Every pastry chef would do well to have a rustic bread formulation that can be used in any number of artisan bread applications. From foccocia to sandwich loaves, you need something universal that can be used as the canvas for all the rest of your genius creations . We've been working here in the Panhandle Test Kitchen to provide such a formula. In our efforts, we wanted to construct a formulation that would be both practical and flavorful. It would deliver all the depth of a good European-style hearth bread, with the speed of production that would still allow for a low labor cost and food cost. We think this will do the trick. Using a Biga Pre-ferment, is ideal for delivering the delightful tastes and textures one would expect in a good artisan bread and it also allows for the long fermentation that is associated with that flavor, while still allowing the space in the fridge for other important essentials for your menu. The pre-ferment has a shelf life of up to two weeks and can be kept alive for several years if you treat it right. We're certain you're going to make a new friend...literally. Name your pre-ferment "George". Feed him. Make him your friend. George is a keeper.
Combine the pre-ferment ingredients in a glass or plastic container until a thick dough is formed. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature 3-5 hours before using in the dough recipe. After the initial 3-5 hours, you may transfer up to refrigeration for up to 2 weeks for deepest flavor. Retain 1/2 cup of the pre-ferment and use it as part of the flavor base for your next batch of pre-ferment. This will ensure ultimate flavor depth.
For Rustic Breads:
Break up the pre-ferment and combine with loaf ingredients in a large mixer with a dough hook. Knead on medium speed about 8 minutes. Dough will be thick. Allow to raise in bowl, covered, about 1 hour.
Turn sheet pans upside down (1 per every 2 loaves) and line with parchment that has been misted with oil or non-stick spray.
Scale loaves, 6 at 15.56 oz
Dust the dough with flour. With flour on your hands, tenderly stretch the pieces into rectangular shape, 6 inches by 10 inches. Be sure not to squeeze, you don’t want to remove the gas. This will keep the characteristic look of the rustic dough.
Dip your hands gently into cold water and break up large air pockets to avoid them tunneling.
Avoid flattening the bread, just press softly so the loaf retains shape. Mist the top of the loaf with oil and a fine dusting of flour. Cover with a large piece of plastic and raise at room temperature for about 2 hours. Do