Posted by: Jonjon | May 31, 2009

Italian Bread 8.2/10 -9/10

Italian Bread 8.2/10 -9/10

Biga = 103% water, 0.6% yeast to bread flour
160% biga, 3% salt, 4% sugar, 1% instant yeast, 4% olive oil, 66% water to bread flour
Source: Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Page 172-173

Days to make: 2
Day 1: 3 to 4 hours biga
Day 2: 1 hour to dechill biga; 12-15 minutes mixing; 3 1/2 hours fermentation, shaping, and proofing; 20-30 minutes baking

Makes two 1 pound loaves or 9 torpedo (hoagie) rolls

3 1/2 cups (18 ounces) biga (recipe above) 510 170
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour 318 106g
1 2/3 teaspoons (.41 ounces) salt 11 0.6 teaspoon
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) sugar 14 1/3 teaspoon
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast 3.1 1/3 teaspoon
1 teaspoon (.17 ounce) diastatic barley malt powder (optional) 4/8 1/3 tea
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) olive oil, vegetable oil, or shortening 14g 1/3 tea
3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 to 8 ounces) water (or milk if making torpedo rolls), lukewarm (90 to 100 F) 198-226 66g – 75g
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Remove the biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
2. Stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and malt powder in a 4 quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the biga pieces, olive oil, and 3/4 cup water and stir together (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until a ball forms, adjusting the water or flour according to need. The dough should be slightly sticky and soft, but not batter like or very sticky. If the dough feels tough and stiff, add more water to soften (it is better to have the dough too soft than too stiff at this point).
3. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead (or mix) for about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is tacky, but not sticky, and supple. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81 F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
4. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
5. Gently divide the dough into 2 equal pieces of about 18 ounces each, or into 9 pieces of about 4 ounces each (for torpedo rolls). Carefully form the pieces into batards, or rolls, degassing the dough as little possible. Lightly dust with a sprinkle of flour, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes. Then complete the shaping, extending the loaves to about 12 inches in length or shaping the torpedo rolls. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and dust with semolina flour or cornmeal. Place the loaves on the pan and lightly mist with spray oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
6. Proof at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until the loaves or rolls have grown to about 1 1/2 times their original size.
7. Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to have an empty steam pan in place. Preheat the oven to 500 (260) F. Score the breads with 2 parallel, diagonal slashes or 1 long slash.
8. Rolls can be baked directly on the sheet pan. For loaves, generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the loaves to the peel or pan. Transfer the dough to the baking stone (or bake on the sheet pan). Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door. Repeat once more after another 30 seconds. After the final spray, lover the oven setting to 450F (232) and bake until done, rotating 180 degrees in necessary, for even baking. It should take about 20 minutes for the loaves and 15 minutes for the rolls. The loaves and rolls should be golden brown and register at least 200F at the center.
9. Transfer the rolls or loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Conclusion 2 May 31 2009
I used a 2 months biga from the freezer, and used milk this time. I preferred the one without milk, but the milk added kinda like a softer texture, subtly. When warm, there was not much flavor, and the texture and the uniqueness of this bread did not stand out. Though the dough was kinda like melt in the mouth, with the slightest yeasted flavor, and the oil made the dough flavorsome, as if dipped in olive oil. After cooling, the Italian bread stood out as usual. With a very fragrant alcoholic crunchy crust, and a very spongy inside. Compared to the 17 hour bread that I have baked before, this bread had more gluten development, and bigger holes, perhaps because of the high percentage of the biga used. Using the biga gave the bread a very chewy texture. The pain l’acciene, which basically was 100% biga, was more chewy, just slightly more than this, almost a bit too hard to digest. However, the Italian bread was the perfect balance of flavor and chewiness.
Not much difference from using milk though.
Actually, 17 hour bread had twice as more biga than this one. So I guess it was the high heat which allowed this bread to develop bigger and a chewier texture? There was also less water in the Italian bread than the 17 hour toast. Hmm. I think it was the long fermentation time. The Italian bread required twice as long fermenting before in the fridge and before baking, and this allowed the gluten to fully develop.


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