Many of you know by now that Peter Reinhart is my hero! This is his recipe from his book, the "Bread Baker's Apprentice", and is the most delicious and tender bread that I make a lot. It's one of our favorites. If you have some leftover mashed potatoes, normally seasoned with butter, milk, etc (I've even used Garlic Mashed Potatoes), then you're on your way already. It's really terrific dipped into a little garlic oil.

You can prepare the Biga up to 3 days in advance, keeping it covered tightly in the fridge, but it should be done at least 1 day in advance for best flavor.
Yields 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (11.25 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (.055 oz.)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water (7-8 oz.) -- at room temperature
1 1/4 cups biga (7 oz.) *
3 cups + 2 tablespoons bread flour (14 oz.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (.38 oz.)
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (.03) -- optional
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast ((.14 oz.)
1 cup mashed potatoes (6 oz.) **
1 tablespoon olive oil (.5 oz.)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (.25 oz.)
3/4 cup to 1 cup water (7-8 oz.) ***
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted garlic (1 oz.) -- optional
Semolina or cornmeal for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top

* This biga recipe makes about 18 ounces, so you will have plenty left over for another recipe. This recipe calls for only 7 ounces---but I have also just chucked the whole thing in anyway, and the bread turned out just as yummy.

** Preferably leftovers that were made with butter and milk, but not necessary. Bring to room temperature while the biga is also coming to room temperature.

*** Water should be room temperature, or warm to about 95 degrees F. if the potatoes are cold.

BIGA: The day before you intend to make the bread---In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and yeast. Add water and stir until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment). Adjust flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (It's better to err on the sticky side). Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 2 hours, then put the bowl into the fridge until the next day.

DOUGH: Remove the biga from the fridge about 1 to 1-1/2 hours ahead of time to come to room temperature. Measure out 7 ounces and place on a lightly floured board. Cut it into about 10 small pieces, cover and let sit for about 1 hour to take off the chill.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper and yeast. Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, and the water. Stir with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) 1 minute or until the ingredients form a ball. Adjust flour or water as needed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook) about 10 minutes (or about 6 minutes by mixer), adding more flour is needed, until the dough is soft, supple, tacky but not sticky. It should pass the windowpane test.

If using roasted garlic, flatten the dough and spread roasted garlic over the top, then ather the dough back into a ball and knead it about 1 minute longer or until garlic is incorporated. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and ferment at room temperature about 2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.

Remove dough to a lightly floured surface, degassing as little as possible. Divide into 2 equal pieces, or 18 pieces for dinner rolls. Shape into boules. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle with semolina or cornmeal, and place the boules on the parchment, separating them so they will not touch. Mist lightly with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap (or use a proof cover, in which case you will not need the oil and paper). Proof at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the pieces), or until the dough doubles in size.

About 30 minutes before the end of the proofing period, preheat oven to 400 degees F. with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Lightly brush loaves with olive oil. You can score them if you wish. Bake the loaves 35-45 minutes, rolls for about 20 minutes. The internal temperature should register at least 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack at least 1 hour before serving.

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