Bakers who use traditional methods always save some yeast-fermented dough from the day before to use as the leavening starter for the next batch. In some parts of the world this is called poolish, in Italy biga and sponge in English. It works in a different way to fresh yeast, giving an unmistakable nutty flavour to the bread.
Transfer this to a large mixing bowl or to the bowl of an electric mixer. Break it up with a wooden spoon, then add a further
Remove to a floured surface and continue kneading by hand for a final 5 minutes, shaking on flour if it is too sticky to work with.
Roll the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Brush the surface with a little more oil and cover with a clean damp cloth. Put to rise in a warm place for 2–3 hours, until doubled in volume. The ideal temperature is 23–26°C/74–78°F.
Knock the dough down, turn it over, cover again and leave for 30 minutes.
Turn the dough out, divide into 2 and flatten, then reform into 2 balls. Line two
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/ gas 8. Turn the bowls upside down to turn the loaves on to a heavily floured board. Slash the tops with a razor blade to a depth of
Bake for 10–15 minutes then lower the temperature to 200°/400°F/gas
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.