Marc has been making homemade bread to get his crusty bread fix for years. Puyallup is a relative wasteland when it comes to crusty Italian style bread. This calls for a homemade solution. Here’s his guest post:
There are several bread baking “tricks” employed in this recipe. First this bread uses a long, slow rise like the speedy no knead bread. This develops the gluten and makes for a bread that can survive a few days on the counter without going stale. I also use a natural starter with no commercial yeast (similar to a sourdough). The mixture of natural yeast and bacteria in the starter gives the bread flavor and enhances the staying power (keeps it fresh longer) compared to commercial yeast. You can make this recipe with commercial yeast – the rise times may be shorter. To develop the crumb and the crust, the bread starts in a very hot steamy oven, allowing good “oven spring” – a rapid rise of the dough. For steam, my approach is to use a tin can with a small hole piercing the bottom (a technique that Kelly uses in her bagel recipe). I tapped a nail through the bottom of a can I keep by the oven. Then push the displaced metal back in place so there is only a very small aperture to allow a steady small drip on the oven floor while baking. Halfway through the bake, the oven is vented, the water source removed, and the temperature dropped to allow even browning and a substantial crust. The choice of flour also makes quite a difference. If you try this recipe and like it, try a few different bread flours to see what I mean.
Puyallup Italian Baguette
For 3 loaves:
- 1000g of good flour (try King Arthur bread flour, Gold Medal Harvest King or Gold Medal Organic)
- 650mL of water (650g)
- 10-15 grams sea salt
- A large spoonful of starter (about 100g) – If you want to try using commercial yeast, use 1/4-1/2 tsp.
Mix by machine or by hand just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Let rest about five minutes (at this step the gluten in the flour is hydrating). Mix again about 30 seconds to even out the dough. No need to kneed heavily, the long slow rise will begin to develop the gluten, flavor, and natural preservatives in the dough. Cover in a bowl (I just use a plate as the cover) for about 10 hours until the dough doubles. Give plenty of time for this step – this is when the dough develops.
Shape the loaves: Divide the dough into three portions. Dust a board with bread flour (just enough to prevent sticking). By hand gently stretch and pat each portion to about 10” by 20”. Roll the dough into a cylinder 10” long and gently stretch to about 15”. Place all three loaves in a large plastic container prepared with a thin coat of olive oil. Turn the loaves over so they have a thin coat. They may run together as they rise, but the olive oil will allow them to separate again. Place this in the fridge until ready to bake a loaf. You can skip the fridge step, but you’ll lose some of the crispness and flavor that occurs while the enymes in the dough break down the sugars. I’ve left this for 2 weeks with no problems. I frequently just bake one loaf at a time.
Re-shaping and Second Rise:
Dust heavily a wooden board with flour (brown rice flour is best) and place the shaped loaf upside down (up here refers to the up side while the dough was in the fridge) on the board. The dough will have spread out while resting in the fridge. Fold the dough in half or roll it length wise to achieve a long thin loaf – a torpedo. Be sure the loaf has a dusting of rice flour all around and a good amount under the loaf so it slides very easily.
Let rise covered with a kitchen towel about 3-6 hours until a little bubbly and has expanded noticeably. If you skipped the fridge step, this will be much shorter – 45-60 minutes. Longer tends to be a bit better for crumb development. If you have a chance, remove the towel and let the dough get a little dry for the last 1 hour while it finishes rising – this helps develop a thicker crust.
Baking the Loaf:
½ hour before baking place a baking stone into oven on a middle rack and preheat to 500 degrees. You’ll want to slip the bread into the oven as soon as it reaches full temperature to prevent scorching the bottom of the dough. Slash the loaf with a sharp knife (usually 3 slashes) diagonally, 1/2 inch deep, then slide the loaf onto the stone. Place the tin can on the oven rack next to the stone, pour about 4 ounces of water into the can (so it drips steadily on the bottom of the oven or a metal pan). Bake six minutes, then remove the can and let the oven vent for about 5 seconds, reduce the temperature to 425 degrees and bake until well browned (about 6-10 more minutes). Remove the loaf to a cooling rack. It’s traditional in Italy to let cool completely before serving.