Okay so I've made this bread several times now. I thought I would post pretty early so that I could share some of what I've learned. Sorry about the photo quality my digital camera has gone missing in action :( Fortunately, it helped me to finally take the jump to a DSLR which is ordered and will be here in a few weeks. :) So until then all I have are cell phone pics.
Here is my first soaker and biga.
Mise en place, soaker and biga all chopped up.
Oops! I forgot to turn down the temperature of my oven after I added the bread :( Tasted ok but the crust was a bit overdone and the crumb was dry.
So the second time was Memorial Day so with our added time my husband and I decided to try an experiment. A loaf each with
Biga, Instant Yeast & Scalded Milk
Biga, Instant Yeast & Unscalded Milk
Wild Yeast, Sourdough Starter & Scalded Milk
Wild Yeast, Sourdough Starter & Unscalded Milk
It got a little crazy with all the different types of dough so we wrote out an index card with each combination and moved it with the dough through each step.
You can see our index cards in this picture as well as the variation in rises.
1. Wild Yeast, Unscalded Milk
2. Wild Yeast, Scalded Milk
3. Biga, Scalded Milk
4. Biga Unscalded Milk
So we actually ended up with 4 distinctive end products. I personally preferred the taste of 4. I think that is because it was allowed to brown a bit more and thus had a nuttier flavor. It was hard to beat the rise of 1 and 2. Though before you run out and start your own starter I think the raise was more due to the moisture content of the dough than the starter. Our starter was a lot wetter than the Biga. This led to better kneading and softer dough so that more gluten developed and was allowed to create longer threads.
It was really awesome to see all these results right next to each other so that I could gain a better idea of how to control the process. I think I might keep making several loafs at a time for the sandwich breads at least. Since my family always is in need of sandwich bread anyways.
Oh and scalded vs. unscalded? minor differences not really worth the work in my opinion but that may be because we're using store bought pasteurized milk to begin with. (Edited to add a little caveat to be aware of, the hydration level of the scalded milk breads was lower and needed to be corrected. This was because we measured out even amounts of un-scalded milk for both versions which meant that the actual amount of liquid was a little low in the scalded version due to evaporation.)