Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Genzano Country Bread

Over at the 12th Man Training Table, they tell me that, "One good knife can substitute for 90% of the gadgets at Williams-Sonoma." I agree with this statement. However, there are a few modern luxuries, such as the KitchenAid mixer, that I find essential.

Sure, I could knead my bread by hand. It's much more therapeutic and satisfying kickin' it old school, but the KitchenAid broadens the range of breads I can bake. There are some breads that consist of such a wet dough that they can't be kneaded by hand. The Genzano country bread from Daniel Leader's book Local Breads is an example one such bread.

At first glance, this bread appears intimidating and time consuming, but it's worth baking for the following reasons:

  1. The bread possesses a hearty, crunchy crust that is great for dunking in a soup.
  2. The interior of the bread is moist and velvetty.
  3. Its rustic appearance is unrivaled by any bread I've made.
  4. Its gargantuan size inspires awe, and its shape resembles curling stone
  5. This bread alone justifies purchasing a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
First you'll make a biga, which is a pre-ferment often used in Italian baking. I don't really possess the knowledge to explain what a biga is exactly. The experts say a biga adds more depth and complexity to a bread and helps preserve it. I just view it as a starter or the first step in baking some breads.

In Mr. Leader's book, he calls for using a sourdough starter in the above biga. Since I lack the discipline and committment to maintain a sourdough culture, I've adapted the recipe.

Recently I read on the actor Jorge Garcia's blog that he's been taking his sourdough starter to the set of Lost, so that he can feed it and stir it. This behavior is worth emulating.

Prepare the biga by doing the following:

  1. Place all the above ingredients in the stand mixer bowl and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead to blend the ingredients.

  2. Place the dough back in the bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to stand at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup bran for sprinkling
  1. Uncover the biga and pour the water over it. Stir with a wooden spoon to break it up. Add flour, yeast, and salt until a very wet dough forms.

  2. Use the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-high (5 or 6 on a Kitchen Aid mixer) for ten minutes. Since the mixer may "shimmy" off the counter, be sure you supervise it. I use this supervision time to sing show tunes and choreograph dance routines. The dough will not clear the sides of the bowl and will climb up the dough hook. You might have to stop the machine and scrape down the hook with a rubber spatula.

  3. Increase the speed to high (10, or 11 if you have a This a Spinal Tap mixer) and knead for 8 to 10 minutes or more. The dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl, and you'll see beautiful strands of gluten developing. Give the dough a window pane test to judge its readiness.

  4. Transfer the dough to a oiled, clear 2-quart container. Cover and allow it to rise until doubled. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. After the first rise, uncover and deflate. Then cover and allow it to rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Generously coat a banneton or colander lined with a kitchen towel with bran. Lightly dust the counter with flour. Uncover the dough and turn it onto the counter. Gently shape the dough to a round. Place it into the banneton or calendar smooth side down. Coat the loaf with more bran and over with plastic wrap. Allow the round to rise and double in size, 1 1/2 hours.

  6. About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on a middle rack of the oven and a cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

  7. Cover a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the parchment with bran. Uncover the loaf and gently tip it out of the banneton or bowl. Slide the loaf, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Place 1/4 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake for 30 minutes, and then turn the temperature down to 400 degrees. Continue baking until the loaf is very dark, almost charred-looking, 20 to 30 minutes mores. Do not worry about burning the loaf. It needs this much time in the oven for the interior to bake fully.
  8. Allow the bread to cool on a rack. Slice and enjoy.

break some bread,


Jenni said...

I'm going to tell Danny I need a Kitchen Aid (or Bosch) mixer so I can make this bread:o)

holybovine said...

This looks yummy, Mr. GS and would be great with the broccoli cheese soup I have a hankerin' for. Glad I read about the windowpane test before tossing a ball of it against the window to see if it stuck. I hear that's how you're to test pasta...except on a wall. I tried that once much to my kids' delight.