of the dough so that I know it’s rising and by how much. (I spray the inside with PAM prior to putting dough in it.)

6. Sprinkle board with a bit of flour and scrape dough onto it. With floured hands, gently form a smooth loaf by folding dough in half (without breaking the surface of the raised dough). Then, pinch the seam closed. Sprinkle with flour.

If you’re baking on a stone, sprinkle some corn meal on your peel and set the loaf on it.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°. If you’re baking on a stone or a baking sheet, make certain it preheats with the oven. Try to put some water vapor into your oven during the first 5-10 minutes of the bake. There are many ways this can be done, but my favorite is to place a small cast-iron skillet on a rack beneath the baking stone getting it hot during the preheat. After shaking my paton off onto the stone, I quickly, but carefully pour ½ cup of boiling hot water into the skillet and shut the oven door.

8. With floured hands, carefully transfer loaves onto hot baking sheet or shake loaf from peel onto your stone. Bake 30 minutes.

Note: Once the biga has risen and you’ve kneaded in the other ingredients, you may prefer to wrap the dough air-tight in a large oiled bowl and chill up to 24 hours, then let it stand at room temperature until tripled (about 5 hours). Continue with shaping and final rise, as above.