Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Personally, I prefer breads with a developed taste. To get this more nuanced flavour, you need to make a starter, whether it be a sponge, poolish, biga or old dough. Not only do starters give great depth to the taste of your bread, they add to the texture of it - adding both airiness and heft. In some Italian breads, a biga is used - this is a quickly kneaded starter that ferments for the better part of a day. It is then added to the rest of the bread ingredients. As the word "starter" indicates, the biga needs at least 12 hours before it can be used.
For today's recipe, a bread that is commonly made in Puglia, Italy, the biga needs to be made at least 15 hours before baking.
(from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World)
For the biga:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1) Dissolve the yeast in the water.
2) Add flour and stir to combine.
3) Knead briefly in a bowl until a soft dough has been formed.
4) Cover the bowl with cling-film, and let stand at room temperature for 12-24 hours (or for up to three days in the fridge).
For the bread:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
biga, as above
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 cup wholewheat flour (or wholewheat pastry flour)
1) In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water.
2) Cut biga into 5 pieces and stir into the water, breaking it up with a spoon, loosening it (practically to the extent of dissolving it, but this is not fully achievable).
3) Stir in one cup of all-purpose flour and the salt.
4) Add wholewheat flour, stirring to combine, then add three more cups of all-purpose, one cup at a time, and stirring all the while.
5) Keep one hand dry and one hand wet with warm water for stps 6-. Stir the dough with your wet hand, manoeuvre it like a paddle and turn the dough around on itself, like figure 8s.
6) Add another cup of all-purpose flour with your dry hand. Stir and mix with wet hand for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on the consistency, which should be wet but clinging together. If the dough is too liquid, add another 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and continue stirring.
7) Cover the bowl with cling-film and let the dough stand for at least 3 hours (even overnight). It will rise a bit but will not double in volume.
8) Preheat oven to 250 C/500 F and do not open oven door until 20 minutes after oven has reached this temperature. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack.
9) Open oven door. With wet hands, break dough in half, shape into a mound (tucking edges underneath to smooth out and tighten the surface), then drop onto baking sheet.
10) Decrease temperature to 225 C/450 F after ten minutes.
11) All to bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until bread is well browned (it will also sound hollow when you tap the base).
12) Raise temperature to 250 C/500 F before baking other half of the dough.
13) Let cool for thirty minutes before slicing.
Some breads freeze really well, so you can always pull a pre-baked loaf out the freezer the night before and defrost it on the counter overnight. Some wet breads, though, do not freeze well, for their crusts can become quite tough and tear away as they are sliced, which is the case of today's Pan Pugliese.
This is a bread best eaten the day it has come out of the oven (or even the next day). And who can resist freshly baked bread?
I really like A&D's books...beautifully photographed and researched. My favourite is their book on China...I've tried a few recipes and they were so delicious. The bread looks fantastic
This bread recipe is pretty good. Like all of their recipes, they make sense as you go along as opposed to getting a full appreciation of them before-hand.