Sunday, September 14, 2008

Italian Bread - Biga Style

Saturday night I hosted a dinner party for my mother in law's birthday. On the menu was chicken parmesan with fresh pasta and homemade sauce, Italian bread and an Italian salad. I have made Italian bread twice before and they were both was delicious, but just because I like to experiment I wanted to try a new recipe. I turned to my Bread Baker's Apprentice book by Peter Reinhart and decided to make his Italian bread. Although this recipe takes 2 days to make it is not really overwhelming at all. Especially since the Biga can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the refrigerator or stored in the freezer for 3 months.

This recipe came together very smoothly and the dough was so wonderful to work with. I thought it might become messy adding the biga to the rest of the ingredients but even that mixed together smoothly. The exterior on this bread had a nice thin crust which I enjoyed but if you would like a thicker crispier crust the book suggests lowering the oven to 400 (instead of 450) and cooking the loaf longer.

I like that this recipe made two nice sized loaves, between the nine of us at dinner we ate a loaf and a half. Apparently it was a hit and we all loved it. I will definitely be making this recipe again. Although this recipe for Italian bread was pretty quick and yielded a good result I think the one I made yesterday produces a much better flavor. So if you are short on time the other one is a great recipe to turn to, but if you have a couple days I recommend trying this recipe, you won't be sorry! I whipped up some garlic butter to spread on the bread. It was amazing, the recipe is below.

Source: Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker's Apprentice Page 107

Makes about 18 ounces

2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7-8 ounces) water, at room temperature

1. Stir together the flour and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment). Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (It is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)
2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. The internal temperature should be 77 to 80 degrees F.
3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

Italian Bread
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)
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 2/3 teaspoons (.41 ounces) salt
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1 teaspoon (.17 ounce) diastatic barley malt powder (optional)
1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) olive oil, vegetable oil, or shortening
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)
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 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 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.

Garlic Butter
Source: As seen on Annie's Eats adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1½ teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground paprika

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and mix until smooth


Anonymous said...

Your bread turned out great! I made this bread over the summer and think of it as the best bread I've ever made. The flavor is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, looks delicious! There is not much better than fresh baked bread with garlic butter! ::Drooling::

That Girl said...

Gorgeous! I'll have tot try this recipe.

Anonymous said...

How do you ALWAYS make the MOST PERFECT bread???!! I'm glad I don't live closer, or I'd be over your place ALL.THE.TIME. mmm..

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Jaime said...

wow you're becoming quite the bread baker! that garlic spread looks amazing

Cate said...

That is beautiful bread! This is one of those recipes I've been meaning to make. The garlic butter looks really tasty too!

giz said...

I've never been much of a bread maker but am seeing Peter Reinhart's name cropping up more and more often and the reproduction of some of his recipes really leaves me speachless. This one is no different.. beautiful.

Jeanine - The Baking Beauties said...

That is some fantastic looking bread! Wow! Slather that with the garlic butter, and you have a real winner!

The Shulls said...

I made this bread last Tuesday. It was a whole success! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I have to say it though, I made the cut too deep so, they didn't look as gorgeous as yours! (I'll do better next time!)

Anonymous said...

The bread looks great! I love that garlic butter, it is awesome :)

Anonymous said...

this is the PERFECT italian bread recipe..smells and tastes just like Arthur Avenue italian bread!! absolutely A++ in my book..