I love bread. A good bread I mean 🙂 it’s the basic food since always, and it can enhance whatever you eat next to eat.
Since long time I wanted to try to make it by my own, but for many reasons I never did before. I’m studying about it since long time (I’m quite a perfectionist and I always want to look for and read about every detail before trying something new, “somehow” it’s not in my dictionary), I’m regularly following with interest many groups and forums dedicated to professionals and advanced home bakers, so my theory I knew was quite fine since a while, I just needed to put it into practice 🙂 but it’s not always easy to turn the theory into practice. But this is the clear demonstration that with passion you can have a good result already at the very first try (my first try was the bread with the cross cuts in the photos) 🙂
I usually buy large sourdough bread in some of the few really good bakeries in this country and I eat them easily also after 5-6 days sometimes, but for sourdough I still don’t feel comfortable enough, there is much more to take care about the sourdough itself so I decided to start with the simple fresh baker’s yeast. And this result it’s absolutely very positive in my opinion.
And I also don’t think that yeast is less healthy or less good than sourdough. As I said, I like sourdough bread and I am happy I have a very good baker doing it for me, but the problem about quality and health is not in the yeast (there’s no allergy to that, and if there would be also sourdough would be a problem), but the quality of the flours you choose, the possible additives used by certain bakers, and the whole process (it’s important to use the right amount of yeast and giving the right amount of time for the maturation and for all the chemical processes to take place, which is what will help the digestion).
The main problem with many of the online recipes using the fresh baker’s yeast is that they use too much yeast than what’s really needed, and don’t give enough time for the maturation (because it grows faster). Moreover it’s not the best thing for the digestion too. But in this case there are just 2 grams on 600 g flour, so almost nothing 🙂 of course you need to do everything carefully, respect times and temperatures, and you need proper flours with a good strength/W Index. For better results I suggest to use flours with at least a W260/280 strength index: to be sure to develop well the dough using only 2 grams of yeast (and without being an expert baker) you need this kind of flours, it just makes your job easier. It’s not impossible to use weaker flours but you usually need more yeast and it’s more complicated to develop the dough as you can do with stronger flours.
So after checking several recipes on some of the best forums/websites/magazines of my country (Italy) I decided that one of the easiest ways to begin was probably this type of bread (actually I had saved many recipes long ago on my computer, waiting for the “inspiration” 😀 ).
I selected few recipes that in my opinion looked better than others and then I combined some of those and modified something according to some other theoretical things: I like to do this game 🙂 but consider that every flour is different so some details cannot be the same in every single case, for example the quantity of water could vary a bit, that’s why it’s important to find a good flour and then keep using that.
I finally decided to do it now because this week my baker was in holiday, and I also couldn’t go to my other favorite bakeries…so the only other local options are uneatable and terrible breads which are like chewing gums, look awful, plenty of additives and one day later you can throw them away. In few words it was the perfect week to start 😀
It’s a long process, but it’s absolutely worth it. In the past bakers were famous not to sleep in the night, do you remember that? 🙂 the fact that nowadays a lot of the commercial breads are made very fast with pre-prepared and even frozen bases it doesn’t change the fact that to make a real good bread you need time, knowledge, good ingredients and patience 😉
Water: unless you are sure that your tap water it’s not a hard water, I suggest to use a bottled water: hard waters are not helping the yeast to work properly, and since we are using just a minimum amount of yeast it’s an important detail too.
Yeast: it has to be alive. Control that is not wet and control that the expiring date is not too close. It has to be quite dry, you have to easily make crumbs with your hands, it must not have a plastic texture when squeezed.
Let’s see the recipe now.
INGREDIENTS (for a bread of about 850-900 grams):
For the biga (first dough):
- 100 g of strong flour, W index possibly over W300 (I used a Manitoba flour W360)
- 80 ml still water (from a bottled water)
- 2 g fresh baker’s yeast (3 g in colder seasons)
For the second dough:
- the first dough
- 500 g flour (I used an organic stone ground flour from Mulino Marino, the “Buratto” Tipo 2, W290 and 12,2% proteins, which always gives a great flavor to whatever I prepare)
- 400 ml still water, from a bottled water, but the amount depends also on the flour you choose (so it’s a 80% hydration in this case)
- 12 g salt
- First of all we have to prepare the first dough/biga (I suggest you to prepare it in the evening). Sift the strong flour, reduce the fresh yeast in powder with your hands, and add it too. Add the 70 ml water (at room temperature) and start mixing. You just have to make a soft dough, so in a fast time it will be ready. Place it in a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and place it in your cooler room, the ideal temperature is about 18 °C. Let it grow for about 12 hours.
- After this time take the first dough and break it in smaller pieces, and put it in a bowl with the water (at room temperature), all the 400 ml. Let it melt for 10 minutes.
- At this point start adding the sifted flour, gradually, and start making the dough (I used the machine). Just a bit before that the dough is homogeneous add the salt. Let the machine work for about 10 minutes, until the dough is no more attaching to the bowl. It must be not sticky but quite soft. Don’t work it more than what’s needed otherwise it will get harder.
- Now place the dough on the working table and make some “pieghe a due“. Watch this video for example. Then let the dough rest 30 minutes on the table, covered with a bowl like in the photo below.
- After this time flatten the dough gently with your hands (no rolling pin!), and make the “pieghe a tre“. Watch this video for example. Then let the dough rest on the table other 45 minutes covered with the bowl and then make another “pieghe a tre”.
- Now take a bowl, put some flour on the bottom and place the dough inside. Sprinkle also some flour on the top. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it grow until it doubles its size. Place it at 25-27 °C, for about 2 and half/3 hours. I placed it in the oven with the light switched on. If you have a thermometer is better.
- After this time place the leavened dough on your table (with flour on the table), flatten it carefully with your hands in a rectangular shape and proceed as you can see in the photos below. Then roll it until you obtain that shape, but not too tight.
- Flatten it a bit more but gently and carefully with your hands, than place it in a basket/shape with a towel and some flour, with the “cut” on the top (as in the photo). Place it again at 25-27 °C and let it grow until it fills the basket/shape. It will take about 60-90 minutes. To know when it’s ready push one finger very gently in the dough, and if the “hole” disappear in few seconds than it’s ready to bake.
- Overturn it on a baking paper, and make some cuts with a cutter, a blade or a very sharp knife. It will help the bread to develop better, moreover it looks nice 🙂 Sprinkle also some flour on the top.
- Bake at 230-240 °C, static oven (pre-heat it in advance). Place it gently on a hot tray (I use a pizza stone), and place a small pot on the bottom of the oven with some water inside, the steam will help at the beginning: the crust will not get too dry immediately, so the bread can expand/grow better and the internal humidity can go out more easily at the beginning. And if you did everything correctly the bread should grow only in height and it shouldn’t collapse and getting larger on the sides.
- After the first 20 minutes remove the pot with the water, and set the temperature at 200 °C, static oven. After 15 minutes open a little bit the oven (put something between the door and the oven) so the steam will go out and the bread will get dry more easily, and the crust can get more crunchy. Bake other 15-20 minutes about (so around 50 minutes since the beginning) at 190 °C and control if it’s ready: it should have a nice hazelnut color or darker, and if you turn it on the side and hit the bottom with your fingers it has to sound like empty.
- At this point, to make an even better crust, set the heat at 140-150 °C, static oven, keep leaving the oven a bit open, and keep baking for other 30 minutes. The longer is this last phase and the more dry will be the interior of the bread too, and thicker the crust. So this is up to your choice.
- Now it’s almost ready. It’s important to place the bread in vertical position while cooling down, in this way the internal steam will go up only on that smaller top side (so a smaller surface) and most of the crust will remain crunchy (moreover the crust usually gets softer during the cooling phase because the steam goes through it, so that’s why is important to dry well the bread in the oven, because in this way there will be less steam inside at the end). But for the final result of the crust is important also the quality of the flour: good quality flours are richer of enzymes that help the various processes that take place during the baking phase and can give a better dark crust, while more poor flours usually lead to white/light colored breads (in that case a help can be given by the addiction of malt).
- It’s about a 20 hours work all together, but as I said in my opinion it is absolutely worth it! 🙂 it helps also to understand why good quality sourdough breads cannot be sold at cheap prices: it’s a lot of work and you need good ingredients “to let the magic happen” in the best way 🙂
It was exactly how a good bread must be according to my taste: it must have a thicker nice crunchy crust with a great taste which protects the inside part for more days, it must have a soft interior moist at the right point but not too much sticky when you touch it, but it must feel fresh, it has a nice visible “alveolatura” (the air bubbles showing that the yeast worked properly), it must NOT taste yeast. With a nice inviting perfume and taste, given by the correct baking and maturation, and by a good flour. And important it has to be light and not like a brick in your stomach. And when you cut it the crust must make that nice “music” 🙂 only the crust has to make crumbs but not the interior: that would be a sign that something went wrong (as it happens for many of the breads sold here, sadly).
And you realize that a bread is good when you eat a lot of slices without realizing it 😀
PS: after 4 days it was still absolutely fresh and soft inside, with the correct moist. And also on the 5th day it was still absolutely good to eat.
The next one had also 150 grams of Taggiasche olives in the dough:
Products used in this recipe:
Flour: organic stone ground flour from “Mulino Marino”, the “Buratto” Tipo 2, W290 and 12,2% proteins.
In some cases (the first photo and the last 2) I used 60% organic stone ground flour “Buratto” Tipo 2, (W290) and 40% organic stone ground “sfarinato di grano duro Senatore Cappelli” (durum) both from “Mulino Marino”, this was the best mix in my opinion, great flavor and very crunchy crust.
Water: Szentkirályi Ásványvíz