The Biga:
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

The Dough:
1 recipe Biga
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3-3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, for dusting


1. Prepare the Biga: In a large bowl, pour in the water. Whisk in the yeast. Stir in the flour and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
2. Prepare the Dough: In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook, pour in the water. Whisk in the yeast, then stir in the risen biga with a rubber spatula. Stir in the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too soft, beat in the remaining flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it with plastic wrap. Let thedough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. To shape the loaf, scrape the dough to a floured surface and deflate it. Shape the dough into a sphere by tucking the edges in all around the bottom. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. About 20 minutes before the loaf has fully risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
5. When the loaf is fully risen, dust a pan and place the loaf in the center of it. Use a sharp knife or razor to slash a cross in the top of the loaf. Bake until it reaches an internal temperature of about 200 degrees F for about 45-50 minutes. Cool on a rack.
6. Keep loosely covered at room temperature on the day the loaf is baked. Wrap in foil and freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from The Chef of Cucina Amore: Celebrating the Very Best in Italian Cooking: Publishers' Group West; Copyright 1999 West 175th Enterprises, Inc.

Nick Malgieri's recipe for Pane Casareccio, homemade bread, is easy to prepare and always gives beautiful results. Fermenting the biga, or sponge, overnight gives better flavor and texture to the bread.

Home-style Italian Bread
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