- Preparation and cooking time
- plus resting and proving
- More effort
- makes 2 loaves
Try making a loaf of this Italian white bread with our simple recipe. Get that characteristic crisp crust and soft inside that's perfect for dipping in olive oil
For the biga
For the dough
- STEP 1
The night before, make the biga (see tip, below). Stir yeast with 50ml warm water, stand for 10 mins, then add another 80ml warm water. Gradually add the flour in a stand mixer on its lowest setting. Once it’s a wet dough, transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover and leave for 12 hours or overnight at room temperature.
- STEP 2
In the morning, combine the yeast and milk and leave to stand for 10 mins. Tip into a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook, add 160ml water, the biga and the olive oil. Then add the flour and 1 heaped tsp salt. Use the dough hook of a stand mixer to combine the dough. Knead for 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Don’t worry if it looks very wet, it should to be a very wet dough! Pour into a well-oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- STEP 3
Once rested, begin to do a series of folds – lift the dough from the edge, pull up, over, then release it. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and do the same again. Repeat so you do a full turn of the bowl twice, or 8 folds. Rest for 30 mins, then repeat the whole folding process once more.
- STEP 4
Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 6. Tip the dough onto a really well-floured surface and cut in half. The dough will feel like a batter and spread across the surface a bit, but don’t panic, just work on a well-floured surface, using the flour and a pastry scraper to help move the dough. Shape the dough into 2 large squares (about 20cm x 20cm). Dealing with each loaf at a time, fold the dough in from each side, as if folding a booklet. Flip over, then pick up the roll and place each onto separate well-floured sheets of baking paper. The roll will be very soft, so oil or flour your hands well. Allow to rest for another 30 mins, covered with a floured tea towel. Don’t worry if it spreads a little.
- STEP 5
While the dough rests, heat a baking sheet in the oven. Once the dough has rested, slide each of the loaves, along with the baking paper beneath them, onto the hot baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 mins, until the crust is golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the base. Move to a wire rack and cool for an hour before slicing and serving with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
To get a crisp crust, fill a tray with a little water and place it in the oven underneath the bread during baking.
'Biga' is an Italian term for a pre-ferment (starter) used to make bread like ciabatta and focaccia.