This is a recipe for a yeast-based bread. This gives the finished loaf some of the characteristics of bread made with sourdough starter. It is made in two steps: first a "biga" (pre-dough) is made. This is then used in the bread dough. It takes about 2 days to make this bread! You may want to wear short sleeves when making this bread.

  • Preparation time for the pre-dough ("biga"): 15 minutes
  • Rising time of the pre-dough: 12-24 hours + 1 hour for getting back to room temperature
  • Preparation time for the bread: 15 minutes
  • First rising time of the bread: 3-4 hours, or chilled-rising (more flavor): 8-12 hours + 3 hours for getting back to room temperature
  • Second rising time: 1½ hour
  • Baking time: 45 minutes
  • Makes 2 loaves


  • Ingredients for the biga (= pre-dough):
  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons, 60 ml) of warm water (100-110 °F, 40 °C)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) cold water
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) of bread flour (high-gluten flour, D: type 812 or 1050; F: type 80 or 110)

  • Ingredients for the bread dough:
  • ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of warm water (100-110 °F, 40 °C)
  • 1¼ cups (300 ml) cold water
  • Biga - see above
  • 5 cups bread flour (high-gluten flour, D: type 812 or 1050; F: type 80 or 110) - split into 3 cups and 2 cups
  • Alternatively: 2 cups wheat flour + 1½ cup malted barley flour + 1½ cup rye flour; for good measure you can add some millet, linseeds, and/or sunflower seeds
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1½ cups raisins, rinsed and soaked in hot water, then toweled dry
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) cornmeal (note: not yellow corn  polenta!!!)


  • Medium size bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Hand-mixer, stand-mixer or kitchen machine
  • Plastic kitchen wrap (cling film)
  • Large bowl
  • Water spray bottle
  • Large baking/cookie sheet (big enough for two loaves)
  • Cooling rack


  • Instructions for the biga (= pre-dough):
  • Put the warm water in a medium size bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it
  • Let stand for about 5 minutes until its gets foamy
  • Add the cold water
  • With a wooden spoon, mix in the bread flour, until the mixture forms a soft dough
  • If you are using whole wheat flour, the pre-dough may be too dry - add 1 tablespoon water
  • Cover with plastic wrap
  • Chill for 12 - 24 hours (slow, cool rising gives more flavor)
  • About 1 hour before making the bread dough, the the pre-dough come to room temperature

  • Instructions for the bread:
  • Put the warm water into the bowl of a stand-mixer or kitchen machine (or other large bowl)
  • Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water
  • Let stand for about 10 minutes until foamy
  • Add the cold water, the biga, 3 cups of the bread flour, the whole-wheat flour, salt
  • Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed, or stir with a heavy spoon, until well blended
  • Gradually beat or stir the remaining 2 cups of bread flour, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture forms a soft dough
  • Switch to a dough hook and beat on medium speed until the dough is smooth & elastic, pulls easily from sides of the bowl, but is still sticky
  • This takes about 6-8 minutes.
  • Alternatively: scrape dough onto a lightly floured board, and knead by hand until smooth & elastic, but still sticky (takes about 7 - 10 minutes).
  • If the mixer is laboring or the dough feels stiff, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue kneading until soft & elastic.
  • If the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl or is too sticky to knead by hand, add more flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until it pulls cleanly from the sides or feels only slightly sticky.
  • Add the nuts and beat in with dough hook (or knead by hand) until just incorporated (after kneading by hand, place dough back into the bowl)
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume (2 - 2½ hours), then punch down with your hand to expel air
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubles (1 - 1½ hours). For more flavor, use a slow rise: chill at least 8 - 12 hours, then let come to room temperature for about 3 hours.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 °F (230 °C)
  • If using a baking stone, put it on a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat the stone for at least 30 minutes, then slide both loaves from the baking sheet onto the stone
  • Scrape the dough onto a well-floured board and knead briefly to expel air.
  • Divide into two equal-size parts.
  • With lightly floured hands, gather each half into a ball, then stretch and tuck the edges under, to shape into a smooth oval with slightly tapered ends (about 8 inch (20 cm) long and 4 inch (10 cm) wide in the center).
  • Place the two loaves on a well-floured surface, dust lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for about 1½ hours, until they are slightly puffy
  • proof the dough by gently pressing one loaf: your finger should leave a distinct imprint that slowly fills in.
  • Under-proofed loaves feel tight and spring back quickly
  • Over-proofed loaves feel flabby and offer little resistance when pressed.
  • Sprinkle a 13x17 inch (35x45 cm) baking sheet generously with cornmeal.
  • Transfer the loaves, one at a time, to the sheet, spacing them 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) apart.
  • If using a baking stone, slide both loaves from the baking sheet onto the stone
  • With a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal slashes across the loaf tops that are 1 inch (2-3 cm) deep and 1 - 2 inches (3-5 cm) apart.
  • This gives the loaf room to grow during its last burst of expansion in the oven
  • If not using a stone, place the sheet on the rack in the lower third of the oven
  • Spray 3-4 squirts of clean water on the floor or sides of the oven, taking care not to spray on/near the heating elements or light bulb, then quickly close the door.
  • The resulting steam prevents the crust from forming before the loaf has fully expanded and contributes to the final thick hard crust; alternatively, you can try with a loaf pan with water on the bottom of the oven.
  • Bake the bread, spraying twice more after 5 minutes and after 10 minutes of baking, until crust is well browned, 35-45 minutes total
  • Transfer the loaves to a rack to cool for at least 1 hour.
  • Store in paper bags at room temperature up to 2 days.




  • To re-crisp the crust, place loaves directly on a rack in a 400 °F (200 °C) and bake for 5 minutes

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©2001 L. Preston