I made some real progress on the BBA Challenge over Thanksgiving weekend–I have three, yes three! BBA related posts from the holidays. This is the first, and I hope to get the rest updated in a timely fashion (as opposed to oh, a month later, when I hardly remember what I made).
I made this bread on Wednesday, figuring we could use the loaves as an accompaniment to dinner the next day (and for nibbling on before that). Like the French Bread, this dough starts with a pre-ferment by way of a biga–it’s much like pate fermentee in that it’s a pre-kneaded dough, but only bread flour is used this time (as compared to the mixture of bread and AP flour in French Bread). As with all pre-ferments, you let it rise, punch it down and pop it in the fridge overnight. Then you cut it into small pieces and mix in more flour, water, and yeast.
Here’s the risen dough–pretty impressive (though because I was working from home and got distracted, a bit more voluminous than it probably should have been).
Now shaped into batards. I’m still getting this down–I don’t think I manage to create quite the amount of surface tension that is required (though usually the eventual rising seems to take care of that). The batards are just the first step in shaping, as they rest for about 5-10 minutes before…
you stretch them out to the length of your baking sheet. Compared to the pre-elongated batards above, these look kind of sad and spindly. However…
They plump up nicely (ah, the magic of yeast!). I scored them with my lame and in they went to the oven.
Voila! (Or, I guess, since we’re in Italy now, “Ecco!”)
I’ll admit the crust looks a little “blah’ in these pictures. Besides never having enough light to get a good non-flash photo, I didn’t have any non-diastatic barley malt powder on hand (what, don’t you?) which is an optional ingredient, and which I expect gives you a much nicer crust. Also, if I made this again I might try baking at the lower temperature that Reinhart suggests for a thick-crusted loaf. I would think that serving this bread alongside a nice Italian meal that had great pan juices or sauces that beg to be sopped up with good bread warrants a bread with a rustic, substantial crust. (I’m not sure why baking at a lower temperature produces this effect. I haven’t seen him mention it for other breads but it is interesting to know, I’m sure it would work in any case).
We all enjoyed the bread. It is sort of that standard Italian bread you get as a side at Italian take-outs or buy frozen pre-lathered with garlic butter, but as is the experience with other BBA breads, much better than those artificially quick-leavened loaves. Also, due to the copious baking that was going on over the past week, we still have half a loaf left. And while it’s certainly not at its freshest, it’s still rather easy to slice and makes a fantastic toast. That alone is pretty impressive to me!