- For the biga: In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients, cover, and let sit on the counter for 8 to 12 hours.
- For the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the biga with the remaining dough ingredients except for the onion. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough smooths out and becomes elastic. Knead in the onions. If using a bread machine, remove the dough at the end of the kneading cycle.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 45 minutes. Remove the dough the dough from the bowl, deflate it and fold it in thirds. Turn it over, and place back in the bowl. Let rise for another 45 minutes.
- After the rise, deflate the dough and shape it into a pan loaf, or a boule.
- For a pan loaf, place in a greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" pan. For a boule, place in a bowl lined with a floured tea towel.
- Let the dough rise until it's 1" above the rim of the loaf pan, or has almost doubled in size.
- While the bread rises, preheat the oven to 350°F for pan loaves, or 425°F with a pizza stone in it for a boule.
- When the loaf has risen, slash the top and bake the pan loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, or turn the boule out onto the stone and slash the top. Bake for the boule for 35 minutes, until the center reads 200°F when measured with a digital thermometer.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool on a rack before slicing.
Tips from our Bakers
- A biga is a pre-fermented dough that the French call pâte fermentée. It's started with a tiny bit of yeast, and allowed to work for several hours. The advantage of making a biga is that because it ferments for a long time, it adds flavor and character to the bread you make with it.