It’s been mentioned before that I love Italian-style bread. The recipe I used previously was good, but it was missing something. Either I did it incorrectly or that recipe wasn’t what I was really looking for. I did some searching on the internet and came across a bread recipe that looked to fit the bill of really soft, but chewy crust and pillow soft (or creamy, in bread baking parlance) crumb. I first tried this a few weeks ago, but didn’t document it – this time, I did. It’s originally from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine that was distilled down with some other instructions by a blogger. Again, I made a few slight alterations to this recipe.
This bread requires that making of a Biga, or overnight starter. This is where the majority of the flavor is developed as the yeast has a long time to process the flour both in the Biga and in the roughly 4 hours of rise once the loafs are made. This bread will certainly go in my normal rotation of bread baking; especially when I make pasta. This will also be a wonderful bread for meatball subs – if making them for that purpose, instead of doing two larger loafs, I’d do 4-6 smaller loafs.
- 11 ounces bread flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 8 ounces water at room temp
- 16 1/2 ounces bread flour
- 9 g instant yeast (roughly 2.5 teaspoons instant yeast)
- 10 3/4 ounces water
- 14 g table salt
- Make the Biga by mixing the flour, water, and yeast until it forms a shaggy dough. Transfer the dough into a greased container and let rise overnight at room temp.
- The next day, mix the ingredients for the dough together (but not the biga) and knead for roughly 3 minutes.
- Cover the bowl and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Add the biga and knead for 4-5 minutes – the dough should be a somewhat sticky ball.
- If making two loafs, divide in half and transfer the doughs to separate greased containers. Let rise for one hour.
- Remove dough to a floured surface and fold like a letter, return to the greased container and let rise for another hour. Do this a total of three times.
- Carefully turn out the dough to a floured surface. (from here on out, you want to be careful to avoid degassing the dough)
- Gently form the dough into a rectangle (4×5 or slightly larger). Pull the top left and right corners to the middle and then roll the dough into a torpedo. Pinch the ends closed and gently rock the dough back and forth until you have a loaf about 12-14 inches long.
- Transfer to a sheet of parchment on a peel and cover with plastic wrap for an hour.
- Prepare the oven for steaming (add a sheet pan while preheating) and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
- Before baking, slice the the loafs about 1/3″ deep with a sharp knife, lame, or razor.
- Place the parchment on the baking stone and carefully pour 1 cup of hot water in the sheet pan.
- After 30 seconds, spray the walls of the oven with water. Do this a total of three times.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temp to 400 and rotate the parchment 180 degrees. Continue baking for 20-30 minutes – the bread will be a golden brown and the internal temp is 210.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.