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Mar 25, 2014

White Bread and Skillet Pizza with 80% Biga

White Bread and Skillet Pizza with 80% Biga

Why is this bread called white bread with 80% biga? Because 80% of the dough is biga.

That clears it up, right? No? All righty then. I guess I'm going to get all bread geek on you.

Biga you ask? A biga is a a stiff dough preferment. What does that mean? Many Italian bread recipes call for a biga, which consists of flour and water, and a small amount of yeast. It is left out to ferment overnight and develop flavor.

White Bread and Skillet Pizza with 80% Biga

The next day, the biga is mixed in with just a little bit more flour, water, salt, and yeast to make a 75% hydration dough. The resulting bread has a super thin crispy crust that crackles for several minutes after removing the bread from the oven. It has a wonderful flavor and stays fresh for several days.

White Bread and Skillet Pizza with 80% Biga

You can make two loaves from this recipe, or make individual pizzas from half of the dough. If you choose to make pizzas, divide half of the dough into three pieces, form them into balls, cover them with oiled plastic wrap, and refrigerate them overnight or up to two days. I placed mine into plastic bags that had been sprayed with spray oil (see this photo on Instagram).

I decided to try the Skillet Pizza method from Ken Forkish's book, Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza.

This method calls for placing the stretched dough into a cold cast iron skillet, topping it, and placing it into a very hot oven for about 20 minutes. While it is my quest to master the method and flavor of Napolitano pizza, this was pretty darn fabulous, and so much easier than the pizza peel high wire act.

White Bread and Skillet Pizza with 80% Biga

Of course I had leftover pizza for breakfast.

White Bread with 80% Biga



800 g unbleached all purpose flour
544 g 80 degree F water
1/16 tsp (.64 g) instant yeast

Final Dough

200 g unbleached all purpose flour
206 g 105 degree F water
22 g fine sea salt
2 g instant yeast
All of the biga


  1. Mix all of the biga ingredients in a large bowl or 6 quart tub by pinching and stirring the ingredients by hand. Cover the tub with plastic wrap and leave out overnight, about 12 to 14 hours. The dough should have about tripled in size. 
  2. To make the final dough, mix the flour, water, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl or 12 quart tub by hand. Add the biga and mix by hand. Keep a bowl of water nearby to wet your hand to keep the dough from sticking. Alternate between folding and pinching the dough. The whole process should take just a few minutes. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Stretch and fold the dough at 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes. Let the dough rise for another 60 to 90 minutes, until it has risen to about 2 1/2 times its original size. 
  4. Generously flour 2 (or one if you are making pizza with half of the dough) proofing baskets. I used a mix of all purpose and brown rice flour. You can also use a mixing bowl lined with a lint free kitchen towel that has been sprayed with oil and heavily floured. 
  5. With a wet dough scraper or wet hands, loosen the dough from the sides of the bucket and gently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces (to make pizza, reserve half of the dough for pizza, see below). 
  6. Shape the dough into boules, creating a taut skin over the top. Place the shaped dough into each basket, seam side down. 
  7. Spray the top of the dough with spray oil, and cover with plastic wrap. 
  8. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with two (or one if you are making pizza with the rest of the dough) empty covered Dutch ovens placed on the middle rack. 
  9. Allow the dough to rise about 45 to 60 minutes, until puffy. How to know if the loaves are ready? Here is Ken Forkish, the author, demonstrating the "finger dent test."
  10. When you are ready to bake, cut parchment into two 9 inch by 15+ inch pieces. 
  11. Remove the Dutch ovens from the oven and remove the tops. One loaf at a time, place the parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Repeat with the second loaf. 
  12. Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then remove the Dutch ovens from the hot oven, uncover, and place the loaves on a baking sheet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown. My loaves were ready sooner, so check early. 
  13. Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Skillet Pizza

  1. Divide half of the dough into three parts, form into balls, spray with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap or place into oiled plastic bags, and refrigerate overnight or up to two days.
  2. To make the pizza, preheat your oven to 525 degrees F, or as high as it will go.
  3. Generously flour a work surface with flour and place the dough ball onto the surface. Flip the dough over to cover the top with flour. 
  4. With your fingertips, press the dough into a disk. Stretch the dough out into a 12 inch disk and place it into a 9 inch cold cast iron skillet (it will shrink back. 
  5. Top with your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings (I used about 1/3 C of fresh sauce, 3 ounces of mozzarella, and about 8 slices of pepperoni), and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, slide it onto a cutting board with tongs, and slice. Enjoy!!

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  1. Wow. Fantastic dough Karen. Biga is used here in traditional breads made mostly in rural areas.Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you! I love your comments about how it is in Greece!

  2. I made your bread today. It turned out really well. I made a few small changes. Although I have a Combo cooker for baking, I chose to bake on tiles in the oven. I decided to make three smaller loaves instead of two larger ones. Each loaf weighing 565 g. before baking. One other thing I did was to use 5% rye which I usually do with my white breads. Thanks for the recipe. I will be making it again. Rod R.

    1. I'm glad you liked it Rodney. I also love hearing about the changes you made. Small loaves are great and you get more crust!

  3. Hi! I was planning on making your overnight white bread (thank you for giving me the information I needed) and then I saw this. I have never baked with a biga before though I have heard so much about it. If I may ask what is really the perceptible difference in flavor and texture between this biga bread and the simply white bread? Both seem to have similar amounts of ingredients and are fermented for a similarly long time. And for that matter how different is the poolish version? It would be nice to know from a person who has actually made the breads what I could expect going in. And I have a 5 quart cast iron dutch oven. Do you think that would work?Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Smita! I haven't tried them side by side. I bet they are pretty similar. I do think that having a biga adds a lot of flavor to the bread. I need to try them both at the same time!

      P.S. A 5 quart Dutch oven would be just fine!!

  4. Thank you Karen! Now that I have found your site, what an extraordinary blog you have!!! I don't know where to start! I want to make this and then I want to make that and then, no, that. So much to choose from and so much experience shared. My most impressed compliments. It will take time but I will be trying out your recipes! Thank you.


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