Rustic Italian Bread

May 23, 2010

After a few attempts at bread-making (rustic dinner rolls and almost no-knead bread), my latest attempt is Rustic Italian Bread.  These recipes have taught me one important lesson: do whatever possible to extend the fermentation. Fold it. Punch it down. Put it in the fridge. Cut back the amount of yeast. The reward: A complex loaf of bread; so much more than the sum of it’s four ingredients.

We needed the help of the neighbors to finish off this massive 2-1/2 pound loaf in just one day.

Start the night before. Make the biga, which sits at room temperature for 3 hours before refrigerating for another 12 hours. At around noon, mix the dough ingredients in standing mixer at let rest for 20 minutes. Then add the biga and knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let rise for 3 hours, twice folding over onto itself. Shape dough into loaf and let rise for another hour. Then bake for 40 minutes, and let cool for 1 to 2 hours.

The result is a hearty loaf weighing more than 2-1/2 pounds. Flavor was excellent, a real artisan loaf made with just 4 ingredients. It requires “Bread Flour” so you need to plan ahead a little. Unfortunately, I still cannot bake any of these during the week, because this recipe requires me to start preparation 6-1/2 hours before dinner (and I only have 3 hours after work until dinner).

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $1.05 for 2-1/2 pound loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 8 PM yesterday. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

Still trying to perfect the crust-to-crumb temperature requirements. Close.

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