Big Bear’s Bread


If you would like a printable version of this formula, click here: Big Bear’s Bread

I have a dear friend I call “Big Bear,”  He likes “holey” lean sourdough breads. I know he would enjoy this bread, so I named it for him.

I have been experimenting with the “Double Hydration” technique. I have known about it and used it for some time, but I finally read about the technique in Michael Sua’s wonderful book, “Advanced Bread and Pastry.” It is a book well worth the price. I have my own slant on that technique that I use because I have found that you can get some amazing gluten bonding by utilizing it. I made up this 73% dough using this technique plus my own technique and the resulting bread is holey, light, fluffy and has a wonderful crust with terrific flavor. In most formulas, 73% dough can be almost impossible to handle, this technique does make it easier, although you still have to work with sticky dough.

The Biga-like dough (technically not a real biga, because it does not contain commercial yeast):


I start out with a Biga-like dough at 60% hydration, made with ice water, which is fermented in a dedicated refrigerator (46F) for three nights, it has no salt so it is going through a cool autolyse (technique via Gosselin/Reinhart). Then the rest of the water, salt and dough are added to bring the hydration up to 73%. The dough is fun, it is stretchy and bubbly.

Here is the formula:

Big Bear’s Bread

First make the Biga-like dough (3 lb 5 oz/1502g of dough @ 60.6% hydration):

  • 8 oz/226g Vigorous starter @ 100%
  • 16 oz/453g ice water
  • 16 oz/453g bread flour
  • 13 oz/368g AP flour

Mix these ingredients all together until you have a smooth mass of dough(it is stiff), knead for two or three minutes. Then put the Biga-like dough into the refrigerator in a covered container for three nights(let it hibernate 🙂 ). I took the dough out each day and folded it once. I used my dedicated refrigerator which is kept at 46F. I turned my dedicated fridge up to 50F on the last day and night(the higher temperature will help develop the sour factor).

Note: If you use a regular fridge at 40F or lower, try fermenting your biga-like dough for four nights instead of three to help acheive the sour flavor (the warmer temps are pretty important in obtaining your sour though).

Note: If you decide to use all bread flour instead of part AP flour, your dough will be very dry as bread flour absorbs more water than AP flour.

Around 4pm on the third day take out your Biga-like dough and then add:

A slurry made up of:

  • 7 oz/198g warm water
  • .7 oz /19g salt
  • 4 oz /113g bread flour

Add this slurry to the biga-like dough which you have pulled apart into stretchy chunky pieces (do not cut) and slowly, incorporate the slurry by folding the dough over and over while it is in the container:

Biga dough and slurry:

Fold it over and over using two hands to incorporate the slurry, handle the dough gently, you don’t want to tear the gluten bonds unnecessarily.

The dough will still look like a ragged mass when you are done. The gluten strands will not go together smoothly at first:

At this point, just leave the dough to ferment and as you fold the dough each hour, it will begin to come together:

Allow your dough to ferment, covered, at room temperature, for 4 hours. Fold the dough once each hour. It will begin to look smooth like this:

It is at 73% hydration. It will spread out in the container while it is fermenting, but look like this when you fold it:

This makes 4lbs 0.7oz/1834g of dough @ 73% hydration

After four hours, you can divide the dough and shape it. I shaped two boules. The sticky dough is harder to work with, but just have your hands wet and take your wad of dough and holding it in your hands, pull it up from underneath a few times while shaping it into a round. This way you are pulling the dough up and causing the seam to be on the top. Then just plop the dough into a very well floured banneton (seam side up), lining the banneton works well, but I used one lined and one unlined and they both came out fine.

Place the dough, banneton and all into a plastic bag and then refrigerate your dough overnight. Next morning, take out your loaves one at a time, staggering them by 30 minutes. My dough was risen pretty well but it is a gloppy, shapeless sort of dough. The dough did not take long to proof. It was pretty much ready from the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven, baking stone and roasting pan lid to 465F for one hour(this is way more important than you think if you want good oven spring)

When your dough is ready to bake, turn your oven down to 450F.

After your dough has proofed and is ready for baking, turn it upside down onto a floured peel, slash (a word about slashing wet dough below) and place on the hot oven stone. Then spray the dough all over with water. Quickly place the hot roasting pan lid over your dough and allow the bread to bake, covered with the roasting pan for 20 minutes.

A word about slashing wet dough. For slashing wet dough, make sure you have an extremely sharp blade and wet it before slashing. The less you slash wet dough, the more oven spring you will have because wet dough likes to spread out and slashing it more will allow it to spread more. I slashed one loaf with one cut and one loaf with two cuts and you can see the difference in oven spring:

This, of course, mainly applies to boules, a long batard or even longer baguette will need vertical slashing all down the length or one long vertical slash down the middle. Also, slash shallow, not deep.

Once the loaf has baked for 20 minutes, remove the roasting pan lid and set it on top of your oven to keep it handy for the next loaf. Then turn the loaf around for even browning and allow the dough to bake for 15 more minutes, turning it one more time. Keep an eye on it for the last five minutes, because the oven is extremely hot and can start to burn the outside during the last five minutes. I pushed the limit because a nicely caramelized, brown loaf tastes so much better than a pale one.

When the loaf is done,place it on a grate and let it cool. Heat your oven back up to 465F with the roasting pan lid back inside. Then bake your second loaf.

Big Bear’s Bread is so good. The crust is terrific, the crumb is moist and custardy (it will stay fresh several days), the flavor is wonderful, the smell is awesome and the loaf is surprisingly light for it’s size because of all of the holes.

The day following baking, this bread developed a very good tang. Enjoy, Big Bear!

Loaf from the next batch:

If you would like a printable version of this formula, click here: Big Bear’s Bread

Sent to Susan at Yeastspotting.


Teresa L Greenway - Sourdough bread baker, author, teacher, entrepreneur. Join my baking classes at:

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