Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pane Genzanes

The starter dough is .5 cup fresh (King Arthur) all purpose flour, 1 pinch (SAF) instant yeast, .25 teaspoon salt, .25 cup water. This gives around five ounces, to be made the day before the bread is needed. (Having half a cup of leavened bread dough to hand will work just as well.) The flour yeast and salt are stirred together in the bowl of a mixer (that can knead bread), then the water is added and stirred vigourously to form the dough. It is to be kneaded just until smooth, covered with plastic wrap and left at room temperature for 12 - 18 hours.

In the second step, the starter is made into a "biga". This needs 1 cup cold water and 2 cups flour. What happens here is that half the flour and all the water are beaten together, then bits of the starter are added, beating continuously until its all added. Then the rest of the flour is added and stirred in by hand a bit (no flour splashes, you know) and the job finished with the beater - takes 3 minutes or so, and gets the dough "smooth and stretchy". This biga is then sprinkled with flour in a bowl, covered and left to double in size (5 - 6 hours at room temperature).

The last step is pretty major! You want a biga, 3.333 cups/770 grammes of water, 7 cups/1036 grames of the flour, 1.25 teaspoon/3.5 g of the yeast, 1.5 tablespoons/22 g salt, 1 cup wheat bran flakes - milled down to 1/16" - and another couple of cups of flour for general sprinkling duties.

In two bowls, put half of the flour in each. Put the yeast in one, the salt in the other. Put the yeast-flour into the mixer bowl plus all the water. Stir with a wooden spoon, then get at it with the mixer. Add the biga, in bits. Stir in the other bowl of flour with the spoon, then get mixing again. When the dough is fully on the paddle, mix at full speed for 5 minutes, stopping half way to scrape the dough down. You want the dough to reach the point that its smooth and shiny, stretches for a foot, and (when you take a lemon sized piece and roll it in flour) spreads out to a translucent sheet when stretched between floured hands. Once its at that stage, let it sit for 10 minutes and a final bash of the mixer for 10 revolutions at high speed. Scrape down, sprinkle with flour, and let it rise (covered, in the mixer bowl) at room temp (apparently thats 80 degrees F) for 45 - 60 minutes - an increase of a 1/4 - 1/3.

You want a heavily floured countertop for the next phase: tipping the dough out gently so it is floured side down, and roughly circular. rest it for ten minutes, while you get the oven ready. A 14" minimum baking stone is needed - put that in the oven and heat to 500 deg F. The bread is to be raised in a square container 10 - 11" and 3 - 6" deep, lined with a cotton tea towel into which 1/2 a cup of flour has been rubbed. A couple of tablespoons of the bran flakes are sprinkled at the base. Form a circular loaf (gently!) by taking an edge and folding 2/3 of the way across the loaf and pressing to seal - continue until you have a "wonderfully puffy" circle of dough - flip it over, then lift it up and into the cooking container (it takes some manual dexterity, apparently). Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons bran and press down. Cover, and leave in warm place (85 degrees now!) to rise 40 - 45 minutes. Then sprinkle some bran flakes on the baking stone to create some smoke. Now comes the tricky bit - you want a "peel" to transfer the bread from its place of rising to the cooking stone - he suggests cardboard or timber at least 15" square. Sprinkle more bran onto that - you want the loaf bottom to be down on the peel - tip the dough gently out of the container into one hand, remove the towel, then use both hands to put on the peel. Put hands under it, so it can be stretched out to about 14". More bran, pressed in - you now apparently have a "fat pancake" of dough.

The bread is slid onto the baking stone, sprayed with water from a plant sprayer, then the oven interior is sprayed 20 times. Reduce the temperature to 450 deg and cook for 70 minutes. It will rise frantically - after 7 minutes, spray more water (20 times), then after 40 minutes, rotate the bread 180 degrees. If burning, drop the temperature another 25 degrees.


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