If you ask me what makes a loaf looking like a typical Italian rustic sourdough, I would say that is the absence of scoring. Quite often loaves are cooked seam-side up, and not seam-side down like in French breads, and the loaves either look whole (with a smooth surface) or they can even show natural cracks. Steam in baking is used less than in French breads, but I am still in the learning process and I will update my knowledge as I learn more on Italian breads. From what I understood so far, when it comes to bread Italians care more about the “flesh”, the hard facts, than about the look. Which is somehow against the strongly developed Italian aesthetic sensitivity (just think of Italian architecture, fashion and sport cars). But bread is another thing. Flavor and consistency are what matters, who cares about the look?
This loaf, shaped the Italian way, is a further development of my previous 24-hour sourdough. With it, I wanted to test if I could prolong the fermentation to two all days. Why? Because longer fermentations are healthier: during the long resting of the dough the flour is transformed into something way more digestible and nourishing -and our bodies will thank us for this- and because the flavor is improved in the process. On a practical note, distributing the work necessary for an ambitious loaf (like a real sourdough) over three days makes possible to do this without having to sacrifice a whole day to the making. That is history. With this method, you can actually bake great bread and… have a life. One night you mix, another night you shape, the third night you bake. Letting the fridge to take care of your loaf while you go out in the world and do fantastic things, knowing that some happy ferments are working for you at home.
So, if you follow me, I will guide you step-by-step through a three-day process that takes very little of your time and can give you freshly baked sourdough bread even during a busy working week. And not any bread… a crusty Italian rustic loaf with an incredibly airy crumb and a deep and intense flavor. Lots of “flesh” here for sure.
400g young leaven* (1 1/2 c)
250g whole-wheat kamut flour (2 c)
200g all-purpose flour (1 5/8 c)
350g bread flour (2 3/4 c)
500g water (2 c)
3 1/2 teaspoons marine salt
*Prepare the young leaven on the morning of the day you intent to start your loaf, using 1 table-spoon mature 100% sourdough starter**, 200 g (4/5 c) water, 150 g (1 c and 3 tablespoon) bread flour, and 50 g (1/3 c and 1 tablespoon) whole-wheat flour.
**If you don’t have a sourdough starter, no problem: find here a foolproof way to make your own.
DAY 1, Evening
Combine all the ingredients except for the salt. You can use your hands and scrape the dough off with a dough scraper or tablespoon. Let rest covered for 40 minutes.
Add the salt and combine well. Again, don’t be afraid of using your hands: it’s fun!
Let rest covered for 3 hours, stretching and folding the dough on itself like a package every 1/2 hour. The dough will be sticky in the beginning and will become smoother after each fold.
Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest until the evening of the day after.
DAY 2, Evening
After close to 24 hours in the fridge the dough has risen of about 1 1/2 its volume and looks totally smooth.
Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer it on a working surface.
Fold the dough stretching the four corners as if you were to close a package. Have a scraper to help you if you see that the dough sticks to the surface at any time.
Flip the package upside-down and let rest for 1 hour, covered.
Protect your loaf from dangerous hairy intruders…
After the 1 hour bench rest the dough will have spread and will look soft.
Cut the dough in 2 parts, one larger (2/3) and one smaller (1/3). I used the large piece to shape the loaf and the rest to make a small filone or batard. This dough can also make excellent pizza and can be used up to the day after if kept in the fridge.
Sprinkle the working surface with a little of rice flour and shape the larger piece of dough into a round by folding the corners all around and pinching to seal them on the top of the round.
Flip the dough upside down and gently make it rounder by letting it slide on the clean surface and creating tension also with the palms of your hands.
Place the round, seam-side-down, on a proofing basket heavily floured with rice flour.
Place the basket in a large plastic bag and close it. Let rest in the fridge until the evening of the following day.
DAY 3, Evening
Take the loaf out of the fridge. If it does not look like it has risen about 1/2 times its initial volume, let it rest outside the fridge for a few hours before baking. Meanwhile turn on the oven to its maximum temperature.
As soon as your loaf look like it has risen about 1 and 1/2 compared to the night before, transfer it on a peel or on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and put it in the hot oven, reducing the temperature right away to 250 C/482 F degrees and creating some steam by trowing a few ice cubes in a hot baking dish placed in the lower rack.
Bake for 20 minutes and then lower the temperature to 220 C/428 F degrees and bake for 20 more minutes. Lower the temperature further to 200 C/392 F degrees and bake for further 20 minutes (1 h overall). Let cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before cutting.
And here’s the baby
And I will also send the loaf to Susan for her incredible bread collection YeastSpotting.