This is my first loaf.

Fresh out of college, I’m working on a couple of projects this summer. The first, my paying job, involves digging dirt and teaching as I help develop horticulture and gardening programs here in Rhode Island. I’ve spent my last two summers working on some variation of this same activity, so I’ve landed squarely in my comfort zone for this awesome post-grad opportunity.

The second project, however, is a little trickier: how to produce a dynamite artisan loaf.

I’m the type of person who, when given a free afternoon and friends to feed, beelines to the kitchen. I love cooking. Even so, baking bread is unchartered territory for me. I’m pretty picky with the bread I buy, so I’ve always been intimidated by the task of achieving that same quality by hand. Now, as I ponder major life changes, I figure it’s as good a time as any to try.

One exciting development regarding this summer’s bread-making: my use of the biga, an Italian word for the pre-ferment, the mother, the starter. It’s similar to the SCOBY that brewers use when making kombucha — a yeasty kick in the pants needed to get the process going. Most breads I’ve made in the past have been no-knead, quick-rise, easy. But now I’m itching for a challenge.

This first loaf — got to say it looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? It’s got a beautiful dark crust with a good bite to it, and the inside is cooked throughout. But this first biga starter, a whole-wheat variation that essentially lumbered through the fermenting process, produced a super dense dough. When I cut into this bread, there was no sign of those delicious air pockets I come to expect in a quality artisan loaf. Alas, the saga continues as I experiment with new techniques. Recipes will come as I start to work out this biga business. I don’t want to lead anyone down the wrong path.  

Stay tuned for more food and more developments. I sense biga things on the horizon.