I know my biga is a wodge of fungus, but look what pretty bread it makes!
Breads from starter are fascinating, and I missed them after 10 years away.
Last time I used some “Herman” from a friend. Herman made good bread with a fermented flavor and an open, spongy texture.
The idea of wild yeast was so intriguing, and I got really wrapped up in cultivating wild yeast starters, to the point that I bored people with it.
Friend: I haven’t seen you in ages! What have you been doing?
Me: Today I have to transfer an Italian sourdough culture that’s not doing well in the fridge. It’s kind of languishing I think because it doesn’t like the plastic container it’s in.
Friend (edging away): Oh. That sounds…interesting.
The bread above is based on a yogurt-rye culture that’s slightly sour. I adapted the Heidelberg Rye recipe Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Whole Grain Breads, a masterpiece of baking wonders. It’s been in and out of print three times since 1984–it keeps being revived. Buy it if you can find it.
- 1 cup sourdough or other starter
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups rye flour (more as needed)
- Put the starter and bread flour into a large bowl. Heat the water, coffee, caraway seeds, molasses, butter, sugar and salt to warm, about 90 to 100 degrees. Add to the flour. Beat for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl.
- Add enough rye flour to make a stiff dough. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Transfer the bread to a greased bowl and turn the bread to coat it with oil. (This bread takes a long time to rise, and if the skin isn't oiled, it becomes tough.)
- Go shopping or take a nap or both for 5 hours while the rises until it looks puffy (this dough doesn't double in volume, unlike dough made with commercial yeast).
- Form into round loaves on baking sheets, or use greased loaf pans. Brush the loaves with water. Cut a lengthwise slash in the bread. Go to bed, or take a walk, or both for 5 to 8 hours until the bread is puffy. Bake for about 35 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- This bread keeps well for several days.