Pugliese – Italian Bread

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For my birthday in October I got Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, and I have made a couple of breads from the book (which I highly recommend), but I don’t think I have blogged about them.

The Pugliese are the breads on the cover, they look gorgeous, so of course I had to try them. It is a very high water content bread, which makes it a bit tricky. Beranbaum’s method uses a stand mixer, but I have made it both with my hands and with dough hooks and a hand mixer.

In general, many of the recipes have very specific instructions that I think you can mess around with a bit if you try. She recommends specific flour brands, for instance, but I made this with generic Safeway Organic all-purpose flour and it worked fine.
I also couldn’t get the durum flour the recipe called for and had to get semolina, which is a coarser grind of durum wheat, and the recipe claims it will not work with that, but it did. If you can get durum flour, by all means use it! (I could not even find some on amazon.com, funny, since in Denmark it was right there in the local supermarket).

This, like many of the breads in the books, is a long process. The raising times are very long, which helps create flavor, but means you will have to use a half day or more – plus make the starter the day before. Also note that this uses a banneton to help with the final raise, I definitely recommend one for wet breads like this. And it makes it look pretty!

Original recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I have multiplied the amount by 1.5, as thought the original bread was very small. Note that most of the pictures is for the smaller size, from first time I made it.

Ingredients, day 1:

  • 113 g all-purpose flour (4 oz)
  • 0.37 g active dry yeast
  • 90 ml water ( 6 tbsp )

Method, day 1:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water.

2. Add the flour and mix until smooth.

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3. Cover tightly and let proof overnight (12-24 hours). The first 3-6 hours should be a room temperature, then cooler. I found our garage, a little warmer than our refrigerator to be great. The volume of the starter should triple.

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Ingredients, day 2:

  • 107 g all-purpose flour (3.75 oz)
  • 107 g durum flour (3.75 oz)
  • 3 g active dry yeast
  • 177 ml water (3/4 cup)
  • rice flour for dusting

Method, day 2:

1. Try to leave the starter at room temperature for it to become room temperature, though if it is cool it is OK too.

2. Mix the water and yeast in a small bowl.

3. Add the water and yeast mixture to the starter.

4. Add the flours and the salt to you bowl.

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5. Mix, either with your hands/a whisk, dough hooks on a stand mixer or heavy duty hand mixer (be careful using a hand mixer. If it is not powerful enough you may end up burning out the motor).

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6. Keep mixing/kneading for 5 minutes or so, the dough should pull away from the bowl but still be very sticky.

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7. Dust your work surface with durum/semolina flour and have more flour ready. Place your dough on the flour and stretch it with both hands (flour your hands too).

8. Fold the dough over one third, and then the rest of it on top.

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9. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the fold.

10. Sprinkle more durum flour over and cover with oiled film. Let rest for 30 min.

11. Repeat the stretching, folding, turning and folding again. Durst with more flour, cover and rest another 30 min.

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12. Stretch, fold, turn and fold again. Place your dough an oiled bowl and cover tightly with film.

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13. Place the dough somewhere nice and warm to let it rise for 2 hours. I used a trick from Cook’s Illustrated: Place pan of boiling water in the bottom of your cold oven, and place your dough on a rack above. Close the oven (don’t turn it on). This create a moist, warm environment, and your oven is relatively sealed.

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14. Dust an 8 inch / 20 cm banneton with rice flour. (If you do not have one, simply place the bread on a parchment lined sheet. I sometimes see people suggesting a stand-in for the banneton by flouring a tea towel and line a colander – I have not had that work). I have tried with wheat flour too, rice flour gave a much better result.

15. Very gently, shape the risen dough into a round ball, and place seam side up in your banneton (or seam side down on a sheet). Cover with oiled film. Let rise for 1-1.5 hours.

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16. Preheat the oven to 500 F / 260 C, and place an empty sheet or pan on the lowest rack of the oven. Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a rack just above. If you use a stone, let the oven stand at temperature for a while, so the stone is heated through.

17. Invert the bread out on a parchment lined sheet.

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18. Place the sheet on top of your pizza stone (or directly on the rack). Place about 1/2 cups / 1 dl of ice cubes in the pan below.

19. After 5 min, lower the temperature to 450 F / 230 C.

20. Bake the bread for 15-25 minutes more and take it out to cool on a wire rack.

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The bread is really delicious and moist, and I think it keeps OK too. It is great with soup but also as sandwich bread for lunch or even breakfast.

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