This week, I found myself baking Italian bread, which was a welcome change from last week’s French bread. It was a pretty straightforward formula and process, which I will quickly summarize below.
I had to make the biga (starter) the night before, which was made with flour, yeast, and water. After kneading it, I let it rise and then put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I cut it into smaller pieces before adding it into the other ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, yeast, oil, and water).
I mixed everything together and then let my stand mixer go to town on it for about 5 minutes. After that, I kneaded the dough myself for another 5 minutes. I then put it into an oiled bowl and let it rise for about 2 hours. I have to say, I got a pretty hefty rise out of this dough!
Once it had risen, I cut the dough into two almost equal pieces, thanks to my new kitchen scale that my mom got me for Christmas.
I formed the pieces into loaves and then let them sit for another hour or so, at which point Michael and I went out on a nice little walk around town in the lovely 45 degree weather. When we got back, it was time to put the loaves in the oven. I preheated it to 500 degrees with an empty roasting pan inside (again, for the “hearth atmosphere”). I was going to use the baking stone, but I haven’t had tremendous luck with it so far—plus, the instructions say to rotate the loaves midway through baking, and that is essentially impossible with the stone—so, I decided to bake them on a sheet pan lined with baking parchment. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, I scored them with a paring knife. This hasn’t really been my strong point so far, but the loaves actually looked halfway decent when I was done.
After making some steam in the roasting pan and spritzing the oven walls a couple of times, the loaves baked for about 25-30 minutes at around 400-450 degrees (it’s really hard to control the temperature in my non-digital oven). I left them in until they were nice and brown, although the bottoms did get a tad singed (maybe I should have used the baking stone?). Regardless, they came out beautifully, and quite tasty as well, if I do say so myself. Michael thought so too (that’s him giving the bread a thumbs up).
Next, I’ll be making Kaiser rolls, which I’m excited about! Stay tuned.