Pane Bianco Sourdough Bread

Simple no-knead sourdough bread

300-gram room-temperature water

20 gram (30 grams in winter) sourdough starter or (Biga, a pre-fermented dough)

400-gram unbleached all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting

8-gram fine sea salt

Wheat bran for dusting

Whisk the water and sourdough together in a large bowl until dissolved. Add the salt, and flour and, using a large spoon, rapidly and vigorously mix everything together until it is just combined. Scrape the edges of the bowl into the dough and cover it with cling wrap. Let sit for 8-18 hours (the colder the weather, the longer it takes), until the dough has doubled in size and is sweet and yeasty smelling.

Lift and fold the dough over itself two times. Let the dough rest at room temperature, covered, for 20 minutes or until the dough shows signs it is growing: a slight but noticeable expansion is visible.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Grab a handful of flour or wheat bran and sprinkle it on the paper to cover a large circle in the center.

Don’t worry about imperfections. It’s always better to stop with an imperfect round than to keep pulling at it until it tears in an imperfect attempt to achieve perfection. With this in mind: Dust a working surface, and gently lift the dough onto the floured surface. Now, gently fold the sides of the dough to the opposite edge of the dough and lift the dough as you go. Working quickly and gently, lifting and pulling the dough over itself, making a taut ball-the tension is what will allow the dough to hold its shape. You need to work quickly so the dough doesn’t stick to you. If it starts to stick, dip it in the floury bowl. Pull the sides of the dough down and into the bottom of the dough. You are trying to make the surface of the dough, as taut as you can without tearing it in about 30 seconds or less. (Make sure you don’t handle the dough any more than this is likely to damage the airy, delicate structure within).

Place the dough and seam side down on the parchment paper. Place the dough into a bowl and cover the dough with a tea towel. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 to 3 hours until it has doubled in size. ( test by pushing on the surface of the dough, if it stays indented it is ready). Place a large pot and a tight-fitting lid side by side in the one on the middle rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Using oven mitts, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover the dough. Very gently pick the dough up and lower it into the pot. Use a small aerated or paring knife to score the dough with a single slash. Cover the pot immediately and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Take the lid off and remove the parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust has attained a rich golden color, if you prefer a really dark crust, you can leave it in for 12 minutes.

When the bread comes out of the oven, you’ll know it is done baking because it will feel lighter, it will sound hollow when you knock on the bottom, and the crust will soon begin to crackle quietly like logs in a fire. Set the loaf on a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.

Jim Lahey’s Cookbooks on Amazon  

The recipe is taken from Jim Lahey, The Sullivan Street Bakery

Jim’s Biga

70 grams (a scant 1/3 cup) room-temperature (65-70 degrees)water

10 grams (scant 1 tablespoon) refreshed fermented starter (your biga)

100 grams (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) of unbleached all-purpose flour

0.1 grams ( a tiny pinch) of fine sea salt

Mix together the water and the refreshed starter in a small bowl. Add the flour and a few grains of salt only. The dough will be lumpy, uneven, and small. Cover the bowl and prepare to wait about 24 hours for it to triple in size. Don’t be dismayed if nothing happens for the first 12 hours. it takes a while to get going, but once the fermentation starts, it will take off, and it is likely to grow more in the final 4 hours than it did in the first 16.  

Poke at it and taste it, a fully fermented biga is pleasantly tangy with a fantastically airy, spongy, viscous structure. It will feel tacky, and it will taste and smell deliciously yeasty with a gentle tartness. At this point, it’s ready to be used. You may note color changes in the biga as the top layer dries out and oxidizes a bit; this is perfectly fine and to be expected. 

If you are ready to use your biga or not,  that is fine. This is the great thing about biga it has a large window of time to use, and it keeps unrefrigerated for several days. Keep your biga in a cool enough environment. If it is above 72 degrees you will probably want to store your biga in the refrigerator. 

If your biga is tasting and smelling tart, yeasty, and sweet, it is very healthy. When it is horribly acidic, for instance, it is time to make a new batch. 


Sourdough Bread dough

                                                                        Beginning of a 12-hour fermentation

After 12 hours fermentation

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