Sunday, March 17, 2013

Italian Bread

Updated 3/24:  Oops... forgot to put down how much yeast is needed for the dough :)

For all those who wanted the recipe :)

This recipe is from "The Fresh Loaf" website and based on a recipe from Bernard Clayton's: New Complete Book of Breads.  While the original recipe called for a same day bake, I retard the fermentation of the final dough overnight and bake the next morning.  I don't know how much of a difference this makes to the final flavor of the bread, but it resulted in a very flavorful bread, crunchy crust with a chewy and creamy crumb.

Is a "sponge" known in Italian as a Biga and French as a Poolish (just to name two) made with flour, water and a small amount of baker's yeast.  The pre-ferment itself is just a portion of the final dough that is fermented longer in order to conjure up additional flavors as yeast and beneficial bacteria work their magic over time.  The only difference between a Biga / Poolish is the amount of hydration i.e., flour to water ratio.    The amount of yeast  used in the pre-ferment depends on the length of time (and temperature) the sponge will ferment.  Letting a preferment go too long will "break" it as enzymes eventually break down the gluten strands that give a bread its structure.


1 cup of flour  (127.5 grams)
1 cup of water (236 grams)     Baker's %= 185%
1/2 tsp of yeast (1.4 grams)    Baker's % = 1.1%

Combine ingredients and place in a covered bowl for 4 to 16 hours.  

Almost 8 hours later, it's nice and bubbly...

...and fragrant :)


All of the preferment
5 cups of flour (637.5 grams)
1/2 cup low fat dry milk (dry)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp yeast
2 cups water (472 grams)

Mise en place: Get your "stuff" together before you cook or bake :) 

Disclaimer: I'm still experimenting, so this recipe and instructions may change for future posts.  I think this needed more flour but I decided to try to deal with the stickiness of this dough just to see how it turned out.

I first dissolved  the yeast and brown sugar in the 2 cups of warm water.  Using the KA paddle attachment, I mixed in all of the preferment and the low fat dry milk powder.  I then added about 1/2 of the flour, the oil and salt before switching to the dough hook. The rest of the flour was added a little at a time.  Total knead time was about 13 minutes (on 4).  I probably added about 2 to 3 tbs of flour because this dough was way too slack and very sticky.  Even so, when all was said and done, the dough was still pretty "fluid" and sticky.  However, as you'll see in this video below, after a couple of "stretch and folds" in the bowl, the dough starts to come together as the gluten strands develops.  They use this technique in high hydration doughs like a ciabatta and baguettes (where you want nice, big, uneven holes in your crumb)

After the stretch and folds, I formed a ball with 
the dough, covered it with saran wrap and placed it in the fridge overnight

 By morning (about 8 hours later), it had at least doubled in volume

I divided the dough into two equal parts, formed the parts into balls and let them warm up (covered) for around an hour

To shape the bread, I started start off with a rectangle

Folded the top down around 2/3's of the way and "sealed" it.

Folded the top right and left corners in and sealed them

I then took the top part, folded it down to the bottom and sealed it.  I'm still trying to get a handle on how to properly do this.  This is actually the way to form a batard (which should be thick in the middle and pointy on both ends; football shaped in a way). I rolled it out with my hands to shape it the best I could, keeping the seam at the bottom.  (check out the video instructions on this blog).  

Again, this is going to take some time for me to do correctly. 

The formed loaf needs to have good "structure"; properly sealed with a taunt surface (but not too tight where it rips or tears). 

I didn't do TOO badly with these.  Unfortunately, I ALMOST dropped one while transferring it to the peel.  (very close) :)  I let these proof covered for 45 minutes.  I may do an hour next time...

The top surface then needs to be scored with a "lame" (a razor blade on a handle).  I can do this properly on stiffer doughs but still have issues with those that are a bit sticky.  The scoring allows for proper expansion in the oven.  I popped these into an oven pre-heated to 480F (with my baking stone).  A cup of ice cubes are place into a pan at the very bottom of the oven (to create steam)  In addition, I spray water onto the walls of the oven for the first 5 minutes.  The steam keeps the surface of the dough moist so it expands properly in what's called the "oven spring".  FYI don't get any water on the glass of your oven door.  It will shatter.  After the steaming, I lowered the oven temp to 430F.  Note:  I start off 50 degrees hotter to make up for all the opening and closing of the oven door within the first 5 minutes of baking.

These actually turned out fairly well considering.

Took them to the choir rehearsal / luncheon today.  I was happy with the results :)


Mony Obry said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe. The bread looks beautiful. How much yeast do you put in the dough?

Joe Gee said...

Mony: Wow! I completely missed that! (Thanks:)) I updated the ingredient list for the dough to include the 2 tsp of yeast.

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