Part two of the Italian sourdough bread project
The story of this bread is rather interesting because it seems it was always made with sourdough anyway and Carol Field had to turn it into a yeast recipe – only for me to turn it back again into a sourdough recipe! It is supposed to have a “big-holed chewy interior and a crunchy crust”. Well, mine did not have a big holed interior, although it was pleasantly chewy. Nor did it have a crunchy crust – the crust was rather chewy too. Further, there was no picture so, although I followed the instructions I was not (still am not) at all certain that it was shaped as it was meant to be.
May be lack of holes were to do with whole wheat flour (although I doubt it). I think to get the holes I would have to change the rising times and method – doing more shorter rises with more shaping in between to get the air holds in through stretching and folding. Never mind, it was very tasty and my friend Nicola’s 5 year old son who is the most cautious eater in the world because of his severe allergies did not just like the bread, he LOVED the bread. He wants me to move in with them so he can have it every day. He ate about 6 slices without butter, jam, or anything else at 8 o’clock before bed. He announced he wanted them for his lunch the next day. He stated “this bread has much better flavour than our normal bread”. A veritable poster child for virtuous bread!
Recipe for sourdough pane di Como Antico o Pane Francese
180 g LIVE Biga (see below)
1/2 cup (125 g) warm water
1/2 cup (65 g) wheat flour (I used whole wheat – it was all I had on hand. The recipe calls for Italian 00 flour which is closest to plain white, but I never have plain white and use strong bread flour for all my bread so I guess I am a bad scientist. Oops.)
Cut the biga up in small pieces and then work it into water with your hands so that it all turns milky white and the biga is in very small bits. Add the flour and stir. Cover and leave over night.
The Day 1 mixture
1 cup (250 g) warm water
435 g flour (as above)
10 g salt
Dissolve the day 1 dough in the water and then add the other ingredients. Knead for 10 minutes.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rest for 2 hours. the dough is ready when there are bubbles and blisters under the surface.
Divide the dough in two and shape it into two round balls. Let them rest under a cloth for 20 minutes and then roll them into fat sausages and place them on individual pieces of waxed paper/baking parchment. Dimple the dough thoroughly with your fingertips, cover and leave for 60-90 minutes.
Heat up the oven to 210 C/425 F and turn the loaves gently onto a baking tray that you have heated in the oven and sprinkled generously with polenta or lined with baking parchment.
Turn the oven down to 200 C/400 F and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.
These are the original instructions but, in order to get a holey crumb, I would modify them slightly. I would do the first rise for 1 hour. I would then do some stretch and fold and let rest again back in the oily bowl for 1 hour. I would then stretch-fold-shape into rounds and let rest for 1 hour. Then I would so a little stretch and fold and shape into sausages and dimple – but not over generously so. Then I would let rest for a further hour and then bake. So – more stretch and fold and a longer rise before baking. That way there would be a better chance at air bubbles.
Biga is the Italian word for old dough. To make a biga, either simply keep some dough back from the bread you are baking the day before (up to 3-4 days before). Or, make a new biga by mixing together:
330 grams white wheat flour
250 mls water
a few grains of yeast
Knead this for 5 minutes or so and then let rise out of the fridge all day. When it is done it is much bigger and frothy. Simply use what you need there and then or pop it in an air tight container and put it in the fridge. Use it up within 3-4 days. It is not live, like a sourdough so it won’t live forever in the fridge, perking up when you refresh it. It is just old dough and so, in most recipes you use the biga for flavour and you add yeast for rise. I have had to invent a “live biga” (well, I probably did not invent it but as I have never heard of it and am adapting as I go I will claim it’s invention) by using some of the old dough from the previous recipe (Pane di Como) which I made with sourdough so I know the dough is live and, thus, can be refreshed. So….to make this you need to have some dough from a sourdough loaf that you pinched off 1-4 days ago. This “live biga” is what I will use throughout this experiment when a biga is called for. If you have any questions because I have just been utterly unintelligible, just contact me.