Monday, June 21, 2010

Pane Altamura (bread with semolina flour)

The recipe for this bread comes from The Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli. It's a local specialty of the Altamura region of Italy. What makes it different from most bread recipes is that almost half the flour is semolina--the coarse, almost grainy flour used in pasta making. I wasn't sure what to expect since I've never made a bread with semolina before, but I was really pleased. The loaf is super crusty, but somehow it's much lighter inside than you'd expect. The semolina adds almost a nutty flavor. We ate this bread plain with jam, and toasted with some soft cheese. I think leftovers would make delicious croutons or a panzanella salad. When I make the bread again I think I'll add some flax seeds and maybe some sesame seeds since they would compliment the nuttiness of the semolina.

Pane Altamura

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon semolina flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cool water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Biga (sourdough starter)
Additional flour, oil, and cornmeal

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Set aside until it is creamy, about 15 minutes.

Measure the flours into a large bowl. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir the salt into the flours. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yeast mixture, the cool water, the olive oil, and the biga to the well. Using the spoon stir together all the ingredients until the dough is too resistant to be stirred.

Knead the dough briefly in the bowl and then turn it onto a lightly floured work surface and clean off any dough stuck to your hands. Begin kneading the dough. (OR, you can do the kneading in a stand mixer.) It will be a bit sticky at first, but it will become silky smooth after about 20 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

Rub a large bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Turn the ball so that the surface is covered with oil. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and press out most of the air. Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, about 45minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Trying not to overwork the dough, fold the edges in toward the center. Work in a circular motion, folding the entire rim of the dough in toward the center several times to form a round ball with a smooth side.

Spread a fairly thick layer of flour on a work surface. Place the ball of dough, rough side down, on the flour. Cover the loaf with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes. The dough is ready when it springs back gently upon being lightly pressed with your index finger. Meanwhile, place a baking stone in an oven and preheat to 425F.

Mist the preheated oven with a spray bottle and quickly shut the oven door. Dust a baker's peel with cornmeal. Gently transfer the loaf to the baker's peel. Using a sharp serrated knife, make 5 slashes about 1/2 inch deep and 2 1/2 inches long on top of the loaf . Mist the loaf generously. Slide the loaf onto the baking stone. Mist the oven again and bake the bread for 5 minutes. Mist one more time and bake the loaf until it is golden brown on top, dark brown on bottom, and has a hollow ring when tapped on the bottom, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Eat our veggies,