20 July 2010

Making Italian Bread

Firstly, I would like to thank the following for giving me the inspiration to try this. You can find their complete recipes and more on their sites... cookography.com (there is also a handy diagram on how to fold the dough here) and amysbread.com

Okay, now let's have some fun...

photo of my Italian bread

make sure your biga has come to room temperature.

What you need...

  • Warm water... 1  1/3 Cups

  • Active dry yeast... 1 tsp.

  • Bread flour... 3 Cups

  • Salt... 1 ½ tsp.

  • Biga... all of it (click here for recipe)

  • Big bowl... (this dough is going to rise as much as 3-times its size)

  • Bowl scraper

  • Plastic wrap

  • Parchment Paper

  • Baking pans... 1 or 2

  • Oil... for coating the bowl and plastic wrap

  • Spray bottle filled with water...set on mist

Putting it together...

  • Add water and yeast to the mixing bowl

  • Let the yeast swim around until it's foamy (about 5 minutes)

  • Add the flour while mixing on low speed

  • Once flour is adding and is combined, turn-off mixer, cover bowl with towel and let rest for 20 minutes

  • After 20 minutes, with mixer on low, add the biga and the salt

  • Continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides, but it will stick to the bottom (remember, this is a very sticky dough)

  • Using your bowl scraper, gently place dough into a well-oiled bowl

  • Oil the plastic wrap, cover bowl tightly, and place in a warm place for 1 hour (I use the inside of my oven with the oven light on)

  • After one hour, using your scraper gently fold ¼ of the dough toward the center and repeat with remaining 3 sides. You are trying to turn the dough into a square

photo of my Italian bread dough

  • Cover and let rise for 1 hour

  • Repeat folding procedure, cover and let rise for third time for 1 hour

  • Take parchment paper and trim it to the size of your baking sheet and spread flour liberally on the bottom (this dough WILL stick to it)

  • Take your scraper and gently dump your dough onto the parchment, so that the dough that was on the bottom of the bowl is facing up

  • Dust dough with flour and add as needed to be able to work it

  • Using your scraper, cut the dough into two or three pieces and form into your desired shapes (you may need more than one pan. See photo below to see why.)

photo of my Italian bread dough

  • Loosely cover with well-oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour

  • take loaves and using a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut a slit (about 1/2 inch deep) lengthwise down the loaf

photo of my Italian bread dough

  • Pre-heat oven to 475°

  • When you place the bread in the oven to bake, use your spray bottle and mist each loaf about 5-6 times with water (this will give you the hard crust)

  • Close oven door and after 1 minute, mist again

  • Bake at 475° for 10 minutes

  • After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 450° and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown

  • Remove and let cool

This is why you may need two pans...

photo of my Italian bread

Personal note: I also now use this recipe to make Focaccia bread ( I add 1 tsp of garlic powder, ½ tsp of basil, and ½ tps of thyme). If you wish to do the same, just roll-out the dough to cover the parchment, cover with well-oiled plastic wrap and let raise. Just before baking, make indentations all over the bread (I use my fingers), sprinkle with coarse salt, and Parmesan cheese. Bake as usual.


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