Pane Bigio and a Helmet for the New Year

For our soul is raised out of nature through the truly sublime, sways with high spirits, and is filled with proud joy, as if itself had created what it hears, or I might add to Dr. WC Williams, what it gets from Mom for Christmas, like a new shiny moped helmet.


Though I can’t ride my moped on these subzero winter days, the helmet arrived in perfect timing for me to rush head first at my OB rotation—an approach to life I take as my first lesson from newborns.


Pane Bigio

Adapted from The Italian Baker 

Makes 2 large or 3 smaller round loaves

To make Biga:

5 1/2 ounces / 150 grams all-purpose flour

3 1/2 ounces / 100 grams water

1/4 cup sourdough starter

Mix together, cover and let sit on the counter for 6 to 24 hours to develop.


1 1/4 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

1 cup (250 grams)


Scant 2 cups (250 grams) whole-wheat flour, stone ground if possible

3 3/4 cups (500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon salt (1 teaspoon more, optional)


Stir starter into the warm water in a mixer bowl and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups water and the biga and mix with the paddle until the water is chalky white and the biga is broken up. Add the flours and salt and mix until the dough comes together. You may need to add a bit more flour, up to 2 tablespoons, but the dough will never pull clean away from the side and bottom of the bowl. Change to the dough hook and knead 5 minutes at medium speed. Finish kneading the sticky, wet dough by hand on a well-floured surface, sprinkling the top with about 3 or 4 more tablespoons of flour.

First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled and full of large holes, about 3 hours. Do not punch down. It will be gigantic—bigio (“big” in Italian?)


Shaping and Second Rise: Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently shape into 2 big flat rounds or 3 smaller ones, pulling tight on the surface of the dough with your cupped hands to make a taut loaf. Place the loaves, rough side up, on well-floured baking sheets, peels or parchment paper set on baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise until there are lots of aid bubbles under the surface, about 1 hour.

Baking: Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven with baking stones in it to 450°F. You can also use a cast-iron or aluminum griddle that is a least 3/8 inch thick or preheated heavy baking sheets. Dimple the tops of the loaves all over with your fingertips or knuckles and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Just before baking, sprinkle the stones or griddle with cornmeal. Gently invert the loaves onto the stones. The bread will look deflated when you initially put it in, but it will puff up like a big pillow in no time. Bake for 25 minutes, then shift the loaves to equalize baking. Bake for a total of 45 to 55 minutes, until the loaves are a deep golden brown. Cool on racks.


Big pillow is right. Enormously fluffy and tasty bread. One of my favorite recipes to this day. Almost as big and dome-like as my new bomber helmet. I might wear it to bed tonight…or maybe I’ll let it rest on my other skull. 


One thought on “Pane Bigio and a Helmet for the New Year

  1. LOL at your lesson from newborns to take a rushing-head-first approach life 🙂 Te deseo lo mejor as you begin your time with those amazing little humans and their families!

Leave a Reply