Ciao Italia Family Classics
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
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Makes 2 Loaves
Nancy makes Tuscan bread the traditional way, without salt. She begins two days prior to baking the bread by making a slurry, a loose starter dough that will help give texture, taste, and a nice rise to the final dough. Although this method is time consuming, it is well worth it to achieve a nearly authentic loaf. For a quicker version of Tuscan Bread, check out my recipe.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups warm water (110 F)
9 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Semolina or cornmeal to flour the work board
For the slurry, combine the yeast and ½ cup of water in a bowl; stir and set aside.
Measure 2 cups of the unbleached flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour with your hands and pour in the yeast mixture. Move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the yeast mixture and combine. Gradually pour in 1 cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour and yeast mixture together to form a thick slurry. Sprinkle another cup of the unbleached flour over the top of the slurry; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
Next day add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of warm water and another cup of the unbleached all purpose flour to the bowl and mix, kneading the dough slightly in the bowl with your hands. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and set aside again to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
Next day stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Work in the remaining flour, leaving a little of it aside to spread on the board or work surface. Turn the dough onto the floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is silky and springy and has lost its stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place (75 F) to rise for 2 to 3 hours.
It is best to bake the dough on a baking stone or tiles. To do this, preheat the oven stone at 450 F for 30 minutes prior to baking the bread.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, knead it briefly and form it into two big oval or round loaves. Set the loaves on 2 oven peels lined with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and allow them to rise for 45 minutes while the oven is heating.
Transfer the loaves from the peel to the stone; if you only have one peel, form one at a time. Bake 10 minutes then lower the heat to 350 F and continue baking another 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.
To bake the loaves without a stone, form the loaves as above and place each one on a lightly oiled and cornmeal lined baking sheet. Cover as above and let rise. Bake as above.
Cool the bread on a rack before slicing.
Note: Traditionally, Tuscan bread is not slashed with a lame or razor before baking to allow steam to escape, but it is a good idea to do it to prevent the bread from splitting as it bakes.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.
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