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I'm trying my hand at Ciabatta bread and have just made the biga in preparation for making the bread tomorrow.

I followed this recipe, which calls for the following proportion of ingredients for the biga:

250g/9oz Italian type '00' bread flour
190ml/7fl oz water
15g/½oz yeast

and the preparation (emphasis mine):

For the overnight preparation, mix the flour with the water in a large bowl and add the yeast. Whisk for three minutes and leave to rise overnight (or at least eight hours).

I measured out the ingredients using the metric quantities and mixed as per the instructions, but my biga turned out to be much too solid and dough-like to whisk:

enter image description here

I measured out the weight of flour with a scale and the water with a liquid measuring cup and used bread flour.

Looking at another recipe, I see the same proportion of dry to wet ingredients:

4 ounce (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
5 ounce (1 cup) all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and stir to form a thick, gloppy paste. Give it a good fifty or so brisk stirs to build up the gluten. Cover and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.

This one also has a flour:water ratio of 2:1 and indicates that the result should be a gloppy paste. Surely more water is needed in order to get this kind of consistency? Is a more solid consistency okay or did I do something wrong?

Attempt #2:

I tried again making a half batch of the biga, documenting step-by-step with photos, to ensure that the measurements were all 100% correct.

Here's a whole bunch of photos I took in an imgur album. This time the dough was very slightly wetter, but my whisk still got very much clogged very quickly. I put a weight on my scale of 1kg and it measured 1017g, however this could be due to inaccuracies in both the weight and the scale so isn't a hugely conclusive test. At least we can be sure my scale isn't wildly out ;)

I managed to easily shape the final result into a ball very similarly to the original attempt with all the flour combined.

EDIT #3:

Checked my scale using coins. I used 7x R5 coins and it gave a reading of 65g. 9g/coin x 7 coins = 63g in reality which gives a 2g difference.

EDIT #4:

After several hours, it's definitely quite a bit sloppier and way more sticky. I'm going to see how it handles tomorrow morning when I make the dough.

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To compare, I made exactly half that recipe, also measured in grams. It wasn't liquid, it was dough-like, but it was absolutely whisk-able. As a matter of fact, I only used a whisk to mix this. For what it's worth, I have a lot of trust in Paul Hollywood. I imagine this biga will be much more liquid in the morning. I'll let you know when I get up.

EDIT I want to mention too that I used 00 flour (Caputo Rosso red), filtered water and instant yeast.

2nd EDIT As I thought I remembered, the biga loosened considerably overnight. It's now easily mixed with a fork. Not liquid, but much, much looser. And a bit bubbly.

enter image description here

  • I also know Paul Hollywood is very reputable, which is why I picked the recipe in the first place. I'm going to do a half batch again like you did and we can compare :) – user17950 Jan 3 '15 at 10:42
  • I've only made ciabatta twice (using the ATK recipe) and it has been quite a while. I vaguely remember that the biga was a lot more dough-like when I first mixed it and a lot more liquid after it fermented. We'll know more in a few hours :) – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '15 at 10:52
  • I tried making a half batch like you did and took photos along the way: imgur.com/a/i3TTf. also edited in to main post. – user17950 Jan 3 '15 at 11:25
  • Your pictures look pretty much like mine. Your flour is a bit higher in protein than mine, but I wouldn't expect that to make a difference in the biga, although it might a bit of a difference in the final loaf. 17 grams is quite a bit. A great way to test your scale is to use coins. – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '15 at 11:37
  • Tare your scale with different weights, it really doesn't matter how much the pre-tare weight is. Your coins should weigh what your coins should weigh, regardless of the weight already on the scale. – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '15 at 11:46

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