Biga vs sourdough starter


I've been hanging around here for a little over a year now, and had finally despaired of ever making a good sourdough loaf. I had two starters, one I made, and one from "Friends of Carl". They both seemed to look, act and smell right, but I never saw the holy grail..the big bubble!

Today I made a foccaccia with my week old biga, and I love it. Chewy crust, nice texture, and big bubbles. My question is does a biga become sour? I made it with just flour, water and yeast, and it has been cling wrap covered in a refrigerator at 10 degrees, replenished two or three times with guesstimates of flour and water. I wouldn't say it has sourdough flavour, but that may come with time. I'm just wondering whether I'm feeding a biga, or a sourdough starter. Also I did keep the foccaccia dough in the same 10 degrees frig for 24 hours, then out into room temp to double, etc.

104 users have voted.


petanque 2012 November 19

I would expect a biga to eventually become sour.

To assist this you could add a small amout of your sour to it.

you coulsd also try feeding it less ofen while keeping it cool (10 C should be fine)

Rye flour often has usefull bacteria in it as well.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 19

Hello rony,

From my understanding a biga is made on a daily basis from fresh yeast etc and allowed to ferment overnight and is usually the consistency of dough.  This is then used in the next day's bake with more yeast added to the mix along with the other ingredients.  The idea was to add some complexity to flavours of yeasted bread.

I am not sure how you would classify something kept for longer and refreshed as you have done.  I also wouldn't say that it was a sourdough starter just yet but maybe in the fullness of time the commercial yeasts will die out and be replaced by wild yeasts and bacteria.

In terms of the crumb characteristics (big bubbles or small bubbles), there is no 'holy grail' in a strict sense - one persons holy grail could well be another persons failure - some bakers hate big bubbles!.  The things that I think affect the crumb structure are dough hydration, length of ferment, dough development and energy input.  Thus high hydration doughs (such as ciabatta) are more likely to give large bubbles.  Longer fermentation times ditto (more time for gas to migrate).  A strong dough with good gluten development is necessary to allow large thin walled bubbles to develop.  High energy mixing/kneading creates more smaller air pockets for the gas to collect in than low energy methods such as stretch and fold.

Keep on bakin'


rony 2012 November 19

I should have been clearer..the big bubbles are my holy grail, along with the chewy crust, and high hydration dough is certainly what this recipe was.  Being p'd off with following recipes and techniques and failing, I was much more "she'll be right" with this, and it was quite a wet dough, just through my poor technique. I like the sound of using rye flour, but wouldn't necessarily want rye in all my breads. If I made a second biga, would straight rye work, or should it be mixed with bread flour?

From the comments you've both made, it seems that the time the biga is uncovered for feeding and mixing may be enough for wild yeasts to get in.

Thank you both for your helpful comments.

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 November 19

Hello rony,

The reference to rye flour was to use a small percentage in your sourdough starter.  I routinely add between 5 and 10 percent to my stock starter (100% hydration) that I keep in the fridge.  When I am going to bake I take 90g of that and feed it with 45g bread flour and 45g water to make my loaf starter (levain) and add the rye/bread flour and water (45g of each) to the stock to feed and maintain for next time.  So, having rye in your starter ends up with an undetectable amount in your final loaf.  If I want it to be really really white, I use a technique of building up from a couple of grams of stock in three feeds over 24 hours to the amount that I need for the loaf.

Good luck with your projects.


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