Okay, here's what's gone on..
I tired to read the posts about the 3 day bread, and I'm sorry, that's way too complicated for Everyday Cooking. I'm not a gourmet, and I'm not THAT fussy. But I DO want to make a calabrese bread. It has a chewy, waxy texture, big holes, and has a hard crust.
After reading through about a dozen recipes, including those using biga on the King Arthur Flour site, I tried it yesterday. I've not actually found any sites that have a recipe for that kind of bread, so I thought I'd experiment.
First of all, the biga rose well, so nothing was wrong with the biga itself.
One of the recipes I was going through used semolina. Aha...there's a thought. I replaced a cup of the flour with semolina. It's in the right direction and I love the less yeasty taste. I'll keep trying to make it replacing another cup of flour with semolina....but..
it had a soft crumb, which is what I'm trying to get away from, and it was dense, which means that I should have let it rise more than I did.
Here's what I DID do:
1 biga- overnight
2 flour, water, small amount of yeast, salt and biga- mixed and kneaded and risen for 3 hours, turned over every hour.
3 shaped into round loaf, greased, and risen for 2 hours, then placed in the fridge for 6 hours.
4 baked until done.
I'm not sure about the value of that visit to the fridge. I realise that it slows rising. I thought that it might be a part of the method. And I didn't let it come to room temp from the fridge. The recipe that instructed the layover in the fridge did not clearly state anything but fridge, and then baking.
Does anyone have experience with biga (SIMPLE preferments), and any input on making calabrese?
Definitely let it come back to room temp and proof again before baking. The refigeration should help the fermentation process and give the dough some character, but you shouldn't try to bake fridge-temp dough.
Also, why turn it over every hour when you initially are proofing the dough? Seems to me that leaving it untouched to rise would help the structure, punching it down once at the end, before chilling.
Just some guesses, based on my limited bread baking...
You mention that you greased the rising pan, so I have to wonder how much and what kind of fat that you used to accomplish this? It is the lack of fats that give baguette their chew and crumb, so any fat will produce a softer crumb.
The addition of semolina flour would not develop a softer crumb.
You are correct about the density, so I would bring it back to a room temp, and then give it another 30 minute to proof, before baking it.