Biga is a starter often used in Italian baking. It makes the bread taste better as the flavour intensifies and matures overnight.


olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, needles roughly chopped
  • sea salt flakes


  • 1/2 tsp fast-action yeast
  • 150g strong white bread flour


  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 2 tsp fine salt


  • 500g spinach
  • 250g block cooking mozzarella, grated
  • 200g from a jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 100g from a jar artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
  • 8 kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch chilli flakes, (optional)


  • STEP 1

    Mixing the biga ingredients with warm water to make a smooth paste

    Mix the biga ingredients together in a large bowl with 200ml warm water to make a smooth paste. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight in the fridge.

  • STEP 2
    Mixing the focaccia ingredients with the biga, olive oil and water

    Put the focaccia ingredients in a bowl. Add the biga, 4 tbsp olive oil, 275ml water and mix.

  • STEP 3
    Placing the mixture on lightly floured surface and kneading

    Tip onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead until smooth (about 10 minutes). It will be quite wet and sticky at the beginning. Put in an oiled bowl. Cover and leave for 1 hour, or until it’s doubled in size.

  • STEP 4
    Squeezing all the water from the cooked spinach to prevent soggy dough

    Cook the spinach in boiling, salted water for 1 minute, then drain and rinse under cold water. Squeeze through a clean tea towel to remove excess liquid. Roughly chop and cool.

  • STEP 5
    Roll and stretch half the dough onto a lightly oiled baking sheet

    Tip the dough onto a floured work surface, kneading briefly. Cut into two equal pieces, roll and stretch one piece onto a lightly-oiled baking sheet, so it’s 1cm thick.

  • STEP 6
    Adding the filling over the dough, leaving a 1cm border

    Sprinkle the mozzarella over the dough, leaving a 1cm border. Add the spinach, pepper, artichoke and olives and season. Scatter over the garlic and chilli, if using.

  • STEP 7
    Rolling out the remaining dough to similar size and placing over filling

    Roll out the remaining dough to a similar size and put on top of the filling.

  • STEP 8
    Pulling the bottom layer over the top to stop any leaks when cooking

    Seal all the way round, pulling the bottom layer over the top to stop any leaks while it’s cooking. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

  • STEP 9
    Drizzling oil, rosemary and a large pinch of salt flakes

    Using oiled fingertips, dimple the top of the bread lightly. Drizzle over another 3 tbsp oil, the rosemary and a large pinch of salt flakes. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until risen and golden, and it springs back when you press it. Cool for 20 minutes, then cut into squares, to serve.


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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