Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rustic Italian Bread and Buckwheat Baguettes

This rustic Italian bread recipe is from Rome at Home by Suzanne Dunaway. It makes a big loaf of crusty, but still tender bread. It's really nice with a bowl of soup or a pasta dinner--perfect for tearing off pieces to dip in sauce.

Pane Casereccio

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup unbleached high-gluten bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten bread flour, plus 1/2 cup for the baking sheet and loaves
2 teaspoons salt

To prepare the sponge:
Whisk the 1/2 teaspoon yeast, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup bread flour, and the rye flour together in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let ferment overnight or for up to 24 hours.

When ready to prepare the bread dough, sprinkle the 2 teaspoons yeast over the 1 1/2 cups water in a large mixing bowl and stir until dissolved. Stir in the sponge. Add the flour and salt and stir until the flour is thoroughly incorporated and the dough is smooth, with the consistency of very thick biscuit batter. It will be a rather sticky, soft dough. Cover the dough and let it stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

With a scraper or spatula, lift up the dough from underneath and turn it over on itself 2 or 3 times. Folding the dough gives the gluten a rest and activates the yeast by putting it into contact with more food.

Cover and let rise a second time for 40 to 45 minutes, until doubled in volume, or cover and refrigerate until time to bake. If refrigerated, remove the dough and let it come to room temperature before forming. The dough should be very soft and silky.

To form the loaves: Dust a baking sheet with a thin layer of flour. Carefully turn the dough out onto the baking sheet in one plop, being very careful to keep it as inflated as possible.

Let the loaf rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500F. Just before putting the bread in the oven, slip your hands under the loaf and flip it over softly onto the other side. Dust with flour and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer or until nicely browned.

**At Easter, the top of a large loaf of pane casereccio is cut off and the soft part is scooped out, then filled with hard-boiled eggs and salami. The top is replaced, and the pagnotta, as it is called, is put on a chair and draped with a cloth. The largest person in the family and then all the children take turns sitting on the loaf to compress it. The squished bread is then cut into slices and served.** Too cute!!

I also made buckwheat baguettes based on a recipe from Daniel Leader's book, Local Breads. The baguettes were really good and I like the earthy taste of the buckwheat. This is a multi-day recipe with quite a few steps to follow. I really like Daniel Leader's recipes, though I find them to be rather challenging.


  1. Your breads are both gorgeous! I need to go through my books and pick out another recipe to try.

    The story about compressing the bread is too funny!

  2. Oh YUM! This looks so good! I love Rustic style breads like these!